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Does Jesus Have An Earthly Body In Heaven? (Pt. I)

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

In the theological area of Christology, some believers are convinced that Jesus, when He ascended to heaven, laid aside His earthly body when He ascended into heaven. People convinced of this do not deny that Jesus resurrected in the body He had on the cross. However, some are convinced he either laid aside the body He was born with when He ascended in heaven, or Jesus took on a glorified body now that He is in the presence of God. A person on a website expressing his thoughts on the matter commented on the subject by writing the following.

Absolutely NO! 1 Cor.15:50 says ‘…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…’ The whole chapter deals with the hope of the resurrection. Verse 14 tells us that those chosen for heavenly assignment lose their fleshly bodies and are raised as spiritual bodies
(Clement, R. 2019)

Some of the Church of Christ assemblies also instructs that God is no longer in His physical body

Jesus by virtue of having once been human, forever retains the description of human even though he possesses, at this time, no human qualities. Jesus body from resurrection to ascension was in no way different from his body before the resurrection, identical to Lazarus' resurrected body. Right now Jesus has shed the "body" ("container" for all you comet hail-bopp followers) and is composed 100% of spirit as he was before the incarnation. Right now Jesus does not have flesh, bones or blood, but is wholly a spirit being, as he was before incarnation. Jesus resurrected body is nothing like what our future resurrected body will be like

Is it true that God revealed with Scripture that Jesus no longer has His body as He is in heaven? There are three passages that a person ought to consider when discussing whether Jesus has retained His body as He is in heaven. One passage has to do with the purpose of the high priest and the sacrificial system.

The first passage where it can be observed that Jesus is still in His earthly body can be found in the book of Acts. Jesus in Acts chapter 1:1-7, Jesus instructed His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit (1:8). After this instruction, it is recorded that Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud received Him where Jesus was out of their sight (1:9). It is seen that Jesus talked with the disciples in His earthly body, Jesus was lifted into the sky in His earthly body. Even when the disciples saw Him ascend into heaven, a divine messenger told the disciples Jesus would return the same way He ascended (Acts 1:11).

Some may offer a counterpoint suggesting that since He was not seen beyond the cloud that covered Him, this is when Jesus replaced His earthly body with a glorified body in heaven. However, Mark's gospel recorded that Jesus was glorified in His earthly body on the mountain with Peter, John, and James (9:1-3). This event occurred before He ascended. Furthermore, Jesus instructed His disciples that the way He was glorified on the mountain was also associated with His Second Coming (Mark 9:1). Examining these details would prove no problem for Jesus having His earthly body in heaven.

A second passage is in Hebrews chapter ten. An essential role in the sacrificial system was the high priest. While the priest was responsible for offering sacrifices daily, the high priest, once a year, was to offer a sacrifice on behalf of the nation of Israel (Leviticus 16:1-34). The author of Hebrews wrote about the insufficiency of bulls' and goats' blood as they were inadequate to take away sins (10:3-4). The author continued to underscore how God prepared a body for Jesus for this reason: to atone for the sins of humanity, something that the blood of animals could not do (10:5-9). Additionally, the author of Hebrews mentioned that the believer would be sanctified through the offering of Jesus once and for all (10:10). The author of Hebrews mentioned that the priest who sacrificed in the temple offered animals that could never take away sins (10:11). Moreover, Jesus offered Himself to God and sat down at the right hand of God (10:12). The author drove the point home that the saint can have the confidence to come to the throne of grace because Jesus is the great high priest in the house of God (10:19-21).

There are several implications found in this passage in the book of Hebrews. First, animals could not take away sins because animals are not human beings. Jesus Christ had to become a man, and because He is a man, He can offer Himself on behalf of humanity (c.f., Hebrews 10:1-5). Second, the temple's high priest in light of Israel was a man, and it strictly follows that when Jesus entered into heaven and offered Himself, He entered in as a man. To lay aside his physical body in heaven before Christ would speak against the author of Hebrews of Jesus not only offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice but becoming the high priest as a man in heaven.

A third passage that is curious is Paul's historical account in Galatians that the gospel he had was not according to human beings, nor was he taught the gospel, but He received the gospel by Jesus Christ Himself (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul likely spent three years learning about this economy of grace with Jesus in His earthly body in the Arabian region (Galatians 1:16-18).

Jesus Christ retaining His earthly body after His resurrection and ascension are essential in Christology, specifically the incarnation. First, it demonstrates that since Jesus ascended into heaven as a human being in the same body, He will return the same way as a human being in the same body. Second, this has significant implications concerning Jesus's lineage. For Jesus to acquire the right to sit on David's throne and rule Israel, Jesus had to be physically in the lineage of David (c.f., 2 Samuel 7:8-13, Matthew 1:1-25). This means that since He was born in the same body, He would have to resurrect in the same body, ascend to heaven in the same body, and return to establish the kingdom of Israel in the same body.

Furthermore, as the author of Hebrews underscored, Jesus Christ now serves as the high priest in the heavenly tabernacle. Jesus did not serve in that role previously. The reason was that Jesus had not acquired an earthly body to serve as the high priest. Third, it would seem, as in the case of Paul, that Jesus could return and teach in His earthly body and would further emphasize that Jesus did not lay aside His body after He ascended.

There are three specific verses that are repeated constantly for those convinced Jesus laid aside His earthly body use. The first verse, Romans 8:3, says, "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh..." (NASB95). The point is that since Jesus had flesh-like sinful humanity, once His mission to be a sin offering for the sin of the world was completed, He no longer needed this earthly body, so He exchanged it for a heavenly one.

A second passage is First Corinthians 15:50-52 which says, "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." This point is that Jesus had to lay aside His earthy body because a human body cannot inherit heaven, and just as believers will be transformed, so was Jesus transformed when He ascended.

A third passage used is Revelation 1:12-16 where John describes Jesus in this manner, "Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters." The point here is that John detailed Jesus in this state, seemingly not in his earthly body.

Do these verses substantiate the claim that Jesus laid aside His earthly body to attain another one? This question and these verses will be observed in the following article.

Until next time...

Soli Deo Gloria!

Dr. LS


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