Would you please explain Jesus' statement in John 2:19, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up…"? Is this statement, as a direct quote of Christ, to be believed as presented to us in the English language?
Let us read the Scripture in context, by quoting John 2:18-22:
“(18) So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since you do these things?’ (19) Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ (20) Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ (21) But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (22) Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.”
There is no reason to believe that the above-cited translation is incorrect. However, we must understand, in light of the other Biblical evidence, what this passage does and does not say. Some use this passage to teach that Christ rose Himself up FROM THE DEAD. They claim that Christ, the Son of God, never died, but that only His “human mantle” did. They teach that the Son of God was the second member of an immortal and unalterable Trinity, and that He therefore could not have died. They postulate that Christ–the Son of God–raised up the human mortal Jesus. This ABOMINABLE HERESY is nowhere taught in the Bible! The Bible makes very clear that God is NOT a TRINITY; that Jesus Christ was the Son of God; and that HE DIED (For more information, please read our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”). It was God the Father who raised the DEAD Christ FROM THE DEAD.
For instance, Galatians 1:1 states: “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God THE FATHER, who raised HIM from the dead)…”
When Christ died and was brought back to life shortly thereafter as an immortal spirit being, God the Father CHANGED Christ’s physical body (which had not yet decayed) into a spirit body. That is why Christ, after His resurrection, could go through closed doors (John 20:19), and it is also why He could disappear after He had materialized Himself in a bodily, albeit different form (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-16, 31). In fact, when Christ returns, His disciples will be resurrected to immortal SPIRIT beings, and those who will still be alive at that time will be CHANGED to immortal SPIRIT beings (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
After three days and three nights in the grave, God the Father brought the DEAD Christ back to life. Christ got up, and at THAT moment, He fulfilled the prophecy that He had given to the Jews in John 2:19: He raised up His BODY. In other words, He was lying on the ground in the tomb (John 19:40-42), but when He received immortal life from God the Father, He got up from the ground. The word for “raise up” (in Greek, “egeiro”), as used in John 2:19, is used many times to describe someone who simply STANDS UP. It is used in Mark 1:31; 9:27, and in Acts 3:7, as well as in James 5:15. In all of those cases, sick people stood up from their sick bed. God “raises or lifts” them up by giving them the power or strength to stand or to get up.
John 2:18-22 does not teach that Christ raised Himself up FROM THE DEAD. Rather, it teaches that after God the Father resurrected Him from the dead, Christ raised up the temple of His BODY, by getting up.
For more information on Christ’s death and resurrection, and the fact that He was indeed three days and three nights in the tomb, as He said He would be, please read our free book, “Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery.”