The Bible teaches that those who die and have qualified as “first fruits” will be raised in the first resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Revelation 20:4-6). Many false concepts exist as to the nature of the first resurrection. 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).
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 (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).
The Christian world is filled with horrible misconceptions about the first resurrection. In a Christian book pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the following description of the RESURRECTED Christ was given:
“[Mary Magdalene] backed out of the tomb… and found her way partially barred by a terribly disfigured man whom she supposed had to be the keeper of the garden… There was something about that one eye—the other seemed to be almost closed with terrible bruises and livid wounds, the lips torn and blue, and the skin pallid. It was Jesus!”
These descriptions totally negate the fact that Jesus Christ was resurrected as a glorified Spirit being who did not and does not have a physical body. The Bible does not support the concept that He was resurrected as a physical being who was glorified later when He ascended to heaven. Rather, we read in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44:
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
When Christ was resurrected, after having been dead and buried in the grave for three days and three nights, He was raised AS a glorified Spirit being. He was not resurrected as a physical human being and then subsequently glorified. Rather, at the exact time and the very moment of His resurrection, His physical body, which had not seen decay or corruption, was changed into a spiritual body. Christ was resurrected in glory. He ascended to heaven in glory. We read in 1 Timothy 3:16, that Christ was received up in glory, with a glorified spiritual body. As a Spirit being, He does not have a disfigured body.
We understand, of course, that the glorified Jesus MANIFESTED Himself as a human being after His resurrection, but NOT in the way as described in the above-quoted book. 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.
The confusion regarding the nature of the first resurrection is even magnified by statements in other commentaries, such as the “Compact Bible Commentary” of the “Nelson’s Compact Series,” which states the following regarding 1 Thessalonians 4:16:
“Clearly the [first] Resurrection will be a PHYSICAL resurrection in which BODILY existence will be restored… The resurrected bodies of Christians will be like that of Christ… incorruptible and immortal, and yet they will be bodies of FLESH and BONE…”
This statement is terribly wrong and quite frankly, blasphemous, but many Christians believe in it, as they do not understand the clear teaching of the Bible.
As mentioned, the first resurrection is NOT a physical resurrection, and the resurrected bodies of Christians will NOT be bodies of FLESH and BONE. This very concept is preposterous.
We stated the following in a recent Q&A, titled, “Do you teach a resurrection of the physical body?”
“Regarding the resurrection of those who died ‘in Christ,’ that is, in whom God’s Holy Spirit dwelled when they died, we read that they are resurrected with an immortal SPIRITUAL body. God will raise them up to spiritual, immortal and eternal life. God will not first resurrect their dead ‘physical bodies’ and then ‘change’ them into spiritual bodies. Rather, God will resurrect or raise the Christians with spiritual bodies, as the Bible clearly indicates…
“When God the Father resurrected Jesus Christ, He changed His physical body (which was still in the grave) into a spiritual body. That is why Christ could later walk through closed doors, and why He could make Himself visible and invisible, as He pleased. We should also note that Christ, when He again became a Spirit being, which is invisible to the human eye, could manifest Himself as a human being, even so much so that He appeared to have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39-40). Of course, as a Spirit being, He did not really have flesh and bone, but He was able to manifest Himself in such a way. Jesus did speak of ‘a spirit’ not having flesh and bones as He did (verse 39). However, He was speaking of demonic spirits not being able to manifest themselves in the flesh. (Compare our free booklet, ‘Angels, Demons and the Spirit World,’ pages 42-43). We have the example of Christ and two angels appearing as men and eating a meal in the time of Abraham (Genesis 18:1-8). This example shows that God (Christ in the Old Testament account) and faithful angels could manifest themselves in the physical domain as men.”
When Christ was resurrected, He was resurrected with a body composed of SPIRIT, not matter. He was NOT resurrected with a physical body. That would have been quite impossible as with a physical body, He could not have gone through closed doors, nor could He have made Himself invisible. He just manifested Himself occasionally as a physical being, but even then, we must realize that He did so at times “in another form” (Mark 16:12).
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; 1 Corinthians 15:49).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link