When I gave a talk recently at the Institute of Catholic Culture on the subject of the Second Coming, I was I asked to describe what our resurrected bodies will be like. Here is an article I wrote a few years back that details some aspects of our resurrected bodies:
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, do you? If my body has to rise, I’m hoping for an improved model!”
I think most of us can relate to the desire that our current body be improved. And it surely will be. Notice that the passage above says that our lowly (weak, diseased, and often overweight) bodies will be changed and will reflect the glory of the resurrected body of Jesus. Yes, this old general issue clunker is going to be upgraded to a luxury model; I’m headed for first class.
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 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 I am going to say here is speculation—but it is not wild speculation; it is rooted in Scripture. However, Scripture is describing things that are somewhat mysterious and difficult to reduce to words. Further, Scripture does not always provide as much detail as we might like. Sometimes we are left to infer qualities of the resurrected body based only on scriptural texts whose main purpose is something else (the resurrection of Jesus). For example, in one passage Jesus is described as appearing and disappearing at will in a room with locked doors. The point of the text is to tell us that He appeared, not necessarily to convey that the resurrected body has something we have come to call “agility” (see below). The text does not elaborate further, so we are left to note things about Jesus’ resurrected body and then apply them to our own. It is not wrong to do this, 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 make inferences.
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 that we know nothing, for if that were the case he would negate other Scriptures. Rather, 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. Some things are known and revealed but much more 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 seven traditional qualities of a resurrected body.
St. Paul writes of the resurrected body in First Corinthians:
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)
Using this and other passages we can distinguish the seven traditional qualities of a resurrected body. Here we will allow our source to be St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. For each quality I’ve included a link to the corresponding section of the Summa.
1. Identity – The very same body that falls in death will rise to be glorified; we will not get a different body. 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 (Suppl. Q 79.1).
This does not mean that the body will necessarily be identical in every way. As St. Paul says, our current bodies are like the seed. A seed does not have all the fully developed qualities of the mature plant, but it does have them in seed form. Similarly, our current body is linked to our resurrected body causally and essentially, though not all the qualities of the resurrected body are currently operative. St. Thomas goes on to say, 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 of capabilities that our bodies do not currently enjoy.
2. Integrity – We will retain all of the parts of our current bodies. This means every physical part of our body, even the less noble parts (e.g., intestines). It is clear from the Gospel that Jesus ate, even after the resurrection. He ate a fish while in their company (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. St. Thomas argues (I think rightly) that food will not be necessary to the resurrected body (Suppl. 81.4), but it is clearly possible to eat, for Christ demonstrated 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 Suppl. Q. 80.1).
On some level it seems we should keep our speculation within limits. The Summa goes into matters that I think are highly speculative; you can read some of these speculations by clicking on the link above. Personally I think we should refrain from trying to ask questions such as whether hair and nails will grow or what bodily fluids will still be necessary and why. For example: Will latrines be needed in Heaven or will food be perfectly absorbed and nothing wasted? We just have to stop at a certain point and say that we just have no business knowing this sort of thing and it is purely speculative to discuss it. The bottom line is that the body shall rise, whole and complete. Its functions will be perfected and will be perfectly appropriate for the soul. But as for the intimate details, we ought to realize that humility is our best posture.
3. Quality – What about age, gender, and other physical characteristics? Our bodies will be youthful and will retain our original gender. Youthful here does not necessarily mean 21 years old. In the Philippians text that began this post, Paul says that our glorified bodies will be conformed to Christ’s glorified body. Jesus’ body rose at the age of 30-33 years. 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 fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13). Hence it would seem that Christ’s resurrected body is the perfect age.
St Augustine also speculates that because Christ rose again of youthful age (about 30), 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 (Suppl. Q. 81.1).
Further, since gender is part of human perfection, all will rise according to their current gender. Other qualities such as height and hair color 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 man is not sufficient. All of the resurrection appearances make it clear that though still recognizable, His appearance was somehow changed—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 oversimplifications when we speak of how our resurrected bodies will appear. We cannot simply project current human realities into Heaven and think that we understand what a resurrected body will look like in terms of age, stature, and other physical qualities. Those qualities are there but they are expressed at a higher level.
4. Impassability – We 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).
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).
St. Thomas goes on at some length in the Summa, and you can read this by clicking on the link above.
5. Subtlety – Our 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 (Suppl. Q. 83.1).
In other words, the body is perfected because the soul is perfected. The resurrected body is fully conformed to the soul. In my current lowly body, though I may wish to go to Vienna in a few moments to hear an opera, my body cannot pull that off. My current body cannot instantly be somewhere else on the planet. I have to exert effort and expend time to get there. After the resurrection, Jesus could appear and disappear in a room despite the closed doors; he could simply be where he wanted instantly. Before his resurrection he had to take long physical journeys (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 Jesus’ ability, in His glorified body, to be anywhere at once, unhindered by things such as locked doors. Consider these other description of the agility of the resurrected body:
- As they talked [on the road to Emmaus] and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them (Luke 24:15).
- Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus, and he disappeared from their sight (Luke 24:31).
- While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36).
7. Clarity – The 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).
The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds (Wisdom 3:7).
The body in sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory (1 Cor 15:43).
5 Replies to “What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Be Like?”
Thanks. Good article. Encouraging!
What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Be Like?
I want to give an testimony to this paper:
Many years ago (my daughter is 50, at the time she was one year old), a little girl (“MelodY”), 10 years old, lived across the street from us. She was a lovely girl, she had long black hair, down to her waist. But she was horribly crippled. Her right knee was permanently bent at almost a right angle, and her body was twisted, curvature of the spine. Her parents sent her down to Indianapolis, to Riley Hospital, who had her sent back home. She had a bleeding ulcer, and was sent home to die.
We came home late one night from a church prayer meeting, and almost immediately her little sister (Tammy) came running over. “Ms Rummel, Ms Rummel, come over quick. Melody is bleeding from her mouth, and we can’t stop it.” (My wife had been a missioanry nurse – in Nigeria, about 20 miles from Chibuk, where the 300 girls were taken captive.) Tammy was quickly back: “Mr Rummel, Mr Rummel, you wife says to come over, quick.” We loaded Melody into a station wagon, to not even wait for an ambulance. Madelaine went in with them, and I asked the baby sitter to please stay, while I went in to pick her up.
When I got to the hospital, Melody was Dead On Arrival, and Madelaine wa not there. She had gone home with the parents, the mother was just too broken up. As I drove home, I asked the Lord, “Why did you take Melody? She was the nicest girl in our whole subdivision.”
This was a night of the new moon. It was DARK Out. It was a level strait road, beside the railroad tracks. Suddently I saw a bright sunlit hillside directly in front of me (11 o’clock on a black night). There were children running over the hillside. A voice in the empty car said: “Well, can’t you see?” – and directly in front of me stood a young girl, with black hair clear down to her waist, standing strait and tall. She was in a white dress, clear to her feet, with large white sleeves. The the voice said: “Well, can’t you hear, either?” (“they have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not”) And I heard her cheery laughng voice.
And she ran up the hill, to play with the other children. Melody had never been able to run in her life. I knew I had seen Paradise.
I went on home and told my wife, and she said I would have to tell Melody’s mother, they were not Christians. I did the next day, and she asked me where I went to church. “I want to go where my daughter is!”
I didn’t sent her to my church, but to a nearby church where I was getting good Bible teaching. She went down, was baptized – and her husband divorced her.
I told Madelaine that it was such a wonderful place – “I could go there right now!” “Well, you can’t, you’ve got a family!”
(Monseignor Pope – I enjoy your writings. I have collected everyone that I see.)
Jesus had the marks of the Crucifixion in his glorified body. St. Padre Pio was completely healed of the marks of the stigmata, shortly before his death. I wonder sometimes what that tell us that Jesus still has the marks of the Crucifixion and if anything becomes of our scars, God willing we get there, trivial though they be by comparison.
If our eyeballs were as stars that would still be an inept analogy for eyeballs that see God.
We still have the effect of Original Sin in our souls, dimness of the intellect, weakness of the will, confusion of the emotions, and such. One could be freed by God from those without seeing God. That, God willing we get there, we will be both freed from those and see God is a hinting of what is a glorified soul is like, only a hinting because we have no idea what it is like to see God.
1John 3:2 Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God;
and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be.
We know, that, when he shall appear, we shall be like to him:
because we shall see him as he is.
John saw Jesus after resurrection, AND HE WAS THE SAME AS HE WAS BEFORE IN ALL PHYSICAL THINGS!
So how in the above scripture he said that we see Jesus as HE IS, and in the same time although we would be like Him,
IT HAD NOT YET APPEARED WHAT WE SHALL BE?
Also REFLECT on:
1 Corinthians 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then the Son also himself shall be
SUBJECT UNTO HIM
that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
May I ask: IN WHAT WAY OR MANNER JESUS WOULD BE SUBJECT TO THE FATHER?
WOULD HE ACQUIRE A NEW COMPLETE BODY, in order to be
IN ALL THINGS LIKE HIS BRETHREN???
Considering Rev. here under:
Rev. 21:5 And he that sat on the throne, said: Behold,
I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!
1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall all indeed rise again: BUT WE SHALL NOT ALL BE CHANGED.
It says: WE SHALL NOT ALL BE CHANGED!
So our body would definitely change but NOT ALL OF IT! NOT ENTIRELY!
I believe that all corrupted processes would definitely be eliminated, since we would acquire a process entirely spiritual! So we would not be subject sex, food, intestine and so on!
Not only that but we would be like God is: Androgynous!
The fact that Jesus AFTER RESURRECTION was seen as He was before it stands to reason that IF HE WAS NOT AS HE WAS, THEY OBVIOUSLY WOULD NOT HAVE BELIEVED THAT HE WAS THE SAME PERSON, NO?
The fact that none of them recognized Jesus at first site, ONLY WHEN HE HIMSELF ALLOWED TO!
The fact that Thomas even put his hand in his side, what happened with His blood?
The fact that Jesus ate it doesn’t mean that he retained His interior elements forever! Jesus was capable to transform Himself temporary in any SORT and in TWINKLE OF AN EYE!
Jesus confirmed this in
John 6:39 Now this is the will of the Father who sent me:
that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; ………….
Great article, thanks!
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