Scripture is clear that just as Christ was raised from the dead and given a glorified body, so believers also will be resurrected and given glorified bodies. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” The resurrection of Jesus was a “first fruits” of our resurrection to come (1 Cor 15:20-23, 49).
Jesus’ Resurrected Body
When we look at the first appearance of Jesus after His resurrection to His disciples we get a glimpse at what our resurrection bodies will be like (John 20:11-29). The major truth that we need to glean is that the new body Jesus had was definitely a physical body. This is proven in the display to Mary Magdalene and the other disciples as Jesus not only allowed them, but encouraged them, to touch Him. Jesus told doubting Thomas to actually “put your finger here.” He told Thomas to look at the nail scars in his hands and in his side. In Luke, Jesus told the disciples that He was not a spirit, but actually had “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). He was also able to eat with the disciples which further substantiated the physicality of His new body. This new body that Jesus had been given was a physical body that had been made perfect.
But some may question this by stating that Jesus appeared to go through doors in John 20:19 and in other places simply appearing or disappearing (Luke 24:31). Some suggest that while Jesus had a real physical body there were times when this new body was transformed into a spiritual body with new properties which allowed him to make supernatural appearances (Murray Harris, From Grave to Glory: Resurrection in the New Testament, Zondervan, 1990, pg. 142-43). This may be the case, even though these mysterious passages about Jesus’ appearing and disappearing can be reasonably explained (see Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994, pg. 611-613). It is very important however, that we agree that Jesus’ body was a real physical body that truly ascended into heaven (Acts 1). By giving Jesus a new physical body, God was indeed affirming that God’s creation of material things was ultimately very good (Gen 1:31).
Continuity in Our Bodies
One of the questions people continually ask is “Will our glorified bodies look similar to our natural bodies?” Or even more common is the question, “Will we recognize others in heaven?” And the answer to those questions is simply yes. It is clear that Jesus’ resurrection body was not quickly recognized by Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:14), or the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:16) most likely due to the glorification of the new body or even a divine hindrance. But it is also clear that there was a continuity in Jesus’ resurrection body with His natural body because the scars in his hands and side remained. Scripture teaches elsewhere that those with glorified bodies were recognized in heaven (Matt 8:11, 27:52-53).
Clearest Description: 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
The clearest description of our glorified bodies is found in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49. Paul says, “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is 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.” Paul gives us four descriptions of our new glorified bodies.
Imperishable Bodies: Our new physical bodies will never grow old, or wear out, deteriorate, or be subject to any sickness or weakness whatsoever. Our new bodies will forever be completely healthy and strong.
Glorious Bodies: Paul says that our natural bodies were sown in “dishonor” which may relate to attractiveness. When Jesus’ body was transfigured (Matt 17:2), He had a bright light that surrounded him. Our new bodies will be glorious in beauty with no shadow of any defect.
Powerful Bodies: Furthermore, our bodies will have no weakness, but will have fullness of strength. We will not have infinite power like God, nor will we be some “superhuman” like the fictional movies suggest. But our bodies will have no limitations and will be completely sufficient to do whatever is necessary.
Spiritual Bodies: This last description may be somewhat misleading. By spiritual, Paul doesn’t mean non-physical. While on the earth our physical bodies are completely subject to and governed by a sinful will. But when our bodies are raised spiritual, they will be fully governed and subjected to the Holy Spirit perfectly being able to respond to the Holy Spirit’s guidance completely.
Having new resurrection bodies is a truth that should excite us as believers! While our earthly tent continues to deteriorate, we know that God is going to give us a new body that is eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). These new bodies will enable us to worship God perfectly and enjoy His presence and joy for all eternity.