Resurrection Body – Spiritual? Or Physical?

Q. If we have real, tangible, physical resurrection bodies in heaven, why does Paul call them “spiritual” bodies in 1 Corinthians 15?


Belief rooted in Gnosticism

Good question! Many Christians think that a “spiritual” body is the opposite of a “physical” body. But, this is an error which has its roots in Gnosticism, Platonism, and Dualism, all of which held to anti-physical philosophies.

In essence, they believed that the spirit world is good while the physical world is bad. These errors have taken root in the teachings of churches and theologians everywhere. In his seminal work, Heaven, Randy Alcorn undertook the difficult task of correcting such errors, calling this problem “Christoplatonism.” It is time we changed this error in our thinking and teachings, don’t you agree?

Let’s briefly review the problem.

Ain’t No Ghost!

1. Christians will not become “ghosts” after death. Rather, our bodies and minds will be improved. As Dr. Missler points out, “we are due for an upgrade” in our brain’s software and our body’s hardware. In computer talk, we will receive a hardware and software upgrade of our bodies and minds. This will improve our bodies. It won’t make us spooky spirits and ghosts.

Real bones, Real flesh

Jesus was careful to show that His resurrected body was “real” and physical. He explained, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39, NASB).

In Acts 1:9-12, we read, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (ESV). In other words, He went up into the clouds in a tangible body, and He will return in a physical body.

Spiritual Body still a Body

2. Paul carefully explains the spiritual body in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. He says, “It is sown a natural body. It is raised a spiritual body” (15:44). Note that Paul could have said “it is raised a SPIRIT.” But, he doesn’t say that. He says, “it is raised a spiritual body.”

Supernatural Body

Maybe we should say that Paul describes a resurrection body that will have “supernatural” abilities. These supernatural bodies are not “ghosts” or “ghostly.” Rather, they are bodies which have metaphysical, supernatural or super-human abilities. We could view our future state as “supermen and superwomen” rather than ghosts.

Spiritual, Ghostly bodies Not Resurrected from Graves

3. Here is something upon which to reflect. Let’s burn this on the frontal lobes of our brain:

If we didn’t have “bodies,” we wouldn’t need to be physically resurrected out of our graves. If we didn’t have bodies, we would be “spirits,” not resurrected bodies.

(Please read this again if it isn’t clear).


4. The word that Paul uses for spiritual bodies is the same word, pneumatikos, used in Galations 6:1, “you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” It is also the same Greek word used in Romans 1:11: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you.”

In these passages, the word “spiritual” describes a person or his gift. It implies that they are “Holy” or “sanctified.” In the same way, 1 Corinthians 15 uses the word “spiritual” to speak of the high quality of the resurrected body as compared to our present sickly, dying bodies.

Here is where the New Living Translation offers some clarification. In 1 Corinthians 15:49 it says, “Just as we are like Adam, the man of the earth, so we will someday be like Christ, the man from heaven.”
This translation reflects a more accurate view.

Earth Dwellers

5. In other words, on earth we are terrestrial creatures made from the same 17 elements which make up dust, according to scientists. Recall the Genesis verse that says, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19, ESV). Often throughout the bible we are called “earth dwellers.” Earth dwellers are, well… “earthy!” They are subject to sin, decay, and death (eg. Rev. 3:10; Luke 21:35).

Heaven Dwellers

But, in our resurrection bodies we will have bodies suitable to outer space, suitable to the heavens, and suitable to the “third heaven” where God resides currently in our space/time. (He will dwell with us in the coming New Jerusalem). These upgraded resurrection bodies will not be subject to sin, decay, or death. They will be indestructible.

Remember that the new “heavens and earth” promised to us in 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21 is as real as the “heavens and earth” that God created in Genesis one. We will be heaven dwellers.

Now that is exciting!

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13, ESV).

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… (Revelation 21:1, ESV).

I’m ready to go! Are you?

“Beam me up, Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).




Artwork Copyright by Duncan Long. All rights reserved. Artwork used with permission of the artist. View his stunning gallery at:

Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Wheaton, ILL: Tyndale.

Hitchcock, Mark. 2005. 55 Answers to questions about life after death. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.

Missler, Chuck and Mark Eastman. 1997. The ultimate hyper dimensional in Alien encounters. Coeur d’Alene, ID: Koinonia House.

Author Valorie Emilio holds an MA in history from UCLA specializing in Christian origins, and a Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University. She teaches classes and writes articles for the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon, where her husband, Ken, serves as Director.