When Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman, he tells her that “God is spirit” (Jn 4:24; πνεῦμα ὁ θεός; pneuma ho theós). For some, this phrase denotes that God is an ethereal being who is not spatially delimited; in other words, that God has no bodily form. However, the Bible often describes spirits as embodied, and John’s own Gospel presents God as both “spirit” (πνεῦμα; pneuma) and as having some kind of body. When Yeshua says that “God is spirit,” he does not argue against divine embodiment. Instead, for God to be “spirit” means that the Lord is not made of flesh and blood like human beings, nor is God bound by our physical world.

For help in understanding what Jesus means by “God is spirit” (Jn 4:24), the best place to go is back to the beginning of John’s Gospel. In the Johannine prologue (1:1-18), the evangelist asserts that God (1) has some sort of “body,” and (2) that body is not physical in an earthly sense—that is, God’s bodily form is not that of flesh and blood. On this second assertion, the Gospel clarifies that God is not made of human materials. John says that everyone who receives the Word of God becomes “children of God, who were born, not of blood (αἱμάτων; haimáton) nor of the will of the flesh (σαρκὸς; sarkòs) nor of the human (ἀνδρὸς; andròs) will, but of God” (1:12-13). These verses highlight the fact that God is not made up of “blood” or “flesh,” nor is God “human”; according to John, the Father exists and operates beyond the earthly realm.

At the same time, John also notes that God exists in a bodily form that is not like our own. The very end of the prologue states that “no one has ever seen God,” but that the one-of-a-kind Word, “who is in the Father’s bosom (κόλπος; kólpos), has made him known” (1:18). The Greek word translated “bosom” (sometimes translated “side” [e.g., ESV, CEB,]) literally describes God’s chest or the part of the body between the arms. Luke’s description of Lazarus in the afterlife can help us make sense of how God can be both “spirit” and have a “body.” When Lazarus dies, Jesus says that he is “carried away by the angels to the bosom (κόλπος; kólpos) of Abraham” (Lk 16:22; also see v. 23). Of course, since Lazarus meets Abraham in the afterlife, the patriarch’s “bosom” is no longer made of flesh and blood—his physical body remains in the grave. Nevertheless, Abraham (and Lazarus, for that matter) is still very much embodied in the afterlife—in what we might call a “spiritual body” (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-44). In a similar way, God has a bodily form, but the divine body is made of “spirit” rather than “flesh.” The Fourth Gospel shows that God can be both “spirit” (πνεῦμα; pneuma) and embodied in heaven.

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48 COMMENTS

  1. Question: My Christian husband was cremated, we figured that if a Christian were blown to smitherines in a war, our G-d would still find them. I too will be cremated, what do you think Biblically.

    • Thanks for your question, Maree. The biblical text states that all people will return to dust eventually (cf. Gen 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 90:3; 104:29; Ecc 3:20), so cremation just speeds up a processes that the Bible already assumes. More, according to Revelation, along with those who are raised from the ground at the resurrection, John sees that “the sea gave up those who were in it” (20:13). Not to put too fine a point on it, but those who have been buried at sea have been “fish food” for some time now. If God can raise bodies from the sea at the resurrection, then God will have no problem raising those who have been cremated 🙂

    • God is invisible but real , he put Jesus in Mary cause his people needed an example that they could see to teach them , Jesus is part of his Father but can be born , live in the flesh & be raised from the dead, you can’t Him out

  2. Thank you, Dr. Schaser. Some years ago I met a fellow community college student who told me about how to sign up for cremation after death. I took the opportunity, thinking it was probably cheaper than a casket and a funeral held at a church. Since then I have run into those who think differently, felt guilty, and wondered about going to court about changing that arrangement. But I find myself agreeing with Dr. Schaser and am comforted by his words. I shall leave the cremation directions in place. Dolores

  3. Shalom Dr Nicholas, I had a problem with the cremation part because of Christians that associate it with other religions. Thank you for the explanation to Maree.

  4. Dr. Schaser, Upon reading your article I recalled a scripture referring to God that completely describes Him as a Spirit. Exodus 24:9 describes the God of Israel that Moses and those with him saw, then describes the body of heaven seen through “his clearness.” See St. John 1:1-14

    • Linda, thank you for your input. The reference to “clearness” does not refer to God, nor does “clearness” mean “transparency.” Instead, the “clearness” (טהר; tohar) refers to the sapphire stone on which God stands and, therefore, should be translated as “clarity” (as in the “clarity” of a precious stone). While the KJV has “his clearness,” this is both a misunderstanding of the Hebrew syntax and an English insertion into the text: in the Hebrew, there’s no word for “his.” The verse should be translated, “Under [God’s] feet was like a pavement of sapphire stone, as the very heavens [in terms] of clarity.” Every other major English version follows this line of translation (compare ASV, CEB, ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV). While the KJV is often sound in its translation, the King James misunderstands Exodus 24:9.

  5. For myself, I don’t want to be cremated but that doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. A decision of the heart. All that matters to me is: That I’m a born again Christian and some day I will be with my Jesus throughout eternity. Sooner than later.

  6. Abraham And Lazarus Are Spirit as this event Rev 20 happens 1000 plus years AFTER Jesus returns and all those in the grave Including Abraham And Lazarus and we who are alive are changed rise to Meet Jesus who Come here to rule . God made everything. Cremation no problem

  7. Dr. Schaser, you teach with so much simplicity. I love reading your revelations as well as your response to reader’s questions.

    Here’s mine: Please explain this verse:”and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”

    Thank you.

    • A wonderful question! It may be too complex to answer in a single response here, so I will put it on my list of articles to write. It will appear on our website later this week.

  8. Dear Dr. Schaser. Thank you for the insightful article and the straightforward answer to a very sensitive, and often emotional, issue. Cremation (or not) is very personal, and a confident and honest answer as provided speaks volumes of the integrity of the contributors and the respect shown for their audience!

  9. Hi Dr. Schaser,

    Just curious: Which do you think is more Biblical, soul sleep or our immediate transport into Paradise?

    • Good question, Mike. The biblical text doesn’t describe a “soul” that departs from the body after death, but rather a “spirit” that is sometimes presented as embodied in the afterlife. More, since the realm of the dead (called “Sheol” in Hebrew) is a place where embodied figures interact consciously, there’s nothing in Scripture to conclude that one “sleeps” upon death. However, Jesus does say to the crucified thief next to him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). Thus, I think that the notion of immediate transfer to paradise is the more biblical view.

      • Dr. Shaser, does this mean that the crucified thief were exempted from being “judged” as contemplated in Rev. 20:12 and 13? Being promised by Jesus that he will be in paradise seem to indicate as much. I might be missing something, of course! Just curious though.

        • Thanks for your question, Riaan. The thief will undergo judgment with everyone else on the day of resurrection, when everyone is raised bodily from the dead (i.e., the event that Revelation describes). The thief goes to “paradise” after death, but paradise is not the final stop, as it were. Paradise is the place where the thief goes as he awaits physical resurrection and subsequent judgment.

  10. I’m sorry, but I am having trouble seeing where in John 1:1-18 it says, or een implies that God has a physical body. Would you mind clarifying?

    • Sure, Daniel. John 1:18 says that God has a κόλπος (kólpos) — “bosom” or “chest” — which always means the “front of the body” (i.e., the bodily space between the arms down to one’s lap) with reference to individuals in New Testament (cf. Lk 6:38; 16:22-23; Jn 13:23). Thus, for Jn 1:18 to describe God as having a κόλπος presupposes that God has an actual, spatial body (albeit, not one made of “flesh and blood”).

  11. 1Cor.15 clarifies the issue of bodies (only in Greek) we are currently residing in ‘fleshly bodies’ (soma sarkikos), Adam’s body before sin was ‘soma psychikos’ (translated wrongly ‘natural’ for the lack of better english word but should be ‘soulful body’), and Jesus’s body after resurrection was ‘spiritual body’ (soma pneumaticos)

  12. Consequently we can assume that Jesus’ Father who is one with Jesus has spiritual body as well, and that is what Jesus meant by saying “God is Spirit”

  13. Exo 33:22 It shall be, while My glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and cover you with My hand while I pass by. v:23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; Indicates God has a body.

  14. I’m glad for the For the explanation. My question; The scriptures describes of life after death for Christians, so does it mean after resurrection? And what happens after death before resurrection. Thank you

    • Great question. Since others have similar questions, I am going to write an article on the topic this week. Stay tuned.

  15. 1 Cor. 15:51(Amp.) :52 “…….For ta trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall all be changed (transformed). :53 For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature],and this mortal [part of us, this nature that is capable of dying] must put on immortality (freedom from death).” – :54 What I am trying to show is that a transformation into a heavenly body will take place whether risen from the dead or alive. God has made provision for everything, He knew all the circumstances we could end up in, whether dying by drowning or of burning to dust, He has it all planned for us.

  16. Yeshua was not in paradise that day. Did not even ascend with the First Fruits until three days and nights later. Rather, “I am telling you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” Eventually….at the Resurrection of the saints. The dead know nothing. Go down into silence. Praise not.

    • That’s certainly one way to read the verse, Linda. However, in the rest of Luke, “Truly, I say to you…” is a standard introductory formula, after which the body of the statement occurs (cf. Lk 4:24; 12:37, 44; 18:17, 29; 21:32). Therefore, we should expect that the same holds for Lk 23:43, and that the syntax reads, “Truly I say to you: today you will be with me in paradise.”

  17. Question: The church teaches us God is fully human (incarnate)and fully Divine. He was circumcised on the 8 th day. When He died water and blood came out when the centurion pierced his side. Is his being human being an embodied spirit?

    • Thanks for your question! Jesus is fully human and divine insofar as he is the eternal Word of God enfleshed (incarnate) in human flesh (Jn 1:14). That is, he is divine eternality that “tabernacles” among humanity. At the same time, Jesus (particularly in John) is constantly talking about being born from above to compliment our first (earthly) birth — the ultimate goal is for God’s people to be born “not of flesh and blood, but of God (1:13). More, Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit to the disciples by breathing on them (20:22), which echoes God breathing into the first person (Gen 2:7). So, Jesus has a divine spirit, but he’s not a “spirit” encased in a body. Rather, he is the divine Word that is made flesh.

    • Good question, Denis. In their most basic sense, the terms “image and likeness” (tselem v’damut) mean bodily form or shape. These terms refer to outward physicality, rather than inward spirit. The word for “image” (tselem) in Gen 1:27 is the same word for “molten image” that we find later in the Bible (i.e., the statutes of foreign gods that the Israelites are prohibited from worshiping). Thus, just as these “molten images” are earthly representations of pagan gods in bodily form, human beings are made in God’s bodily form according to Genesis. At the same time, God also imparts “spirit” to humanity by breathing into the first person (Gen 2:7), so humans have a “spirit” — or are “part spirit” — but the “image” refers to our bodies mirroring God’s embodied form.

  18. What is meant by the spirit of Elijah in Luke 1:17? Luke 1:17 ESV – 17 And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just…

    • Good question, Thandu. “In the spirit and power of Elijah” means that John will recapitulate (or re-do) Elijah’s ministry, and the “turning hearts of the fathers to the children” stuff comes from Malachi 4:5-6 (where God says that Elijah will come before the great day of the Lord and “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children”).

  19. Hi. I was recently talking to a friend who is a Mormon. He was telling me about the baptism of the dead. Please may you enlighten me as to what this means.

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