Wednesday, 28 May 2014

What is "it"?

I had an errand to do today in the centre of Belfast and I came across a couple of "Jehovah's Witnesses" (I will never grant them that title without putting the quotes around it, because they are no such thing). A very interesting, and hopefully profitable conversation ensued.

I asked one of them if she could help me understand a passage in the Bible, and she was more than happy to oblige. It was John 2:19-22:
Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.,
I read the passage to her and asked her what she thought. She said she wasn't really sure, so I pointed out two issues: first, the Lord said that the body that they would be destroyed would be the very thing He would raise up; second, He would be the One doing it. Both of these are things the Watchtower Society denies.

She immediately asked was I talking about the Trinity, I told her I hadn't mentioned the Trinity and was talking about John 2:19-22. The biggest challenge and key issue for discussions with "Jehovah's Witnesses" is to stay on topic.

She admitted it certainly did appear to be saying that the Lord's physical body would be raised up and He would do it, but she hadn't studied the passage. I encouraged her to do so, and told her I had spoken to some of her colleagues who had failed to come up with any explanations.

She said it was obviously not the same body as the disciples knew because they didn't recognise Him, but I pointed out to her that if we just turn back in the Bible two pages we are told why that was. Luke 24:16 explains, "But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him." If His body was not raised then this is explanatory statement is unnecessary.

She asked me then if I was saying that the exact same body that was in the grave was the body that was raised. I told her that's what the Lord was saying in John 2 - "destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up..." (emphasis added). That's what the angel was saying in Matthew 28:6:
He is not here; for He is risen, as He said...
Notice the explanation, why is His body not here? Because He is risen. If the resurrection is a spiritual thing then the statement from the angel is a non sequitur, it still doesn't explain where His body is. However, if the resurrection is bodily then of course it makes perfect sense.

So, the Lord knew His resurrection would be physical, the angel knew His resurrection would be physical, and thirdly, Thomas knew if the resurrection had happened then it would be physical. Look at what he said when his fellow disciples told him they had seen the Lord in John 20:
Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.
Now, the point to grab hold of here is that Thomas clearly understood the disciples' statement that they had seen the Lord to be a statement that the body in which He suffered and died was raised from the grave. Notice that none of the disciples said, "No, silly! The resurrection isn't bodily, that body is decomposing or has been vapourised." His assumption was correct. Then the next Sunday, the Lord appeared and invited Thomas to put his finger in the print of the nails in His hands and put his hand into the wound in His side. Thomas saw indeed that the Lord had risen and called Him his Lord and his God. The Lord says, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed..." Remember that the week before he said he wouldn't believe in the resurrection unless he had the physical proof, well he got it.

So the Lord affirmed a bodily resurrection, the angel affirmed a bodily resurrection, and Thomas and the other apostles affirmed a bodily resurrection.

The JW to whom I was speaking said she would look into it more, and I told her to make sure the explanation she got actually explains John 2:19-22 rather than merely explains it away.

She asked me if I thought this mattered. I told her it mattered immensely, there is no salvation apart from it. I'll tell you were the conversation went from there in the next post.