For our study this morning we are going to back up to John 4:24 and focus on the first three words, "God is spirit." In this study I want to attempt to answer the question, "When believers die, will we have a body in heaven?" I use to believe that we would not have a body, I took "God is Spirit" to mean that He didn't have a body, and so neither would we. Well my view on this has changed. My view changed because of my new understanding of the Divine Council viewpoint. As always, I'm asking you to not accept or reject this material without being a Berean and doing further study. So let's look at:
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:24 NASB
Saying that "God is spirit" is often taken to mean that He doesn't have a body. But if we compare this verse with what Lazarus has told us earlier in this Gospel, we might get a different viewpoint:
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6 NASB
Two words are being contrasted here, flesh and spirit. In the Greek it is sarx versus pneuma. In Paul's letters he will often contrast these two words, but in the Fourth Gospel the contrast appears only here. In the Synoptic Gospels the sarx versus pneuma contrast appears only in Mark at Yeshua's prayer at Gethsemane:
"Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Mark 14:38 NASB
What is the context of "flesh" in John 3:6 and Mark 14:38? Human frailty, not sinful nature. Until now man has only thought in terms of "birth" in human terms: the seed of man bears children. Man is "begotten" by the seed of a human father and becomes "flesh" when he is born in the kingdom of the world. But Yeshua tells Nicodemus that man can enter the Kingdom of God only when man is "born" of the heavenly Father, born from above. Earthly life comes to man only from an earthly father; eternal life comes only from the heavenly Father.
So "That which is born of the spirit"—is referring to Christians. So we could say that a "Christian is spirit"! But that doesn't mean we don't have a body. And saying that "God is Spirit" doesn't mean that He doesn't have a body.
"God is spirit"—who does "God" refer to here? The Father? Sure the Father is God. But the Son is God also and so is the Spirit. So saying God is spirit is saying that God the Son is spirit also. But the Son has a body. So saying "God is spirit" does not mean that He doesn't have a body, it means that He is spiritual verses fleshly.
Different "body" views in the Preterist camp.
The Preterist camp is divided on this issue of having a body after death (I know, big shock, right?) Preterists have come up with terms like, Corporate or Collective Body View (CBV), and Immortal Body at Death View (IBD). Of these two views there are many variations. To most Preterists the CBV means that we don't get a body at death, they see the body talked about in Scripture as the corporate Body of Christ. I use to hold to this view, and I some what still do. I believe that the Bible often uses "body" to refer to the corporate body of Christ. I see the corporate body made up of individuals, with personalities, and spiritual bodies.
The Immortal Body at Death View (IBD) believes that at death we receive a spiritual or immortal body. I now believe this. So I guess I would have to say that I hold both of these views. I think that quite often the Bible speaks about the corporate body of Christ. But I now also believe that at physical death we will receive a spiritual body.
Let's look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.
But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 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 also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 NASB
Paul says, "It is raised a spiritual body." When we think of spiritual body, we probably think of something like a disembodied spirit. We don't think of something corporeal like you could touch, but that's actually what Paul is getting at. I use to think "spiritual body" was an oxymoron because I thought of "spiritual" as non-material. But a "spiritual body" is a non-fleshly body, it's corporeal. It is a body in the spiritual realm.
There is a lot of controversy over what Paul means in this text, but I think if we see that Paul develops this from Deuteronomy 4, it helps us understand what he is saying.
Much of this material was drawn from David Burnett's article in the Fall 2015, "Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters", titled, "So Shall Your Seed Be": Paul's Use of Genesis 15:5 in Romans 4:18 in Light of Early Jewish Deification Traditions.
This is a long passage and it focuses on this metaphor for the resurrection of the sowing of the seed and the seed going into the ground and coming up different, the old body versus the new body in the resurrection. And right in the center of that conversation, we have this interesting list of creatures, this comparison between earthly bodies like terrestrial bodies that are on the earth and then celestial bodies. And Paul uses language of flesh to describe the first group, and then he uses the language of glory to describe the second group. Traditionally, scholars have said this is clearly Genesis 1-2 language. They see Paul drawing on Adam's language. But there's some problems with this view. The actual list of the creatures in Genesis don't actually follow the same order. They're in reverse. It's backwards and not only do they not follow the same order, but it actually doesn't follow the same pattern of naming the creatures either.
But there is a list that follows the same order and it's found in Deuteronomy 4. Paul goes through and says man, animals, birds, and fish and then he talks about the celestial bodies, he separates them, the earthly from the celestial, and he says, "sun, moon, stars," there's actually text that follows that same order in Deuteronomy 4:
So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth. "And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. "But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today. Deuteronomy 4:15-20 NASB
There's a group of texts throughout Deuteronomy that all refer to these celestial powers as the gods or angels of nations, and Deuteronomy 4 is one of these passages. This is a passage about idolatry, and not worshiping the powers of these gods. Israel was to worship Yahweh, those gods were allotted to the nations.
This is a background for 1 Corinthians 15, it actually follows the same list of creatures. And Deuteronomy also has this division between the earthly creatures and the celestial, because right after he lists those creatures, Deuteronomy says:
And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. Deuteronomy 4:19 NASB
This second group in Deuteronomy 4, "the sun, moon, stars" are called the, "host of heaven" that were allotted to all the nations. And so this is part of the Deuteronomy 32 world-view. Let's look at Deuteronomy 17:
If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the LORD your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, Deuteronomy 17:2-3 NASB
Repeating the same type of language from Deuteronomy 4. Here it is "Sun, moon and heavenly host" instead of "sun, moon, and stars." So "heavenly host" and "stars" are synonymous. And notice that these "heavenly host" are called "other gods."
They went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. Deuteronomy 29:26 NASB
So again we're drawing on that "allotted" language from Deuteronomy 4, these other gods had been allotted to the nations. The climax of this is in the song of Moses:
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 ESV
Here "sons of God" is used of other gods as is "host of heaven" and "stars."
So why is Paul drawing on this list from Deuteronomy? Because in 1 Corinthian 15 Paul is talking about resurrection, and by using Deuteronomy he is showing us that resurrection is about an actual change of nature. These celestial bodies that Paul is listing are not just inanimate objects. In the Jewish cosmology, in the Jewish view of the cosmic order, these are actual creatures. These are beings and not just beings or creatures but specifically that language of sun, moon, stars is used for the gods of the nations, for the ones who would rule over the nations.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians has already drawn on Deuteronomy language earlier in 1 Corinthians 8-12 in dealing with the idolatry issues. He even quotes from Deuteronomy 4 in the famous Christology passage in 1 Corinthians 8:
For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Yeshua the Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 NASB
"There is but one God"—is coming from Deuteronomy 4:35-39:
To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. Deuteronomy 4:35 ESV
And so Paul's already drawn on the Deuteronomy 4 passage in 1 Corinthians.
Paul isn't the only one in Second Temple Judaism to use Deuteronomy 4 this way, to talk about these celestial bodies as actual rulers over the cosmos. Philo actually uses this same exact Deuteronomy 4 passage when he's describing the Jewish view of the cosmos. In Specialized Laws 1:13 and 19, Philo says:
"Some have supposed that the sun and moon and other stars were gods with absolute powers and ascribed to them the causation of all events. But Moses held that the cosmos was created, and is in this sense the greatest of commonwealths, having rulers and subjects; For rulers, all the celestial bodies, fixed or wondering, for subjects, such beings as exists below the moon in the air on the earth."
So you see the separation here just like Deuteronomy 4 sets out. You have celestial bodies that rule everything under the moon which is on the earth.
Philo goes on to say, "The said rulers, however, have not unconditional powers, but they are rulers or lieutenants of the one Father of all and it's by copying the example of his government exercised according to justice and law over all created beings that they acquit themselves aright. But to those who do not describe the charioteer mounted above, attribute the causation of all events in the cosmos to the team that draw the chariot, as though they were the sole agents."
He's like look, these dumb Greeks, they're attributing all the works of the creation to these little secondary rulers, the ones who actually draw the chariot of "Lord of hosts" who is on the chariot.
Philo goes on to say, "From this ignorance, our most holy lawgiver would convert them to knowledge with these words, 'do not when thou seest the sun, moon, and stars and all the host of heaven go astray and worship them.'"
He is quoting Deuteronomy 4:19. Now this is exactly the same language Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15. He calls them the celestial bodies, same terms that Philo was using, and even calls them earlier in 1 Corinthians the rulers, principalities, and powers.
Plato in Plato's laws in 4:713 and 738 says:
Well then, tradition tells us how blissful was the life of men in that age, furnished with everything in abundance and of spontaneous growth and the cause thereof is said to have been this. Kronos was aware of the fact that no human being as we've explained is capable of having irresponsible control of all human affairs without becoming filled with pride in injustice. So pondering his fact he then appointed as kings and rulers for our cities not men, but beings of a race that was nobler and more divine, namely demons. He acted as we now do in the case of sheep and herds of tame animals. We do not set oxen as rulers over oxen or goats over goats, but we who are of a nobler race ourselves rule over them. In like manner, the God in His love for humanity set over us at that time the nobler race of demons, who with much comfort to themselves and much to us took charge of us and furnished peace for us, and modesty, and orderliness and justice without stent, and thus made the tribes of men free from feud and happy.
Plato at the end of his critics, writes: "In the days of old, the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment. There was no quarreling for you cannot rightly suppose the gods did not know what was proper for each of them to have." Plato's writing hundreds of years before Philo:
So in 1 Corinthians 15 we have this creature list tied in with the resurrection because their ultimate deliverance out from under the gods is going to happen at the resurrection. Their resurrection is also a key element to them displacing the gods of the nations and replacing them, becoming the reconstituted Divine Council under the One true God.
We see this in Psalm 82 where Yahweh reviewed their performance as "gods" and judges of the Gentiles and condemned them for failing to rule justly. They're supposed to copy the rule of the Father of all. They're supposed to rule in justice and law, keep the order of things. Notice the last verse:
Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations. Psalms 82:8 NASB
Who is the God here, who is to judge these disobedient gods and the earth? In the LXX the word "arise" here is anasta in Greek. This is the term used in the New Testament every time for resurrection. This is a reference to Yeshua, the resurrected One. He is the God who arises and judges the earth.
But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" 1 Corinthians 15:35 NASB
So it's, what kind of bodies are these?
You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 1 Corinthians 15:36-38 NASB
Believers are from the man of heaven, which is the life-giving Spirit. So when He's giving us that Spirit that's life giving, that's the seed. And when that old humanity goes back to the dust, to dust you will return, that's the whole issue of death, they go down and die, the seed's planted, and what comes out the other side? This is the celestial.
All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 1 Corinthians 15:39 NASB
These fleshly creatures are the ones from Deuteronomy 4 that are ruled over by the celestial creatures. And so this is not just a question of the nature and the kind of stuff the bodies are made out of, this is also talking about their actual roles. These fleshly creatures, the humans, animals, birds, fish, are all the first order from Deuteronomy 4 and then the next order is the glorious ones, the sun, moon, and other stars.
There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 1 Corinthians 15:40 NASB
Glory is the language he's used for these celestial creatures. They are of glory. The word "glory" is not in the text a second time. The heavenly has glory, the earthly does not.
"The glory of the celestial is one, and of the earthly is another"—is this how it should read? But translators add another glory in there. Paul does not use the term glory for the earthly. He never does. He says the glory of the celestial is of one kind, and of the earthly is another.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 1 Corinthians 15:42 NASB
What is sown perishable, is raised imperishable. These are terms used by Philo and other Jews to describe the gods. They are imperishable. The Stoics use that language to talk about the pneumatic beings, the spirit beings, they're imperishable. Whatever that body is made of, its made of stuff that's imperishable, just like those beings who are imperishable. Paul is saying that believers will be like the gods.
Look at Yahweh's promise to Abraham:
And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Genesis 15:5 NASB
Many scholars insert the term "numerous" or a related term into their translations of this text so the construction reads, "so [numerous] shall your seed be," instead of the literal rendering of the Greek "so shall your seed be," presupposing the quantitative reading as the only viable interpretive option for Paul.
A number of early Jewish interpreters of Genesis 15:5 understood the patriarchal promise of being multiplied as the stars of heaven, not merely quantitatively, but also qualitatively, that his seed would become star-like, assuming the life of the gods or angels.
In commenting on Gen 15:5 in, "Who Is the Heir?" 86-87, Philo states:
"When the Lord led him outside He said 'Look up into heaven and count the stars, if thou canst count their sum. So shall be thy seed.' Well does the text say 'so' not 'so many' that is, 'of equal number to the stars.' For He wishes to suggest not number merely, but a multitude of other things, such as tend to happiness perfect and complete. The 'seed shall be,' He says, as the ethereal sight spread out before him, celestial as that is, full of light unshadowed and pure as that is, for night is banished from heaven and darkness from ether. It shall be the very likeness of the stars."
The promise of Genesis 15:5 for Philo entails being transformed into beings full of light, being in the "very likeness of the stars," and participating in their celestial life.
What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 15 is in the resurrection we will be like the gods! This is deification!
So the common belief of the Second Temple Period was that in the resurrection we would be like the gods. And they believed that the gods had bodies. There is actually a considerable amount of literature in terms of ancient texts where writers talk about what the gods are made of, because they appear in bodily form.
In Paul's day, Gentiles, Greco-Roman culture, and Jews both believe that gods had bodies. They were certainly spirit beings, but when they interacted with people on earth they took form. They took physical form. It wasn't in flesh and blood, it was something else. They were made of something superior to flesh and blood.
M. David Litwa, has written a book called, We Are Being Transformed, subtitle is, Deification in Paul's Soteriology. And he has a full chapter on the bodies of gods in both Jewish texts and Greco-Roman texts.
Aphrodite, for instance, is said to have been born from the immortal flesh or skin of Uranus. Uranus is the Greek word from the heavens, heavenly one. It's a deity name in Hesiod, in his Theogony and other Greek literature.
The Roman gods could be depicted in physical form, often were, and that was because they were thought to actually have some sort of embodiment, some sort of corporeality, particularly and especially when they were interacting in human affairs with humans.
More importantly what did the Israelites believe? Benjamin Summers, in his book called, The Bodies of God, shows that in Israelite thinking and in wider Ancient Near Eastern thinking, the gods could exist in more than one form simultaneously.
Summers is big on the idea that the gods could be embodied. He has lots of evidence for it, both from the Hebrew Bible and outside the Ancient Near East and other
Ancient Near Eastern religions.
In the Scriptures we see Yahweh embodied. In Genesis 12: 6-7, we're told that Yahweh appeared to Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre, which was near Shechem:
Now the LORD appeared to him by the Oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, Genesis 18:1-2 NASB
Here Yahweh and two angels appear to Abraham, and they appeared as men:
He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate. Genesis 18:8 NASB
Here Abraham meets with Yahweh and has a meal with Him. In this text Yahweh has a body. We saw several weeks ago from Ezekiel 1 that Ezekiel sees a human figure seated on the throne, and he calls him the glory of Yahweh. So the glory is a human figure seated on the throne. The glory has form. It's not just a light, and it's not just a formless spirit.
So the glory isn't just light, it's not just a cloud in the Tanakh. The glory of the Lord can speak of a bodily form. Now this is going to be backdrop to what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians, because Paul doesn't just use the phrase "spiritual body." He also uses phrases like "heavenly man" and "glory" to describe this body in 1 Corinthians 15.
So we see that Yahweh is often described as having a body. Not only does Yahweh appear in a body, but so do the "sons of God":
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Genesis 6:4 NASB
The "sons of God" referred to here, were rebellious divine beings from God's heavenly host, also called "Watchers," which have taken the form of human-like creatures. These gods had sex with women and produced offspring. So I think it is safe to say that these "Sons of God" had bodies. Let me read you something from Michael Heiser about this text that is extremely important:
"Ninety nine percent of Second Temple Judaism believed that the reason wickedness so permeates the earth is not just an extension and is in large part not even linked to what happened with Adam and Eve, but the reason that people are always and universally thoroughly wicked is because of what the Watchers did. Everybody in Paul's circle, everybody in Second Temple Judaism with the exception of four intertestamental references in intertestamental literature, everything says that the reason for the proliferation of evil is the sin of the Watchers, everything?" [Michael S. Heiser, The Naked Bible Podcast 2.0, Episode 94]
This is huge because it tells us that Second Temple Judaism held a supernatural view of the Bible. They saw Genesis 6 as the gods coming down and having sex with human women and producing a hybrid offspring. This is what everybody believed!
Look at what Job tells us about these sons of God:
"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? "On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7 NASB
Here "morning stars" and "sons of God" are names of divine council members. Some folks see "sons of God" as humans, but how were humans at creation? Somebody please explain that to me.
So Yahweh is often seen in bodily form, the watchers or sons of God are seen to have bodily form and so do the angels. Look at Yeshua's answer to the Sadducees:
"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. "But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 'I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. Matthew 22:30-33 NASB
This text affirms the reality of an afterlife. It doesn't really tell us much about the afterlife, but it affirms that there is one. By "afterlife" I mean the continuation of spiritual life in heaven after physical death. So I'm using afterlife and heaven interchangeably.
"For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Matthew 22:30 NASB
This verse says the same thing that Genesis 15:5 says. It says the same think that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, in the resurrection we will be like the angels or gods. The word "like" is a comparative adverb, which draws a similar but not exact comparison. So in what way are believers in the afterlife/heaven like the angels? (1) We don't marry. After physical death there is no marriage. In heaven men become spiritual beings like the angels. Marriage is for now, but not for heaven.
(2) Luke's account also tells us that we cannot die:
for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Luke 20:36 NASB
Notice what Yeshua says here; "they are LIKE angels, and ARE sons of God."" Like the angels" is from the Greek word isangelos, which means: "angel like" similar to the supernatural beings called angels. "Are sons of God"—"are" is eimi, which means: "to have the quality of being" of sons of God. Resurrection brings one to a state where he or she is a "son of God" and can never again experience death:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 1 Corinthians 15:42 NASB
We will be like angels, but will be sons of God. As believers we replace the divine council, we are sons of God. I use to believe that angels were incorporeal—I thought they didn't have bodies. One of the reasons I believed this is because they are called "ministering spirits" in Hebrews 1 and I took "spirits" to means incorporeal. But it seems like every time we see angels in Scripture, they have a body, a form you can see:
and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Yeshua had been lying. John 20:12 NASB
Here Mary sees two ministering spirits, dressed in white, they had clothes on, and sitting. How does a spirit sit? They had bodies, they were seen.
So in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul draws from Deuteronomy 4 showing us that in the resurrection we will put on the body of the gods. Believers will replace the divine council, we will judge angels. So it is my AT&T position that when believers die they are given a spiritual body and move into the spiritual realm. Christians are going to put on a body of the gods. So when we get to heaven it's not just going to be a bunch of spirits floating around or anything like that. There's going to be glorified believers who are going to have bodies that share the same stuff as the gods.
In the Tanakh the divine council was called, "holy ones":
The heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones. Psalms 89:5 NASB
In the New Covenant believers are called, "holy ones"
to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Christ. Romans 1:7 NASB
Believers, we are holy ones! Saints is really not a good translation, because it loses every attachment to the imagery of the Tanakh when you change holy ones to saints. We are sons of God, and when we die we will be like the stars, the heavenly host.