The Watchtower claims that there are two types of resurrection bodies—spiritual (suited for life in heaven only) and physical (suited for life on earth only).
Let’s look at two passages in 1 Corinthians 15 which it uses as proof texts to see if it is right or wrong.
There is a Natural Body and a Spiritual Body
1 Corinthians 15:44-45 states: “…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.’”
The Watchtower says this shows that the great crowd will be resurrected with physical (natural) bodies, while Jesus and the 144,000 are resurrected with spirit bodies.
Flesh and Blood Cannot Inherit God’s Kingdom
1 Corinthians 15:50 states: “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
The Watchtower says that this shows that the great crowd cannot go to heaven and rule with Christ. Only the 144,000 can do so because they don’t have “flesh and blood” in their “spirit resurrection.”
Examine the Context
To understand what a Bible passage is really saying, we need to look at the entire context, not just isolated quotations.
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.”
Paul is not discussing two different types of resurrection bodies. He is contrasting the natural, perishable bodies we have now (the seed that is sown and dies) with the bodies Christians will have in the resurrection (the plant that comes from this seed).
15:38-39: “But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.”
The type of body that is sown determines the type of body that will come from it. The resurrection body won’t be identical to the body we have now, but there will be continuity. The resurrection body (the plant) will be a physical body because it comes from the natural body (the seed). And all human beings have one kind of flesh (seed), not two, so they will have one kind of resurrection body, not two.
15:40-41: “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.”
Is Paul contrasting two different types of resurrection bodies or is he contrasting our current perishable bodies and the imperishable bodies Christians will have in the resurrection? Let’s look at his own explanation in the next few verses.
15:42-45: “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.”
Paul is not contrasting the resurrection body of Adam with the resurrection body of Jesus. Adam hasn’t been resurrected yet. Rather, Paul is contrasting the current body we got from Adam (which is like the body Adam got when he became a living being at his creation) with the body we will get from Christ in the resurrection.
The body we got from Adam is dependent on the limited processes of earth. It is perishable, sown in dishonor, sown in weakness.
In contrast, the body we will get from Christ will be dependent on God’s unlimited Spirit from heaven. It will be imperishable, raised in glory, raised in power.
15:46-49: “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
The current life we derived from Adam came first. The power source of that body comes from the earth.
The resurrection life Christians will get from Christ comes second. As the plant that comes from the seed, the resurrection body will be physical in composition, but the power source of the resurrection life will be from heaven.
15:50: “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
This verse uses “flesh and blood” as a figure of speech that means our limited, perishable, earthly bodies that we inherited from Adam. Those bodies cannot inherit God’s kingdom because they are corrupted by sin and perishable. They are only the seed from which the resurrection body will come.
In contrast, the resurrection bodies Christians will receive from Christ (the plant from comes from the seed) will be able to inherit God’s kingdom because they will be imperishable and incorruptible, empowered by the Spirit and no longer subject to decay and death.
The key point is that 1 Corinthians 15 is not—as the Watchtower claims—contrasting two different types of resurrection bodies. Rather, it is contrasting our current bodies (the seed) with what they will become in the resurrection (the plant). Do you believe this context will help you as you discuss these verses with Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Share your thoughts in the comments.