Was Jesus’ resurrection only spiritual? One of the cornerstones of the Christian faith is the belief in the resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul makes clear what is at stake in his famous statement in 1 Corinthians 15:13-14: 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
This is a damning statement. And it clearly lays out what is at stake in this debate. But what if Jesus never actually rose from the dead in a physical sense? What if the resurrection that Paul is referring to was a spiritual resurrection and not a physical one?
What’s at Stake?
There is a faction of Christianity that does believe in a spiritual resurrection. Why do they think this? There are many different reasons. The most common argument comes from the same Epistle we just referenced, 1 Corinthians. In verses 42-44, Paul states:
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
Is This A Valid Argument?
The key to making sense of these seemingly contradictory statements is simply in understanding who Paul is talking about in each circumstance. In the first verses, Paul is referring to Jesus specifically. In the second set of verses, Paul is talking about humans that die and enter heaven. Paul was conveying the idea that the decedents of Adam (Humans), cannot enter heaven unchanged.
Believers accepting Jesus’ forgiveness receive the spiritual element that allows them entry into heaven. So it is not a contrast between a spiritual body and a physical body, but a believer and a non-believer.
But What About Jesus?
If you want to argue for a spiritual resurrection of Jesus, you have to ignore what the Gospel writers say about Jesus. Even if you don’t believe the Gospels are true, it is clear that the writers intend for us to understand the resurrection as physical. Here are just a few verses that show that Jesus not only appeared to the Disciples and others, but physically interacted with them:
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.
Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence.
“Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Clearly the writers are going out of their way to show that Jesus rose physically. From physically eating food, to having the Disciples touch his body and examine his wounds, the intent is clear. Jesus rose physically from the dead. If you want to argue for a spiritual resurrection, you are going to have to ignore some significant evidence to the contrary.
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