The Resurrection of the Body

Author: Rev. William G. Most

Death entered into this world by sin (Romans 5:12). So all will die, with the exception that those who are alive at the return of Christ at the end, will never die (First Thessalonians 4:13-17). In verse 17: "Then [at His return, and after the resurrection of the dead] we the living, will be taken together with them [the risen dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord" (Cf. 1 Cor 15:51).

There will be a resurrection of all, as St. Paul explains in First Corinthians chapter 15. Those who have been faithful to Christ will rise glorious, their bodies transformed on the model of the risen body of Christ, who could travel instantly at will, could ignore closed doors and come through anyway, but yet had real flesh. St. Paul says the risen body is "spiritual " (15:44). It is still flesh, but such that the flesh is completely dominated by the soul, so that it can no longer suffer or die.

St. Paul insists that because Christ our Head rose, those who are members of Him must also rise. So, to deny the general resurrection would imply a denial of Christ's resurrection (1 Cor 15:13).

After the resurrection, each of person will have the same body (except for imperfections) that he had in this life. If this involves having the same matter, this is surely within God's power. No matter what happens to the body after death, He can recall and rebuild the material of the body. In fact, we now know that because of metabolism--in which every cell is constantly being torn down and rebuilt--in a normal life span a person has the material for many bodies.

We will, of course be the same persons after the resurrection as we were before death.

Taken from The Basic Catholic Catechism
PART FIVE: The Apostles' Creed IX - XII
Eleventh Article of the Creed: "The resurrection of the body."

By William G. Most. (c) Copyright 1990 by William G. Most

Related Q and A

176. What is meant by "the resurrection of the body?"

By "the resurrection of the body" is meant that at the end of the world the bodies of all men will rise from the earth and be united again to their souls, nevermore to be separated.

(a) No man knows when the world will end. The signs preceding the destruction of the world, as given in Scripture, are: wars, famine, pestilence, the coming of Antichrist, the darkening of the sun and moon, and the appearance of the cross in heaven.

177. Why will the bodies of the just rise?

The bodies of the just will rise to share forever in the glory of their souls.

(a) During their earthly life the bodies of the just were the temples of the Holy Ghost, they were the instruments of the good acts by which the souls of the just merited eternal life. Respect should be shown for the bodies of the faithful departed; special burial places should be set aside for them, and their graves should be blessed.

(b) After the resurrection the bodies of the just will be in a glorified state. There will then be no need for food and drink to preserve the body, which will be endowed with qualities it did not possess in this life.

179. Why will the bodies of the damned also rise?

The bodies of the damned will also rise to share in the eternal punishment of their souls.

(a) Since the body is the instrument of the soul in committing sin, it is just that the body also share in eternal punishment.

178. Has the body of any human person ever been glorified and taken into heaven?

By the special privilege of her Assumption, the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary, united to her immaculate soul, was glorified and taken into heaven.

(a) This question emphasizes human person because the Divine Person Jesus Christ, in His human nature has risen from the dead, glorious and immortal, and ascended into heaven (question 98).

(b) Since she was free from all sin, both original and actual, it was most fitting that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be preserved from the consequences of sin; the corruption of death and the deferment of glory until the last day. Moreover, since the Son of God took His flesh and blood from the chaste body of Mary, it was most appropriate that her body shall be glorified as soon as her earthly life was ended. From the early centuries, the doctrine of Mary's bodily glorification and assumption was accepted by the Church as contained in Christian Tradition. It was declared a doctrine of divine-catholic faith by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. The Feast of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15.

(c) It is not certain whether the Blessed Virgin Mary first died and was shortly afterward taken into heaven, in body and soul, or was preserved from death and taken immediately to heavenly glory when her life on earth was ended. Pope Pius XII refrained from making a decision on this question when he issued his solemn definition of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

The Baltimore Catechism, no. 3, Lesson 14.