In Paul´s second letter to Timothy, he mentions that two individuals were destroying the faith of some by incorrectly teaching about the resurrection (2 Tim. 2:17,18). The resurrection is a topic that has been commonly distorted. In the second century, the Gnostic leaders redefined the resurrection of Christ and God´s plan for future resurrections.
The same pattern is found in end-time groups, who claim to have revealed information from God about end-time events. Yet, most subtly distort (or incorrectly explain) one of the most important passages about the resurrection - I Corinthians 15:50.
In Shinchonji, Mr. Lee teaches that the saints who have died will return as spirits and inhabit glorified bodies of the saints on earth. His reasoning is because of I Cor. 15:50, where Paul mentions that ¨flesh and blood¨ cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
He writes, ¨Paul said that flesh and blood, which is perishable, cannot inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 15:50). Flesh that has died once cannot live again...The spirits that have lost their bodies for the sake of the Lord will clothe themselves with our physical bodies and be resurrected¨ (Creation of Heaven and Earth, p. 252).
Mr. Lee, like other end-time teachers, incorrectly defines ¨flesh and blood¨ to teach that resurrected humans will not be restored with their own glorified body. (End-time leaders also misuse this concept to teach that Jesus cannot have a glorified body in heaven.)
The issue is that the phrase ¨flesh and bones¨ in context is a synonym for mortal bodies. What is Paul saying? He is teaching that a weak, mortal human body - corrupted and dominated by sin - cannot inherit God´s kingdom. Humans require a new, powerful, sinless, and transformed human (resurrected) body.
Mr. Lee cites I Cor. 15:50 to affirm that flesh that has already died cannot live again. He further writes that those who have already died are resurrected in a different flesh (i.e. those who have transformed bodies on earth). For more information, consult Mr. Lee´s doctrine of flesh and spirit unions in the article on the Counselor.
Why is this explanation opposed to Christian thinking and biblical evidence?
First, if flesh that has died cannot live again, then Jesus´ flesh could not have lived again since his flesh was mutilated and crucified. The Roman guards made sure he had no physical life in him before removing his corpse from the cross. However, Jesus specifically predicted that he would raise his flesh/human body again in Jn. 2:19-21.
¨Jesus answered them, ´Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.´ The Jews replied, ´It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?' But the temple he had spoken of was his body.¨
From the biblical evidence, God raised and glorified Jesus´ human body, not his spirit (Lk. 24:39). His resurrected humanity was a new, higher form of his old body, but it was not a spirit. (See other articles on the resurrection body and problems with a spirit-Jesus.)
Secondly, this explanation uses a biblical concept with a unbiblical definition. (See article on quoting biblical terms with false meanings.) The early Jewish and later Christian concept of a resurrection, by definition, involves God giving supernatural life to a person´s body.
For example, the written word reveals that our future resurrection will be similar to Jesus´ resurrection. Jesus is the first of a future harvest (I Cor. 15:20), which will be glorious. Jesus´ body was restored, not his spirit. Likewise, God will give resurrection life to mortal bodies that have died and mortal bodies that are alive when Jesus returns. This is the point of I Cor. 15:52 and I Thess. 4:16,17.
¨For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.¨ (I Cor. 15:52b). Notice that the dead in Christ are raised imperishable (i.e. with new, transformed bodies). The verb ¨raising¨ does not refer to their spirits entering other bodies, which is a form of reincarnation. In the original language of the New Testament, resurrection means ¨standing erect¨ and refers to the corpse coming to life. ¨Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy¨ (Is. 26:19a).
When Jesus rebuked the Sadducees for their disbelief in a resurrection, he responded that they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Mt. 22:29). The Greek philosophers also mocked Paul when he argued for a future (bodily) resurrection, even though Greek thinking believed in spirit existence after death, but not a bodily resurrection. God showed Ezekiel that he could put flesh on bones and give them new life (Ez. 37:1-8), which is an act that only God can do.
Thirdly, God´s plan is to restore the physical world in the end, which includes mortal bodies that he gave us. I Cor. 6:13,14, Rom. 8:23,24, and Phil. 3:20, 21 make this point.
The hope of the redemption of our bodies is for everyone, believers who have died and who are living.
¨The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also¨ (I Cor. 6:13b,14).
¨...we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved¨ (Rom. 823b,24a).
¨...who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body¨ (Phil. 3:21b).
Imagine the saints who have died being told, ¨You are going to be resurrected in another person´s body when you get back to earth.¨ This would mean that there would be two human spirits inside a body in the end, which only leads to more questions and complications than the Christian teaching of a bodily resurrection.
As mentioned above, the phrase ¨flesh and blood¨ in 1 Cor. 15:50 refers to ¨perishable¨ bodies (i.e. mortal bodies needing to be transformed for an eternal kingdom). ¨I declare to you brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable....for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality¨ (I Cor. 15:50,53).
Mortal bodies will be resurrected or transformed to participate in the world to come. However, Paul is not saying that saints who have died must be resurrected in someone´s else body because God does not have the power to resurrect flesh that has died. This would go against the meaning of a resurrection and other passages that teach to the contrary.
In closing, we include some questions that Shinchonji has raised about this point.
Question: What about Jesus´ statement that we will be like the angels in the resurrection life in Mt. 22? Doesn´t this mean that those who died are not resurrected as humans, but as spirits in a spiritual body?
In Mt. 22, Jesus is qualifying that we will be like angels in the sense of never dying, not in the sense of our new nature or essence. In other words, Jesus is not saying that we are going to be like angels with wings and the ability to appear as humans. It´s like someone saying, ¨You´ll be like the Romans, very powerful.¨ But the description is intended to refer to their power, not other areas, like government. Lastly, if this statement were true, then it would mean that all humans who participate in the resurrection life would be like angels and there would be no physical humans on the new earth. But, this is not what Jesus is saying.
Question: What about Paul´s statement that those who are resurrected are resurrected in a spiritual body in I Cor. 15:42-44?
Paul´s point in I Cor. 15:42-44 is to show that the new resurrection body is far superior to the present, mortal body we possess. It is more powerful; in fact, it will be raised imperishable or indestructible. Also, it will be a spiritual body. But, the word ¨body¨ in Greek refers to a physical, human body and the word ¨spiritual¨ is used to refer to a ¨supernatural,¨ more powerful body. For a more in depth answer on this point, consult http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6963 Lastly, since Jesus was not resurrected as a spirit and was resurrected in his own body, we too can be assured that God will resurrect our flesh (Rom. 8:23).