Luke 24: 36-43 and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
by Harold L. Flemings
A subject of controversy appears in the material found at Luke
24:36-43. Here is how the New King James Version rendered this passage:
"Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, 'Peace to you'. But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, 'Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself, Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have'. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for you, and marveled, He said to them, 'Have you any food here?' So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence."
What generates the controversy are statements elsewhere in the Bible that Jesus was indeed "a spirit" at this time, which was after his resurrection. We will now look at one of those statements.
At 1 Corinthians 15:45,47, the Apostle Paul noted:
"And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being'. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit . . . The first man was of the earth, made of dust: the second Man is the Lord from heaven." (New King James Version)
Without a doubt, this passage declares to us very clearly that Jesus became a "life-giving spirit". How is this seeming contradiction resolved?
A major clue to resolving the problem is found at Acts 23:8,9, which reads:
"For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both, And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God." (King James Version)
The "angel" and "spirit" are cited here as though they were two different entities - "spirit or an angel". Now, no one should question that angels are indeed spirits. Concerning this, the Bible tells us at Hebrews 1:7:
"And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." (King James Version)
But why would Acts 23:8, 9 differentiate an angel from a spirit? It is not unreasonable to conclude that one refers to a holy angel of God and the other to a wicked spirit, also called a demon. On one occasion when Jesus' disciples were not able to exorcise a demon out of a young man, the father of the young man asked Jesus to do so. In Mark's account in Chapter 9, the demon is referred to in verse 20 simply as a "spirit':
"And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming." (King James Version)
Another example is found at Acts 16:16,18:
"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying... But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour."1 (King James Version)
The "spirits" in these passages were not the holy angels but wicked spirits.
Prior to the Noachian Flood, the wicked spirits, or "fallen angels", had the ability to materialize as humans. This is evidenced by the account at Genesis 6:1, 2, which says:
"And it came about that when men started to grow in numbers on the surface of the ground and daughters were born to them, then the sons of the [true] God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking: and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose." (NWT)
The children that resulted from this unnatural union were giants called Nephilim. Verse 4 of Genesis 6 adds:
"The Nephilim proved to be in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men and they bore sons to them, they were the mighty ones who were of old, the men of fame." (New World Translation)
These "sons of God"2 evidently lost the ability to fully materialize after the Flood because never again do we see clear references to fully materialized rebel spirit sons of God. After the Flood, such spirits required the agency of a spirit medium in order to become visible.3 The holy angels never required the agency of a spirit medium and hence these good spirits have been able to fully materialize both before and after the Flood.4 This means that "angels" can fully materialize but "spirits" cannot.
When we return to Luke 24:36-43 with the foregoing in hand, we see a clearer picture. Remember that the account says that the disciples "were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit". If they thought this was a good "spirit", one of the holy angels, is it likely that they would have been both "terrified and frightened"? Or, would they have been happy, though possibly frightened, by the presence of such a one at this time? Jesus reminded them that "spirits", that is wicked spirits, no longer could become "flesh and bones"5, therefore, there was nothing for which to be terrified. Yes, Jesus did become a "life giving spirit", just as Paul reported at 1 Corinthians 15:45-47. What he did not become was a death dealing wicked spirit, one inspiring terror.
1. See also: Matthew 12:43-45, Luke 4:33-36, Acts 19:15-16.
2. Notice how angels are called "sons of God" at Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:4-7.
3. See Leviticus 19:31, 20:27; Deut. 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 1 Chronicles 10:13; Isaiah 29:4.
4. Genesis 18:1 - 19:1-22; 32:24-30; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 13; Luke 24:1-11; Acts 12:6-11.
5. Note reference to "flesh and bones" at Genesis 29:14; Judges 9:2; 2 Samuel 5:1