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The Resurrection of the Body as taught in the Creed

Rotating Compass & Square

by the Rev. Arthur Devine, Passionist

And the Word was made Flesh, and dwelt among us.

1. In the Greek and Latin forms we have "the resurrection of the flesh", so that all ambiguity is avoided in relation to celestial and spiritual bodies, and our earthly bodies. As by flesh is understood the body of man, and no other flesh, so in translating it body, we understand no other body than that of man, the same body of flesh, of the same frail nature as man had, before it was by death separated from his soul.

To believe in the resurrection of the body, means to believe that at the end of the world, before the last judgment, all shall rise with the same bodies that they had in this life.

The resurrection is the restoration to life of our bodies. Although I have already explained the nature of a resurrection in treating of the Fifth Article of the Creed, I think it well to refer again to the essential characters of a true resurrection. A resurrection means a substantial change by which what was before and was corrupted, is reproduced in the same thing again. (a) A change, not a second or new creation, as if a man or angel were annihilated and made again out of nothing. (b) A substantial change; not an accidental alteration as from sickness to death.(c) A change of what was before, and was corrupted; (1) things incorruptible cannot be reproduced; (2) and of things corruptible, some, the forms of inanimated bodies and all irrational souls when corrupted cease to be, consequently, even if such were reproduced out of the same matter, there would not be the restitution of the same individual, only of the same species by another individual. But when a rational soul is separated from its body, which is the corruption of a man, the soul still exists, and is capable of reunion with the body; and if these two be again united by an essential and vital union, from which life necessarily flows, then the same man lives who lived before, and, consequently, the union is a perfect and proper resurrection from death to life.

2. There shall be a resurrection of the body.

This is proved not only from this Article of the Creed, but from many passages of Holy Scripture. (a) From the Old Testament. The heathen did not believe in the Resurrection of the body, although many of them believed in the immortality of the soul. The Jews believed in the Resurrection of the body, and in Christ's time all, except the Sadducees, believed in it. Martha, we read, said to our Lord: I know that he (Lazarus) shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day, thus giving expression to the common belief of the Jews in her day. The resurrection is made known in the following revelation in the Old Testament. Job says: For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth. And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and inmy flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25,26)
Daniel says yet more plainly: And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake; some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always. (Daniel 12:2)
Also in the vision of the dry bones of Ezechiel, the bones are clothed again with flesh (Ezekiel 37:8,16-20).

(b) In the New Testament, Our Lord stated to the Jews that :the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man. And they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, and thay that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment (St. John 5:28,29).

Christ refers to this doctrine of the resurrection in St. Matthew's Gospel (ch. 22, v.31ff), and in many other places: And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying to you: I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

According to St. Paul, in the whole of the fifteenth Chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, the resurrection is so certain, that to deny it is the same as to deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself. But as Christ is certainly risen from the dead, so is our resurrection certain. Death came by the first Adam; Christ, the new Adam, came to destroy death.


3. We have not only scriptural texts in proof of the resurrection, but pledges of our future restoration to life.

  • The dead son of the widow of Zarephath raised by Elias (3 Kings 17:22).
  • The child of the Sunamite woman raised by Eliseus (4 Kings 4:32).
  • The dead man who was cast into the grave of Eliseus (4 Kings 13:21).

The New Testament records three miracles of raising from the dead by Our Lord:

  • The daughter of Jairus, just dead, lying in the death chamber (St. Matthew 9:25).
  • The son of the widow of Naim on the way to the tomb ((St. Luke 7:11-15).
  • Lazarus, who had been in the tomb, and had been dead four days (St. John 12:43).

Two miracles of this kind are recorded of the Apostles.

  • The raising of Tabitha, or Dorcas, by St. Peter (Acts 9:36-41).
  • The raising of the youth Eutychus by St. Paul (Acts 20:9-10).

It is also recorded by St. Matthew that, after the resurrection of Christ, many bodies of the saints arose, and going out of the tombs, came into the holy city, and appeared to many.
But the most signal instance of all is our Lord’s own glorious resurrection, when He rose triumphant from the grave, and showed Himself alive, after His passion, by many infallible proofs.

4. Human reason suggests two principal proofs of the dogma of the resurrection.

  • The soul of man is not, as an Angel, a pure spirit; it is naturally destined to be united to a body. The body is its essential complement. Hence it seeks to remain united to it, and does not wish to be separated from it. After death it will always retain the desire of being united to the body, thit it may not always remain an incomplete being. This desire comes from God, the Author of nature, and it is not a deception, and hence the soul will again vivify the body.
  • The body is here below the natural instrument of the soul, either for good or evil; it is, therefore, just that it should have its share of rewards or punishments in the life to come.

The doctrine of the resurrection of the body has many illustrations in nature. “(1)In every twenty-four hours the day dies into night, next morning it revives, opening the grave of darkness; this is a diurnal resurrection. (2) Summer dies into Winter; the sap is said to descend into the root, and there it lies buried in the ground, which is crusted with frost. When Spring appears all begins to rise; the plants &c. revive and grow; this is the annual resurrection. (3) The corn, by which we live…is buried in the ground that it may corrupt, and being corrupted may revive and multiply; our bodies are fed with this constant experiment, and we continue the present life by a succession of resurrections. Can we think that man, the lord of all these things which thus die and revive for him, should be detained in death forever-that God should thus restore all things to man, and not man to himself?” (Pearson, Analysis, Article 11).

5. Freethinkers say that the resurrection of the dead is impossible. Myriads of dead bodies have disappeared for so many ages without any trace of them to be found. Their dust has gone into the composition of other bodies, and has served to form plants and animals, which in their turn have undergone innumerable transformations. By nutrition, it happens that some human bodies are organized by the atoms of other human bodies, as in the case of cannibals. How, it is asked, can living men be again reconstituted out of such scattered dust? How, in the midst of so much confusion, will it be possible to restore to each one what originally belonged to him?
To all this we may answer, that He who made all things out of nothing, can easily remake anything which He has already made. He is infinite in His knowledge. He knows all men who ever lived, or shall live; He knows whereof all things were made; from what dust we came, to what dust we shall return. He also sees and knows all ways and means by which these scattered parts should be re-united. He knows how every bone should be brought to its old neighbour-bone, how every sinew may be embroidered on it; what are the proper parts, and by what gluten to be joined. The resurrection, therefore, cannot be impossible in relation to the Agent, through any deficiency of knowledge. Then His power is unlimited. There can be no opposition against Him, because all power is His. All creatures must do, as well as suffer, what He will have them. There is no atom of dust or ashes, but must be where it pleases God, and be applied to, and make up what, and how, it seems good to Him. The resurrection, therefore, cannot be impossible in regard to any deficiency of power on the part of the Agent.
On the part of the creature there is no impossibility in the resurrection, as there is no contradiction in this, that he who was and now is not, should hereafter be what before he was. “As no creature could be made out of nothing but by Him, so can it not be reduced to nothing but by the same; though therefore the parts of the body of man be dissolved, yet they perish not…it is no more of a contradiction thatt they should become parts of the same body of man to which they did belong, than that after his death they should become the parts of any other body, as we see they do [eg cannibalism]. Howsoever scattered, wheresoever lodged, they are within the power and knowledge of God, and can have no repugnancy by their separation to be reunited when and how He pleases. If it be not easier, it is certainly as easy, to make that to be again which once has been, as to make that to be which before was not. When there was no man, God made him out of the dust of the earth, and thereofre when he returns to earth, the same God can make him again.” (Pearson, Analysis).


6. This will be without any exception, unless in the case of those who have already risen to a blessed life [Christ, Our Lady]. Christ speaks universlly when He says: “The hour is coming when all eho are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment (St. John 5:28-9). And St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, says: ”We shall all stand before the tribunal of Christ. (Romans 14:5). And when the Psalmist says that the impious will not arise in the judgment, that is they will not arise to a blessed life, and they will not be able to stand, or defend their cause at the judgment seat.


7. The general resurrection is still future, and will take place at the end of the world, immediately before the general judgment. Holy Job (chapter 19, verse 25) and St. John (ch. 6:40 and 11:24) speak of the future resurrection as something which will happen on the last day. And this is the common belief of the faithful. There are, however, some who have already risen, and who are not again to die, but who will appear in their glorified bodies at the general judgment, such we believe to be th eprivilege of the Blessed Virgin. As to the bodies of the saints that arose at the time of Christ’s death, some with St. Ambrose and St. Hilary hold that they arose to an immortal life, but St. Augustine, Venerable Bede, and others, hold that their bodies again returned to the tombs. All, both good and bad, wil arise at the same moment. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. Christ is the meritorious cause of the resurrection of the just; and His Resurrection will be the exemplary cause of their resurrection. The resurrection of all is attributed to the voice of Chriat as the instrumental cause, according to the words: <7>And all who are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God.


8. Each soul shall resume the same body which it had in this life. This is of faith. So that a man in the resurrection will have the same flesh, bones, nerves, and all the other parts of the body which he had before his death. This is clear from the words of Job: And I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God. Whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. (Job 19:26-7)
It is also evident on the same grounds on which we believe a resurrection-because, if either the same body should be joined to another soul, or the same soul to another body, it would not be the resurrection of the same man.
As to the conditions and qualities of those risen from the dead, we may ask, and answer the following usual questions:
Do those who in life, or from their nativity, have been maimed or deformed arise with the same bodily defects?
It is certain that the just will rie again without any bodily defect whatever. As to the wicked, it is not so certain; but St. Thomas holds that they also will be free from natural bodily defects in the resurrection, inasmuch as the resurrection will be the work of God, and the works of God are perfect. Also, after the resurrection, there will remain in man th epower of all the senses-of hearing, seeing &c., and their use; because this belongs to the perfection of nature.
Will the Martyrs in their glorified bodies retain the wounds they received for Christ’S sake? It is certain that in the glorified body of Christ His Five Wounds are retained; but we are not obliged to admit the same in regard to the wounds of the Christian Martyrs. St. Augustine teaches that in place of the wounds of the Martyrs a special brightness or glory will shine forth, so that their sufferings may be known.


9. St. Thomas teaches that men will rise again in the size and form which they would have had at the age at which Christ arose, about the age of 33. And the reason he assigns is that God will repair a perfect nature; but before or after that period nature is more or less defective.
All will not rise in the same height or size, but each will have that height or size which either he had, or would have had, at the age mentioned, all defects of nature being repaired. Because the restoration is not of the species but of the individual, and therefore will be proportioned to our individual nature without making each one a most perfect human being.
It is also Catholic doctrine to say, that the diversity of sex will be preserved in the resurrection, as this belongs to the prefection of the individual, and the species; but as Christ has said: In the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married; but shal be as the angels of God in heaven.”(St. Matthew 22:30).
In the resurrection all the bodies of men will be immortal, according to the words of St. Paul:For this corruptible must put on incorruption; and this mortal must put on immortality.” ((1 Cor. 15:53) But all bodies will not rise impassible. The bodies of the just will be impassible or incapable of suffering, but the bodies of the iwcked will be pasisble: they will have to suffer all manne rof torments worse than death; always living, and as it were, always enduring the sorrows of death. In the words of the Apocalypse:They shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them.” (Apocalypse 9:6)


The bodies of the saints are to rise gloriuos and immortal (1 Cor. 15:42, 45). By this is meant they shall have the four qualities of a glorified body- namely Impassibility, Brightness, Agility, and Subtility. These are founded on the words of St. Paul: It is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption. It is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory. It is sown weakness, it shall rise in power. It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.
By the quality of Impassibility is meant that the bodies of the saints will be henceforth incapable of corruption or any suffering. It is sown (or buried) in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption.
By the quality of Brightness is meant, that the bodies of the just shall rise in splendour which will be proportioned to each one’s merits. It is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor. 15)
By the quality of Agility is meant, that the bodies of the just will be able to pass from one place to another in an instant: It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power.
By the quality of Subtility is meant, that the bodies of the saints, like the glorified Body of Our Lord, shall be spiritualized; and so will be able to pass, as He did, through closed doors, hard substances, &c. It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.

From chapter 11 of "The Creed Explained" by the Rev. Arthur Devine (London: R. Washbourne; Dublin: M.H.Gill & Son. 1892).
Electronic text copyright Sean Hyland 2002. May be reproduced in full provided copyright notice is included.

Note: The origin of the image of the Madonna and Child Jesus is unknown and the author would appreciate any help in identifying the artist.

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