Does Jesus Have “the Same Body” from Birth Throughout Eternity?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 10:45am
AN INTERESTING QUERY: I was just reading a Christmas message by Leith Anderson, and I’m not completely sure about it. He says, “Never think that [Christ’s] body was only for the one generation from Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s cross. This was permanent. God became human forever. . . . It was the same body that ascended up into heaven and is there now. It is the same body that the Bible predicts, and Jesus promises, will come back to earth again. It is the same body he will wear forever and ever through all of eternity.” Now, Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). Yet Anderson’s claim seems to suggest that Jesus’ flesh-and-blood body does inhabit that kingdom. Is it important whether or not he has that same body?
MY REPLY: Without the full context, I cannot be sure what Anderson means by “the same body.” It may be that he is using this as shorthand for “the same human nature,” i.e., the same identity as Jesus of Nazareth. This is certainly the point of his statement, “God became human forever.” With this I agree. When the Logos began his existence as the human person, Jesus, at the incarnation, he was committed to continuing to exist as that human being forever.
However, the actual wording of the brief excerpt from Anderson suggests something else, i.e., that since the incarnation the human person Jesus of Nazareth has had and will eternally continue to have just ONE AND THE SAME BODY. The wording implies—no, affirms—that the body that lay in the manger, hung on the cross, ascended into heaven, is seated on the heavenly throne, will be worn by Jesus at his second coming, and will be his for eternity “is the same body.”
This of course is simply not true. Jesus of Nazareth has actually already had TWO bodies. The first was the body supernaturally formed in Mary’s womb in the event usually called the virgin birth, but which was more precisely the virgin conception. This body continued to develop as any human body is supposed to do, and grew into manhood and ultimately died on the cross. Concerning what happened next, I disagree with most Bible interpreters. Most assume that sometime between his burial in Joseph’s tomb and his emergence from that tomb on resurrection Sunday, Jesus’ body became transformed into his new, glorified, eternal body, i.e., the one that is now seated at the Father’s right hand in the heavenly throne room. I believe otherwise. I believe that, for evidential purposes, the body that came out of the tomb was the SAME BODY that was buried there, and which had been miraculously preserved and raised from the dead. This body was identical with the one that died, down to the nail-prints and spear wound. This continuity was necessary so that there would be no doubt that the risen Christ was indeed the same Jesus that the witnesses had known before his death.
What first started me thinking about this was John’s testimony in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” Now, the Bible is clear that OUR glorified resurrection bodies will be modeled after the body Jesus NOW has: “[Jesus] will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil. 3:21). But John saw Christ in his body several times after the resurrection, yet he says “it has not appeared as yet what we will be.” Only when Jesus returns will we see his new body, and our new bodies will be just like it! (During his 40 days of post-resurrection appearances, Jesus did a number of miraculous things with his old body [Mark 16:12; Luke 24:16, 31, 36; John 20:19, 26]; but he did not need a new body to do these things.)
I have concluded that Jesus’ old, original, crucified, and raised-up body was supernaturally transformed into his new, perfected, glorified, and eternal body at some point during his ascension into the cloud of God’s presence as recorded in Acts 1:9. He entered that cloud in his old body, and came out “on the other side,” in the heavenly throne room, in his new body. This is the body to which Paul refers in Phil. 3:21. It is the body Stephen saw (Acts 7:55), the body John saw (Rev. 4:6), the body every eye will see at the second coming (Rev. 1:7), and the body in which Jesus will be seated on the judgment throne in the final judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). Most significantly, it is the body Jesus our Redeemer will have for eternity as he joins us in our final heaven, where he will live with us forever upon the redeemed earth (part of “the new heavens and the new earth”). Upon the new earth God the Father will manifest himself to us in a new and permanent theophany (Rev. 21:3, 5, 22; 22:3); and the divine-human person, the eternal Logos incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth, will dwell among us in his (like ours) glorified human body. In Revelation John mentions several times the Savior’s presence with us in his persona as “the Lamb” (7:17; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).
It is indeed important to see that Jesus does not have the same identical body from the manger on throughout eternity, because his human experience in this regard is the pattern for his spiritual siblings, the rest of God’s glorified family. In our own heavenly existence we shall be “conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn [from the dead—Col. 1:18] among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). I cannot speak for everyone, but I know for sure that I myself do not want to live for eternity in my present body!! (A corollary of all this is that in heaven we shall NOT know Jesus “by the print of the nails in His hands,” since his perfected, glorified body—like ours—will contain no traces of sin’s curse upon it.)