A Question I Was Asked:

Can You Clarify Hebrews 5:7, Especially in How Some Cults Pervert It?

Can you clarify Hebrews 5:7, especially in how some cults pervert it?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7; NIV throughout).

Certain cults and sects (well, mainly the 'Jehovah's Witnesses,' to be honest) claim that this verse (Hebrews 5:7) demonstrates that Jesus Christ, following His resurrection, is no longer in physical form. In other words, they deny that Jesus Christ was raised physically from the dead and instead claim that His post-resurrection appearances were some sort of apparition (though they would avoid the word 'apparition').

Their (rather weak and unconvincing) argument goes something like this: Jesus was a man, but an important one, He offered up prayers to the Father. The claim is that this verse is speaking in the past tense and, in using the past tense regarding Jesus in his flesh and in his prayers, it means that Jesus is no longer in physical form. Their interpretation is seriously confused and in error. It amounts to splitting hairs and, frankly, is quite decidedly daft! They read things into this Scripture which are just not there. In fact, the New Testament reveals that the resurrection of Jesus was fully spiritual and fully physical - In His resurrection, our Saviour was no mere apparition,like a ghost.

Jesus Himself prophesied of the physical aspect of His coming resurrection:

19. Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." 20. They replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21. But the temple he had spoken of was his body. (John 2:19-21).

Then, after His resurrection, there is further corroboration. Note this:

39. "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." (Luke 24:39).

"Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing." (John 20:27).

It was doubting Thomas who had the idea that the risen Jesus was some sort of apparition but Jesus clearly showed that this was a wrong idea.

Jesus retained the wounds of His crucifixion as evidenced by the holes in His hands and side (John 20:27), yet He was also able to appear in a room with the disciples without entering through the door (John 20:19-20). He was raised in the same body He died in, though it had now been glorified. His resurrection was both fully spiritual, but also fully physical.

One may also consider the following:

"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5).

Here Jesus is called a man. Then, of course, there is Revelation 1:

17. "And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18. and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades," (Revelation. 1:17-18).

At this point, Jesus is in heaven and John the Apostle falls at Jesus' feet. Jesus lays His right hand on him. Clearly, from these verses we can see that Jesus retains the form of a man, though He is in Heaven and now fully glorified.

The important point here is that Hebrews 5:7 is quite clearly speaking of Christ's earthly ministry before His crucifixion - therefore past tense is used. It is not speaking about the time after his resurrection. The verses which we just looked at (John 2:19-21; Luke 24:39; and John 20:27) clearly show us that Jesus was raised in a full resurrection from the dead.

This idea - based on Hebrews 5:7 - is an especially weak one which the 'Jehovah's Witnesses' have used.

Robin A. Brace. July 30th, 2016.