50. Are we taught further about the nature of the resurrection body of the Lord?
Yes. In general we can say that it has the nature of all resurrection bodies, which the apostle describes in 1 Cor 15:42–49. There it is taught of the resurrection body, in sequence, that it is incorruptible (ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ), glorious (ἐν δόξῃ), powerful (ἐν δυνάμει), spiritual (πνευματικόν). Here, in the first place, the resurrection body of believers is spoken of, but this will be like the glorified body of Christ (cf. Phil 3:21). The first three predicates refer to the antithesis to the body at burial. At that time, it is abandoned to dissolution (ἐν φθορᾷ); as a corpse it is unsightly (ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ); in being dead it is weak (ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ).
The fourth antithesis reaches back further into life prior to burial. In contrast to the σῶμα πνευματικόν stands the σῶμα ψυχικόν: “There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.” To understand this antithesis correctly, we will have to take into consideration that here in opposition to “spiritual” Paul does not set “fleshly” but “natural.” A fleshly body is a body that becomes sin for its possessor; a natural body, then, is not a body of sin. A fleshly body bears the seed of death within itself; a natural body is in itself not yet mortal, so that it must die. In agreement with this is the fact that the natural body does not originate with the entrance of sin but has its origin in creation, “The first man Adam has become a living soul (εἰς ψυκὴν ζῶσαν), the last Adam a life-giving Spirit.” With that, reference is made to the creation account, Genesis 2:7, “and blew into His nostrils the breath of life, so the man became a living soul.” Apparently, then, three bodies are possible: a natural, a fleshly, and a spiritual body. The natural, psychical [psuchikov] body becomes a fleshly body as soon as man sins. The fleshly body becomes a spiritual body in the resurrection of the dead.
The question still remains to be answered why the apostle distinguished the body as Adam possessed it and the resurrection body of Christ specifically with the terms “natural” and “spiritual.” The psychical, natural body is such as it derives its organic life from the psuchē, from the soul of man, thus certainly possesses life, but still not immutable and irrevocable life, which ultimately always rests on the indwelling of the Spirit of God as the principle of eternal life. Now in the state of rectitude Adam possessed irrevocable, eternal life as little in his soul as in his body. In that consisted the psychical nature of his body. Prior to His resurrection, Christ possessed that same psychical body and in it, moreover, carried around the seed of death, by which it thus received a certain likeness with the fleshly body. In contrast, after His resurrection His human nature shared in the full enlivening of the Spirit, and that not as a bestowed benefit but as its own possession; the Spirit was given to Him fully and dwelt in Him. Related to that, His body too received an imperturbable, incorruptible life. It was suffused with the power of the Spirit, and thereby the material from which it consisted received a higher quality, so that it can not longer be called flesh and blood, while not ceasing to be material. An immaterial body is a contradictio in adjecto; a spiritual body is a possible concept. That the spiritual body is no longer flesh and blood follows in [1 Cor 15] verse 50: “But I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and the corruptible cannot inherit the incorruptible.” The flesh and blood of which Adam’s body consisted was vulnerable to corruption and dissolution, which is still something entirely different than saying it must undergo corruption. Corruptible here is a contradictory contrast to no-longer-corruptible, completely incorruptible. Further, it is a consequence of this spiritual existence of the body of Christ that He is “life-giving Spirit” (v. 45). Through the possession of the power of eternal life, Christ could also give life to others and guarantee the resurrection of the bodies of believers. Adam could only be called a living soul, but he could not communicate life to others; Christ does the latter and therefore He is life-giving Spirit.
That the explanation given here is correct appears from what the apostle adds as further explanation: “The spiritual is not first, but the natural, then the spiritual” (v. 46). In the order of God, the body that could still be corrupted comes first and then only secondly follows the body that is no longer vulnerable to corruption. Adam must not from the outset be placed in the state of immutability and of eternal life. Although created completely right, without there being anything wrong or any principle of death in him, he still awaited the confirmation and completion of His beatitude, which was attached to keeping the covenant of works as a condition. Had he sustained the test, he would have become the first and second Adam in one person. But the principle would still have been valid: “The natural first, then the spiritual.” Now that he falls, Christ enters as the second Adam—and besides restoring what Adam had ruined, He also carries out gloriously where Adam has failed. He became the progenitor, the covenant Head of the spiritual and highest order of things that must arise on the basis of the natural order. Christians bear His image in their re-creation as they bear the image of the first Adam in their creation. “The first man is from the earth, earthly (ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός); the second man is from heaven” [v. 47]. Inasmuch as Adam’s body was taken from the earth and had not yet been made into a spiritual body by the Holy Spirit, it also shared in the attributes of earthly materials. These would naturally be susceptible to change. Adam’s body was not such that external disturbing influences, if they were present, would have had no effect. It is otherwise with the body of the resurrected Savior, at least in His consummate glorification. It is incorruptible, and that certainly because a heavenly power, the power of the Spirit, has affected it. Therefore, the second man is ἐκ οὐρανοῦ, for heaven is the realm of immutable, immovable things, while here on earth everything moves and is mobile.
One must not interchange what is said here concerning the contrast between ψυχικός and πνευματικός with the ethical meaning that the word ψυχικός has in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural man does not understand the things that are of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to Him.” There the concept of what is natural includes in itself the characteristic of sinfulness, something that did not appear to be the case in the pericope just explained.
51. Do the facts related to us in the Gospels agree with this?
They show in part that a total change had really taken place in the body of the Lord.
a) He was not immediately recognized by those with whom He had been intimately associated earlier (John 20:15; Luke 24:31; John 21:7).
b) In an inexplicable way He appeared and disappeared, covered distances, went through closed doors (John 20:19; Luke 24:36).
c) He did not resume an intimate association with His disciples again, but kept them at a reverential distance. A higher majesty lay over all His action, as if He lived in a higher sphere and was no longer suited for a stay within the common sensory perception of this world. This comes out so strongly in the Gospels that it has led some to the strange surmise that immediately after the resurrection of the Lord He dwelt in heaven and that each appearance must be held to be a descent, immediately followed by a new ascension.
On the other hand, the body that the Lord possessed did not completely coincide with the resurrection body as that is delineated for us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus declared it to be flesh and bone (Luke 24:39), while Paul expressly asserts that flesh and blood will not inherit the kingdom of God [1 Cor 15:50]. Consequently, we appear here to have to think of a middle state that formed the transition to His fully glorified humanity as He possesses it in heaven. During these 40 days He could eat, although it is not to be assumed that He had need of food. Augustine has said of this, “It is in one way that the thirsty earth absorbs water, in another way that the rays of the sun burn; the first through deficiency, the other through power.”
52. Is the body of Christ a material body that as such is bound to space?
Yes; it must be material if it will truly remain a body. And as material it must also be subject to the limitations of matter, circumscribed in space. The conditions for its movement through space will differ considerably from those that apply to us, but in principle the relationship is the same. We do not believe with Lutherans in a ubiquity of the human nature, neither of the soul nor of the body. Nor are we despisers of matter, as if in this in itself lurks a profane principle that must be eliminated and purged. Matter can be glorified so that divine glory permeates it at every point and the Spirit of God governs it completely. That is realized in the resurrection of Christ. That His body is truly matter appears from:
a) The analogy of sowing and harvesting elaborated by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 15. One does not sow the body that will become, but there is still an organic connection between what is sown and what is harvested. The new is present in principle in the old; there is a thread of identity that runs through the harvest. So, too, in the resurrection of the dead. It is a re-creation of the old, not a destruction of it. There would not be an organic connection between the buried body and the resurrected body if they were detached from each other as material and nonmaterial.
b) All the appearances of Christ were in the mode of space, however extraordinary they otherwise were. What is visible in the mode of space is material. And this applies not only to the time before His ascension; it also applies to the time afterward. He appeared to Stephen, Paul, and John as visible in space.
c) If one appeals to Matthew 22:30 to prove the immateriality of the body of the resurrection, one seeks the point of comparison where it does not lie. Those raised are compared with the angels because they will no longer marry and procreate and because they are immutably confirmed in their state forever.
Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3, 225ff. cf. Hodge