The Watchtower cites 1 Corinthians 15 as “proof” that Jesus could not have been resurrected with a physical body.
1 Cor. 15:40, 42-44, 47-50: There are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort. So also is the resurrection of the dead. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. . . . The first man [Adam] is out of the earth and made of dust; the second man [Jesus Christ] is out of heaven. As the one made of dust is, so those made of dust are also; and as the heavenly one is, so those who are heavenly are also. And just as we have borne the image of the one made of dust, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly one. However, this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” (There is no allowance here for any mixing of the two sorts of bodies or the taking of a fleshly body to heaven.)
You can see how Jehovah’s Witnesses turn this into soundbites:
- “Heavenly bodies… earthly bodies”
- “Physical body… spiritual body”
- “Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.”
Let’s see how we can come up with a soundbite response.
First, with regard to the two different types of bodies, have the Witnesses read aloud 1 Corinthians 15:35-37: “But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.”
You can follow up with these questions:
- Where do these verses say they are contrasting two different types of resurrection bodies?
- Isn’t the passage saying that the present body is the seed from which the resurrection body is made?
Christians’ resurrection bodies will not be identical to their current ones, but they will still be physical because the resurrection bodies will come from the current bodies like plants that come up from a seed.
When the Witnesses give you the soundbite, “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom,” I recommend that you have them read aloud the entire verse: “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the perishable.”
You can follow up with these comments:
- It seems to me that “flesh and blood” are the bodies we have now. They can’t inherit God’s kingdom because they are perishable.
- In contrast, our resurrection bodies—though physical—can inherit God’s kingdom because they will be imperishable.
Every time the phrase “flesh and blood” appears in the New Testament, it is used as a figure of speech meaning “natural man,” and you can certainly agree that natural, perishable man can’t inherit God’s kingdom.
If they ask you for examples, you can show them the following scriptures:
- Matthew 16:17: Flesh and blood didn’t not reveal Jesus’ identity to Peter.
- Ephesians 6:12: Paul says we are not wrestling against flesh and blood.
- Galatians 1:16: Paul says he did not confer with flesh and blood to obtain his gospel message.
But what will happen to our flesh and blood, perishable bodies? I Corinthians 15:53 gives us the answer: “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Your soundbite for them to think about is, “Once our perishable, flesh and blood bodies have been changed by God to be imperishable, they can inherit the kingdom. That’s the main point of 1 Corinthians 15.”
(This article has been adapted from my upcoming book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses.)
Have Jehovah’s Witnesses ever given you these 1 Corinthians 15 arguments against the bodily resurrection of Christ? Do you find my soundbite responses helpful? Can you suggest improvements?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
 Reasoning from the Scriptures (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1985, 2009 printing), p. 336