During the Easter season, as we reflect on Jesus’ resurrection, it is profitable to reflect on the attributes or qualities of our own future resurrected bodies. Perhaps such reflection will make us thirst for the resurrection!
In his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas speculated that the glorified, resurrected body will have seven conditions or properties. The first three will be shared by the resurrected bodies of the righteous and the damned:
Resurrected bodies will retain their original identity; we will be essentially the same persons as before we died.
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!Job 19:25-27
Resurrected bodies will retain all of the parts of their old bodies – resurrected bodies will be complete.
After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.”2 Mac 7:10-11
This same identity, however, does not mean that the resurrected body will retain all the matter of the original earthly body. As St. Paul says,
But someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body.1 Cor. 15:35-38
Our bodies will be youthful and will retain our original gender.
St. Thomas Aquinas said, “man will rise again at the most perfect stage of nature. Now human nature is at the most perfect stage in the age of youth. Therefore all will rise again of that age.” (Aquinas 81, Article III)
Resurrected bodies will retain their gender. St. Thomas continues: “Moreover, this same diversity is becoming to the perfection of the species, the different degrees whereof are filled by this very difference of sex”. (Aquinas 81, Article III)
While there will be two genders in heaven, there will be no marriage there. As Jesus said,
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”Mt. 22:30
Properties of the Resurrected Bodies of the Just
St. Thomas teaches that the resurrected bodies of the just will be under the complete control of their souls, unlike ours today and unlike the resurrected bodies of the wicked. This results in four conditions of the resurrected bodies of the just:
We will be immune from death and pain.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”Rev. 21:4
Our bodies will be free from restraint by matter, yet palpable.
We will have complete freedom of movement, our souls will direct our bodies without hindrance.
We can see both subtlety and agility in the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances to his disciples:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.John 20:19-20
Resurrected bodies of the just will not merely be spiritualized, however. After his Resurrection, Jesus told his disciples,
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”Luke 24:39
The glory of our souls will be visible in our bodies. We will be beautiful and radiant.
“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”Mt. 13:43a
Christians do not seem to talk about the resurrection of the body much anymore, as if it’s an embarrassing artifact from a former age. Our Lord did not speak ambiguously about it, and neither did St. Paul. From the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.1 Cor 15:12-14
Aquinas, St. Thomas. Summa Theologiae, Supplement to the Third Part. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/5.htm. Accessed 14 4 2002.
Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Edited by James Canon Bastible, DD, translated by Patrick Lynch, Rockford, IL, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1955.