Resurrection of the Dead
All Christians hold firmly to the belief expressed in the Bible and mirrored in the resurrection from the dead of Jesus of the resurrection of all men and women.
By "resurrection" Christians do not mean only the return to life in the body of a dead human being; it means taking on a completely new existence. We believe that the souls of all those who have died will be reunited to their bodies; but those bodies will have different characteristics.
We Catholic Christians profess this belief often when we pray the Apostles Creed: I believe in ... the resurrection of the body. In the Nicene Creed, we profess: We look for the resurrection of the dead.
- Mt 22:29-32
- Jesus said to them in reply, "You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."
- Mt 5:29-30
- (He [Jesus] began to teach them ...) If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
- Jn 11:22-26
- Jesus said to her (Martha), "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
- Jn 6:40
- (Jesus explained to them (the disciples):) For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day.
- Jn 6:51
- (Jesus told them:) I am the living bread ... whoever eats this bread will live forever
- Jn 6:54
- (Jesus told them:) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
Catholic Christians believe that the dead will rise with bodies similar to those they had on earth. Some important evidence for our resurrected bodies is to read the qualities of the resurrected body of Jesus:
- appeared suddenly then disappeared;
- passed through walls;
- his body seemed to be the same as it was before death; but it was also very different;
- he even changed his appearance so that his disciples didn't recognize him (Lk 24).
The Church believes we will resurrect the same bodies as we had on earth by the language of the Bible. The resurrection will change these bodies into a glorified form. The word "reawakening" is used in reference to the resurrection.
Catholic scholars have distinguished certain qualities of our resurrected bodies:
- impassability: freedom from physical ills of any kind (sickness, death, etc.);
- subtility: the spiritualization of the body--dominated by the soul;
- agility: the ability of the soul to move the body with ease and speed;
- clarity: freedom from defects--having great beauty and radiance.
Paul also speaks in language of reawakening instead of replacement:
- 1 Cor 15:53
- For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality.
- 1 Cor 15:42-44
- So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
Scripture speaks of the resurrection of both the blessed and the damned:
- Jn 5:28-29
- (Jesus' answer:) Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.
- Mt 22:23-32; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40
- On that day Sadducees approached him (Jesus), saying that there is no resurrection. They put this question to him, saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies without children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up descendants for his brother.' Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died and, having no descendants, left his wife to his brother. The same happened with the second and the third, through all seven. Finally the woman died. Now at the resurrection, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had been married to her." Jesus said to them in reply, "You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."
- Jn 11:22-26
- Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
- Acts 23:6
- Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees, so he called out before the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; (I) am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead."
The Magisterium constantly proclaims the truth of the resurrection of the body.
- Council of Toledo XI, 675
- Thus, according to the model of our Head, we profess that there is a true bodily resurrection of all the dead... we shall rise in this very body in which we now live and are and move. (Denzinger 287)
- Lateran Council IV, 1215
- ... He (Christ) will come at the end of the world; he will judge the living and the dead; and he will reward all, both the lost and elect, according to their works. And all these will rise with their own bodies which they now have so that they may receive according to their works, whether good or bad; the wicked, a perpetual punishment with the devil; the good, eternal glory with Christ. (Denzinger 429)
As we began the study of eschatology, we saw that each individual person is judged by God immediately after his or her death. That prompt sentence is called the particular judgment. The Bible is very emphatic in asserting that there is also a general judgment of all mankind at the end of the world.
The particular judgment addresses each of us as individual and personal; the general judgment will address all of us as social, members of society. Also, after the resurrection, the body must also share the judgment of the soul. The general judgment addresses both the whole human person, resurrected body reunited with the soul, and the whole of human society.
- Christians pray and affirm their belief in a general judgment in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed
- Jesus Christ ... sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Scripture is abundantly clear on the point of general judgment for all people.
- Mt 16:27
- For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.
- Jn 5:22-29
- Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. ... And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.
- Mt 25: 31-46
- "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
- Acts 10:42
- (Peter addressed them in these words) ... He (Jesus) commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
- Rom 2:15-16
- They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people's hidden works through Christ Jesus.
- Rev 20:11-15
- Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death. ) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire.
The New Creation
The Bible tells all Christians what life after general judgment will be like. The Evangelist John wrote of his visions of the New Creation in his book of Revelation.
- Rev 21:1-8
- Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away." The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true." He said to me, "They are accomplished. I (am) the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son. But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
- Rev 5:13
- Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: "To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever."
By Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl.
Catholic Biblical Apologetics, © Copyright 1985-1997, Paul Flanagan and Robert Schihl
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture texts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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Last Updated: January 3, 1997