The Biblical Toolman: Three Biblical Doctrines in One Handy Passage
© Copyright 2003 by Bob Passantino
Next time you're frustrated trying to share with your Jehovah's Witness
friend about how he's been taught false doctrine by the Watchtower, don't give up
in frustration because there are too many issues to cover at one time. Instead, do
what I do and ask your friend a simple question: "What would you do if I could
show you one passage in Scripture that teaches the deity of Christ, Christ's bodily
resurrection from the dead and that death does not mean that you cease to exist?"
Jehovah's Witnesses are taught that humans cease to exist when they die, that
"resurrection" means to be recreated from Jehovah's memory. They are taught to
deny the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses are
also taught that Jesus was not raised physically from the dead, but was raised as a
It could take many hours to help a Jehovah's Witness understand the errors
he's been taught by the Watchtower, to help him understand that the Bible really
does teach that Jesus is and always has been God, that he did not cease to exist
when he died, and that he was raised immortal in the same physical body that had
died on the cross. Next time, use this one passage to show all three teachings at
John 2:18-21 contains a conversation Jesus had with Jews in front of the
Jerusalem temple during his ministry. In this passage, John quotes Jesus, notes the
response of those he is speaking to, explains what Jesus meant by what he said, and
explains how his disciples came understand what he meant.
The passage reads this way:
Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you
show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them,
"Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews
replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are
going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was
his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled
what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that
Jesus had spoken.
Let's look at the passage step by step. First, the basic meaning of the passage
is that the skeptical Jews were asking Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah. He
replied that although his body would die, he would raise himself from death to
immortality to prove to them that he was the Messiah.
Jesus is claiming that after his death he will still have conscious existence -
he must exist and have consciousness in order to raise himself. If Jesus continues to
have conscious existence after the death of his body, then death must not mean that
one ceases to exist. In fact, as we know well from many other passages, the dead
are conscious and face the judgment of God, either of salvation through faith in
Christ, or of condemnation by rejecting Christ. Matthew 25:46 promises, "Then
they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to life eternal."
Jesus is also claiming (and John is affirming) that his resurrection would be
bodily - in fact, the same body that was crucified on the cross. Jesus said, "Destroy
this temple and I will raise it again." John defines "this temple" as his body.
Therefore, Jesus is declaring and John is affirming that Jesus was resurrected in a
human body, the same body in which he lived and died. In fact, as we know from
many other passages, Jesus's resurrection is a bodily resurrection, not a "spirit"
resurrection. Luke 24:39 quotes the resurrected Jesus assuring his disciples, "Why
are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my
feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost [spirit] does not have flesh and
bones, as you see I have."
Finally, Jesus is also claiming to be God Almighty by claiming that he will
raise himself from the dead. Although sometimes prophets were used by God to
resuscitate people who have died, and Jesus raised others during his ministry, the
power to resurrect someone from the dead never to die again, belongs to God alone.
The Bible clearly declares that it is God who raised Jesus from the dead (see, for
example, Acts 2:22, 24, 32, 36; Acts 3:13-15; Romans 10:9). In John 10, Jesus
explains how it is possible for him to die and yet raise himself from the dead: as
God he has the power to raise himself from the dead. He declares, "The reason my
Father loves me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. No one takes it
from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and
authority to take it up again" (John 10:17-18). (When we say that Jesus is God, we
mean that he is the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. For information on the
doctrine of the Trinity, see my debate, "Is the Creedal Doctrine of the Trinity
If you study John 2:18-21 in its context and understand exactly what Jesus
and John mean by what is said in the passage, you can have an effective "multi-purpose tool" for sharing with your Jehovah's Witness friends the truth about life
after death, the deity of Christ, and Christ's bodily resurrection. Remember to wait
patiently for your friend to answer "What would he do?" if you could show all three
teachings from one passage. When eternal life is on the line, one should be willing
to follow Scripture no matter where it leads - even if it leads to renouncing what the
Watchtower has taught and clinging to what Jesus declares in God's Word.