Q: How can we explain this scripture when talking to others. I know that the WT teaches that Jesus did not raise himself from the dead as he said he would. He did say "destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days". What replies do you offer? I am collating a collection to verify, your help is appreciated.

A: The Scripture you are referring to is at John 2:19. We are told that “Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those selling cattle and sheep and doves, and the money brokers in their seats. So, after making a whip of ropes, he drove all those with the sheep and cattle out of the temple, and he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” The Jews were outraged and demanded a sign as evidence that he had the authority for doing that. Jesus' replied: "Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." They answered him: "This temple was built in forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" (John 2:14-20)

Here the account mentions two temples. In verses 14 & 15 the temple (“the house of my Father,” as Jesus called it) is the structure that Jesus entered and evicted the merchants from. In the Greek language the word translated as temple is “hieron” (
έν τώ ίερώ). Strong's Greek Lexicon says regarding this word: “2411. hieron hee-er-on'  neuter of 2413; a sacred place, i.e. the entire precincts (whereas 3485 denotes the central sanctuary itself) of the Temple (at Jerusalem or elsewhere):--temple.

And the temple that Jesus said he would raise up in three days is in Greek “naos” (
τόν ναόν). Defining this word, Strong's Greek Lexicon says: “3485. naos nah-os'  from a primary naio (to dwell); a fane, shrine, temple.” Naos denotes a “dwelling place” of deity. Thus, in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation the literal meaning is shown as “the divine habitation,” but the word is translated as temple. Why is that of interest? We shall see.

That Jesus was not talking about the physical temple can be seen in what Mark said his accusers later bore witness to: “'We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'" The apostle John further explains: "But he was talking about the temple of his body. When, though, he was raised up from the dead, his disciples called to mind that he used to say this; and they believed the Scripture and the saying that Jesus said." (Mark 14:58; John 2:21-22)


Because of John's words many have concluded that Jesus was referring to his physical, human body; that he was going to die and resurrect himself on the third day. To some this scripture is evidence that Jesus must be God himself, for it was God who raised Jesus from the dead. (Acts 2:24; 13:30)


You noted that “the WT teaches that Jesus did not raise himself from the dead.” In Questions From Readers, The Watchtower, June 1, 1973, explained it this way:

   It should be noted that, in telling about the fulfillment of Jesus’ statement, the Bible does not say ‘he raised himself up from the dead,’ but “he was raised up from the dead.” Other scriptures clearly show that God was the One who resurrected his Son. The apostle Peter told Cornelius and his relatives and close friends: “God raised this One up on the third day.” (Acts 10:40) Hebrews 13:20 speaks of God as the One “who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an everlasting covenant, our Lord Jesus.” And, in his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: “If, now, the spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit that resides in you.” (Rom. 8:11) Accordingly, Jesus Christ simply could not have meant that he would raise himself up from the dead. 

   Jesus, however, did know that he was going to die and be resurrected... (Matt. 12:39-40) Having this advance knowledge about his death and resurrection, Jesus, in a predictive sense, could speak of ‘raising up the temple of his body.’ Since he foretold it, it was just as if he was going to do it. This might be illustrated with Ezekiel 43:3, where the prophet Ezekiel states: “I came to bring the city [Jerusalem] to ruin,” that is, by foretelling its destruction. Ezekiel as an exile in Babylon had no part in actually destroying Jerusalem; that was done by the Babylonians. But his prophecy, being divinely inspired, made it as good as done. (Compare also Jeremiah 1:10) Similarly, Jehovah God resurrected his Son, but Jesus could speak of doing so in a prophetic sense. w73 6/1; pp. 350-351 Questions From Readers.

Although it is clear that Jesus did not raise himself up from the dead, was he really talking about the “temple” of his human, physical body that he would raise up in three days? The apostle Peter says: "Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous [person] for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit." (1 Peter 3:18) Regarding Christ's physical body, Insight on the Scriptures explains: "The physical body of Jesus Christ was not allowed to decay into dust as did the bodies of Moses and David, men who were used to foreshadow Christ... When his disciples went to the tomb early on the first day of the week, Jesus' body had disappeared... doubtless having been disintegrated without passing through the process of decaying." (Vol.1, page 349) After his resurrection Jesus materialized suitable bodies just as angels have done. That explains why even his former close friends did not immediately recognize him when he appeared to them. (John 20:14-15, 24-29; 21:4; Luke 24:15-16, 30-31,36-45) Since Jesus was not raised up in his human body of flesh and blood, but was made "alive in the spirit," it goes to reason that neither was he speaking about his fleshly body that he would raise up in three days.

Please consider: The animal sacrifices under the old Law covenant foreshadowed the greater and perfect sacrifice of Jesus. (1 Peter 1:18-19) The body of the animals that were offered up to God were completely disposed of, consumed by fire. If Jesus was raised up in his actual physical body that he laid down as a sacrifice for our sins, surely, the animals that were sacrificed would not have been reduced to ashes. These were "a sin offering," the ashes being combined with "the water for cleansing;" and in writing his letter to the Hebrews Paul makes that connection with Christ's sacrifice. (Num. 19:1-10; Heb. 9:11-14) As can be seen, none of these sacrificial victims were left to decay, to rot in a grave, as the Scriptures note about the Christ: “You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your Holy One to undergo decay.” (Acts 2:27, NASB) Similarly, Jesus is referred to as "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) God's law respecting the Passover lamb stipulated that none of its bones were to be broken. When Jesus was impaled, his bones were not broken, as was often the case with those thus executed to hasten their death. This was no coincidence, and I think you can see the correlation as shown in the Scriptures. (John 19:33-37; Exodus 12:43,46) Just as the animals that were sacrificed as sin offerings were totally disposed of, so also Christ's physical body, which he gave in behalf of the world, was disposed of by Jehovah. (Luke 22:19; Heb. 10:10,12; 1 Peter 2:24)


Yes, Jesus died, and on the third day God raised him up from the dead. (Acts 4:10) Since he was not resurrected with the same physical body that he laid down in sacrifice, but was "made alive in the spirit," what is this "temple of his body" that Jesus said he would raise in three days?

There is a "temple" the Scriptures refer to in connection with the "body of Christ"—a dwelling "place for God to inhabit by spirit." It is by means of this temple that Jehovah is worshiped, having replaced the Jewish one in Jerusalem long before that one was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. It includes not only Jesus, but also all his disciples. That is why the apostle Paul tells us: "Do you not know that you people are God's temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you people are." (1 Cor. 3:16,17) Jesus' perfect human body became "the temple of God" when he presented himself to God to do his will, and sanctified it for the holy spirit he was about to receive, getting baptized by John. Thus, his suitable fleshly body became a place "for God to inhabit by spirit," evidence of which came in the form of a dove. (Luke 3:21,22; 22:42) The apostle Paul explains how this was foreshadowed by the first compartment, "the Holy Place," in the physical temple in Jerusalem, where the priests performed the sacred services under the old covenant. It was in this temple, his physical body, that Jesus rendered sacred service to God until he was put to death. After his resurrection, when he appeared "before the person of God for us," and presented the value of his perfect sacrifice, he entered the second compartment, "the Most Holy," into God's very presence, as was illustrated in the physical temple, where the high priest entered only once a year, on Atonement Day. (Heb. 9:1-9, 23-25)

As Jesus' body was the temple of God to inhabit by spirit, so too it became the case with his disciples, as Paul explains: "Do you not know that the body of you people is the temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God?" (1 Cor. 6:19) It was this temple of Jesus' fleshly body, in which he rendered sacred service to God, that was broken down at his execution.

Upon his resurrection by God on the third day, Jesus became responsible for raising up the temple by becoming its "foundation cornerstone," just as he had told the Jews; who of course could not have understood any of it at that time. This temple would shortly include also all his disciples. On the day of Pentecost, with the outpouring of the holy spirit upon the 120 disciples, God added 120 foundation stones to his chief cornerstone, besides three thousand others who were immediately build upon that foundation; all of them becoming part of this temple. (Acts 1:15; 2:2-4, 41) Thus the Christian congregation was born, and the new covenant came into force. That is how Paul explains it: "You are no longer strangers and alien residents, but you are fellow citizens of the holy ones and are members of the household of God, and you have been built up upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Christ Jesus himself is the foundation cornerstone. In union with him the whole building, being harmoniously joined together, is growing into a holy temple for Jehovah. In union with him you, too, are being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit." (Eph. 2:19-22)

All of Jehovah's worshipers are part of his holy temple (naos), members of his household, "a place for God to inhabit by spirit." Paul reminded the Corinthian congregation: "For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: 'I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters,' says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:16-18; NLT)

In view of what the Scriptures tell us, we can readily understand that the "temple of his body," that Jesus would raise up in three days without hands, proved to be God's spiritual temple, of which he is the foundation cornerstone, put in place upon his resurrection. It includes other living stones making up the foundation (eventually totaling 144,000, and started at Pentecost); and the entire building that is erected upon that foundation, made up of all "all sorts of men" who are "rightly disposed for everlasting life." (1 Tim. 2:4; Acts 13:48; Col. 1:23; 1 Peter 2:4,5) This is Jehovah's arrangement for worshiping him, which has replaced the system under the old covenant. He himself laid the foundation cornerstone of his temple and personally has chosen the individual member stones for the foundation. Therefore it is God's temple! We can have confidence in Jehovah's temple arrangement, for "the foundation that God has laid is solid. On it is written, 'The Lord knows who his people are. So everyone who worships the Lord must turn away from evil.'" (2 Tim. 2:19; CEV) There is no other arrangement by which we can worship God that he recognizes! It is vital for every member of God’s temple to keep himself clean: “What! Do you not know that the body of you people is [the] temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God? Also, you do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God in the body of you people.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20; NLT)

Jesus was zealous for true worship! Twice he went into the temple in Jerusalem to cleanse it of corruption. (John 2:13-17; Matt. 21:12,13) He will do so again, for one last time, when he will remove any who don't belong in God's holy temple. As is clear, we must remain untouched by the "filthy things" of the "unbelievers" that surround us. The Scriptures foretold that in “the last days” there will be a wicked element within God's temple. They will display “a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power." This will prove to be a time of great distress and testing for all lovers of Jehovah within his temple, his household. But at Christ's unexpected return he will reward all who endured this time of trouble and save them through the great tribulation, when they will continue to render God "sacred service day and night in his temple." (2 Thess. 2:3-11;
1 Tim. 3:1-7; Matt. 13:40-42; 24:10-13; Rev. 7:9,10,14-17)