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What Will Our Resurrected Bodies Look Like?

Crown Copyright 2013

One of the thousands of graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers at the Tyne Cot cemetery in Belgium.

Msgr. Charles Pope - published on 04/26/15

Using this and other passages, we can distinguish seven traditional qualities of a resurrected body. Here we will allow our source to be the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. You can click on each quality (underlined) to read more online at New Advent.

1. Identity

Essentially, this means that the very same body that falls in death will rise to be glorified. We cannot claim that we will get a different body, but rather that our current body will rise and be glorified. 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 (Summa Suppl. 79.1).

This does not mean that the body will necessarily be identical in every way. As St. Paul says above, our current body is like a seed. A seed does not have all the qualities of a mature plant, but it does have all these qualities in seed form. So, too, our current body is linked to our resurrected body causally and essentially, though not all of the qualities of the resurrected body are currently operative. Again, the Summa states, 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 (Summa Suppl. 79.1).

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).

There is continuity because the same body rises. But there is also development and the shining forth of a new glory and new 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 like intestines. In the gospel, Jesus ate even after His resurrection. He ate fish before them (Luke 24:43). He ate with the disciples in Emmaus (Luke 24:30). He ate breakfast with them at the lakeshore (Jn 21:12). Hence it follows that even the less noble parts of our body will rise, because eating and digestion are still functions of a resurrected body. St. Thomas argues (rightly, I think) that food will not be necessary to the resurrected body (Summa Suppl. 81.4). But it is clearly possible to eat, for Christ demonstrates 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, 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 nimble fingers, arms, and so forth to carry out this work. The body is apt for the capacities of the soul, imperfectly at present, but then even more perfectly (cf Summa Suppl. 80.1).

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