"But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." (Matthew 26:32)

Jesus says this to his disciples at Mount Olives, after "they had sung a hymn" (Matthew 26:30) and following their supper - often termed the "last supper."

Is Jesus saying he will rise from the dead?

If Jesus was saying that he will be "raised from the dead" as many interpret, this would mean that Jesus was predicting that he would die and then somehow come back to life. It would mean that for a while, Jesus didn't exist. And then came into existence again.

How does someone who is existing now, come to not exist and then come back into existence?

Again, that would mean for a time, Jesus didn't exist. Are those who suggest he was raised from the dead ready to say that Jesus didn't exist for three days?

Most who believe in Jesus would say he has always existed. And for good cause. This is why Jesus said:
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)
The word "am" here is translated from the Greek word εἰμί (eimi). This means "to exist." This means that Jesus was saying that he existed even prior to Abraham took birth on the earth more than 1,000 years before.

This means that Jesus is saying that he is eternal. His spirit-person is eternal, and existed prior to Abraham walked the earth.

The bottom line is that Jesus is saying that he is eternal.

Since Jesus is eternal, Jesus could not have risen 'from the dead' because he never died. He was eternal, so Jesus would not have said this.

Let's look more closely at what he is saying.

The phrase, "have risen" is being translated from the Greek word ἐγείρω (egeirō). ἐγείρω means "to be raised up" according to the lexicon.

What is Jesus speaking of that is being raised? Is he referring to his physical body?

Some will have us believe that Jesus is his physical body and his physical body died and then rose from the dead.

If Jesus' physical body "rose up" after being dead, why wasn't Jesus recognized when he appeared to Mary, and to his closest disciples?
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 24:4)

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:14)

When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matt. 28:17)

Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:31)
Do these verses indicate Jesus was walking around in his physical body? If Jesus "rose up" in his prior physical body, his closest associates and disciples would have recognized him when he appeared to them. This means that his immediate appearance was unrecognizable.

And how could a physical body 'disappear from their sight'?

For example, today many families will pay a mortuary to embalm a dead body of a relative. They will embalm the body and display it in a casket for everyone to honor. In such a case, is the dead person rising? Did they 'rise up'?

Certainly not. Their physical body is still there, but something is missing. The person has gone. The spirit-person has left the physical body and that is why there is no life in the body.

On these occasions, it will be stated that the person has "passed away." What has "passed away" then if the body is still in the casket, all dressed up?

It is the soul - the spirit or spirit-person - that has left the body, or "passed away." The self has been separated from the body.

Yet the dead body in the casket is recognizable by relatives and friends. This means that the spirit-person (or soul or self) is invisible to our physical eyes. It exists on another dimension.

But in Jesus' case, his appearance to his disciples and students was not immediately recognizable. This is because Jesus was showing that his spirit-person is still existing. He was showing them that he lived on despite the body dying. In Jesus' case, he isn't easily recognized after he had 'risen.' This means he did not rise with his body.

The true meaning of "have risen" or "rise up" is illustrated when one of Jesus' beloved students, Martha ('Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.' (John 11:5)) responded to Jesus when he said: "Your brother will rise again" (John 11:23):
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24.
Martha was responding with what Jesus had been teaching, which is that a person will "rise" from their body at the time of death. The phrase, "last day" refers to the Greek word ἀνάστασις (anastasis). This word is being translated to "resurrection." Yet the root word means to "rise up," This is why ἀνίστημι (anistēmi), (translated to "he will rise again") also means to "rise up."

Jesus is referring to his spirit self rising up from the physical body after his body was murdered on the cross.

Then he is suggesting that after his spirit-person rose from the body, he would meet up with them again. This is the significant aspect of his statement.

Do we all rise then?

Each of us - spirit-persons -  will rise up from our body at the time of death. This has been proven scientifically in clinical death research.

In a multitude of studies that have followed tens of thousands of patients who have died in the hospital, it has been proven that we rise up and out of our bodies at the time of death, and we can observe our body from above after we leave it. Millions of people have now had clinical death experiences like this.

Looking down at our body at the time of death illustrates that we are not the physical body. We are spiritual, not physical. This is what Jesus had been teaching his disciples:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28)
This illustrates that Jesus taught the existence of a "you" that exists after the body is killed. Who is this "you" Jesus is referring to that exists after the body is killed? Who is the "you" that can be thrown into hell?

This is the spiritual self. It is the person. The personality that gives life to the body.

Let's say we look at a picture of our body as a child. Then we look in the mirror at our adult body. The two bodies look different, yes? Yet we are the same person, yes? Our body is constantly changing, while we - the spiritual self - remain the same. Science tells us that all the molecules that made up that childhood body have been replaced by new molecules within five years. The body we had when we are a child is gone, and now we wear an adult body.

This same spiritual self who remains through changing bodies - this is the person who leaves the body at death. Each of us "rises" from the body, leaving the body lifeless. Jesus was trying to teach us to be focused on our spiritual selves, rather than our physical bodies because this is our true identity:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. (Matthew 6:25)

Where did Jesus' body go?

Yes, Jesus' body did go missing, according to the scripture text.

But we must recognize that Jesus's body could have simply been moved at some point before the third day. It was not as if no one could have rolled away the stone that Joseph himself rolled in front of the tomb:
He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27:60)
If Joseph alone could have rolled the stone into place, surely another person or a small group could have rolled the stone away as well. After all, the tomb was being guarded by those who were involved in killing Jesus, and did not want to see a big deal surrounding his body.

Jesus' body was put in that tomb because Joseph of Arimathea - one of Jesus' disciples - put it there. He requested from Pilate to receive Jesus' body in order to bury it.

Was this meant to be Jesus' permanent tomb? No. Under Mosaic Temple law, a person's body was not allowed to be buried in the tomb of a non-family member. So this was a temporary tomb for Jesus' body.

In such a situation, if the body was laid in someone else's tomb, it would be moved to a family tomb. In such a tomb, once the body decomposed, the bones would be put into a burial box and kept in the family tomb with the bones of family members. This was Jewish custom during Jesus' time.

The scriptures also indicate that this tomb was temporary:
Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:42)
There is no certainty on where Jesus' physical body was eventually taken. But a 1980 archaeological find has been suspected to be the tomb of Jesus' family. In this tomb, the researchers found ossuaries ('bone boxes') labeled in Aramaic, "James, brother of Jesus," "Jesus, son of Joseph," "Joseph," "Marium," and others in the same tomb.

While there has been controversy surrounding this tomb, research by a team of scientists led by North Carolina University Professor of Religious Studies James D. Tabor and Simcha Jacobovici indicates the possibility that Jesus' body was moved to this family tomb - consistent with Jewish practice. The findings were the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary that first aired in 2007.

What about Jesus appearing to his disciples?

From the scriptures, we find that Jesus was not recognized by his closest students after he "rose." This illustrates that he had left his physical body. He appeared before his disciples on several occasions and even proved his identity by showing holes in his body.

This latter fact also illustrates Jesus was not appearing in his physical body. A physical body that had holes in it would be spilling blood all over the place. It would be a bloody mess.

As evidenced by the fact that he could control his appearances and recognition, showing holes in his hands illustrates Jesus' ability to manipulate his apparition angel-like appearance to reassure his students of his identity. After all, Jesus appeared suddenly to his disciples several times. He didn't walk up in his physical body. 

When Jesus appeared to his disciples at their dinner, for example, the doors were locked. How did Jesus get in if he was wearing his physical body?

As for Jesus meeting them in Galilee - as we'll find later - Jesus is referring to his appearing to his disciples in Galilee after the death of his physical body. He was preparing them to pass on his teachings to others:
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15)
And what did Jesus teach that he wanted his disciples to also preach?
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)

What is the 'last day'?

"The last day" in Martha's statement - as was also used by Jesus and in other Biblical verses - indicates the time of death. 

In this context Martha was not speaking of some time in the distant future when the world would supposedly end. The Greek phrase ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (eschatos hēmera) utilizes "day" in a metaphorical manner, meaning, as outlined in Thayer's lexicon to indicate "time in general." 

Thus the time of death is the only appropriate interpretation for the metaphorical use of "last day" here.

The teaching that our physical bodies will rise again at the end of the world as taught by some has no practical foundation. A dead body will decompose within a year or two in normal conditions, leaving just the bones.

In normal acidic soil, the bones will also decompose within a few decades. Any old bones we have found have been preserved by abnormal environmental conditions, such as freezing. Most dead bodies completely decompose to soil. Even those who claim to be saved will leave behind bodies that decompose within a few decades.

So what is supposed to "rise" then, some thousands of years later when the world supposedly ends? How can a decomposed body "rise"? This makes no sense.

Some have tried to hide this inconsistency by suggesting that all the dead people (all the dead bodies?) have to wait in some kind of "purgatory" state for the "end of the world" scenario. So if their bodies have decomposed, in what state will they be waiting? And why would they have to wait?

Yet oddly enough, some of these very same teachers will often refer to someone who has died with, "they are with Jesus now."

How could they "be with Jesus now" if their bodies are sitting in the mortuary awaiting burial? Or if their bodies have been buried in a casket? How could they "be with Jesus" if they are buried underground in a casket?

The contradiction is that we may refer to a dead person as having "passed away" - as though they have separated from the physical body. But we will at the same time insist that the person is the physical body. 

Jesus teaches that the spirit-person is eternal, the physical body is temporary, and at the time of death (of the body) the spirit-person will rise up and leave this physical body.

Jesus' statement above indicates that after this rising, he will then re-appear to his disciples to teach them some more.