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Do you teach a resurrection of the physical body?

It depends what is meant by that term. Also, we need to understand
that the Bible teaches a resurrection to immortal life and a
resurrection to a physical existence.

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. We read the following, in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49,
about the “first” or “better” (Hebrews 11:35) resurrection to eternal
life:

“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And
with what body do they come?’ Foolish one, what you sow is not made
alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do NOT SOW THAT BODY THAT
SHALL BE, but mere grain–perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God
GIVES IT A BODY as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh
is not the same flesh… there are also celestial bodies and
terrestrial bodies… There is one glory of the sun, another glory of
the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from
another star in glory. 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… And as we
have borne the image of the man of dust (Adam), we shall also bear the
image of the heavenly Man (Jesus Christ).”

Paul tells us in the
above passage that the physical body which dies is NOT the same body
“that shall be.” Rather, God GIVES us a spiritual body “as He pleases.”
He does not resurrect our physical body and then change it into spirit.
In fact, Paul says that in the resurrection to eternal life, we will be
“absent from the [physical] body” (2 Corinthians 5:8). 2 Corinthians
5 further explains that God will give Christians a new kind of
body (verses 1-4). Only the bodies of those in Christ who are alive
when Christ returns will be changed into spirit, while the dead in
Christ will be RAISED INCORRUPTIBLE (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

When
we die in Christ, our bodies decay. The bodies of those who died in
Christ thousands of years ago have completely decayed. They became dust
and ashes, as God said that they would (Genesis 3:19). The only
exception was the resurrection to eternal life of Jesus Christ, who was
merely dead for three days and three nights, and whose physical body
did not decay, before He was resurrected to immortality (Acts 2:25-27).
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.

HOW
exactly, will God resurrect those who died in Christ? We know that God
gives every man a spirit which separates him from the animals (1
Corinthians 2:11). (For more information on the spirit in man, please
read our free booklet, “The Theory of Evolution–a Fairy Tale for
Adults?”, pages 19 -24). The spirit in man records all our thoughts and
retains all of our memories, as well as our general outward appearance.
We read that the spirit in man goes back to God when man dies. In
addition, a Christian receives in his life God’s Holy Spirit, which
will also return to God, together with the spirit in man, when the
Christian dies.

In his book, “The Incredible Human Potential,”
Herbert W. Armstrong explained the resurrection to eternal life in this
way (pages 91-92, hard cover):

“If one has received the Holy
Spirit, then in the Resurrection, God will provide a Spirit body,
formed and shaped by the Spirit mold. The resurrected being will be
composed of Spirit, not matter as the human model was… The body that
comes in the resurrection is not the same body that was flesh and blood
in the human lifetime… The flesh and blood physical body, after
death, decomposes and decays, but the spirit that was in that body,
like the sculptor’s mold, preserves all the form and shape, the memory,
and the character intact… After death, whether buried in the earth,
cremated, or what, the physical body returns to the earth. But the
spirit that was in the man, now having recorded everything–the body’s
form and shape, the facial identity, the memory and the
character–returns to God. It will be preserved unchanged. Such saints
as Abraham, Moses, David and Daniel died thousands of years ago… they
were composed of corruptible flesh and blood. All that was them (man is
composed wholly of matter) long since decomposed. ”

It is
through the spirit in man (combined with the Holy Spirit) that God will
raise Christians with immortal spiritual bodies. The Bible reveals that
the physical bodies of Christians will cease to exist in the first
resurrection. They will be given new bodies composed of spirit–no
longer susceptible to pain and suffering and no longer subject to death
and destruction!

The Bible also teaches that all those who did
NOT die “in Christ” will be resurrected AFTER the Millennium to be
given their chance to choose God’s Way of Life. This is commonly
referred to in the Bible as the “second resurrection.” But they will be
resurrected as physical beings, not as Spirit beings. When they are
raised from the dead, they will receive a new physical body–not a
spiritual body. But this does not mean that God will resurrect their
identical physical bodies, which they had when they died, and which
subsequently decayed in their graves–or which were obliterated in
atomic and nuclear blasts in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and in a nuclear war
still prophesied to come, or which became ashes during the Holocaust,
or which were cremated.

HOW, exactly, will God resurrect them?
God will not raise their physical bodies which had been decayed and
decomposed. Rather, He will resurrect them in the same way (albeit to
physical life) as He will raise those who died in Christ.

Herbert
W. Armstrong wrote the following in Mystery of the Ages, p. 127 (hard
cover), regarding the second resurrection to a physical, mortal
existence:

“At death, ‘then shall the dust return to the earth as
it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it’ (Eccl. 12:7).
The spirit is the depository of memory and character. The spirit is
like a mold. It retains even the human form and shape of the deceased,
so that in the resurrection TO JUDGMENT [that is, in the second
resurrection] those who have died shall look as they did in life,
retain whatever character they established in life, remember everything
that was stored in their memory. But in the meantime, in death, there
is no consciousness–they ‘know not any thing’ (Eccl. 9:5).”

When
those in the second resurrection are being given physical life, God is
not resurrecting their physical bodies, per se. (There are a few
Biblical examples of resurrections of physical bodies, for instance of
Lazarus, but in these cases, the physical bodies had not yet completely
decayed so that God could resurrect the bodies, by putting the spirit
of life back into them. Compare, too, Matthew 27:52. The resurrection
to a physical existence in Ezekiel 37, describing the “valley of dry
bones,” is of course a vision, and uses figurative terms, to describe a
resurrection to physical life. It cannot be used literally to teach a
resurrection of the same dead physical bodies. After all, in the
vision, the very dry bones speak, verse 11).

Insofar as the
second resurrection is concerned of those who died more than 1,000
years or even 7,000 years earlier, and whose bodies decayed or were
obliterated, God will be using their spirit in man (which returned to
God upon death) to create through it a new physical body for them. God
will give them a new flesh and blood physical body, as He pleases,
using the spirit in man as a “mold” which has retained even the outward
appearance of the person.

This is not to say that the persons
will be raised exactly to the same physical existence that they had
when they died. For instance, we don’t believe that a person who,
through an accident or a birth defect, had only one arm or one leg,
will be resurrected to exactly that identical state, but, in all
likelihood, with two arms and two legs. We find it reasonable to
conclude that blind persons will be raised with eyesight. An aborted
fetus will obviously not be resurrected as a fetus, but as a human
being who will be capable of living on his own. When Adam and Eve were
created, God did not create them as little children, but as grown
adults, perhaps in their early or mid-twenties, and He placed in them
the spirit in man, even though they were without any prior experience.

We
don’t know how, exactly, God will raise those in the second
resurrection. The Bible does not reveal whether a person who died at
age 90 will look like a 90-year old person in the second resurrection,
or whether he will look like the person that he was when he was in his
twenties. But it stands to reason that all will be resurrected to live
healthy lives for about one hundred years, which–as the Bible
indicates–is most likely the time allotted to them during the Great
White Throne Judgment period, prior to the creation of new heavens and
a new earth (compare Isaiah 65:17, 20, indicating that a “child”–that
is a Christian who is to become like a child–will live for one hundred
years, and that an unrepented “sinner,” being “one hundred years old,”
shall be “accursed”).

For more information on the second resurrection, please read our free booklets, “Do You Have an Immortal Soul?”, p.28, and “God’s Commanded Holy Days”, pp. 31-32, 53.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link