The Bible teaches that the first resurrection is a resurrection to eternal, immortal life—to an existence in the spirit realm, when converted men and women become born-again members in the Kingdom and Family of God. We are told that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50), and that in the first resurrection, we will have incorruptible spiritual bodies, when we are “raised in glory” (verses 42-44).
We will be like Christ, bearing His very image (1 Corinthians 15:49), and Christ is the exact image of God the Father (2 Corinthians 4:4). We will be glorified God beings, as the Father and Jesus Christ are glorified. We will in that sense look like Christ.
We can find a description of the resurrected Christ in His glorified state in numerous passages of the Bible, and none of them implies that He has a physical body. For instance, we read in Revelation 1:14-16: “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice the sound of many waters… and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength…” (Compare also Revelation 2:18). A similar description of Christ, as He appeared in glory prior to His temporary existence as a human being, can be found in Ezekiel 1:26-28. This describes also His glorified state today, as the Father glorified Christ in His resurrection with the glory which He had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5).
And it is that same glory which will be bestowed on us in the first resurrection (1 John 3:1-2; Romans 8:18). Jesus Christ was the very first who was raised in the first resurrection (Acts 26:23)—being the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29). His followers will be resurrected in the same way as He was, at the time of His return.
When we can see Christ as He is, in His glorified state, we are told in God’s Word that He has an appearance of a Man. Also, God the Father is described with a man-like appearance (compare Revelation 4:3; 5:1; 21:5; Daniel 7:9-10, 13). They are not described as animals. (Christ is referred to as a Lamb in the Book of Revelation, but only in a figurative sense, as He is the Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb, who took away the sins of the world).
They are not described in any way as women either. God is our Father, not our Mother; and Christ is the Son of God, not the Daughter of God.
Those in the first resurrection are called the sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18). They will have a glorified appearance as God does; with the exception that those who were women in this life will look like (glorified) women; there is no biblical evidence that all humans made immortal look like men. Even though God is male, He made man, in his physical appearance, as male and female (Genesis 1:27).
A most-misunderstood Scripture does not say that there will be neither male nor female in the resurrection to eternal life; only that those in the first resurrection will not marry or are given in marriage as they will be like the angels in heaven (Mark 12:25). The reference to angels does not say that we will be angels; nor, that we will be male because angels are allegedly only male (there are female angels too, and many angels look like animals); rather, that we will not marry anymore and that we cannot die anymore as angels don’t marry and as they are immortal as well (Luke 20:35-36).
Even though we will look like Christ insofar as our outward glorified appearance is concerned (that is, as glorified God beings, we will still have a glorified face, eyes, a mouth, ears, the shape of a human-like body with arms and feet etc.), how will we appear when we manifest ourselves to human beings?
Again, we can note many examples showing us how Christ appeared to humans so that they could see him (we cannot see a glorified God being with our human eyes, except in a vision). From that we can ascertain how we will look when we manifest ourselves.
First, we should clarify that no one has ever seen the Father or heard His voice. We know that the God of the Old Testament appeared to humans (He even appeared to Moses in His glorified state, but Moses was only allowed and able to see His back). That God being was none other than Jesus Christ. We are told that God the Father made everything through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:10; Colossians 1:15-17).
We read that no one has ever seen God at any time (John 1:18), but Christ elaborated to explain that no one has ever seen the form of God the FATHER at any time, nor has anyone ever heard His voice (John 5:37; 6:46). And yet, we read that some of the ancients in the Old Testament saw the very form of God, and they heard His voice (Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 5:4). This means, they saw and heard Jesus Christ, but not God the Father (compare 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, 8-9).
We read in Genesis 14:18-21 that Christ, as Melchizedek, appeared to Abraham, then called Abram, who gave Him the tithe of everything. Hebrews 7 confirms that Melchizedek was indeed Jesus Christ who lived at that time as High Priest among the people (compare verses 3, 8). He had not become a Man, but He lived for a while “as” a man; that is, He manifested Himself as a man. Abram knew who Melchizedek was, and it appears that this was the first time that He saw Him in His physical manifestation.
Before that occurrence, we read that the LORD “spoke” or “appeared” to him, but not in the way as He “appeared” to him in Genesis 14 and later in Genesis 18. There, Christ and two angels “appeared” to Abraham as “men” (verse 2) when they were about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. They ate and spoke with him (Genesis 18:1-15). But this does not mean that they actually WERE men–that is, flesh and blood human beings. They just manifested themselves AS human beings.
Abraham knew right away that one of the three was Christ, calling Him “My Lord” in verse 3 (compare also verses 27, 30, 32). The word is Adonai, which Abraham used in reference to God (compare Genesis 15:2). He recognized Christ, having seen Him before when He appeared to Him as Melchizedek. (In passing, the word Adonai is actually a plural word, meaning “my lords”; the singular form is adon. This is another proof that Abraham knew that God consists of more than one Person.)
Did Christ look like Melchizedek when He was born as a human being? One might not think so as He came from the tribe of Judah and His mother was Jewish, and as Christ had existed long before there was any human, let alone a Jew. This however overlooks the fact that God and Christ knew that there would be human beings, and that Christ would be born from the tribe of Judah, and this from the beginning of the world, before there was time. This is true for those whom God has predestined to be called in this day and age; it is most certainly true for Jesus. So, they both saw in the future and knew how Christ would look like as a Man, and it is therefore logical to conclude that He appeared in that form to Abraham, Moses, and to the other ancients of old.
Upon further scrutiny, we will see that the same is true for His appearance, as a man, after His resurrection. He did not appear as a young child, nor as an animal or a woman, but as a man.
When He appeared to the apostles, they thought at first that He was a ghost or an apparition (Luke 24:36-42). Christ manifested Himself to the disciples as a being with flesh and bones. He even ate food in their presence to convince the disciples that it was He, not a spirit or a demon.
As a Spirit being, He does not have a disfigured body. He did not manifest Himself to Mary in a disfigured state. It is true that He later appeared to the apostles and “doubting Thomas” with wounds in His hands and at His side to convince them that it was He (John 20:24-29; Luke 24:39-40), but there is not the slightest hint that He did so on other occasions. And it is of course absurd to think that He, as a Spirit being, still carries with Him in His spiritual body the physical wounds inflicted upon Him when He was a human being. From this it follows that He does not always manifest Himself and appear in exactly the same way.
In the case of the disciples having gone fishing, after Christ’s resurrection, they were on the lake and Jesus was at the shore (John 21:1-4), so the distance was far enough so that they were unable to recognize Him at first. Even before His death, there were times when they did not recognize Him, thinking at first that He was a ghost or an apparition (Mark 6:47-50).
When Mary Magdalene did not recognize Him at first at the grave, after His resurrection, it was perhaps because she did not see or look at Him that closely (John 20:11-16; note verse 14: “She turned…”). She thought He was the gardener, and as an unmarried woman, it was the custom at that time (which Jesus did not follow) not to look at another man too closely or to engage in public in a conversation with Him, as we can see from the account of Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman, which surprised His disciples (John 4:27) .
After His resurrection, Christ manifested Himself occasionally as a physical being, but at least on one occasion, He did so “in another form” (Mark 16:12). What is meant with that phrase?
The Nelson Study Bible states that “Jesus’ appearance in another form may indicate that He appeared differently to the two on the road than He had appeared to His followers before.”
Part of the reason that they failed to recognize Him was the fact that their eyes were closed and had to be opened (Luke 24:31), and that they did not expect to see Him at all, thinking He was dead and in the grave. We read that the disciples did not believe the women who claimed that they had seen Him alive (Luke 24:11).
The word “form” in the Greek is “morphe” and means “form, shape, outward appearance.” The Benson Commentary states that “he appeared in another form, or habit, namely, different from that which he formerly had when he conversed with them.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds the following thoughts:
“… he appeared in another form: it seems to have been the form, or habit of a gardener that he appeared in to Mary; since she thought him to be one, and to be the gardener that belonged to the garden, in which the sepulchre was: but now it was in another form, or habit, that he appeared; very likely in the habit of a Scribe, or doctor; since he took upon him to expound the Scriptures to the persons he appeared to; as also took bread, and blessed it, when at supper with them…
“This is not to be understood of any change in the shape of his body, or the features of his face; for as soon as their eyes were opened, which had been before held, they knew him perfectly well: whereas, if there had been such an alteration made in him, that he could not have been known for the same, there would have been no need of holding their eyes, that they should not know him, Luke 24:16.”
Jesus Christ manifested Himself in the way in which He looked as a human being. But He was not always recognized right away, as people did not know what to look for, and because their eyes had not been opened.
When Christ manifested Himself, He did so in such a way that those who had known Him could recognize Him. Sometimes, they recognized Him by His voice before they looked at Him closely to recognize Him by His appearance; at other times, they recognized Him by particular mannerisms, which they had been familiar with while He was in the flesh.
In the same way, we will manifest ourselves to those who knew us before our death, so that they will be able to recognize us. When we were male, we will manifest ourselves as a male. In fact, even as glorified beings, a man will still have a glorified “male”-appearance, not a glorified female appearance. The reverse is true for those who were female in this life. They do not suddenly become “males” in the resurrection, nor will they manifest themselves as males when they appear to human beings. Furthermore, and this should go without saying, they will not appear as animals or with animal-like features which many of the angels possess.
As Christ apparently manifested Himself as the Man whom people were familiar with when He died, so it stands to reason that we will do likewise, but we will also be able to make ourselves known to those who only knew us in our younger years. We may do so by our voice, mannerisms or the recitation of other peculiar and unique circumstances or experiences, so that they will be without any doubt that we will be the ones who had known and dealt with them when we were in the flesh.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link