Most people understand that the Scriptures teach that the body in which Jesus was crucified was the same body that came out of the grave. But regarding the body in which He now dwells, was that changed or transformed in His ascension into heaven? If so, how do we know from scripture?
St. Thomas Aquinas addressed this pretty deeply, and as I suspected, his answer was yes, Our Lord's risen body was a glorified one. Although it differed in glory in some way from His body in Heaven.
I answer that, Christ's was a glorified body in His Resurrection, and this is evident from three reasons. First of all, because His Resurrection was the exemplar and the cause of ours, as is stated in 1 Corinthians 15:43. But in the resurrection the saints will have glorified bodies, as is written in the same place: "It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory." Hence, since the cause is mightier than the effect, and the exemplar than the exemplate; much more glorious, then, was the body of Christ in His Resurrection. Secondly, because He merited the glory of His Resurrection by the lowliness of His Passion. Hence He said (John 12:27): "Now is My soul troubled," which refers to the Passion; and later He adds: "Father, glorify Thy name," whereby He asks for the glory of the Resurrection. Thirdly, because as stated above (Question 34, Article 4), Christ's soul was glorified from the instant of His conception by perfect fruition of the Godhead. But, as stated above (14, 1, ad 2), it was owing to the Divine economy that the glory did not pass from His soul to His body, in order that by the Passion He might accomplish the mystery of our redemption. Consequently, when this mystery of Christ's Passion and death was finished, straightway the soul communicated its glory to the risen body in the Resurrection; and so that body was made glorious.
[summa theologica part 3 question 54 article 3 ]( http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4054.htm)
One good, convincing point St Thomas makes is that in no way could one consider Jesus' body given to corruption after His resurrection. He did as He chose. He came and went as He pleased. He appeared in the manner which He desired.
The resurected Jesus appears to have a pretty normal body.
Luke 24:36-43 (ESV)
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] 43 and he took it and ate before them
In contrast Jesus' ascended body appears to be quite different:
Revelations 1:12-18 (NLT)
12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.
Now trying to make a literal interpertuation from Revelations can be very tricky, but I think there are a couple things interesting here. Jesus didn't appear exactly like he did here on earth John (who new him personally), says he looked "like the Son of Man". We know it is Jesus based on verse 18, so Jesus in a way resembled what he looked like here on earth. But has obiviously been given a new body that looks amazing.
(For simplicity, I will accept your presupposition that He only had one body prior to the ascension - both before and after the resurrection.)
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?”... All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts... There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies... So also is the resurrection of the dead... it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body... Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. -1 Corinthians 15:35-50
Many people use the visions in Revelation 1:14-16 or 5:6 to make arguments about what Jesus looks like in Heaven, but this is bad hermeneutics in my opinion. The visions in Revelation are symbolic, hence the need to interpret each symbol (as in 1:20, or within 5:6 itself.)
The fact is, any claim to the affirmative will have to deal with 1 Cor 15:50, which clearly states the affirmative is impossible.
The body of Christ now in heaven has little resemblance of the body he had while on earth, in terms of ‘glory’. The body of Christ and its appearance is mentioned in several parts of scripture making it a worthwhile subject to consider seriously. In his incarnation from Eternity the Eternal Son of the Triune Godhead took assumed a human nature into His own person. This assumption of the human through the virgin birth made him appear ‘not beautiful’, or not ‘glorious’. Therefore straight away we must understand that the glorification of that same human is something altogether different from the impression that his body made to men while on this earth. His very presence in the earth was part of his ‘humbled’ state. (Philippians 2, 6-8)
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (NIV Isaiah 53:2)
What was the chief end or purpose of his taking human nature? Was it not to act as a Priest with something to offer?
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:1)
Now Jesus offered his own soul and body for the sin of the world.
The purpose for taking human flesh was to save humans; otherwise he might have taken on spiritual angelic flesh (Heb 2:5). But no, Jesus did take upon Himself a 'ten-fingered flesh and blood' human nature with His own eternal person forevermore.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (NIV Hebrews 2:14-17)
Now if this Jesus was to represent His sacrifice before the Father, that we might enjoy eternal cleaning and justification before God’s throne forever and ever, was it not important that his human life appeared before the throne in the Most Holy Place after laying his sacrifice down on the alter? This He did not do externally nutil after he rose, until he ascended to His father in glory. Althouhg in a sense He did do it when He said it is finished and the Father did accept it, thus the curtain in the most holy place was torn from top to bottom. I am referrig to his external entrance into that most holy place in heaven for we are refering to his physical body here.
Now the glorification of the man-ward side of the God-Man, was made Lord over the entire universe in his glorification into heaven. Jesus, as a man, was not Lord before his ascension into heaven, though as God He was Lord eternally. The glorification of Christ respects principally the human exaltation into Lordship and glory fro the Son was already infinitely glorious respecting his divine nature.
Clearly therefore, the unimpressive body of Christ after His resurrection was not the Christ who now reigns as Lord and Eternal Priest forever, when he appeared to many for those forty days before His glorification, there was still nothing in him that seemed beautiful or glorious. The transfiguration on the mount, the view of Christ in many prophecies including in Revelation, and Paul’s meeting with him under a blinding light, all confirm that his body appears nothing like the one He rose with.
However, this does not mean Jesus does not now have a human body. Of course he must have a human body! for he would not otherwise still be human and would be unable to act as our Priest. A Priest can only mediate for those of his own flesh. This seems to be one of the principle reasons why he appeared to so many after his resurrection. He is not a ghost after his resurrection but a human still. He has ten-fingers and most likely eats food. It’s just that His body is not like the weakness of an earthly body and is exceedingly glorious. In many ways his body is still ‘flesh and blood’ (1 Corinthians 15:35-50) he means flesh and blood fallen under the curse, for Adam and Eve had flesh and blood before the curse, to which Messiah came to restore.
John Owen the great puritan theologian of the sixteen century sums it up well:
This flesh he carried entire with him into heaven, where it still continueth, though inwardly and outwardly exalted and glorified beyond our apprehension. (Owen’s Works, Volume 20, Page 617)
He was referring to:
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)
We will have a body like His, still flesh and bone, but glorious, which is a glorious hope for us. I am not sure a human could physically live under the tensions of witnessing the full glory of a heavenly body.
The idea clearly from scripture is that in some way the resurrection body is from the same material but different as the earthly one. That is the idea of 'wheat' being 'different material' from the 'seed' that it was derived from, but of some common property that associates both. Clearly human seed is not like an apple seed, and a human not like an apple. (1 Corinthians 15)
Note: I do not reject St. Thomas’s consideration, and other many good theologians who hold a similar view, for possibly this was Christ’s glorified body and somehow its 'glory' was fully hidden, until He was properly glorified as Lord? But as it was at minimum 'fully hidden', I prefer to say it was not the same body, being represented as something so different than his current one.
Interesting debate! Personally i'm of the view that Christ's resurrected body was spiritual i.e. He was no longer flesh and blood. But, he was able to appear in any form He chose hence the appearance of flesh and blood (Luke 24:39); moving through walls (Luke 24:36); and taking on another guise (Luke 24:16). IMHO it is not unlike angelic encounters of the past (Genesis 18-19), for instance.
Scripture speaks of the likeness of Adam and the likeness of Christ, making some distinction between them: “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49). Christ will remain a man, but his deity that was once veiled in his humanity will shine through it. Because of the Fall and the Curse, we have never been or seen human beings who are fully functional as God’s image-bearers, conveying the brightness and majesty of his being. But that day is coming. Christ, the God-man, the new head of our human race, will be the ultimate image-bearer, fully conveying the brightness and majesty of the Almighty.
Note, however, that the difference between Adam and Christ, which Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, is not that one was a physical being and the other wasn’t. It was that Adam was under sin and the Curse, and Christ was untouched by sin and the Curse. Jesus was and is a human being, “in every respect like us” (Hebrews 2:17, NLT), except with respect to sin.
So although we should recognize that our resurrection bodies will be glorious in ways that our current bodies are not, we should also realize that those bodies will continue to be—in both the same and in greater ways—the functional physical bodies that God designed for us from the beginning.