29-12-17 THE BODY MADE


Published December 29, 2017.

By John Aldworth

Heb. 9:11: But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building (creation).

What does it mean to be a member of the body of Christ? Come to that, how does a believer become sure that he or she really has become part ‘of his flesh and of his bones’ (Eph. 5:23)? These are vital questions that in turn prompt another that is equally profound: What is it that makes the Body of Christ both physical and spiritual so unique and powerful anyway?

As I pondered these issues the thought occurred that to better understand what it means to be a member of the ‘church which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all’ (Eph.1:23), one should begin by studying what the Bible says about the physical body in which the Lord lived and dwelt among men for 33 and a half years before his death and resurrection.

I thought that perhaps such study would shed further light on what others have been pleased to call the Lord’s ‘mystical’ or spiritual body.

(Personally, I don’t like the term ‘mystical’; it implies there is something vague or unreal about the Lord’s present mode of being whereas actually He is the only true reality and necessarily therefore his body must be the fullness, or sum total, of such reality.  By contrast this world and the life we live in it are largely illusory.)

Again, speaking of the Lord’s present body as ‘spiritual’ would suggest to our somewhat dense natural minds that his vessel now is somehow less physically real than the body in which he once lived and ate, died on the cross and was resurrected. Yet the record of scripture asserts otherwise. His resurrected being had ‘flesh and bones’ and in it the Lord ate fish and bread in front of his disciples (Luke 24:39-43).

For the record, scripture never describes the body of the Lord, whether it be seen as on earth or in heaven, as ‘spiritual’ or ‘mystical’. It does, however, describe his present bodily form of being as ‘glorious’ and says that at his appearing the Lord ‘shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body…’ (Phil. 3:20-21). Now, granted, 1 Cor. 15:44, speaking of the resurrection of believers, not of Christ per se, says:

    It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.

And the next verse goes on to say:

    And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

I believe the point to be made is that the Lord's body is a special creation, a new creation, that while externally shaped in the 'likeness' of unfallen Adam and even the 'likeness' of Melchisedek, was actually 'made after the power of an endless life' (Heb. 7:16). Certainly, Adam, even in his unfallen state was no 'quickening spirit'. But Jesus Christ was and is. What's more, while truly being born of flesh and blood He never ceased to also be the Son of God and God the Son.

As a matter of fact nowhere does the Bible make a demarcation between the spiritual and physical aspects of the Lord’s body. Indeed, without any such distinction scripture always describes Christ’s body as just that - his body. And what God has joined together – and evidently kept together –  we should avoid putting asunder. Certainly it is true that the Lord's body partook of flesh and blood and was of the seed of Abraham and David.

And, granted, 'He was tempted in all points like as we are'. But this was 'without sin'. And that distinction alone irrevocably marks his body off the from the rest of humanity. So does the fact that, unlike us, He was not 'born of the flesh" (John 3:6) but was born of the Spirit of God. The context teaches us it was Nicodemus, not He, that needed to be born again. In fact the Lord's body and being while on earth was so very different from ours that He could say:

    'And no man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven (John 3:13).

This statement by Jesus Christ strongly asserts that his body and being, even before his death, resurrection, ascension and glorification, was so very different to ours that it was indeed a supernatural body while still being in the form of 'flesh and blood'. According to his own words in this verse, the Lord Jesus in his body could be in two different places, heaven and earth, at the same time.

A body made without hands

Of course, what has been considered thus far barely scratches the surface of Bible truth about the Lord’s corporeal form but already it is clear that his body is unique in so many ways it behoves us to carefully study what scripture has to say about it.

Perhaps the first thing to be noted is that the body the Lord Jesus was born with and in which He lived upon earth, in which He was crucified, buried and rose again, was ‘made without hands’. 

Heb. 9:11: But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building (creation).

This verse contains profound and important truths.  First up we learn that Jesus Christ’s body is to be to Israel ‘a greater and more perfect tabernacle’ than the Tabernacle of Moses was to the Israelites in the wilderness. It should be noted then that, unlike Moses’ Tabernacle, the frame, curtains, hangings and furniture of which were painstakingly manufactured by the journeying Israelites, the ‘greater tabernacle’ of Lord’s body was not made with (human) hands.

Observe also that that while Moses’ tabernacle was imperfect, the tabernacle of the Lord’s body is not. Not only is it perfect and holy and complete. It is also the instrument by which we are completely reconciled to God.

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight (Col. 1:21-22).

Moses’ tabernacle was imperfect because ‘it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin’ (Heb. 10:4). The context of Hebrews teaches that there came a point in God’s dealings with Israel when He would no longer accept or tolerate the sacrifices for sin and burnt offerings offered by the law.

            In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hadst no pleasure (Heb. 10:6).

But God did take pleasure, if that is the right word, in the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lord in death because, in giving up the life of his body, Christ ‘offered one sacrifice for sins for ever’ (Heb. 10:12). That his doing so was indeed the Father’s will is proven by the fact scripture says of Him ‘Lo, I come to do Thy will’. Moreover having died for all men’s sin, ‘Christ sat down on the right hand of God’.

We also learn from Heb. 9:11 that it is through the ‘greater tabernacle’ of his body that the Lord will become ‘a high priest of good things to come’ to the restored Israel of the future. In this picture the chosen nation's Messiah is seen as a 'stretched forth tent' able to meet, embrace and bless the resurrected Israelites who will come to Him in that future day.

This means that in the day of Israel's restoration (or 'restitution' Acts 3:21) the Lord's body will itself be a 'tabernacle' where resurrected and converted Israelites will meet with God (because, of course, Jesus Christ is God) and receive the 'good things' of the the restored kingdom He has to give them. Just as long ago in her wilderness wanderings Israel learned of the Lord God through the 'tabernacle of witness' (Num. 17:7) and beheld and met Him at the 'tabernacle of the congregation' (Ex. 29:10).

But just when will the Lord become 'a tabernacle of good things to come', you ask? Answer: When ‘the restitution of all things’ spoken of in Acts 3:21 takes place during what Paul calls ‘the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16). This wonderful new age, which Jesus termed ‘the world to come’, will see the earth restored to its first creation beauty and the curse of weeds and thorns removed.

It will see Jesus Christ enthroned in glory in heaven for all to see and hear. It is the time when ‘every knee should bow ... and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’. It is when the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven as it is called in the gospels, rules over mankind and the earth. It is in this time that Israel will be restored. This wonderful day will be inaugurated at the appearing of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:1, Titus 2:13).

Not of ‘this building’

Notice too, that it is further stressed in Heb. 9:11 that the tabernacle of the Lord’s body is not of human origin. Not only was it not made with human hands and artifice, as Moses’ tabernacle was, and therefore it was ‘not of this building’, it is also found to not have originated from man’s original creation at all. 

This we learn from the fact that ‘building’ in Heb. 9:11 actually translates the Greek word ktisis, which means ‘creation’.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary cites ktisis as meaning ‘creature, ordinance. Primarily the act of creating, or the creative act, in proktisiscess, has this meaning in Rom. 1:20 and Gal. 6:15… It also signifies the product of the creative act’.

So really the infallible word of God in Heb. 9:11 says that the Lord’s body which is to be the tabernacle where Israel will meet God in the Day of Christ to come, is ‘not of this creation’.  In other words the vessel of his flesh was (and is) a special unique creation of God. In fact it is a new creation, a truth we will further explore as this study proceeds.

The ‘body made without hands’ then was not and today is not like any other human body. True, it was ‘made in the likeness of sinful flesh’, but it was not sinful; it was ‘perfect’ and therefore holy. Nor was it a recreation of the ‘first Adam’ in his state of innocence before the fall. Heb. 9:11 insists it was ‘not of this creation’. True, Christ is referred to as the ‘second Adam’ but not in terms of his body; rather He is described as having been made a ‘life-giving spirit’ (1 Cor. 15:45). This is why, far from teaching that Christ was given a body which was identical to that of unfallen Adam, as some believe, 1 Cor. 15:47 is at pains to insist:

                The first man (Adam) is of the earth earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

All this raises the question: Who then created Christ’s body? Well, one thing’s for sure; it was not the result of Joseph ‘knowing’ Mary, as scripture respectfully terms the marital act. Matt. 1:25 plainly states that Joseph ‘…knew her NOT until she had brought forth her firstborn son; and he called his name Jesus’.

Of course, it is wrong to make more of this fact than scripture allows. The corollary of Matt. 1:25 is that after Jesus’ birth Joseph did indeed ‘know’ his wife Mary in the usual enjoyable way and that other children were born to her. This of course the Catholic Church vehemently denies, claiming Mary is still a virgin today when, for obvious reasons, she is not. To refute this false Catholic doctrine the Bible painstakingly records and names Jesus’s step brothers and sisters (Matt. 13:56, Mark 6:3).. 

A body hast Thou prepared Me

But back to our question. If the Lord’s body was not ‘procreated’ by Joseph, then who created it?  For the answer we go to Heb. 10:5.

Wherefore when He (Christ) cometh into the world He saith, sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me.

Clearly, the ‘Thou’ here is God the Father. And, according to Vine’s, the verb translated ‘prepared’ not only means to have got something ready ahead of the time when it will be needed but also to ‘fully furnish’ the said object. The Lord then, was born with a body that was fully prepared and fully furnished for all He would accomplish through his life and death on earth, his burial and resurrection.

I would go further and suggest that when He was still in the womb God also fashioned his body with the potential to rise above the heavens and sit at God’s right hand. And beyond that to then also become, in a way that goes beyond our understanding, the Mystery dispensation church which is ‘the fullness of Him that filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:23). More on this later.

To sum up, we learn then that the Lord’s body was a special work, a unique creation, crafted and prepared ahead of time by God Himself for multiple purposes. It was uniquely shaped and designed to carry out vital functions that among other things would result in the salvation and succour of men and women both in ‘this life and that which is to come’.

This much is inferred from Heb. 10:5; yet, despite its clear statements, the verse poses an enigma to Bible expositors. Where, they ask, are the words ‘but a body hast Thou prepared Me’ drawn from? The rest of the verse is taken from Psalm 40:6-8 but not this important phrase. And research into commentaries and reference bibles fails to unearth any other biblical origin.

Why, one might ask, did the author of Hebrews add these highly significant words not found elsewhere in scripture?  I can only conclude that it is important new truth especially inserted here by the Spirit of Truth for our learning. After all, He is the original author and inspirer of the book, not Paul or we.

To be continued.