Home      Back to Easter 1        





Chapter XIV from
The Sermon-Conferences of St. Thomas Aquinas
On the Apostles' Creed
Translated from the Leonine Edition and edited and introduced by
Nicholas Ayo, C.S.C.
Copyright 1988 by University of Notre Dame Press, All Rights Reserved.
Used with the permission of The University of Notre Dame Press.
The resurrection of the flesh.

The Holy Spirit not only sanctifies the church with regard to its soul, but by its power our bodies will arise: “[to those believing in him] who raised up Jesus Christ Our Lord from the dead” and so forth (Rom. [4:24]). And “[Because just as through a human being death came about, so] through a human being the resurrection from the dead” (1 Cor. [15:21]). Therefore we believe according to our faith in the future resurrection of the dead.

About this [resurrection] there are four thoughts that should be considered: (1) the usefulness that comes from faith in the resurrection; (2) the quality [of life] of those who arise with regard to everyone in general; (3) with regard to good men and women in particular, and (4) with regard to evil men and women in particular.

(1) About the first, we should know that faith and hope in the resurrection is helpful to us for four reasons: (1.1) It takes away the sadness which we bear for those who died. It is impossible that someone not grieve over the death of a friend; yet, insofar as they hope their friend will arise, the sorrow of death is much assuaged: “We do not wish you to be ignorant of” and so forth (Mac.).

(1.2) [The resurrection of the flesh] takes away the fear of death. If a human being were not to hope in another and better life after death, without doubt death would be excessively feared. One would rather have to do any evil deed than to incur death. But, because we believe there is another and better life to which we shall attain after death, it stands that no one ought to fear death, nor commit any sin on account of the fear of death: “that through death he might destroy him who had [the empire of death, that is, the devil]” and so forth (Heb. [2:14]).

(1.3) [The resurrection of the flesh] renders us solicitous and studious for behaving well. If the life of a human being were only what we now experience, there would not be any great effort among humankind for behaving well. Whatever a human being would do might seem trivial, since it would be a determinate good measured in time, rather than in eternity.  However, since we believe that through this [resurrection of the flesh] we will receive eternal goods in the resurrection for what we do here and now, we will strive to lead a good life: “If in only this life we are people hoping [in Christ, we are more pitiable than everybody else]” and so forth (1 Cor. [15:19]).

(1.4) The [resurrection of the flesh] draws us away from evil. Just as the hope of a reward entices [us] to live well, so fear of pain that we believe is reserved for the wicked, draws us away from evil: These will rise up, “[and those who accomplished good things will enter into] the resurrection of life; [those who worked evil into the resurrection of judgment]” and so forth (Mt. [John 5:29]).

(2) We should know that with regard to everyone [in general] a fourfold condition in the resurrection can be noted.

(2.1) With regard to the identity of the bodies of those who arise. The same body that now exists, both in its flesh and in its bones, will rise, although some will say that not this body which is now corrupted will rise. This is false, because sacred Scripture says that by the power of God the same body will rise to life: ‘And once my skin has been undone, [I will see my God once more in my flesh]” and so forth (Job [19:26]).

(2.2) With regard to the condition [of those who rise]. The risen bodies will be in another condition than they now are. With regard to good men and women [in particular] and evil men and women [in particular] their bodies will be incorruptible, because the good will always be in glory, but the evil [will be] always in pain: “This corruptible nature must [clothe itself with incorruption, and this mortal nature clothe itself with immortality]” and so forth (1 Cor. [15:53]). And because the body will be immortal and incorruptible, there will be no use for food or sex after the resurrection: “In the resurrection they will neither marry [nor be married; but they will be as the angels of God in heaven]” and so forth (Mt. [22:30]). The Saracens [Muslims] and the Jews hold to the contrary. But we read in Job: “He will no longer go back into his home, [nor will his place know him any further]” and so forth [7:10].

(2.3) With regard to the integrity [of those who rise in the flesh]. All the good people and all the evil people will rise in all their integrity which belongs to the perfection of humankind. There will be no deafness nor blindness, nor anyone defective: “[In a moment, in the blink of an eye, in the last sounds of the trumpet; the trumpet will sing, and] the dead will rise up incorruptible, [and we will be changed]” (Thess. [1 Cor. 15:52]).

(2.4) With regard to age [of those who rise in the flesh.] Everyone will rise in a perfect state, i.e., thirty-two or thirty-three years of age.

The reason is because those who have not yet come to this [age] have not achieved a perfect state, and older people already have lost it. Therefore to children and to youth [age] is added, but to old folks it is restored: “Until we all attain [to the unity of faith, and the recognition of the Son of God, to perfect manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ]” and so forth (Cor. [Eph. 4:13]).

(3) We should know that with regard to good people, there will be a special glory, because the saints will have glorified bodies in which a fourfold condition will obtain.

(3.1) Clarity: "[Then] the just will shine [like the sun in the kingdom of their Father]” and so forth (Mt. [13:43]).

(3.2) Invulnerability: “What is sown in deterioration, [will rise up in glory. What is sown in weakness, will rise up in strength]” and so forth (1 Cor. [15:43]). And, “God will dry [every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, nor mourning, nor weeping, nor will there be any more sorrow, because the former things have passed away]” and so forth (Apoc. [21:4]).

(3.3) Agility: “The just will shine forth, [and they will leap forth like sparks in tinder]” and so forth (Wis. [3.7]).

(3.4) Soulfulness: “An animal body is sown, [a spiritual body will rise up]" (1 Cor. [15:44]). The body will not be altogether spirit, but it will be totally subject to the spirit.

(4) We should know that the condition of the damned will be the opposite of the condition of the blessed, because eternal pain will be theirs. A fourfold condition will obtain.

(4.1) [Their] bodies will be darkened: “[Pangs and sorrows will grasp them, just as a woman suffers in labor; everyone will be astonished at their neighbor;] burnt faces their looks” (Is. [13:8]).

(4.2) [Their bodies] will be vulnerable, because always on fire: “[And they will go forth and look upon the body of those men who plotted against me;] their worm will not die, [and their fire will not be extinguished; and they will be so unto the satiation of the sight of all flesh]” and so forth (Is. [66:24]).

(4.3) [Their bodies] will be weighed down. The soul will be as if chained in the torpor of bodies: “For binding their kings [in foot chains, and their nobles in iron manacles]” and so forth (Ps. [149:8]).

(4.4) They will be carnal, both in body and in soul: “The barn animals rot [in their own dung; the barns are torn down; the storehouses are wasted, because the grain is not viable]” and so forth (Joel [1:17]).

Let us pray to the Lord, and so forth.