John 2:21 But he spake of the temple of his body.
I vividly remember discussing this verse with a Jehovah Witness who came to my home to conduct a home Bible study every Monday night with me for about four years.
I asserted that this verse proves that when Jesus arose from the dead on the third day, He arose in bodily form, not as a mere spirit.
My friend argued Jesus was resurrected in spirit, not in body. I stated that if Jesus meant he would rise as a spirit being, He hardly would have spoken of the resurrection of the “temple of his body.”
My friend wrote to the headquarters of the Jehovah Witnesses in Brooklyn, New York. They sent him an interesting letter in reply. Headquarters said that “the temple of his body” refers to His church, not to his own physical body. I may yet have the photograph of that letter.
I replied to my friend that the answer they gave hardly fits the context in John’s Gospel. Since when did the church die and after three days rise again? The answer they provided on this question was surely mistaken.
Here is the paragraph as it is found in the Gospel of John:
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Joh 2:13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
Joh 2:14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
Joh 2:15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
Joh 2:16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
Joh 2:17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
Joh 2:18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?
Joh 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
Joh 2:20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?
Joh 2:21 But he spake of the temple of his body.
Joh 2:22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.
Notice that the Jewish leadership did not understand what Jesus said: they thought Jesus claimed that He would destroy the Temple and restore it in three days. The Jews replied that it took 46 years to build the Temple. How could Jesus claim to be able to rebuild it in three days?
The disciples were clueless at the time. They had no idea about what Jesus meant.
The false witnesses assembled at the trial of Jesus remembered what Jesus had said and tried to use His words against Him:
Mat 26:59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;
Mat 26:60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,
Mat 26:61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
Mark records in his Gospel the fact that the witness of the false witnesses did not agree with each other:
Mar 14:57 And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,
Mar 14:58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
Mar 14:59 But neither so did their witness agree together.
While Jesus was on the cross, those that passed by referred to this statement of Jesus:
Mar 15:25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.
Mar 15:26 And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Mar 15:27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
Mar 15:28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.
Mar 15:29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
Mar 15:30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
After Jesus was buried and sealed in the tomb I suspect this saying haunted some of His enemies, who finally perceived that Jesus claimed that after three days He would rise from the dead:
Mat 27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,
Mat 27:63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.
Mat 27:64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
Given all this context for what we read from John 2:19, 20, 21, 22, I think it is inconceivable that any honest interpreter of the Scripture would arrive at the conclusion that Jesus was referring to a spiritual, not bodily resurrection “on the third day.”
SERIES TITLE: Getting Hooked on the Book
UNIT: Cross Reference Guide Introduction
SESSION TEN: Maintaining the Biblical Balance of Truth: Bodily resurrection from the dead.
MATERIALS NEEDED: Furnish each student with a Bible and a Cross Reference Guide.
LESSON OBJECTIVE: Establish from Scripture that the resurrection of Christ was bodily, not merely spiritual, resurrection from the dead.
SCRIPTURE TEXT: John 2:19-21.
- Destroy. Mt 26:60, 61. 27:40. Mk 8:31. 14:58. 15:29. Lk 9:22. Ac 6:14. temple. Mt 23:16. and in. +Mt 12:40. 27:63. three days. +1 S 30:12. Mt 26:61. I will raise it. Jn 5:19. 10:17, 18. 11:25. +Jb 19:25, 26. +Is 26:19. Mk 8:31. +Ac 2:24. 1 Cor 15:3, 4, 12. 1 P 3:18.
- Forty and. Ezr 5:16. temple. Mt 12:6. 26:61. three days. Ho 6:2.
- he spake. Jn 1:14. Col 1:19. 2:9. He 8:2. temple. +Mt 23:16. 1 Cor 3:16. 6:19. 2 Cor 6:16. Ep 2:20, 21, 22. Col 2:9. 1 P 2:4, 5. his body. Jn 20:25, 27. +Ps 16:10. 49:15. Is 43:10. +Da 12:2. +Mt 27:52. 28:6. Lk 24:39. Ro 8:11. Phil 3:21. 1 Tim 2:5. 1 J 3:2.
A. Raise the question, What is meant by resurrection?
B. Some religious groups deny the literal physical bodily resurrection of Christ, stating that Christ was raised spiritually. What wording in John 2:21 specifically forbids such an interpretation?
C. Consult the following Scripture references. Determine whether the reference to resurrection in each passage is a reference to spiritual or bodily resurrection. Mt 27:52, 53. 28:6. Lk 24:39. Jn 20:27. Ac 13:34. Ro 8:11, 23. 1 Cor 15:44.
D. Consult Romans 10:9, 10. How essential is a correct understanding of the concept of resurrection to salvation?
- After consulting the references supplied to each clause of this lesson’s Scripture text, answer the question: “What common thread of truth ties this set of references together?”
- What conclusions do you draw about the Bible’s own teaching regarding the subjects dealt with in this lesson’s Scripture text?
- What instruction or encouragement do you derive from the insights received from this comparison of related Bible texts?