1 John 4:2–3—Does this refer to Jesus being in the flesh before or after His resurrection?
Problem: John declares that those who deny “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” are of Antichrist. While all orthodox Christians take this to mean Jesus was fully human, including having a physical body of flesh before His resurrection, some contend that Jesus was not raised from the dead in the same body of flesh and bones in which He died, but in a body that was not essentially material. What does this verse mean?
Solution: John uses the perfect tense here in Greek, meaning past action with continuing results in the present. Thus, he affirms that Jesus came in the flesh in the past and continues in the flesh in the present (i.e., when he is writing, which was after the Resurrection).
This is further clarified by John’s use of the same phrase, only in the present tense. He declared that many deceivers do not “confess Jesus Christ as coming [present tense] in the flesh” (2 John 7). From this it is clear that, even after the Resurrection when John wrote, he insisted that Jesus was still continuing in the flesh.
Finally, in addition to these two passages in John’s epistles, there are two other NT texts which explicitly declare Christ’s resurrection body to be one of flesh. Referring to the resurrection of Christ, Peter declared that “nor did His flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:30–31). Jesus Himself said to His disciples in one of His post-resurrection appearances, “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39).
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.