What About the Resurrection Body?

The Bible tells us that we will be resurrected. 1 Corinthians 15 mentions 11 times that our bodies will be raised, which naturally raises the question of what the body will be like. Scripture reveals some things to us, and systematic theology tells us more.

First, we must look at Jesus’ resurrected body. After Jesus rose from the grave, the body was gone from the grave (John 20). It was the same body that died on the cross, for it had the same markings (John 20:20, 27) and was recognized by His friends as the same Jesus. Jesus could pick up physical objects (John 21:13), and could be touched and seen (John 20:27). The resurrected Jesus was not a spirit, but was flesh and bone (Luke 24:39)  which could eat regular food (Luke 23:41-43). He could be grasped and hugged (John 20:17).

Second, Philippians 3:20-21 tells us that our resurrection bodies will be like Jesus’. It says “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” 1 Cor. 15 tells us that our bodies will be raised; allusions to “spiritual” in this chapter do not refer to non-physical, for the same term in the same book is used of physical things (see 1 Cor. 10:4; Gal. 4:29). We are also told that we will resurrect physically like Jesus did (Romans 6:5; Phil. 3:11; Rev. 20:5), but will not die again (Rev. 20:6; 1 Cor. 15:42).

Therefore the Bible teaches that our resurrection bodies will be physical, will be able to eat, will be able to be recognized by our friends as the same person, and can do the same physical things we can now.

Systematic theological study can tell us more about our resurrection bodies.

It would appear that beings in the presence of God will sing, as we do now (Rev. 4:8, etc.). Job tells us that “in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:26), therefore we will be able to see with our eyes as we do now.

The Bible also teaches that sin has corrupted the world, including our bodies. With the curse of sin removed, we can conclude that our bodies will be perfect and without defect. Thomas Aquinas describes it this way:

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. . . 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. (ST, III.81.1)

and again,

Each one will rise again at that quantity which would have been his at the end of this growth if nature had not erred or failed, and the Divine power will subtract or supply what was excessive or lacking in man. (ST, III.81.2).  

Therefore those who die as babies or as decrepit will resurrect as they would have as uncorrupted mature people, after full growth but before decay.

We can also safely conclude that the same set of specific individual particles are not required for the resurrected body as prior to death, since all during one’s lifetime specific particles are ingested, become part of the body, then are sloughed off. Therefore the same body can be regenerated without the exact correspondence of all particles. Nevertheless, it would appear from what we stated above that the same body as died will be regenerated and resurrected. We could then conclude that severed limbs or organs will be restored to a state of perfection that would have been had we not been corrupted by sin and death.

Part of our answer to the resurrection of the body is  understood in terms of form and matter. Our soul can be said to be our form, with our body as matter. No matter can exist without form, therefore when the soul returns, the soul conforms matter to itself and the body is restored to perfect union of soul and body. Humans are a soul-body unity. Therefore physical defects incurred in life such as scars or severed parts will be resurrected as they would have been at perfect growth.

For more details on the resurrection body, see Systematic Theology by Norman Geisler, 4.247ff, 4.690-1; and Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III.75-86.





About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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