Resurrection | Resurrection

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One of the most well-known and theologically significant statements made by Christ occurs in John 11:25. “I am the resurrection and the life.” While the belief in the resurrection of the dead is central and fundamental in Catholicism, the words of Christ have a deeper meaning that deserves examination.

In this article, I will explore the belief in a resurrection from the dead from a biblical perspective and examine how the words of Jesus should be understood by placing them in a philosophical context.

Resurrection and religion

I want to begin by asserting a presupposition. Since Catholicism is the fulfillment of Judaism, it is often beneficial to place Catholic theology within a larger framework of the Old Testament.

The resurrection of the dead is a fundamental doctrine of traditional Jewish theology. In summary, when the Temple Mount is rebuilt for the third time, the Messiah will come and the bodies of the dead will be brought back to life and reunited with their souls. This, of course, has significant eschatological significance beyond the scope of this article.

All this to emphasize that the Jews of Jesus’ time would have been familiar with the concept of resurrection. We see evidence of this knowledge in Martha’s conversation with Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus said to him [Martha], ‘Your brother will rise.’ Martha said to him, “I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.” (See John 11:23).

Belief in the resurrection rests on the understanding that living things are composite creatures. Every living being is composed of a spiritual soul and a material body. At death, the soul is separated from the body and judged by God. If our souls return to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), why is the resurrection necessary or important? The answer lies in understanding the integrated nature of human beings.

To be a complete and integrated human being means to have both a body and a soul. It is true, of course, that while the soul as a person’s form or essence can exist without a body, it is believed to be limited in its full capabilities. The reason for this limitation lies in the fact that knowledge begins with sense impressions, and these impressions depend on a physical body.

We can therefore say that any Catholic anthropology must formulate the human being as that which is composed of an immaterial soul and a material body.

Analyze John

A careful reading of John 11:25 suggests some interesting features of Christ’s words. There are two points I would like to consider. First, Christ does not say that he is risen. Rather, he states that he is the resurrection. Why is this important?

As stated above, although the belief that God can and will raise the dead was an accepted concept, Jesus states that he is the cause of his own resurrection. As seen elsewhere, this is yet another indication that Jesus is God, for only God can bring life out of death. Placing Jesus’ words in this light allows for increased intelligibility when reading the rest of the verse. “He who believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

From what has just been said, we can draw on Aristotelian metaphysics to enable us to be in a better position to understand what Jesus means by asserting that he is the resurrection. Not only is Christ risen, but He is the efficient cause of resurrection power. That is to say, Christ is the agent who makes the resurrection possible. Therefore, it is faith in Jesus as God that allows us to hope for eternal life.

The second observation from the text is that the resurrection of Christ provides a model of what human beings can look forward to when they are raised from the dead. It is clear from the biblical record that a resurrected person will be united with a glorified body. In Philippians 3:21writes Saint Paul: “He [Christ] will change our humble body to conform to his glorified body by the power which also enables him to subject all things to himself.

A glorified body

“This [the glorified body] is sown corruptible; he is found incorruptible. It is sown dishonourably; he is raised glorious. He is sown weak; he is raised powerful. It is sown like a natural body; it is elevated as a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).”

Because a resurrected person now possesses the beatific vision, the body is said to be glorified. The beatific vision is the immediate knowledge of the soul and the intimacy with God which is the reward of the saved. It is possible to reason about several characteristics that a glorified body possesses.

However, before looking at the traits of a glorified body, it is important to clarify that what we are talking about is a physical body and not an entirely ethereal entity. This fact was made clear to a skeptical Thomas when Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. (See John 20:27).

Having sought to clarify the physical nature of the glorified body, I can state four traits or powers possessed by a glorified body.

impassiveness

Impassivity means that the glorified body will know neither pain nor death. Because the soul is perfectly ordered to God, the glorified body is perfectly ordered to the eternal soul.

Subtlety

As stated above, the glorified body is not a ghost. However, the glorified body will not be limited by the laws of physics. This point is made in various places in the Gospel of John. We read that Christ walked through a locked door or walked distances that were not possible for ordinary bodies.

Agility

Over time, we get used to our body not obeying our mind. However, in a glorified body, this will not be the case. Agility, in this context, refers to the ability of the glorified body to move with the same ease as our souls.

Clarity

The last trait, clarity, is probably the most abstract. The clarity of a glorified body refers to the beauty and perfection it will possess. Following the beatific vision, the glorified body will reflect the radiant light of God.

Conclusion

The doctrine of the resurrection is vitally important on many levels. The death and resurrection of Christ is the vehicle by which God effects human salvation. Moreover, the risen Jesus is the model of the glorified body that the faithful hope for when Christ returns.


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