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Transmutation, Resuscitation, and Resurrection

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Question #1: 

Hello there! Once again just want to say thanks for a great site, and for updating it so much. I look forward to new questions being posted. After reading the last question listed there was a link to one of your other writings. In the article was this paragraph:

3. Resurrection must be distinguished from transmutation: A very small number of believers ended their lives in a most unusual way. Enoch, Moses and Elijah are examples of believers who were "transmuted", that is, who did not experience the death of their physical bodies. These three men were all transferred to eternity apart from death. In the case of Moses and Elijah (though the specific circumstances of their departures differ), the reason apparently has to do with their eventual return for "further service" at the time of the tribulation (Rev.11:1-13). Despite their unusual departures from life, Enoch, Moses and Elijah still await their resurrection bodies along with all the departed believers.  (from Peter #20: The Resurrection)

I do have a question about it, because you also wrote later in Peter #20:

"Moses and Elijah are examples of believers who were "transmuted", that is, who did not experience the death of their physical bodies. These three men were all transferred to eternity apart from death. "

When I look in Deut 34:5 its says that Moses died in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was 120 yrs old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. How did Moses not experience a physical death of his body if it says the Lord buried Moses himself in Moab?

Again, thanks for your great site.

Response #1:  Well, you make a very good point. The case of Moses is indeed more complicated than that of the other two, and you have my apologies if the way I have phrased this in Peter lesson #20, "The Resurrection", seemed a bit confusing.

Moses and Elijah are in heaven (as is Enoch; see the link: Enoch's Walk with God), and they are not in their earthly bodies. Technically speaking, they certainly are "dead" in that sense. The point of the paragraph you quote is to show that the unique departures of these three great men of God, as remarkable as those departures were, were not the same as the ascension of Christ, and that the return of Moses and Elijah will not be a "resurrection" but rather a "resuscitation".  For while individual believers temporarily resuscitated like Lazarus did go on to die physically, Christ, who has been truly “resurrected”, is no longer subject to death in His humanity for He is “destined to see corruption no longer”, Acts 13:34.  This is the resurrection to which all believers look forward, and it will not occur until Jesus returns at the 2nd Advent.

Neither "transmutation" nor "resuscitation" are, strictly speaking, technical terms, in that the Bible uses general vocabulary for each (i.e., metatithemi means “transfer” but I translate “transmute” in these cases, and anistemi means “stand up”, but I translate either “resurrect” or “resuscitate” to make clear the distinction between the two on a case by case basis). I use "transmutation" and "resuscitation" because they are descriptive of what the Bible relates in regard to what has happened and will happen to these believers.

Here is part of what I have subsequently written about Moses in particular in Coming Tribulation part 3A, section 5, "The Ministry of the Two Witnesses":

In the cases of both Moses and Elijah, their departure from this life the first time was absolutely unique (as indeed it will also be the next time: Rev.11:11-12). Elijah's departure in the heavenly chariot needs no great elaboration (2Ki.2:1-18). Elisha's extensive search after the fact (at the request of the company of prophets) demonstrates that no physical trace of his body was left behind. In Moses' case, we are told that he was "buried" in the valley opposite Beth Peor (Deut.34:5-6). However, we are also told in the same verse that "to this day no one knows where his grave is". One would have thought that Moses' grave would have been of no small interest for that as well as for all later generations, if it were but possible to know the location. Deuteronomy 34:6 actually attributes the burial to God Himself, and Jude clarifies the situation: the "burial" was only temporary (thus explaining why the site could not be known). Jude 1:9 explains that, like Elijah's physical body, Moses' body too was uniquely taken to heaven by angelic agency, an operation which was carried out by the archangel Michael and contested by the devil. Thus, the physical bodies of both of these two extraordinary servants of our Lord left earth in an extraordinary way, precisely so that they might later return via resuscitation after so many years in an equally remarkable and unprecedented way.

Since both Moses and Elijah are later "transmuted" after being "resuscitated" in the Tribulation as described in Revelation chapter 11, and since Elijah's first departure also takes place in an essentially identical way (i.e., clearly via “transmutation”), it would stand to reason that Moses' first departure was similar in its effect (even if God took his spirit first, then his body, instead of taking both to heaven at the same time). Since God "buries" Moses, the "but" in Deut.34:5 looms very large - "although God buried him, his grave is unknown". This suggests to me, therefore, that what we have here is also a case of (eventual) "burial in heaven" similar to what happened later with Elijah (even if there was a temporary burial on earth first). This is also the best way to explain how Satan and Michael could (or would) be vying for Moses' body (Jude 1:9), namely, God's commanding of His angels to bring Moses' body to heaven very shortly or perhaps immediately after his temporary burial. As to the obvious question of why the Lord should bury then immediately take Moses, it would seem to me to have to do with the same reason that Moses was not allowed to enter the land at that time, that is, his (along with Aaron's) reaction to the rebellion of the younger generation at Meribah (cf. Deut.32:48-52 - Moses death and burial is therefore at once "in the same way" as that of Aaron, and also different in respect to the preservation of his body thereafter).

Transmutation of either type is still technically "death", but in the case of Elijah and Enoch (and of Moses and Elijah in their second departure) death through being taken directly by God rather than having one's body fail or one's spirit removed. Having one's body taken to heaven is thus the sign of transmutation (if not the means in Moses' unique case). The verses referenced above are the only ones which apply in the case of Moses, so I can't be any more dogmatic than this. I will certainly grant you that the way I phrased and framed the issue in Peter #20 is not the best (i.e., Moses and Elijah are physically dead even though, as with all believers, they are spiritually alive: Matt.22:29-32), and could benefit from the following re-write.

". . . who did not experience the death of their physical bodies [in the normal way]. These three men were all transferred to eternity apart from [a normal physical] death."

One learns things as time progresses (or at least one would hope to).

Thank you for your question and astute observation - and many thanks also for your kind and supportive words.

In Him in whom is the only truth, for He is the way, the truth and the life, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

I have a question based upon what a Jehovah's Witness posted on the website I use:

“After the resurrection Jesus was not a "spirit" because for how could his disciples see and feel a spirit? They could not. For this reason Jesus manifested himself as the angels had done in the past in a physical body which would be proof that he was alive, had been resurrected. But Paul say Jesus is not "physical" but "spiritual" no longer made of "dust" as "Adam" was, no longer "out of the earth" but "out of heaven." There are no fleshly physical bodies in heaven are there? No, God and the angels have spirit bodies. Jesus likewise in his resurrection for he was to exist in heaven from this time on. He was a "life giving spirit" Paul says- See 1 Cor.515: 44, 45, 46, 47. He had once born the image of Adam but in the resurrection now bears the image of the heavenly one. Paul goes further in explaining what happens to the earthly body in 2 Cor.5:1 where he that this body is "dissolved." And they would have a body "not made with hands." This means bodies not of earth, not made of earth, not physical but a spirit body just as God and the angels have who exist in the spiritual heavens. One does not need nor would one want an earthly body where God exists in the spiritual heavens!"

I know that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, is contrasting the earthly with the heavenly, and how the corruptible must put on the incorruptible. But how would one prove that we will have a physical resurrection of our bodies? JWs believe we will be annihilated at death, and then God will recreate us, and stick in our old memories. They believe most will be resurrected on earth, while only 144,000 will be in heaven.

Also, JWs think that Jesus couldn't have been resurrected in His old body, because that would somehow nullify the sacrifice. She said burnt sin offerings were made outside the cities and burnt sacrifices were never given back to the people. How would you deal with that? Any Greek that would help?

However, JWs believe OT people will only be resurrected on earth, and will not be in heaven with Jesus; only certain NT people go to heaven; the rest spend eternity on a new earth, doing pretty much what they do now, only without sin.


Response #2:

As to Genesis 3:15 et al., one has to just shake one's head over stuff like this. So many odd statements all over the map, confused and contradictory, can never be responded to in a truly adequate and coherent fashion. So I will just try to respond to the key points.

Scripture goes out of its way to show that Jesus' body in resurrection is "real" in every sense of that word. Jesus appeared to His disciples and showed them the marks in His hands and in His sides, but Thomas who wasn't there doubted the reality, the possibility of the resurrection, and told his fellows that he would never believe unless he could "thrust his finger into the place of the nails". When Jesus appeared to him too, He told him "reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing." (Jn.20:24-27). Now even a secular scholar who happens to be an atheist who reads this text could come to no other conclusion but that the author of these verses is trying in the strongest possible way he knew to portray Jesus in resurrection as having a genuine body. To believe otherwise is to so completely misread the open sense of this passage as to make any pretense of even interacting with the Bible ridiculous.

It is true that our resurrection body will be superior to this one in all sorts of ways as Paul goes to great lengths to show in 1st Corinthians 15, but it is still a body. (Greek soma, as in "psychosomatic"). The sun and moon and stars are "heavenly bodies" (1Cor.15:40-41) but they are still "bodies", and in this case clearly material. It is true that our resurrection bodies will be "spiritual", but nothing in the teaching of the resurrection from Genesis to Revelation says or even suggests that for that reason they cannot be in any sense material or "real". "You who are spiritual" Paul says to some of the Galatian believers (Gal.6:1), but by this appellation he does not mean that these believers are without bodies (the word pneumatikoi is the same word he uses in 1Cor.15 of the "spiritual body"). Now as then, we have an element of both, a body and a spirit. The new body will be "spiritual" because it is not attuned to the earthly "soul-ish" life (cf. Jude 1:19; Jas.3:15), but rather to the new eternal life that we will from that day forth enjoy to the full. Unlike our present ephemeral, corruptible body, it will be eternal and indestructible. This is a case where understanding that the "soul" is merely a term for the interface of spirit and body rather than a separate entity or tertium quid becomes important (lots of potential theological trouble in thinking that the word "soul" as used in scripture is an independent entity; see the link: “Is the Soul a tertium quid?").

On your other points:

1. As to the convoluted argument about sacrifices, there is little that need be said. All such offerings portray our Lord's sacrifice on the cross. Assigning an odd interpretation to one of them and then extrapolating theological propositions based upon what they might mean if true when applied to another issue entirely is, to say the least, a questionable hermeneutic (especially since they're not true in the first place).

2. 2Cor.5:1 "body dissolved" et al. Paul's description in 2nd Corinthians chapter five is completely consistent with everything he says elsewhere about the resurrection. Notice that he makes a point of saying we will have a “residence” and a “home”, which begs the question “residence/home for what?” Clearly, this is a “house” for our spirit; and if our spirit has a “house”, that “home” may be described as pneumatikos or “spiritual” since it is more attuned to our spirit and spiritual life than the present body we inhabit, but that does not at all mean it is not tangible and substantial just as Jesus' resurrection body was and is. We can see it and touch it; it can eat and drink and wear clothes. From what scripture describes, it is superior to the present body in every way without being inferior to it in any way. The fact that it is described as “not made by human hands” is a clear reference to the fact that God resurrects us to give us the new eternal body, whereas the present one we received through human procreation. That is to say, the adjective describes the process (i.e., made by God rather than mediated by human agency), and not the result (i.e., it is still tangible and substantial even though it is made directly by God). God, after all, made Adam' and Eve's bodies too - without “human hands” or agency.

3. Jesus "manifesting Himself as an angel"; If that were the case, what is the point of Jesus' first body not being present in the tomb, and His new body bearing the marks of what happened to the first? Jesus ate and drank in resurrection, and His body was tangible and substantial. What our Lord says Himself puts the question beyond all argument:

Look at my hands and feet [and see] that it is I myself! Touch me and see that a spirit (i.e., an angel) does not have flesh and bones as you see Me having.
Luke 24:39

4. "Life giving spirit" - this refers precisely to the "spiritual body" mentioned later; the problem for this person's interpretation is the assumption about what "materiality" and "spirituality" are. Angels are "spiritual" but yet they exist within the "material" universe. And even though our present existence is centered on and in the material earth, we human beings also have spirits in addition to our bodies (and thus will it ever be). Clearly then, the traditional misunderstanding of these two categories cannot be pressed into service as a proof in and of itself. What we can say is what I have said above, namely that our bodies change in resurrection to be more in tune with the heavenly or spiritual side of our nature in contrast to the present state of things where they are more in tune with the earthly or material side of our natures. But we will still always have real bodies in resurrection, only better ones like Jesus.

In our genuinely, bodily resurrected Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Did these saints and Lazarus in these passages have to go through death again? Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

Mat 27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.

Mat 27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went1 into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Response #3:

Yes indeed, you are correct. This was a symbolic resuscitation of some believers (rather than the general resurrection of all believers) – by which I mean that Jesus' conquest of death through His victory on the cross was celebrated by this temporary return to life (which gives hope of and foreshadows the coming permanent resurrection). These believers were brought back to the same physical life they had before (as Lazarus was), but did indeed die physically again at some point in the future. At present, Jesus is the only one who has yet been truly "resurrected", by which we mean having received the new eternal body which can never die again. The rest of us have to wait until His return for our resurrection. For more on this, please see the following links:

        Moses and Elijah (the distinction between resurrection and resuscitation).

        The Resurrection

        Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State.

Yours in Him who is the resurrection and the life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Someone had asked if Lazarus (whom Jesus raised from the dead) had died twice, and if so, how does one reconcile that with this verse?

        Hebrews 9:27 - And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Response #4:

Lazarus really was an unusual case - but not unprecedented: Jesus also raised the widow's son and the rich ruler's daughter, and Elijah and Elisha also will have what I would call a "resuscitation" to their credit during the Tribulation (Rev.11). Hebrews 9:27 was of course written in full knowledge of all these cases as Hebrews 11:35 makes clear: "[by faith] Women received back their dead, raised to life again" (and indeed, Paul himself resuscitated a young man who had fallen out of a window in Ephesus).

The way I would look at Hebrews 9:27, which does not contradict these miracles and is not ignorant of them, is that in all of these cases there was indeed still a final physical death. Therefore nothing can or could ever stand in the way of the coming "judgment" - save Christ being judged in our place. Thus the examples of those who were temporarily brought back to life actually confirm Hebrews 9:27, because even those who benefitted from the most amazing miracle of resuscitation from the dead could not even so avoid the appointment we all have with a final, ultimate end to the physical life of this corrupt body we now inhabit. Only through the resurrection by virtue of our faith in Him who is the Resurrection and the Life do we avoid the last judgment which leads to the second death and instead pass on to life eternal in Jesus Christ.

In Him with whom we shall live forever, the One who was judged for us, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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