St Paul writes to the Philippians of the glory that our currently lowly bodies will one day enjoy:

He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified Body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Phil 3:19)

I once spoke with an older woman who wasn’t all that pleased to hear that her body was going to rise and be joined again to her soul: “Oh, Father, you don’t mean this old decrepit body?! If this body has to rise I am hoping for an improved model!”

Yes! I think most of us can relate to the need that our current lowly bodies will be improved. And they will surely be. Notice how the passage above says, that these lowly, often weak, diseased, and often over-weight bodies will be changed and reflect the glory of the resurrected body of Jesus. Yes, this old general issue clunker that I’m currently experiencing is going to be upgraded to a luxury model. We’re headed for first class.

In this month of November when we recall the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell, we ought to consider for a moment what scripture and tradition have to say to us about what our resurrected bodies will be like.

Now an important starting point in discussing this matter is a little humility. The fact is, a lot of what we are going to say here is speculation. But, it is not WILD speculation. It is rooted in Scripture to be sure. However, Scripture is describing things that are somewhat mysterious and difficult to reduce to words. Further, Scripture does not always elaborate on things which are said. Where we might wish for more details, none are given. Sometimes too, we infer qualities of the resurrected body based only on scriptural texts whose main purpose is not so much to describe the resurrected body. Rather, their purpose is to set forth the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. For example, Jesus appears and disappears at will in a room though the doors are locked. The point of the text is to tell us he appeared, not necessarily that the resurrected body has something we have come to call “agility” (see below). Hence the text does not elaborate on this point and we are left to infer things about Jesus resurrected body and then apply it to our own. This is not wrong, for Paul above says that our resurrected bodies will have qualities that conform to Jesus’ resurrected body . But the point is that the biblical texts do not elaborate on this or other qualities in a detailed manner and so, we are left to speculate and infer some of what we know.

St. John the Apostle expresses some of the humility we should bring to this discussion:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be like. But We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2)

I do not interpret John to mean we know nothing, for in so doing, he would negate other Scriptures. But I interpret him to mean that we do not fully grasp the meaning of what we are discussing, and that much of it is mysterious. Something is known and revealed but much more of it is unknown and far beyond what we have yet experienced.

With the need for humility in mind let’s consider some of what we might be able to say of the qualities of a resurrected body. Perhaps it is well that we start with the most thorough passage in the New Testament on this subject and then list the traditional seven qualities of a resurrected body.

St. Paul writes of the resurrected body in First Corinthians 15:

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body…..The splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another……The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man…..Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”(1 Cor 15:35-55 selectae).

Now using this passage and others we can distinguish seven traditional qualities of a resurrected body. Here we will allow our source to be the Summa of St. Thomas. You can click on each quality (in blue) to read more a the NewAdvent Summa online.

1. Identity – What this means essentially is that the very same body that falls in death will rise to be glorified. We cannot claim that we will get a different body, but rather, that our current body will rise and be glorified. St. Thomas says, For we cannot call it resurrection unless the soul return to the same body, since resurrection is a second rising, and the same thing rises that falls: wherefore resurrection regards the body which after death falls rather than the soul which after death lives. And consequently if it be not the same body which the soul resumes, it will not be a resurrection, but rather the assuming of a new body (Supl, Q 79.1).

This does not mean that the body will necessarily be identical in every way. As St. Paul says above, are current bodies are like the seed. And just as a seed does not have all the qualities of the mature plant, but does have all these qualities in seed form. So too our body is linked to our resurrected body causally and essentially though not all the qualities of the resurrected body are currently operative. Again, the Summa states: A comparison does not apply to every particular, but to some. For in the sowing of grain, the grain sown and the grain that is born thereof are neither identical, nor of the same condition, since it was first sown without a husk, yet is born with one: and the body will rise again identically the same, but of a different condition, since it was mortal and will rise in immortality. (Ibid).

Scripture attests that the same body that dies will also rise. Job said, And after my flesh has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another (Job 19:26-27). And to the Apostles, shocked at his resurrection Jesus said, Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have (Luke 24:39).

Hence the same body rises and so there is continuity. But there is also development and a shining forth of a new glory and capabilities that our bodies do not currently enjoy.

2. Integrity – We will retain all of the parts of our current bodies. Now this means every physical part of our body, even the less noble parts such as intestines etc. In the Gospel Jesus plainly ate even after the resurrection. He ate a fish before them (Luke 24:43). He also ate with the Disciples in Emmaus (Luke 24:30). He ate breakfast with them at the lake shore (Jn 21:12). Hence it follows that even less noble parts of our body will rise for eating and digestion are still functions of a resurrected body. Now Thomas argues (I think rightly) that food will not be necessary to the resurrected body (supl 81.4). But it is clearly possible to eat, for Christ demonstrates it.

St. Thomas reasons that every aspect of our bodies will rise since the soul is the form of the body. That is, the body has the faculties it has due to some aspect of the soul. The soul has something to say and hence the body has the capacity to talk and write and engage in other forms of communication. The soul has the capacity to do detailed work and hence the body has complex faculties such as delicate and nimble fingers, arms and so forth, to carry out this work. Now body is thus apt for the capacities of the soul, though now imperfectly, but then even more perfectly. (cf Summa supl. Q. 80.1).

At some level it seems we have to suspend our speculation and keep it within limits. The Summa goes into matters which I think are highly speculative and you can click on the blue word integrity above to read these speculations. But personally I think we should refrain from trying ask questions about whether hair and nails will grow and what bodily fluids will still be necessary and why. Will latrines be needed in heaven or will food be perfectly absorbed and nothing wasted? etc. We just have to stop at a certain point and say we just have no business knowing this stuff and it is purely speculative to discuss it. The bottom line is that, yes the Body shall rise, whole and complete. Its functions will be perfected and perfectly apt for the soul in a way beyond what they are now. But as to the intimate details, we ought to realize that humilty is the best posture.

3. Quality Age? Our bodies will be youthful and will retain our original gender. Now youthful here does not necessarily mean 18-22. Note that in the Philippians text that began this post, Paul says that our glorified bodies will be conformed to Christ’s glorified body. Now his body rose at approximately 30 – 33 of physical age. Elsewhere St. Paul exhorts Christians to persevere, Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ (Eph 4:13). Hence it would seem that Christ’s resurrected body is the perfect age.

St Augustine also speculates, that Christ rose again of youthful age,….about the age of thirty years. Therefore others also will rise again of a youthful age (cf De Civ. Dei xxii).

St. Thomas further notes: Man will rise again without any defect of human nature, because as God founded human nature without a defect, even so will He restore it without defect. Now human nature has a twofold defect. First, because it has not yet attained to its ultimate perfection. Secondly, because it has already gone back from its ultimate perfection. The first defect is found in children, the second in the aged: and consequently in each of these human nature will be brought by the resurrection to the state of its ultimate perfection which is in the youthful age, at which the movement of growth terminates, and from which the movement of decrease begins. (Supl Q. 81.1)

Further, since gender is part of human perfection, it will pertain to all to rise according to the gender we are now. Other qualities such as height, hair color and other such diverse things will also be retained, it would seem, since this diversity is part of man’s perfection.

Here too we have to realize that merely picturing Jesus as a 33 year old guy is not sufficient. All the resurrection appearances make it clear that his appearance was somehow changed, though also recognizable, and this is a mystery. Further the heavenly description of Jesus is far from simple to decode in manners of age and appearance:

and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Rev 1:12-18)

Hence we must avoid over-simplifications when it comes to speaking of how our resurrected bodies will appear. We cannot simply project current human realities into heaven and think we understand what a resurrected body will look like in terms of age, stature, and other physical qualities. They are there but they are transposed to a higher level.

4. ImpassabilityWe will be immune from death and pain. Scripture states this clearly: The dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Cor 15:52-53). And again, He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4). Thomas goes on at some length and you can click on the blue word impassibility to read more. But for here let the scriptural reference suffice

5. SubtletyOur bodies will be free from the things that restrain them now. Subtlety refers to the capacity of the resurrected body to be completely conformed to the capacities of the soul. St Thomas says of this quality, the term “subtlety” has been transferred to those bodies which are most perfectly subject to their form, and are most fully perfected thereby….For just as a subtle thing is said to be penetrative, for the reason that it reaches to the inmost part of a thing, so is an intellect said to be subtle because it reaches to the insight of the intrinsic principles and the hidden natural properties of a thing. In like manner a person is said to have subtle sight, because he is able to perceive by sight things of the smallest size: and the same applies to the other senses. Accordingly people have differed by ascribing subtlety to the glorified bodies in different ways. (Supl. Q. 83.1)

In other words, the Body is perfected because the soul is. And the body is now fully conformed to the soul. Currently in my lowly body, I may wish to go to Vienna, Austria in a few moments to hear an opera, but my body cannot pull that off. It does not currently pertain to my body to be able to instantly be somewhere else on the planet. I have to take time to get there and exert effort. However it will be noticed that Jesus could appear and disappear in a room despite the closed doors. Although, before his resurrection he had to take long physical journeys, now he can simply be where he wants (cf John 19:20, 26). This quality is very closely related to agility which we consider next.

6. Agility We will have complete freedom of movement, our souls will direct our bodies without hindrance. St Thomas says, The glorified body will be altogether subject to the glorified soul, so that not only will there be nothing in it to resist the will of the spirit…..from the glorified soul there will flow into the body a certain perfection, whereby it will become adapted to that subjection: …Now the soul is united to body not only as its form, but also as its mover; and in both ways the glorified body must be most perfectly subject to the glorified soul. We have already referred to the capacity of Jesus’ in his glorified body to anywhere at once and not be hindered by locked doors etc. Consider too these description of the agility of the resurrected body:

  1. As they [on the road to Emmaus] talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; (Luke 24:15)
  2. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:31)
  3. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, Peace be with you (Luke 24:36)

7. ClarityThe glory of our souls will be visible in our bodies. We will be beautiful and radiant. It is written in the Scriptures “The just shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” (Matthew 13:43) . And again: “The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.” (Wisdom 3:7). And again, The body in sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory. (1 Cor 15:43).

So, rejoice! The Lord is going to take these lowly bodies of our and change them to conform with his own body. We’re going to upgrade to an improved model to be sure. And in your glorified body you won’t have to take all this time to read this post, you’ll just know it. A long post to be sure. I am posting it in PDF form as well in case you want to print it our and read it. You can get it here: What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Be Like

20 Responses

  1. Bob says:

    “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed…”

    Could the seed be DNA? So much in the Bible is metaphoric, and I mean God no disrespect at all by saying that (I love my Jesus). Like you said, we’re allowed to speculate, right? Just taking a wild “holy” guess. I mean, even so much in Revelations is metaphoric, right? Could it be that our DNA will be used to resurrect us (like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park…LOL), but mingled with God’s awesome majesty and miraculous abilties, that he can fuse our souls back to a new body from our old DNA (an exact biological cloned body of our former selves that only God could be capable of producing?). DNA that has been so perfected, that we no longer have defects, deformities, and are immune to all diseases, and have a body that can essentially live “forever”….never age? Maybe have the miraculous ability to disappear and reappear somewhere else in the blink of an eye….all speculation of course.

    When we die we become pure “spirit”, and yet at some point we have “bodies” in Heaven on Earth again, when God establishes His Kingdom here. I was never quite sure why we need Heaven on Earth when we could just remain in spirit with God in “spiritual” Heaven forever, but I’m not a theologian, so this concept evades my grasp. “Spiritual” heaven sounds much more interesting than “physical” Earthly heaven…I’m done with this place, I want to float in the clouds, LOL. It’s all so confusing and it is difficult to speculate God’s infinite plans. None of us will know the exact details until we die I suppose.

    I always thought he’d bring us back at the peak of our former bodies…
    “and consequently in each of these human nature will be brought by the resurrection to the state of its ultimate perfection which is in the youthful age, at which the movement of growth terminates, and from which the movement of decrease begins.”
    That was me at 28, but I’ll take my early 30′s too if that’s okay? I have no clue what it’s going to be about, but it is fun to speculate as long as God doesn’t mind.

    If you’re reading this God, I love you with all my heart and soul, but your majesty boggles my mind sometimes.

    Your buddy,
    Bob

  2. Bender says:

    What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Be Like?

    I think this is where Mary, bodily assumed into heaven, can really help us out. How is it that a woman from the Middle-east could have the appearance instead of a teenaged mixed Spanish-Aztec (Guadalupe), a European (Lourdes and Fatima), an Asian (La Vang), and an African (Kibeho)? In these apparitions, did Mary appear truly, that is, as she truly looks, or did she engage is some trickery, did she essentially lie about what she looks like so that she might appear to be the same race/ethnicity of the people she visited? Assuming that she who is full of grace was honest about how she looks, what does the fact that her appearance and perhaps age are not forever fixed and set in stone say about our bodies when they become eternal?

    And to spice up the conversation a bit, how will we be “clothed” once we are beyond shame of our bodies and lust for other’s bodies?

    • Anne Marie says:

      Well the Blessed Mother would appear in different ways because as a reminder that she is the mother of all the Christian believers as well as mother of the Savior, as the Savior did when He was still on the Cross via giving he to John the beloved disciple. When it comes to different versions, how about the Eastern Christian icon style which shows a very deep spiritual side in themselves?

      As to the question at the end, we will most likely be clothe in “robes” when we come home to God and to Heaven.

      • Bender says:

        Anne Marie, you know I love you, but that’s a non-answer, especially with the quotation marks.

        What kind of quote-robes-unquote will they be? Physical or metaphorical, material or spiritual? As Michelangelo originally painted people in the Sistine or in the way that others later painted over the figures?

        • Anne Marie says:

          If you have the opportunity to purchease, get the children’s version of the book, “Heaven is for Real”. Not only is the drawings that are in the book truly a work of art and very much helpful not only for children to learn what Heaven is all about, with the passages from the Bible, but you will see in that book what I am best trying to explain by the word “robes” is by those drawings. I read that version of the book not too long after the sad passing of my longtime boyfriend/SO of 21 years, who was a devout Christian believer. This book presents what the kid in the true story saw when he was in the hospital fighting for his life when he was little.

  3. Anne Marie says:

    Msgr. Charles Pope, I had read in the last few months a beautiful book about one little child’s experience about Heaven is the famous best selling book, “Heaven is for Real” about a small child’s remembering his brief time in Heaven. That book has given me confort during these last few months which has been very difficult for me. What you have taught here also gives me confort and hope for the future.

  4. TaillerHuws says:

    As we are conceived into this life as earthly humans, we are babies who have absolutely no concern whatsoever about what body we will have as we grow in the womb and when we are born. After we are born, we are, for the most part, content with our bodies. Likewise, it should be that way in advance of and at the Resurrection in my opinion. We just need to completely trust the Lord – COMPLETELY as babes in the womb who know absolutely nothing.

    God is absolutely good and absolutely loving.

  5. Cathy says:

    Thank you for your daily posts. God bless you, Msgr. Pope. Thank you!

  6. edracruz says:

    1Cor 2:9 No eyes hath seen nor ears hath heard… It is really nice to speculate on these last things. In the meantime, being in the world yet, I guess I can offer this dilapidated body for the conversion, salvation of families and souls. How I wish I can get out of these discomforts quickly to assume my resurrected body but not yet because I need to be perfected yet by offering myself as a living sacrifice for others, for my family and for myself. Oh, the longing to be with my SAVIOR is bursting within me that I may be truly free and roam the vastness of HIS Creation and the minutest of forms. AMDG.

  7. Greg says:

    I always wondered about the incorrupt bodies of some of the saints. Can this be explained by Scripture? How could this be related to your article?

  8. RichardC says:

    I tend to speculate that men and women will be different ages in heaven, for two reasons: Mary’s task on earth was brought to perfection when she gave birth to Jesus. Also, when my mom was 80, she said, “I feel like I am sixteen, but when I look in the mirror, I don’t look like I am sixteen.”

  9. Clueless says:

    I have been fortunate to have (what I certainly believe) was a vision of St. Therese Martin.

    During the weeks that I had been praying for guidance regarding my patron saint, (in preparation for confirmation as a Catholic) I had been having an online debate regarding the morality of the US war with Iraq. I had been making a large number of cutting jokes at the expense of the French, and shortly after I fired off another “good un,” I felt the presence of somebody standing behind me, reading over my shoulder, and I heard her laugh. When I turned, I saw a fleeting glimpse of a young woman in a white nun’s habit and heard her say (in highly amused tones) in English, with an exquisite French accent, “What?! Can there be anything good come out of France?!” The image lasted less than a second. All I can say is that though she was wearing what was clearly a white nun’s habit, the habit was composed of all the colors of the rainbow, and had I not been Christian I would have said she was the goddess of Spring. Yet, despite this, what she was wearing was still, a pure, white nun’s habit. Later that day, I read in the book of saints that I had been studying, the story of St. Therese Martin, and I was positive that it was her voice and her face (which I had not ever seen before) that I had heard and seen.

  10. Flamen says:

    Your detailed description from scripture of the resurrected body – is it the same for those who are condemned to hell?

  11. Greggo says:

    One must be very careful speculating about such things. Making up stories for children is one thing but when teaching mature Christians be careful to say “God only knows.” To describe a person’s height in the afterlife is presumptuous. The literal translation of “resurection” is to re-stand-up. When you add “of the dead” it is understandable why Greeks found this folly. In secular society people talk of zombies. The church changed Holy Ghost to Holy Spirit because of the contemporary meaning of ghost. When we teach about the bodily resurection of the dead we must emphasise this is the glorified body. More than that–God only knows

  12. Joshua says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article, Msgr Pope. It made my day! I am not sure that many who are indifferent to or contemptuous of Christianity realize what the Christian message is: freedom from corruption and the sin that causes it; a soul and body obedient to God and thereby truly free; endless exploration of the infinite. We settle for so little when we squabble about the things of this world! What was the Good News that spread around the Mediterranean like wildfire but that He came and He rose and He could therefore rise us up too? How astounding to think that we were created for utter happiness! When I reflect on how much He loves us and has in store for us, I find that, paradoxically, I find myself living this life more fully, knowing that my disappointments, failures and struggles have a meaning, that they needn’t crush me but instead point me to Him; and how generous is our God that these same disappointments, failures and struggles can be offered up for the salvation of souls! If I wasn’t Christian already, how could I ever resist this message?
    Msgr. Pope, to complete the picture, you must say a word or two about the intermediate state: the period of time before our resurrection. After death, time might mean something different from what we know it to be here. Maybe time itself will be malleable and subject to glorified souls and bodies; right now, our lowly bodies seem to be slaves of time. Still, from our perspective, our departed loved ones– they must “now” yearn for the resurrection though the enjoy the Beatific Vision. Or is this seeming problem perspectival: it just looks that to those of us still subject to time. Any thoughts or insight you can share would be greatly appreciated.
    Again, thank you and may God continue to bless you richly for all that you do for His flock.

    • Chris says:

      As Joshua just recently stated, thanks so much for such an inspiring article, Monsignor Pope. We who truely love The Lord and who persevere in our Faith and in our good works until the end have so much to look forward to for all eternity, don’t we? Just imagine the unending Joy of being in the presence of Our Loving God, the Blessed Mother, and all the Saints as well as all of our loved ones for all eternity, for ever and ever and ever….well worth any sacrifices and/or sufferings which we may be called upon to endure in this life…

  13. tony mangini says:

    believing totally in the resurrection of the body, i accept the thomistic views as the principal source of the wisdom of the resurrected body. giving that the body wil be “perfected” in glory, it must give joy and meaning to those handicapped or infirmed souls who suffered during their lifetime with their cross of salvation. it wil be a wonderful vision to “see” those former infortunate handicapped bodies turn into beautiful soul bodies of the resurrection. joy

  14. R Allan says:

    My sister who I was so very close with passed away a few days ago. Today we were picking readings for her mass and I saw this one and picked it. She had MS for 30+ years and so many trials with her health, so it jumped out at me. She was told she would not walk several times and never have children – she had 3 who are in their 20s now and walked until she died suddently from cardiac arrest. I was looking online just to see the passage since I will be reading it and came across this thread. Is it a coincidence that this passage is what you are writing about just as I need it? No, it is a gift for sure. It confirms what I believe. She had all her last rights and was given absolution by the priest while she batteled for the few days prior to passing. We did the rosary and divine mercy many times, and at her bed right before she left us. She struggled with so many issues and diseases. In my heart I think she went right to heaven and has shed that lowly body. I see her with all the heavenly hosts in glory at peace and without pain for the first tme in so many years. Her soul was beautiful always – but now has come into its full glory.

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