This “hell” was different from the hell of the damned. It was the state of all those, righteous and evil, who died before Christ. With his soul united to his divine Person Jesus went down to the just in hell who were awaiting their Redeemer so they could enter at last into the vision of God. When he had conquered by his death both death and the devil “who has the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14), he freed the just who looked forward to the Redeemer and opened for them the gates of heaven.
The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ and represents along with his cross an essential part of the Paschal Mystery.
Along with the essential sign of the empty tomb, the Resurrection of Jesus is witnessed to by the women who first encountered Christ and proclaimed him to the apostles. Jesus then “appeared to Cephas (Peter) and then to the Twelve. Following that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brethren at one time” (1 Corinthians 15:5-6) and to others as well. The apostles could not have invented the story of the resurrection since it seemed impossible to them. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself upbraided them for their unbelief.
While being an historical event, verifiable and attested by signs and testimonies, the Resurrection, insofar as it is the entrance of Christ's humanity into the glory of God, transcends and surpasses history as a mystery of faith. For this reason the risen Christ did not manifest himself to the world but to his disciples, making them his witnesses to the people.
The Resurrection of Christ was not a return to earthly life. His risen body is that which was crucified and bears the marks of his passion. However it also participates in the divine life, with the characteristics of a glorified body.* Because of this the risen Jesus was utterly free to appear to his disciples how and where he wished and under various aspects.
*What does the glorified body mean?
By means of touch and the sharing of a meal, the risen Jesus establishes direct contact with his disciples. He invites them in this way to recognize that he is not a ghost and above all to verify that the risen body in which he appears to them is the same body that had been tortured and crucified, for it still bears the traces of his Passion. Yet at the same time this authentic, real body possesses the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills; for Christ's humanity can no longer be confined to earth, and belongs henceforth only to the Father's divine realm. For this reason too the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith.
The properties of the glorified body are:
(1) immortality (2) integrity, that is, a complete human body with no defects (3) impassibility, that is, incapable of any suffering (4) clarity, that is, being full of light and transparent (5) agility, that is, the ability to move quickly, at will, as one desires. Thus the whole material world will be the possession of the just and (6) subtility, that is, the glorified body is perfectly subject to and in harmony with the soul for any activity with no need of food by necessity and hence this body is called spiritual, but it is not a ghost or spirit. Ghost comes from the Germanic word geist, which means spirit.
646 Christ's Resurrection was not a return to earthly life, as was the case with the raisings from the dead that he had performed before Easter: Jairus' daughter, the young man of Naim, Lazarus. These actions were miraculous events, but the persons miraculously raised returned by Jesus' power to ordinary earthly life. At some particular moment they would die again. Christ's Resurrection is essentially different. In his risen body he passes from the state of death to another life beyond time and space. At Jesus' Resurrection his body is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit: he shares the divine life in his glorious state, so that St. Paul can say that Christ is "the man of heaven".
The Resurrection of Christ is a transcendent work of God. The three Persons act together according to what is proper to them: the Father manifests his power; the Son “takes again” the life which he freely offered (John 10:17), reuniting his soul and his body which the Spirit brings to life and glorifies.
The Resurrection is the climax of the Incarnation. It confirms the divinity of Christ and all the things which he did and taught. It fulfills all the divine promises made for us. Furthermore the risen Christ, the conqueror of sin and death, is the principle of our justification and our Resurrection. It procures for us now the grace of filial adoption which is a real share in the life of the only begotten Son. At the end of time he will raise up our bodies.
The resurrection of the flesh is the literal formulation in the Apostles Creed for the resurrection of the body. The term “flesh” refers to humanity in its state of weakness and mortality. “The flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Tertullian). We believe in God the Creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem flesh; and we believe in the resurrection of flesh which is the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.
This means that the definitive state of man will not be one in which his spiritual soul is separated from his body. Even our mortal bodies will one day come to life again.
Just as Christ is truly risen from the dead and now lives forever, so he himself will raise everyone on the last day with an incorruptible body: “Those who have done good will rise to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29).
After death, which is the separation of the body and the soul, the body becomes corrupt while the soul, which is immortal, goes to meet the judgment of God and awaits its reunion with the body when it will rise transformed at the time of the return of the Lord. How the resurrection of the body will come about exceeds the possibilities of our imagination and understanding.
Dying in Christ Jesus means to die in the state of God's grace without any mortal sin. A believer in Christ, following his example, is thus able to transform his own death into an act of obedience and love for the Father. “This saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11).BACK TO LIST