In order to get through to Jehovah’s Witnesses on some points, it’s necessary to discuss some fairly long Bible passages with them. This is particularly so when we need to show Witnesses the full context of some of their favorite proof texts.
The problem is that trying to discuss dozens of verses in one group doesn’t work.
As I said in a previous post, “If the passage is a long one, review it with them in smaller, more manageable segments rather than getting lost trying to analyze a lengthy passage all at once.” In my experience, to be manageable, the segments should contain no more than 3 or 4 verses each.
This is best explained with an example.
In support of its claim that Jesus rose from the dead as a spirit creature rather than bodily—and that the 144,000 will have a similar “spirit resurrection”—the Watchtower often cites two proof texts:
- 1 Corinthians 15:44-45: “It is sown a physical body; it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living person.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:50: “But I tell you this, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”
I have found that the most effective way to counter the impression these proof texts give is to examine the entire context of 1 Corinthians 15:35-53.
But that’s 19 verses—far too long a passage to read and discuss as one group.
So divide the passage into short segments that work best for you. Ask the Witnesses to read the various segments aloud, and ask them questions about each segment.
Here are the segments I would choose and some of the questions I might ask:
1 Corinthians 15:35-37
35 Nevertheless, someone will say: “How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?” 36 You unreasonable person! What you sow is not made alive unless first it dies. 37 And as for what you sow, you sow, not the body that will develop, but just a bare grain, whether of wheat or of some other kind of seed;
Are these verses contrasting two different types of resurrection bodies?
- Aren’t they rather contrasting the natural bodies we have now (the seed that gets planted) with the bodies Christians will have in the resurrection (the body that comes from it after the seed dies)?
- Don’t physical “seeds” produce physical “plants”?
- Do you see from this why I believe that Christians’ resurrection bodies won’t be identical to their current bodies but that there will be continuity as there is with seeds and plants?
1 Corinthians 15:38-39
38 but God gives it a body just as it has pleased him, and gives to each of the seeds its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same flesh, but there is one of mankind, there is another flesh of cattle, another flesh of birds, and another of fish.
- Isn’t that teaching that the kind of body that is planted determines the kind of body that it produces and that all human beings have just one kind of flesh or seed?
- Do you see from this why I believe that all Christians who are resurrected will have the same kind of resurrection body?
1 Corinthians 15:40-41
40 And 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. 41 The glory of the sun is one sort, and the glory of the moon is another, and the glory of the stars is another; in fact, one star differs from another star in glory.
- Is Paul contrasting two different types of resurrection bodies here?
- Isn’t he rather contrasting our current perishable bodies and the imperishable bodies Christians will have in the resurrection?
- (Most likely they will disagree, so follow up with the next four verses.)
1 Corinthians 15:42-45
42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised up in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised up in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised up in power. 44 It is sown a physical body; it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living person.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
- Are these verses talking about the composition of the resurrection body of Adam and contrasting it with the composition of the resurrection body of Jesus?
- How can it be talking about the resurrection body of Adam when Adam hasn’t been resurrected yet?
- Isn’t it rather contrasting the different power sources of the natural body which Adam had and of the resurrection body Jesus has?
- Isn’t it saying that the life we got from Adam is a life solely empowered from the elements of earth and that, in contrast, the resurrection life which Christians will get from Christ will be empowered by the Holy Spirit from heaven?
- Where in this passage does Paul say he is contrasting the resurrection bodies of the 144,000 and the resurrection bodies of everyone else?
- Isn’t he rather saying this is what all Christians’ resurrection bodies will be like?
1 Corinthians 15:46-49
46 However, what is spiritual is not first. What is physical is first, and afterward what is spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth and made of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust; and like the heavenly one, so too are those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the one made of dust, we will bear also the image of the heavenly one.
- Is this talking about two different types of resurrection bodies?
- Isn’t it saying instead that the life we got from Adam comes first? The source of that was the dust of the In contrast, the resurrection life Christians will get from Christ comes second. The origin of that life is from heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:50
But I tell you this, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s Kingdom, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
- In the context of what we just read, do you see why I believe that “flesh and blood” here means our limited, perishable, earthly bodies that we inherited from Adam?
- Those bodies can’t inherit God’s kingdom because they are corrupted and perishable.
- In contrast, the physical resurrection bodies Christians will receive from Christ can inherit God’s kingdom because they will be incorruptible and
- They will be spiritual bodies because they will be empowered by the Spirit and no longer subject to decay and death.
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
- Does Paul make any distinctions here between the 144,000 and every Christian who is resurrected?
- Does Paul say only some Christians will be changed when their perishable bodies are clothed with immortality or that all Christians will be changed in this manner?
- Given this entire 1 Corinthians 15 passage, do you see why I believe what I do?
This way of handling longer passages helps focus the Witnesses on what the Bible is really saying and reduces the chances that they will jump ahead to their favorite verses instead of carefully considering the context.