Preterism and the Resurrection of the Dead–How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Match Jesus’ Resurrection Body: Jesus’ Resurrection Body After His Ascension is a Seemingly Perfect Model of the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints.
It is often supposed that Jesus’ resurrection body was to be a model of the resurrection bodies of the saints. This belief is derived largely from Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his [Christ’s] glorious body.” Though this is certainly true, one might ask which body? Immediately after His resurrection, Jesus’ resurrection body closely resembled His physical body though He could pass through walls and appear and disappear at will. Are the resurrection bodies of the saints expected to be like this body? Or will their bodies resemble Jesus’ resurrected body after His ascension into heaven? (Recall that after Jesus rose from the dead He ascended into heaven (Acts 1). Are the saints also expected to ascend into heaven at the resurrection as did Jesus?) Jesus’ body appears to have been changed after His ascension according to Acts 9:3-6 and Revelation 1:13-16 such that it took on a form like that of the Father and the heavenly host. In describing the appearance of God, Ezekiel 1:26-28 reads:
Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
The angels of heaven are also described as beings of light according to 2 Kings 6:17, Daniel 10:6, Matthew 28:2-3, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Hebrews 1:7 as well as in extracanonical sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q403, 4Q405). Matthew 28:2-3 reads, “[A]n angel of the Lord descended from heaven . . . his appearance was like lightning[.]” 2 Corinthians 11:14 echoes Matthew 28:2-3: “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” The angelic being of Daniel 10:6 is also described as a being of light: “His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude.”1 Elisha’s servant’s vision of the army of angels in the hills are also described as luminous beings in 2 Kings 6:17: “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Jesus’ resurrection body after His ascension into heaven is described with similar radiance and glory according to Revelation 1:13-16:
[A]nd among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”
The brilliance of Christ’s resurrection body after having risen into heaven is also mentioned in Acts 9:3-6. In these verses, Paul was temporarily blinded by the extreme luminosity of Jesus’ uncloaked image after he saw the ascended Christ on his road to Damascus.2
The fact that Christ’s appearance changed after His ascension is not just found in the Bible, it is also echoed in early Christian tradition as is exemplified in the Apocalypse of Peter. The Apocalypse of Peter also depicts the appearance of Christ after His ascension as a being of light. The Apocalypse of Peter is believed to have been composed sometime between 100 and 150 A.D. and was once included in the Orthodox Christian canon as evidenced by its inclusion alongside all of the other books of the modern New Testament in the Muratorian fragment, the oldest extant list of canonical New Testament books. This text was later removed from the canon when discovered to be pseudonymous. The Apocalypse of Peter describes Jesus’ appearance during the Parousia as a being of light: “For the coming of the Son of God shall not be plain (i.e. foreseen); but as the lightning that shineth from the east unto the west, so will I come upon the clouds of heaven with a great host in my majesty; with my cross going before my face will I come in my majesty, shining sevenfold more than the sun will I come in my majesty with all my saints, mine angels (mine holy angels) [emphasis mine].”3
After resurrecting and ascending into heaven, the bodies of the saints are expected to experience a similar transformation according to 1 Corinthians 15:49: “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” Matthew 13:43 and Daniel 12:2-3 confirm 1 Corinthians 15:49. Matthew 13:43 reads, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Daniel 12:2-3 echoes Matthew 13:43: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”4 This idea is also found in Philippians 2:14-15: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them [both Christ and the Father in heaven (vs. 9-11)] like stars in the sky[.]”
This luminescent transformation of the saints at the resurrection is even found in extra-Biblical texts like the pseudepigrapha. Concerning the transformation of the righteous and wicked at judgment and the resurrection, 2 Baruch 51:5 reads, “[T]hey shall respectively be transformed, the latter [the righteous] into the splendor of angels[.]” By this it is meant that the righteous shall resemble angels by taking on a likeness that is also a body of light like that of the angels of heaven: “the form of their face shall be turned into the light of their beauty[.]” (2 Baruch 51:3.) 1 Enoch 104:2-3 echoes these verses: “[A]nd your names [the saints] are written before the glory of the Great One. Be hopeful; for aforetime ye were put to shame through ill and affliction; but now ye shall shine as the lights of heaven, ye shall shine and ye shall be seen, and the portals of heaven shall be opened to you.” Notice that according to 1 Enoch 104:2-3 the saints are said to “shine as the lights of heaven” as they enter “the portals of heaven” which seems to occur at the resurrection at the end of the age. This notion of a luminescent likeness in heaven at the end of the age is also found in Christian Apocrypha like the Revelation of St. John the Theologian wherein it says that the angels shall go and collect the righteous from among the sinners and place them at the right hand of God and there the saints shall shine like the sun: “[A]nd the angels shall go and collect them [the righteous] from among the sinners . . . and all the righteous shall be placed on my [God’s] right hand, and shall shine like the sun.” The saints are also said to take on a luminescent form at the end of the age in 4 Ezra 7:97: “The sixth order, when it is shown to them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on.”
Stars often represent angels in the Bible (Judges 5:20; Job 25:5; Revelation 1:20; 9:1; 12:4). Recall that according to 2 Corinthians 11:14 and Matthew 28:2-3, heavenly angels are described as beings of light. When Daniel 12:2-3 says that the wise will shine like the stars after the resurrection, Daniel is not just taking about literal stars. He is talking about angels. Here one can see that the heavenly bodies of the saints are quite literally remade into the glorious luminosity of both that of Christ after His ascension and that of the angels of heaven as indicated in 1 Corinthians 15:49: “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” Romans 8:29 promises that the saints were to be “conformed to the image of Christ.” The fact that after the resurrection to heaven the saints take on heavenly bodies that mirror Christ’s heavenly body fulfills this verse in more than just an ethical sense.
The Preterist Individual Body View of the Resurrection–How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Match Jesus’ Resurrection Body: The Fact that When Entering Heaven, People receive Heavenly Bodies is Confirmed by Near-Death Experiences.
During near-death experiences (NDE’s) it is well known that a being of light commonly identified as Christ is frequently reported delivering what NDE researches call a life review. Interestingly, Jesus is not the only being or thing in heaven said to emit light. Before expounding upon this fact, it should be noted that it is also commonly reported in NDE’s that there are several heavenly realms confirming Ephesians 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12; and 2 Corinthians 12:2. Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms . . . .” 2 Corinthians 12:2 also confirms the fact that there is more than one heavenly realm: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.” NDE’s confirm the existence of a multi-dimensional afterlife with several heavenly realms. Concerning the existence of multiple heavenly dimensions, Dr. Harold A. Widdison and Dr. Craig Lundahl, two NDE researchers, state, “But no matter what level or city a person qualifies for, each city is so superior to any on Earth that it is indescribable, and each succeeding realm is indescribably better than that immediately below it.”5
According to NDE researchers, the higher the heavenly realm the more light the objects and beings in these realms emit. Dr. George Ritchie says the following concerning the fact that beings and objects in heaven are intrinsically luminescent:
And then I saw . . . a city. A glowing, seemingly endless city, bright enough to be seen over all the unimaginable distance between. The brightness seemed to shine from the very walls and streets of this place, and from the beings which I could now discern moving about within it. In fact, the city and everything in it seemed to be made of light, even as the figure at my side was made of light.6
Confirming the idea that the saints shall also acquire luminescent bodies while in heaven like that of Christ’s, Dr George Ritchie says the following concerning the occupants of what is presumably one of the higher heavenly realms: “Even more amazing, they exuded light almost as brilliant as the Christ.”7 Echoing Daniel 12:2-3, Reverend Howard Storm likens beings in heaven to stars: “Everywhere around us were countless beings, like stars in the sky, coming and going.”8
The fact that everything in heaven is intrinsically luminescent implies that spirits who enter these realms after the resurrection are clothed with the intrinsically luminescent matter or substance of these realms in the same way that our spirits are clothed with the matter or substance of this realm while here on planet earth. This is presumably why Paul says that the heavenly spiritual resurrection body is clothed with heavenly flesh in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49.
Having shown how the Bible teaches that Christ and His people have taken and will continue to take on heavenly bodies that resemble each other and that of God and the heavenly host upon entering heaven, one might ask why Jesus’ resurrection body so closely resembled His physical body immediately after rising from the dead?9
Preterist View of the Resurrection Explained: If Jesus’ Resurrection Body Changed after Entering Heaven, Why did His Resurrection Body so closely resemble His Physical Body immediately after His Resurrection?
Was Jesus’ resurrection in any way a model of the resurrection of the saints? Yes. Above it has been shown that Jesus’ heavenly body after His resurrection and subsequent ascension was a perfect model of the heavenly bodies of the saints after also resurrecting to and ascending into heaven. Then what about Jesus’ resurrection body prior to His ascension? Why did Jesus’ earthly resurrection body prior to His ascension so closely resemble the physical body that He had while He was still alive?
Jesus’ resurrection body prior to His ascension was the same body that He had while He was still alive. If this is true, then Jesus’ earthly resurrection prior to His ascension seems to have been more of a sign and attesting miracle that assured the saints of their own imminent resurrection rather than a perfected or idealized model of the resurrection bodies of the saints. There are several reasons why this appears to be true.
In Matthew 12:39-40, Jesus refers to His resurrection as a sign: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” As Max King notes, “[A] ‘sign’ is not the ‘thing itself,’ rather, it points to ‘the thing itself.’”10
Jesus’ body was the only body that was promised not to decay (Acts 2:25-31; 13:35; Psalm 16:10). All the rest of humanity is told “for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19; 1 Kings 2:2; Psalm 49:9; 90:3).11
Ephesians 2:5-6 reads, “[E]ven when we were dead in our transgressions, [Jesus] made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus[.]” Ephesians 2:6 indicates that the resurrection was to take place in heaven. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 Paul echoes this idea by indicating that the saints are to receive heavenly bodies, not eternal earthly bodies, at the resurrection. The fact that at the resurrection, the saints are to receive heavenly bodies is also implied in 1 John 3:2: “[I]t has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He [Christ] appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” Don Preston notes that if all the saints are to receive glorified, perfected earthly bodies exactly like that of Jesus’ earthly resurrection body prior to His ascension, how is it that John does not know what kind of body the saints were to receive at the resurrection? John saw, heard, touched and ate with Jesus immediately after His resurrection. He knew what kind of body Jesus had at that time. If John does not know what kind of body the saints would have after the resurrection to heaven then this implies that John believed that the resurrection bodies of the saints at the end of the age was not the same as Jesus’ body after His resurrection and before His ascension.12 Don Preston also notes that this idea is echoed in 2 Corinthians 5:16: “[E]ven though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.”13
Echoing 1 John 3:2, Don Preston notes that 2 Timothy 2:17-18 also seems to implicitly deny the notion that the resurrection is a resurrection of eternal earthy bodies. In 2 Timothy 2:17-18 Paul writes, “Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” If the resurrection is a resurrection of eternal, earthly bodies, how is it that Hymenaeus or anyone could ever believe that this event had already happened? What is interesting about Paul’s denunciation of Hymenaeus and Philetus is that he does not correct them on the nature of the resurrection, rather he just corrects them on the timing of this event. If Paul believed that the resurrection was to be a resurrection of eternal, earthly bodies, it is somewhat surprising that Paul did not immediately dismiss this false teaching by mentioning the obvious and completely devastating fact that the tombs are all still full of bones.14
Furthermore, in Luke 17:20 Jesus said that the “coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed[.]” The full establishment of the kingdom of God and the resurrection are inextricably linked since both occurred at the last trumpet (Revelation 11:15). If the “coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed,” why would one expect the resurrection to be a visible phenomenon?15
The fact that the resurrection is a heavenly event; not an earthly one with eternal, perfected earthly bodies; also makes sense of Isaiah 65. In this chapter Isaiah describes the New Jerusalem. However, in v. 20 Isaiah indicates that in the New Jerusalem people still die: “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.”16 The fact that people still die on earth during and after the resurrection at the end of the age again implies that eternal life is only reserved for heaven and it is here that the promised resurrection is expected to occur according to the Bible.
Having shown how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the saints is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, let us now focus on the philosophical or scientific improbability of the resurrection of the saints being exactly like Christ’s earthly resurrection prior to His ascension. When Jesus rose from the dead He left behind an empty tomb with a hollow cocoon of grave wrappings. Most Christians today believe that when Jesus rose from the dead His earthly body transformed into a more glorified earthly body. The fact that the grave wrappings left behind an empty cocoon suggests that if Jesus’ body changed after His resurrection this change affected every molecule of Jesus’ original body. In other words, every atom and molecule of Jesus’ dead body was transformed at His resurrection. If Jesus’ resurrection experience immediately prior to His ascension was a perfect model of the resurrection of the saints then this fact poses a problem. When a person dies, his or her body decays and molecules from his or her corpse eventually assimilate into subsequent generations of people. These people then also die with those same molecules which likewise also later come to compose other future generations of people. Thus the resurrection of the dead cannot be exactly like Christ’s in which every atom and molecule of His original body was transformed since the tiniest components of the bodies of the saints have later become part of other people who have also died with those same molecules.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He still had holes in his hands and side (Luke 24:39, John 20:24-27). Will the saints also resurrect from the dead with the same wounds and scars they had in life? If a saint is beheaded, will he or she have to carry around a severed head after the resurrection? If Jesus’ resurrection prior to the ascension is a perfect model of the resurrection of the saints then the answer is yes. But this is not the message implied in the Gospels. Here Jesus heals the blind and makes the lame walk. These miracles like the resurrection of Lazarus were a sign of the resurrection of the dead. When Jesus healed the cripple by saying, “Your sins are forgiven,” (Mark 2:9) the implication is that at the resurrection the bodies and bodily functions of the saints which at death cannot see, hear or walk are to be restored.
Furthermore, if Jesus’ resurrection prior to His ascension is a model of our own resurrection then He is not the firstborn among the dead as there were many corporal resurrections before to Jesus’ (2 Kings 4:18-37; 13:21; Mark 5:39-42; Luke 7:13-15; John 11:38-44). Most Christians believe that Jesus’ resurrection was different from previous resurrections in the Bible as He was immortal and others like Lazarus later died. This argument is problematic because Jesus did not stay on earth to live eternally after rising from the dead, He later ascended into heaven. Thus Jesus’ immortality is not because His resurrection body prior to His ascension is immortal, Jesus is immortal because He ascended into heaven soon after His resurrection and it is in heaven that He is immortal–just as are presumably all the inhabitants of heaven. This idea can be stated with confidence as Jesus’ resurrection body BEFORE His ascension is NOT the same body He had AFTER His ascension. As explained above, after Jesus ascended into heaven He took on a more glorified form such that He took on a luminescent body of light just as God the Father and the angels of heaven are described in the Bible.
Having shown how it is impossible for the resurrection at the end of the age to be an exact mirror of Jesus’ resurrection prior to His ascension, let us now ask was Jesus’ body immediately after His resurrection changed or otherwise glorified at all? The fact that Jesus left behind an empty tomb with empty grave clothes, of course, implies that Jesus’ rose from the dead with the same body that He had in life. But was this body a glorified body? In other words, was Jesus’ resurrection body prior to His ascension in any way different from His body prior to His death?
I do not believe that Jesus’ earthly body changed at all after His resurrection. This idea is implied in Luke 24:39 and John 20:24-27. Here Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples with holes still in His hands and side which Thomas touches to confirm that they are still truly there. Then in Luke 24:39 Jesus says, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” In Luke 24:39 Jesus states that He is not a spirit. In 1 Corinthians 15:39-40 Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching that at the resurrection, the saints do not exist as naked spirits when he says the following concerning the nature of the resurrection body: “Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.” Paul dispels the idea that at the resurrection the souls of the dead are expected to live eternally as naked spirits. Rather, Paul implies that the souls of the departed are clothed with new heavenly bodies as they enter heaven at the resurrection just as the souls of the living on earth are presently clothed with earthly bodies. Therefore, if Jesus’ earthly resurrection body is a perfect model of the resurrection bodies of the saints in that the bodies of the saints are also perfected, earthly bodies, then this fact seems to explicitly contradict 1 Corinthians 15. What Jesus appears to be implying when He says that He is not a spirit in Luke 24:39 is that He rose from the dead in the same body that He had in life.
Some might object to the fact that Jesus resurrected with the exact same body that He had in life by mentioning verses like Mark 16:12 where the disciples did not immediately recognize Jesus after His resurrection. Does the fact that the apostles failed to immediately recognize Jesus after His resurrection imply that He took on a different body at that time? No. Perhaps Jesus’ face was partially obscured? Or perhaps just as likely the disciples failed to recognize Jesus because they never expected to see Him again. The disciples believed that Jesus was dead so one would expect it to take a moment for the disciples to realize that Jesus was in their midst. How often have you failed to immediately recognize someone you know because he or she was dressed in a different way or you saw this person somewhere other than where you expect to see him or her?
What about the fact that after Jesus rose from the dead He could appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31) and walk through walls (Luke 24:36-37)? Is this really a new power that Jesus did not previously possess? If Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, calm storms, multiply fish and bread, turn water into wine and walk on water, how can one confidently say that Jesus could not also pass through walls or appear and disappear at will prior to His death and resurrection? Furthermore, when the people of Galilee brought Jesus to the edge of a cliff to throw Him off Luke 4:30 indicates that Jesus passed right through their midst. Did Jesus miraculously pass through this crowd? If so, then perhaps Jesus had the ability to pass through walls and appear and disappear at will prior to His resurrection?
It does not follow that because Jesus was able to pass through walls after His resurrection that this fact implies that He had an entirely new body. What appears to be a similar miracle is recorded in Acts 8. In this chapter Philip meets an Ethiopian eunuch, teaches him about Isaiah 53 and then baptizes him. Then when “they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again (Acts 8:39)[.]” This miracle seems very similar to Peter’s miraculous release from prison in Acts 12. At this time the shackles fell off Peter’s hands in the presence of two guards sitting to his right and left. Then Peter walked right out of the prison with guards standing at the front door as well. Are we to conclude that these apostles also had new perfected resurrection bodies at this time?
Answering Futurist Objections to the Preterist Individual Body View of the Resurrection–How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Match Jesus’ Resurrection Body: Does the Title “Son of Man” Imply that Jesus Presently has an Earthly, Physical Body like the Resurrection Body He had prior to His Ascension? Revelation 1:13-16 Refutes this Argument.
What about the title “Son of Man”? Does this title imply that Jesus still has an earthly, physical body while in heaven? No. After His ascension into heaven, Jesus is described as a heavenly being of light and yet is still said to be “someone like a son of man” in Revelation 1:13-16:
[A]nd among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance [emphasis mine].”
Notice that Jesus does not have earthly flesh and blood in Revelation 1:13-16 and yet is still said to be “someone like a son of man.” Thus the notion that Jesus still has a body like He did after His resurrection and before His ascension is a problematic assumption.
What about Romans 6:9? Romans 6:9 reads, “Christ, having been raised from the dead, no longer dies.” If Jesus rose from the dead with the exact same body that He had in life does this mean that Jesus eventually died again? No. In Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9, Jesus’ body was changed or transfigured before Peter, James and John. Matthew 17:2 indicates that during the transfiguration, Jesus’ face radiated like the sun: “His [Jesus’] face shone like the sun[.]” Recall that after ascending into heaven John again sees Jesus’ face shine like the sun in Revelation 1:16: “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” Here one can see that Jesus’ appearance at the Mt. of Transfiguration and after His ascension into heaven were identical! This glorified, luminescent appearance of Christ on the Mt. of Transfiguration is therefore quite literally a transformation from an earthly likeness to a heavenly one. Perhaps Jesus’ post-resurrection body did not die but rather morphed back into His heavenly body during His ascension when Jesus’ earthly body was obscured by the cloud in Acts 1:9? After all the preincarnate Christ often made appearances in human form in the Old Testament, did Jesus then have to die to transform back into His heavenly likeness? Or is it more likely that God is capable of transforming back and forth at will just as do the angels of heaven when they occasionally appear in human likeness?17 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2.) The fact that God is able to transform back and forth from a human to heavenly body becomes even more likely when considering the fact that Moses resembled an angel of heaven with a body of light thus acquiring the likeness of a heavenly body after he came down from Mt. Sanai (Exodus 34:29). Did Moses die at the top of the mountain and then again when his skin changed back to that of a normal human? Here we see that Jesus did not need to die to transform from an earthly to a heavenly body.
Above I have explained why I believe that Jesus rose from the dead with the same body that He had in life. If this is true, then Jesus’ resurrection body prior to His ascension, of course, could not be a perfect model of the resurrection bodies of the saints. Though not a perfect model of the resurrection of the saints I believe that Jesus’ earthly resurrection miracle served a very important purpose. Jesus’ resurrection prior to His ascension was an earthly shadow, type and symbol of the coming resurrection of the dead. I believe that Jesus’ earthly resurrection was a miraculous model of the resurrection similar to the miracle in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son in 2 Kings 4:8-37, or when the dead man came back to life when he touched Elisha’s bones in 2 Kings 13:21.
If Jesus’ resurrection body prior to His ascension was different from the resurrection bodies of the saints, why didn’t Jesus resurrect in a form that was a perfect model of the resurrection bodies of the saints? There are a couple reasons why I believe Jesus had to illustrate the resurrection in His original body, not His glorified heavenly body. The first reason that the resurrection could not be perfectly modeled on earth is because the resurrection is an event that was and is to take place in heaven (Isaiah 65:20, Ephesians 2:5-6). And because the resurrection is a heavenly event, the resurrection body which is, of course, a heavenly body is invisible to people on earth. Therefore whenever heavenly beings like God (Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7:9-14), the angels of heaven (2 Kings 6:17) or Christ after His ascension into heaven (Revelation 1:12-20) are described in the Bible, they are generally reported as having been seen in visions (Ezekiel 1:1; Daniel 7:1, 13; 2 Kings 6:17; Revelation 1:10).
Perhaps the only time one could possibly argue that a heavenly body was visible in the Bible outside of in a God-given vision was during Jesus’ post-ascension appearance to the Apostle Paul on His road to Damascus in Acts 9:3-9. However, presumably as a consequence of the extreme luminosity of Christ’s uncloaked image, Paul was subsequently blinded by this encounter. But even in this instance, one could still argue that Paul just saw a vision of Christ at that time since Paul’s companions heard Jesus’ voice but saw no one according to Acts 9:7.
Because the resurrection is a heavenly event and heavenly bodies are only visible to people in visionary form, how could Jesus accurately depict the resurrection–a heavenly event–here on earth in light of these difficulties? Furthermore, resurrecting in the same body that Jesus had before His death seems to illustrate Christ’s power over death in a much more compelling way than would be possible in the absence of an empty tomb.18
Thus I believe that Jesus’ earthly resurrection was an earthly depiction or representation of a much more magnificent, yet invisible, heavenly event. In other words, this miracle was meant to be a visual and tangible sign of an invisible phenomenon the purpose of which being to assure the saints on earth of the imminence of their own resurrection at the end of the age in a way that they could see and experience and therefore believe.
Realized Eschatology and the Resurrection of the Dead: What is the Difference between the Spirit and the Spiritual Body?
The Bible does teach that there is a spirit that lives in our bodies. Hebrews 4:12 reads, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Echoing this idea, James 2:26 states, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” The word for spirit used in these two verses is pneuma. As stated above, pneuma means wind or breath. This term connotes an immaterial substance. However, at the resurrection, I believe that the spirit is not simply released in order to enter heaven in its pure, intangible and naked form. At the resurrection, I believe the spirit is presumably again clothed with a body, a new glorified body. This fact is stated in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49:
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of [the substance or matter of] heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
Here one can see that 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 implies that at the resurrection of the righteous to heaven, the spirits of the saints are clothed with new bodies made up of the substance or matter of heaven. In other words, the spiritual body received at the resurrection mentioned above is not a naked, intangible spirit.
The fact that the saints receive new glorified bodies in heaven as explicitly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 is also strongly implied in 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Of course the earthly tent in this verse is the earthly, mortal body. If the earthly tent is the earthly body, then it logically follows that the “building from God” or the “eternal house in heaven” would, therefore, be the heavenly body that clothes the spirit while in heaven after death as the earthly body clothes the spirit while on earth. The fact that the saints receive glorified bodies in heaven is also implied in Philippians 3:21 as well as in the Pseudepigrapha (1 Enoch 62:16, 2 Enoch 22:8).
According to testimony from near-death experiences, heaven is universally described as a realm of light. In other words, everything in heaven seems to emit light. Thus all the matter or substance of heaven appears to be intrinsically luminescent. Thus all living things in heaven are composed of this luminescent substance and, therefore, beam with immense radiance: “The first man was of the dust [matter or substance] of the earth; the second man is of [the matter or substance of] heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47).” Therefore, when v. 49 says that we shall bear the image of the heavenly man this implies that at the resurrection of the saints to heaven, the saints shall be given new radiant bodies similar to the other beings of heaven as explained above.
Fulfilled Eschatology and the Resurrection of the Dead: What about 1 Corinthians 15:50?
What about 1 Corinthians 15:50? In this v. Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” In this v. Paul does not contract what he said earlier in vs. 38-44 concerning the corporal or physical nature of the heavenly resurrection body. In other words, Paul is not saying that at the resurrection the saints will be raised to heaven as disembodied spirits. This is because the kingdom of God also known as the kingdom of heaven is not heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a term denoting the saints as a collective whole and, therefore, is present in both heaven and on earth as indicated in Luke 17:21: “[N]or will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Because the kingdom of heaven is not synonymous with heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:50 cannot be used as evidence of an incorporeal resurrection body. In other words, 1 Corinthians 15:50 is not a description of the resurrection body and thus does not contradict vs. 38-44.
In vs. 38-44 Paul explicit explains that at the resurrection the saints are to receive new, glorified heavenly bodies composed of the matter and substance of heaven in the same way that the earthly bodies of the saints are composed of the substance and matter of the earth. Thus the fact that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven does not mean that the saints do not receive heavenly, corporal bodies in heaven. Instead, when Paul says that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven what he means is that mankind, flesh and blood, cannot enter the kingdom of God, the church, without the reception and guidance of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the inability of flesh and blood to enter the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 15:50 refers to man’s inability to enter the kingdom of God in the absence of the Holy Spirit. This idea is a recurring theme in the New Testament. Jesus says the following in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them[.]” Matthew 16:17 echoes 1 Corinthians 15:50 and John 6:44. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus congratulates Peter upon coming to the realization that He is the Messiah by saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Notice the similar language in Matthew 16:17 and 1 Corinthians 15:50. As indicated in Matthew 16:17, Peter did not come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah by human, flesh and blood, understanding, rather, Peter’s revelation came through the guidance of the Spirit of God. The same message in conveyed in 1 Corinthians 15:50. No one can enter the kingdom of God, the church, without the reception and guidance of the Holy Spirit as indicated in the verses cited above.
Thus no one can enter the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven which exists in heaven unless one enters the kingdom of heaven in spirit–through the acquisition of the Holy Spirit—while here on earth: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).” When Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, he means that the saints must be drawn to the kingdom by the Holy Spirit and subsequently receive this Spirit as a deposit in order to guarantee entry into the kingdom of heaven here on earth and in heaven. See Why 1 Corinthians 15 Implies that the Collective Body View Cannot Exist Without a Real-Life Resurrection.
The Preterist View of the Resurrection of the Dead is Superior to the Futurist View: The Notion that the Dead are raised as Perfected Earthly Bodies is dispelled by 1 Corinthians 15:35-50.
In futurist and partial preterist circles it is often expected that the resurrection will be an earthly phenomenon in which the dead will be raised as incorruptible earthly bodies. As shown above, the notion that the resurrection is an earthly phenomenon in which the dead are raised as perfected earthly bodies is dispelled by 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. In 1 Corinthians 15:35-50, Paul clarifies the fact that during the resurrection, the saints were to ascend into heaven to receive glorified heavenly bodies, not remain on earth with incorruptible corporal bodies as is often mistakenly supposed. See The Notion that the Resurrection is an Earthly Phenomenon whereby the Dead are raised as Perfected, Eternal Earthly Bodies is dispelled by 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 and Isaiah 65:20.
Answering Futurist Objections to the Preterist View of the Resurrection: What about the Resurrection of Matthew 27:52-53?
In support of the idea that at the resurrection the saints are to receive imperishable earthly bodies some quote Matthew 27:52-53: “The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.” In these verses, Matthew mentions the fact that some of the departed saints were raised right after Jesus’ resurrection.
If the bodies of the saints who were raised immediately after Jesus’ resurrection were physical, earthly bodies, then this resurrection mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 strongly resembles the resurrection of Jesus, Lazarus (John 11:38-44), the little girl and boy whom Jesus raised in Mark 5:39-42 and Luke 7:13-15, Tabitha who was brought back to life by the apostle Peter (Acts 9:36-42), Eutychus who was brought back to life by the apostle Paul (Acts 20:9-12), the man who was raised to life after touching Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21) and the boy raised by Elisha (2 Kings 4:18-37). Matthew 27:52-53 says that at the time of this resurrection “[t]he tombs were opened[.]” Thus in this detail this resurrection mirrors Jesus’ resurrection and that of Lazarus and the man who touched Elisha’s bones in 2 Kings 13:21.
Another thing that the resurrection mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 has in common with these other resurrections mentioned above is that all of these resurrections happened too soon to be the resurrection predicted at the end of the age. 2 Timothy 2:17-18 reads, “Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.” Paul asserts that the resurrection was still in the future in A.D. 66 or 67 when 2 Timothy was written. Thus the resurrection of Matthew 27:52-53 like the other bodily resurrections mentioned throughout the Old and New Testaments mentioned above is not an actual description of the resurrection at the end of the age because it happened too soon.
Furthermore, if one mistakenly assumes that Matthew 27:52-53 is a perfect model of resurrection of the dead, one might ask where these immortal humans are today? So far no one has ever encountered a person who does not die. Even Jesus who died and later rose from the dead did not remain on earth forever. Instead, Jesus later ascended into heaven as these saints mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 are also expected to do at the last trumpet according to 1 Corinthians 15:35-53. Thus the resurrection of the dead recorded in Matthew 27:52-53 is just one more example of the dead being raised as physical signs of the coming resurrection just like Jesus’ resurrection, the resurrection of Lazarus and all the other resurrections mentioned above. This event is no different from any of the other resurrections in the Bible.
If the resurrection of Matthew 27:52-53 is not an actual description of the resurrection at the end of the age because it happened too soon, perhaps this resurrection foreshadows what the resurrection is expected to be like in the future? In other words, maybe the resurrection at the end of the age was to be a future resurrection of eternal earthly bodies similar to what was recorded in Matthew 27? Using Matthew 27:52-53 as evidence of a resurrection of imperishable earthly bodies sometime in the distant future is highly problematic. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 indicates that the resurrection was to occur at the Parousia, the second coming of Christ. And the Parousia or second coming was expected to occur within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries as is made explicit in Mark 14:61-62, John 21:22-23 and Matthew 24. This means that the resurrection was also expected to occur in the first century sometime after A.D. 66 or 67 when 2 Timothy written. Thus in light of these verses, the resurrection cannot occur any time after the first century. Of course no such resurrection of eternal earthly bodies ever occurred in the latter half of the first century or any time thereafter, thus this notion is highly problematic. The problems with this view do not end here.
If one expects the resurrection at the end of the age to be a resurrection of perfected, eternal earthly bodies, this fact also directly contradicts the description of the nature of the resurrection found in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50. As stated above, 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 explicitly indicates that the resurrection at the end of the age was to be a resurrection of the saints to heaven in which these departed saints receive new, glorified and eternal heavenly bodies, not immortal earthly ones. These problems, among others, suggest that the resurrection mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 like all the other resurrections recorded in the Bible is just another miraculous sign of the coming resurrection rather than a literal depiction of the actual resurrection at the end of the age.
If the resurrection in Matthew 27:52-53 is not an exact depiction of the resurrection to heaven at the end of the age mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50, what purpose did it serve? This miracle is actually an important part or component of Jesus’ own resurrection miracle. Colossians 1:18 says that Jesus was to be the firstborn among the dead: “[H]e [Jesus] is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead[.]” The miracle in which the saints came out of their tombs and appeared bodily throughout Jerusalem completes Jesus’ own earthly and bodily resurrection miracle mentioned at the end of the Gospels. It does this by illustrating the fact that Jesus is the firstborn among the dead in a visible and observable manner played out on an earthly stage. Thus as part of Jesus’ own resurrection miracle, this subsequent resurrection of the saints serves as a miraculous sign confirming to the living people of Israel that Jesus is the firstborn among the dead and therefore they too could expect to resurrect sometime in the future as did Jesus after His crucifixion. If other saints were not raised to life immediately after Jesus’ own resurrection miracle one could argue that Jesus was not the firstborn among the dead as stated in Colossians 1:18 as there were several bodily resurrections prior to Jesus’ (2 Kings 4:18-37; 13:21; Mark 5:39-42; Luke 7:13-15; John 11:38-44) and a couple after (Acts 9:36-42; 20:9-12). Thus I believe that it was important that there be a bodily resurrection of the saints immediately after Jesus’ own resurrection miracle because if there were not Jesus would not appear to be the firstborn among the dead.
Thus the resurrection of the saints cannot still be in our future since it was expected to occur at the time of the Parousia (1 Thessalonians 4:16). And since it is clear that people still continue to physically die and the departed are still all in their tombs, the resurrection at the end of the age could not be a resurrection of eternal, earthly bodies. Therefore, the resurrection appears to be a heavenly event as is explicitly indicated in 1 Corinthians 15. Heavenly events are invisible to those on earth outside of God-given visions. The resurrection of Matthew 27:52-53 like all the other resurrections mentioned in the Old and New Testaments was an earthly depiction or representation of a much more magnificent, yet invisible, heavenly event. In other words, these miracles were meant to be visual and tangible signs or models of an invisible phenomenon so as to assure the saints on earth of the imminence of their own resurrection at the end of the age in a way that they could see and experience and therefore believe.
Some might object to the above interpretation by citing 1 Corinthians 15:21-22: 21 “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” For an explanation of how the eternal life in heaven that Jesus enabled through His sacrificial death entirely repaired the spiritual curse of death caused by the sin of Adam see Why Isaiah 65:20 and Related Verses Imply that Physical Death Preceded the Fall of Man. Also for an explanation of how the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age is a mirror opposite of the fall of man at the beginning of creation see Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective.
Preterism and the Resurrection of the Dead–How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Match Jesus’ Resurrection Body: Conclusion
In summary, Christ’s resurrection body after His ascension into heaven might be said to be a perfect reflection and model of the resurrection bodies of the saints after also ascending into heaven at the resurrection of the dead. Once the saints arrive in heaven, their bodies are to be glorified in order to resemble the radiant glory of Christ and the host of heaven.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!!
As shown in the above article, Jesus’ resurrection body after His ascension is a perfect mirror of the resurrection bodies of the saints.
- There is some debate as to whether this angelic being is the preincarnate Christ.
- Christ also appears in this form in The Sophia of Christ, an extra-biblical Christian document dating sometime between A.D. 50 and A.D. 200. Here Jesus appears to His disciples after His resurrection in a likeness which “resembles a great angel of light.”
- This text is cited from the Ethiopic version of the Apocalypse of Peter which is thought to be the most reliable.
- Revelation 7:14 echoes these verses: “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” The word translated white in v. 7 is leukaino which actually means bright. It is possible that bright may not necessarily need to be interpreted literally in Revelation 7:14 as is illustrated by its use in the Pseudepigrapha where bright also appears to mean rich, costly or beautiful.
- www.near-death.com/experiences/research18.html#a01a (9/12/13).
- www.near-death.com/experiences/research19.html (3/14/2008).
How could Jesus’ resurrection body be like the Father’s, if God is said to be spirit? John 4:24 reads, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Is John 4:24 irrefutable proof that the Father is an intangible spirit? No. If Christ received a heavenly, spiritual body after He ascended into heaven, then it would seem strange if the Father were to exist in a radically different form from that of His only begotten Son. It is nearly universally acknowledged that Jesus has a corporal form in heaven (Colossians 2:9). However, as explained above it is not an earthly body, it is a heavenly, spiritual body:
“it [the resurrection body] is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:44-48).
Though Jesus has a heavenly body, it is a spiritual body. In other words, Jesus’ heavenly body is probably not an intangible vapor but rather a heavenly, spiritual body made out of the stuff or matter of heaven. Though Jesus seems to have an actual body in heaven, notice that 1 Corinthians 15:45 says that Jesus is a life-giving spirit: “’The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” Just as the Father is said to be spirit in John 4:24, Jesus is also said to be a spirit in 1 Corinthians 15:45. If Jesus is the image of the Father, it stands to reason that the Father also has a spiritual body. It appears to this commentator that when Jesus or the Father are said to be a spirit that this is just an abbreviation of what Paul calls a spiritual or heavenly body in 1 Corinthians 15. Though it is impossible to fully know the mysteries of God and heaven, I believe that the Bible suggests that Jesus and the Father are not an intangible spirits but rather have similar heavenly or spiritual bodies.
Another reason to believe that Jesus, the Father, or the saints do not dwell in heaven as naked spirits is philosophical. Various injuries to the brain can cause a person to lose sight, hearing or the ability to think. In fact, some forms of brain trauma can even dramatically and instantly change a person’s personality. For example, trauma to the frontal lobe can turn a previously mild-mannered, friendly person into someone who is very mean and physically aggressive. These brain deficits imply that the spirit does not perform any of these functions in and of itself. Thus it seems that the spirit is more like a life force or essence of a living being but does not have any physical or cognitive abilities.
- Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy, (Colorado Springs: Bimillennial Press, 2002), 313.
- John Noe, Ph.D., The Greater Jesus: His glorious unveiling, (Indianapolis: East2West Press, 2012), 314.
- Don K. Preston, Like Father, Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2010), 236-237.
- NASB. Don K. Preston, We Shall Meet Him in The Air: The Wedding of the King of Kings!, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2010), 84.
- Don K. Preston, D. Div., The Hymenaean Heresy: Reverse The Charges, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2014), 7.
- Ibid., 25.
- Because of the utopic way in which the New Jerusalem is described in the final chapters of Isaiah including Isaiah 65, futurists believe that Isaiah 65 was to be fulfilled after the end time. And I agree. The New Jerusalem in the final chapters of Isaiah and the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 are strikingly similar. Though I would add the fact that I believe that the last chapters of Isaiah may have been initially fulfilled in a typological sense in the aftermath of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon and the subsequent rebuilding of Jerusalem as a result of the decree of Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. Though Isaiah 65 may have initially pointed to events in the fourth and fifth century B.C., these verses were almost certainly typological of the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22. Thus the fact that the final chapters of Isaiah, including Isaiah 65, were ultimately fulfilled in the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 strongly implies that people will also still physically die on earth in the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22 as predicted in Isaiah 65:20.
- Comment on facebook by Paul Emslie.
- Brian L. Martin, Behind the Veil of Moses: Piecing Together the Mystery of the Second Coming, (USA: Xulon Press, 2009), 377-380.