What Will Your Resurrection Body Be Like?
Due to popular misconceptions, consider this a quick Catholic review of the doctrine of resurrection:
Your eternal reward after this life is not for your soul to leave the body and go to heaven. Neither is it, if you die in mortal sin, for your soul to descend into the fiery pits of hell.
That’s not to say heaven or hell aren't your ultimate destinations—they are—but not without your body: the same body in which you are reading this. At the resurrection, upon the return of Jesus to this earth, you will forever possess your current body, though not without some drastic changes.
What are you?
First, consider who and what you are. You are not a spirit trapped inside a temporary fleshy shell, just waiting to escape this evil body at death in order to become like an angel, a pure spirit. Neither are you operated by an animal soul running on instinct, like a dog.
Rather, you are a body-soul composite. You are not a body, you are not a soul—the real you is both together. Without one or the other, you’re “not all there.”
What is death?
Death, then, occurs when the soul and body are separated (James 2:26). Without the animating function of the soul, the body is no longer a body that lives, but a corpse that decays.
Your spiritual soul, on the other hand, continues after death. The body needs the soul for sustenance, but the soul does not need the body in the same way. The soul may not be complete without it, but its existence does not rely on it.
When you die
You will be judged immediately after death. Your soul will either be damned to hell along with the many who take the wide path to destruction (Matthew 7:13), or you will join the few who find the narrow way to heaven (verse 14)—whether directly or after God finishes his healing work on your soul in purgatory (1 Corinthians 3:12–15).
But that’s not the end of the story. Our good works and evil works were done here in the body, so it is right and just that we reap our rewards in the body as well.
At the end of this age, we will be resurrected from the dead. We’ll be put back together again, our soul and body reunited. This is how we will forever experience the joys of heaven and the pains of hell.
With what bodies?
“How are the dead raised?” asked first-century resurrection deniers. “With what kind of body do they come?” (1 Corinthians 15:35).
St. Paul’s initial response was, “You foolish man!” before addressing the question (read it!). But just because the foolish ask it, that doesn’t make it something off-limits to ponder in hope.
The bodies of the just
Our bodies will be the same bodies we have now, but renewed and glorified, healed and perfected, whole and complete—changed. To describe them as “spiritual,” as St. Paul did, is not to say they will be non-physical, but supernatural. The Church tells us of at least four qualities of the resurrection body:
- Impassibility—We will no longer experience pain or death or physical evils. Good-bye, aches and pains. So long, death.
- Brightness—We will literally radiate with glory. We will be shiny, happy people.
- Agility—We will be able to go anywhere in the universe at the speed of thought, moving with ease and swiftness.
- Subtility—Our souls will rule our bodies absolutely. Nothing—including gravity, walls, or any other force—will hinder us.
These are the traits that the resurrected, glorified Jesus had (see, e.g., Luke 24:31; John 19:20,26). So even though we can’t fully grasp it, we can catch a glimpse. “[I]t does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
The alternative is not worth the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Remember: damned souls will also be reunited with their bodies, which, while lacking all the other traits of glorified bodies, will never die. And so their torment will be even worse than before. They will learn why it’s called hell.
Knowing these things, let us “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature be thus minded” (Philippians 3:14–15).
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