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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

At some level, it seems we must suspend our speculation and keep it within limits. The Summa goes into matters that I think are highly speculative. You can click on the blue word “integrity” above to read these speculations. Personally, I think we should refrain from asking such questions as whether hair and nails will grow, what bodily fluids will still be necessary, or whether latrines will be needed in Heaven. We just have to stop at a certain point and say that we have no reason to know these things and it is purely speculative to discuss them. The bottom line is that the body shall rise, whole and complete. Its functions will be perfected and perfectly apt for the soul in a way beyond what they are now. But as to the intimate details, we ought to realize that humilty is the best posture.

3. Quality

What about age? Our bodies will be youthful and will retain our original sex. Note that “youthful” does not necessarily mean between 18 and 22! In the Philippians text that began this post, Paul says that our glorified bodies will be conformed to Christ’s glorified body. When Jesus’ body rose, He was approximately 33 years old. Elsewhere, St. Paul exhorts Christians to persevere: Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ (Eph 4:13). Hence it would seem that Christ’s resurrected body is the “perfect” age.

St. Augustine also speculates that Christ rose again of a youthful age … about thirty years. Therefore, others also will rise again of a youthful age (cf De Civ. Dei xxii).

St. Thomas further notes, Man will rise again without any defect of human nature, because as God founded human nature without a defect, even so will He restore it without defect. Now human nature has a twofold defect. First, because it has not yet attained to its ultimate perfection. Secondly, because it has already gone back from its ultimate perfection. The first defect is found in children, the second in the aged: and consequently in each of these human nature will be brought by the resurrection to the state of its ultimate perfection which is in the youthful age, at which the movement of growth terminates, and from which the movement of decrease begins (Summa Suppl. 81.1).

Further, since sex is part of human perfection, each of us will rise according to the sex he or she is now. It would seem that other qualities such as height and hair color will also be retained, since this diversity is part of man’s perfection.

Here, too, we have to realize that merely picturing Jesus as a 33-year-old man is not sufficient. All the resurrection appearances make it clear that His appearance was somehow changed, though recognizable, and this is a mystery. Further, the heavenly description of Jesus is far from simple to decode in matters of age and appearance:

… and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance (Rev 1:12-18).

Hence we must avoid oversimplification when it comes to speaking of how our resurrected bodies will appear. We cannot simply project current human realities into Heaven and think we understand what a resurrected body will look like in terms of age, stature, and other physical qualities. The physical qualities are there, but they are transposed to a higher level.

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