Our Future Bodies

February 22, 2023

Scott MacGregor

“It is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is” (1 John 3:2).

The Bible tells us that those who believe in Jesus have eternal life. Eternal life is a long time to consider. As such, it merits some investigation as to what it’s going to be like and what we’re going to be like in it. This is one aspect of the hereafter that we have quite a bit of information on in the Bible. Some of that information we are told directly in Scripture and some of it we can deduce.

Humans have what is called a dichotomous nature. That is, we are made up of two components—a physical nature and a spiritual nature. Our physical body is temporal, while our spirit is eternal and will live on after we physically die. What a spirit looks like, we don’t know, because it’s invisible to the human eye. Ghosts—the spirits of the departed—are often depicted as see-through humans. But we don’t really know if our spirits will look like humans or not once we pass over to live in the spiritual realm.

We’re told that the spiritual realm is itself only a temporary home. So what is our permanent state going to be like? At the end of this current era in human history—at the point of Jesus’ long-awaited second coming—our spirits come to reside in supernatural bodies, bodies similar to (but a vast improvement on) our current physical bodies, as the apostle Paul explains:

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51–53).

We know that while Jesus lived on earth, His was a mortal body just like ours, and that body died. At His resurrection, He came out of the tomb in this new type of body, often called a “resurrection body.” This body was quite different from His old one and yet in many ways the same. He was instantly recognized as a man, but it wasn’t apparent to those that saw Him that He was the resurrected Jesus.

What did Jesus look like during his 33-year life on earth? We don’t have a description of Him in Scripture. Four separate authors decided to write biographies of Him, yet none of them described His physical appearance. The only verses that allude to His looks are in prophecy in the Old Testament’s book of Isaiah, written many hundreds of years before His time: “He has no form or comeliness [royal, kingly pomp], that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2).

That suggests that Jesus was quite ordinary in looks. He didn’t appear or act like He was the king He was. He was not a “beauty” to look at. His friends and disciples were looking for a plain, normal Jesus after His resurrection, and they didn’t recognize Him at first when they saw Him.

This suggests that Jesus, in His resurrected state, wasn’t immediately recognizable. Some of His disciples walked alongside Him on a road for seven miles and didn’t catch on that it was Him. I used to think that they were just too grief-stricken or traumatized to recognize Him, or perhaps Jesus miraculously kept His identity secret. But I now think it is more likely because He looked quite different.

John’s account of what happened at the grave on Easter morning indicates that Mary Magdalene—one of Jesus’ closest companions—didn’t recognize Him until He called her by name. “Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)” (John 20:11–16).

The apostles had been with Jesus for over three years. After His resurrection, He had already appeared to them more than once when He appeared to them again on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, and yet we read: “Morning was already breaking when Jesus came to the beach and stood there. However, the disciples did not know that it was Jesus” (John 21:4).

They had been fishing in a boat all night and had caught nothing. The penny didn’t drop even when Jesus called out to ask them how they had fared. It wasn’t till He caused them to catch more fish than they could haul in that John realized who He was. They must have still not been used to how He looked. Perhaps they didn’t recognize Him because He was so far away. But then you have to take into consideration that they were close enough to talk or at least shout to each other.

In the book of Matthew we are told: “Now after the Sabbath, near dawn of the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to take a look at the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled the boulder back and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his garments as white as snow. And those keeping guard were so frightened at the sight of him that they were agitated and they trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be alarmed and frightened, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, as He said [He would do]’” (Matthew 28:1–6).

According to Matthew’s account, the guards saw the angel move the stone and sit on it, but they didn’t see Jesus come out. The apparent reason for this was that He had already left the tomb before the stone was rolled back. His new resurrection body could apparently pass through solid rock.

In Luke’s account of the two disciples that meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, it explains that their eyes were at first “kept from recognizing him” and later instantly opened to where they recognized Jesus (Luke 24:13–16, 28–31). In this particular account they walked for miles with Jesus while He went through numerous Old Testament scriptures with them, explaining that the Messiah was going to have to endure rejection and death before He was glorified (Luke 24:27). This was such an unusual interpretation for a Jew to put to Messianic scripture that I am sure they would have caught on that this was no ordinary stranger pretty quickly if He hadn’t kept them from recognizing Him, and then vanished once they recognized Him. Thus we learn from this passage about Jesus’ resurrection body that it has the ability to vanish (Luke 24:31).

The Gospel of John tells us: “Then on that same first day of the week, when it was evening, though the disciples were behind closed doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace to you!” (John 20:19)

And in Luke: “But they were so startled and terrified that they thought they saw a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you disturbed and troubled, and why do such doubts and questionings arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself! Feel and handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have’” (Luke 24:37–39).

He vanished in one account and then, according to the passages above, He had the ability to appear in a room where the door was closed. Once again, though, He looked different, and this time they thought He was a ghost; He had to show them His wounds to convince them that He was who He said He was.

Here we are given another fascinating insight into this body. He is reported to have said He was flesh and bone. But what about blood? In a later passage, it talks about Thomas being told by the Lord to put his finger in the nail wounds and his hand in the spear wound in His side. “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach out your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place [it] in My side. Do not be faithless and incredulous, but [stop your unbelief and] believe!’” (John 20:27).

The wounds were still there in His body, apparently deep enough to put a finger and hand into. And if they were holes, they would be bleeding if there was blood there to be bled. Now if there is no blood, then the whole internal anatomy of the body is brought into question. Especially if you combine this with Paul’s comment that “flesh and blood cannot [become partakers of eternal salvation and] inherit or share in the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (that which is decaying) inherit or share in the imperishable (the immortal)” (1 Corinthians 15:50).

And that’s not all. This body can apparently fly: “And it occurred that while He was blessing them, He parted from them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). “Even as they were looking [at Him], He was caught up, and a cloud received and carried Him away out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). 

Yet the most amazing thing about this body is that it is immortal, and so will our resurrection bodies be: “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. … When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:42, 54).

Imagine life in an immortal body. Just think of the possibilities!

Adapted from a Just1Thing podcast, a Christian character-building resource for young people.

Copyright © 2024 The Family International