|If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. … And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing and you are still in sin. .. Also, those who fall asleep in Christ are lost. If it is only for this life that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people” (1 Cor. 15:16-19).|
Commenting on the first twenty verses of the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the commentary writers for the Christian Community Bible put it thus: “Have we here the responses to a last question of the Corinthians? Many Greeks thought that at death the immortal soul leaves the body and remains alone. What is admitted to the paradise of souls? Did it come to the great reservoir of souls already gone or who were to return, forgetting all the past lives lived on earth? Others held (as do a good number of Christians today), that all ends with death…. Paul will, therefore remind the Corinthians that faith in the resurrection is at the heart of the Christian message”.
This message is that there is resurrection and that resurrection means the rising of the body from death, the reappearance of the complete individual (body and soul), who had died, in an immortal form that has special features.
The whole process of dying and being raised will take much time for most people, having died for quite some time and then rising again to take up this new body anytime the resurrection day comes, but for some it will take only ” a twinkling of an eye” having been alive at the time of resurrection. In other words the body will also enjoy the eternal life of resurrection and not just the soul.
What is resurrection not? It Is not the raising of tie body from death, still remaining mortal and corruptible. Some have died and taken up life again sometime after being certified dead; Jesus raised a number of people from death to life, such as Lazarus, the son of the widow of Naim, and Jairus’ daughter (Jn 11:1-4; Lk 7:11-15, Mark 5:35-43) and Peter, Paul and the other apostles raised dead people to life. These people did die again while a resurrected body does not die. This is to be called resuscitation and not resurrection; and this conforms with the use of the word “resuscitation” by doctors to refer to the urgent intensive care process used to restore a patient who is nearly dead and who, naturally, is to be regarded as virtually dead, and should die if special intensive medical intervention is not given. After this the disease the patient has begins to be addressed more directly. These are not “resurrection”.
One often hears the terms “resurrection of the dead” and “resurrection of the body” being used interchangeably. Perhaps they mean the same thing since it is the body which has been dead (and the person who had the body has been called “the dead”) which is raised to immortal life at resurrection; but Rev Fr (Prof) Stan Ani has said that it is to only Jesus Christ that “resurrection of the body” refers. Of course “resurrection of the dead” refers to Jesus Christ too; but he is probably saying that the body of Jesus which did not see corruption was raised to life and to another and final level of incorruptibility, and that other bodies will similarly be raised but most of them will have decayed and disintegrated before this raising-up happens.
Driving this argument further: does one then say there is., “resurrection of the living”? St Paul says., that we shall not all die but some of us shall be transformed in an instant in a twinkling of an eye, and that in this case our mortal and perishable being shall put on the life that shall neither die nor decay (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-55) Does this mean “resurrection of the living”? My own feeling is that the word “transformed” stands for the whole process of passing into death and raising to immortality, the only difference being in the time lag: while some will last for years, months weeks, days, hours, minutes and even seconds, before the sound of the trumpet, others alive at this time will undergo the process in an instant, in a twinkling of an eye – a very small fraction of a second. An infinitesimal fraction of a second is enough for our eternal God to do it.
The mention of “the sounding of the trumpet” reminds one of “Rapture”. A lot of people are preoccupied with the word “rapture” and the process of “flying into the air” to meet Jesus, at the sounding of the trumpet. What is the true meaning of this with respect to “resurrection”? This should be understood well. We need to discuss it; this we will do in the very near future if God permits. But let there not be any confusion; let us think of “resurrection” and its consequences, and how to get into eternal life on the resurrection day rather than get into eternal damnation on this day. Then “rapture” meets as well.
This “resurrection day”, when is it? This day is what the bible refers to as “the Last Day” and sometimes “the Day of the Lord” or “the Judgement Day”. This is the day that Jesus refers to as known to no one, not even Him the Son, but to the Father alone. No one knows when it will be and so any prophecy predicting any date of the “Resurrection Day” should be disregarded. What we should take note of is that it will come very suddenly “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5: 2-3). Although no one knows when the day will come, when it does come all will recognize it at the same time and no-one will tell the other news about it, as no one tells his neighbour who sees, that lightening has flashed from East to West3.
The fact that the resurrection day is not known and that no one should countenance predictions on its exact date is well understood but this leads some people into discountenancing the facts in the predictions of events that will occur before the day, most of which are divine revelations. A typical example is the revelation-that there will be Three Days of Darkness, and all the sufferings associated with it. Some mistake this revelation, (The Third Secret of Fatima), from our Lady of Fatima, Mary the mother of Jesus, to mean the end of time or the last day. This is not so because it is said in this revelation that after the three days of darkness those living will experience the reign of Christ and that the world will be blessed and continue to the last day. The events described in the account of “The Three Days Darkness” are alluded to in the bible in several places. What can be understood from these allusions is in line with what is prophesied in the massage of “The Three Days of darkness”: that the end will not yet come after the “terrible events”. Moreover, an authoritative interpretation has been given by Pope John Paul II.
Where shall be the home of the resurrected? Is it heaven, or earth or the sea or hell or even the air? The place is not as important as the state. Some will rise to eternal life and some to eternal damnation (2 Thess 1:7-10). What is important is that those who are worthy shall see the face of God on that day and those unworthy will go for eternal punishment with their resurrected bodies. What is important is that we will see Him, on that day, as He is, and we will be with Him and be like Him (1 Thess 4:15-17, 1 Jn. 3:2) and this is something exceedingly glorious and yet incomprehensible to the mortal mind (1 Cor 2:9). In short, eternal life in glory shall be the home of the resurrected who is in Christ and hell fire shall be the home of the resurrected who has rejected Christ (the wicked).
The blessed assurance is that we in Christ shall be resurrected to eternal joy, body and soul and this blessed assurance God has given us in the raising of Jesus from the dead, “And so that all may believe it he has just given a sign by raising this man from the dead” (Acts 17:31). We have been assured by God that we shall attain a blissful immortal state on the Day of the Lord.
What is this state like? This is the state ofthe resurrected being into which we shall be transformed by the Resurrection Power. Padre Gerardo DiFlumeri has extensively discussed this effect of the Resurrection Power.5 He says that theologians classify an aspect of the manifestations of the power of resurrection into four qualities of the resurrected body viz.: impassability, clarity, agility and subtlety. Impassability of the resurrected body means that the body cannot undergo passion anymore; it cannot suffer, feel pain or die (cf Rom. 6:9,10, Heb 7:25, Rev 1:8) Clarity refers to the glory, the resplendence, that characterizes the resurrected body. Fr DiFlumeri further says: “The risen body of Christ is a glorious body that is full of glory, light and clarity. This clarity reflected on the angel too, who announced this resurrection. In fact St. Matthew affirms that the Angel of the Lord sat on the rock of the tomb and “his appearance was like lightening and his raiment white as snow” (Matt 28:3). St Mark, St Luke and St. John attest to the same. After He had risen from the dead the face of Jesus was so resplendent and majestic that it inspired reverence and fear. As soon as they saw him, the women, took hold of his feet and worshipped him (Matt. 28:9). Agility is “the property by which bodies, free from their natural weight can rapidly move from one point to another in space”6. The resurrected body is so agile that it can appear in distant places at the same time. Subtlety refers to the property of the body passing through objects and not being distorted. (cf Jn 20:19,20). We ask, with Fr Di Flumeri: “What do you desire? Do you not desire, when limited by time and space in your body, and burdened by pain and death, to be clothed with these same qualities?” Then you need to experience the Power of His Resurrection.
There is no doubt we all wish to be clothed with the power of resurrection. We have been given this blessed assurance to what has been demonstrated in Christ. There are, however, some conditions. St. John gives us 3 of them. (1) We should avoid sin. Whoever treasures this hope of him purifies himself, to be as pure as he is…. (1 Jn 3:3-10) (2) We should love. This is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we must love one another…. (1 Jn 3:11-24). (3) We should beware of, avoid, and resist the antichrist so that we do not be led astray (1 Jn 4:1-6).
The attitude of one who is serious in fulfilling these conditions is that of detachment from the world, which you should appropriately regard as already passing away. The disordered desires of the world – the concupiscence’s – are what hold people down: the concupiscence of the eyes, the concupiscence of the flesh, and the pride of life. According to St John, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1Jn 2: 15-17)St Paul gives a similar admonition in another graphic way: “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away” (1Cor. 7: 29-31). Jesus assures us that as long as we abide in Him we shall safely get to the glorious resurrection. He gives us an important way to abide in Him (Jn 6:55-56). Shall we not bless His Holy name mightily for this provision since we know that apart from Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).
- Christian Community Bible (Catholic Pastoral Edition). Claretian Publications, St. Paul Publications, Philippians, 1994 P. 336 (Commentary Column).
- Rev. Fr. (Professor) Stan Ani, Panel Discussion on “Resurrection Fact or Fiction? The Inquirer, ABS – TV, Enugu February 1992.
- Cf Matt 24: 23-27, 36-51.
- The Three Days Darkness contained in the Third Secret of our Lady of Fatima. Conforms with the message Matt 24, Joel 2, Dan 12, Rev. 13:20
- Padre Gerardo DiFlumeri, The Voice of Padre Pio, Vol Xxxvi, No 4. 1994 p.12
- Padre Gerardo DiFlumeri, Op sit.
One thing that needs mentioning is that ever since I read this article, I have been left with the urge to know what Dr Nweze has to say about “Rapture” and “Resurrection”. We all know that in recent times this word “rapture” has become a household word amongst many a Christian. Sometimes one ends his speech, writing or teaching by saying, “remain rapturable”. The gospel of Matthew Chapter 24 was talking about the coming of the Lord and/or the end of time. And St. Paul talks about the resurrection of the dead (see 1 Thes. 4:16). My question now is, “What is the difference between the resurrection of the dead and the rapture of the saint?” It is supposed that Jesus meant rapture when he said in the gospel of Matthew referred to above thus – “Then shall two be in the field; the one taken and the other left”, and “two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left” (Mtt. 24: 40 – 41)
Apart from throwing more light on this issue, may I , please, request Dr Nweze to discuss “the rapture” as distinguished from “the resurrection” as he would want us to believe.
Another question I would like him to address is the state of the dead presently: are they in heaven or hell? Or are they in an unconscious state as some religious groups would want us to believe?
Fidelis U. Ugwu
Christ the Way Prayer Group
Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Nigeria
St. Paul’s Parish, Awkunanaw, Enugu Nigeria
The term “Rapture” is commonly used to refer to Resurrection into Glory – of those found worthy in Christ – but it is used more by non-Catholics, and members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of Nigeria, according to my experience. The ordinary catholic commonly uses the term “Resurrection” and he is more accurate. I say so because the picture created by people who commonly use “Rapture” is that of superimposition of Mtt 24:40 – 41 on 1 Thess. 4:13-18 and ending up with the impression that after rapture those not taken will remain on earth in flesh and blood to suffer the punishments from the antichrist. The two passages refer to the Last Day and so there will be no more days. It is the Resurrection Day.
The best interpretation of the phenomenon of selection in Matt 24:40-41 is given in Christian Community Bible commentary as follows: “The comparison of the two men (or women) working together means that upon the coming of Jesus, the judgment will take place then there could be a separation within the same social or family group: some headed towards the Lord others to be condemned (v 37-41)”.It should not be a question of “difference” between “rapture” and “Resurrection” because “Rapture” is probably the most accurate language to describe the feeling, the state of the resurrected persons who are in Christ and the whole atmosphere around them at the moment of resurrection. Contemplate what happened to Peter, James and John at the mount of the Transfiguration (MountTabor): It was Ecstasy and Bliss! It was rapturous – literally. Notice that what is predicted in 1 Thess 4: 17 is what also happened during “transfiguration”. The clouds of divine presence enveloped them and they were lost in blissful bewilderment. That is “rapture”. the feeling pervading during “Resurrection”, from that first moment to eternity. In a nutshell, “resurrection” is the event “rapture” is the feeling.
About the state of the dead now and before this great event, it is difficult for me to give a definite and clear picture from canonical scriptures (protocanonical or deuterocanonical). There is an apocryphal answer. It is in 2Esdras 7:75-101 (one of the additional books regarded also by the Catholic Church as part of the Apocrypha – not the deuterocanonical books called Apocrypha by non-Catholics:
|75 I answered and said, “If I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, show this also to your servant: whether after death, as soon as everyone of us yields up the soul, we shall be kept in rest until those times come when you will renew the creation, or whether we shall be tormented at once?”
76 He answered me and said, “I will show you that also, but do not include yourself with those who have shown scorn, or number yourself among those who are tormented.
77 For you have a treasure of works stored up with the Most High, but it will not be shown to you until the last times.
78 Now concerning death, the teaching is: When the decisive decree has gone out from the Most High that a person shall die, as the spirit leaves the body to return again to him who gave it, first of all it adores the glory of the Most High.
79 If it is one of those who have shown scorn and have not kept the way of the Most High, who have despised his law and hated those who fear God—
80 such spirits shall not enter into habitations, but shall immediately wander about in torments, always grieving and sad, in seven ways.
81 The first way, because they have scorned the law of the Most High.
82 The second way, because they cannot now make a good repentance so that they may live.
83 The third way, they shall see the reward laid up for those who have trusted the covenants of the Most High.
84 The fourth way, they shall consider the torment laid up for themselves in the last days.
85 The fifth way, they shall see how the habitations of the others are guarded by angels in profound quiet.
86 The sixth way, they shall see how some of them will cross over[s] into torments.
87 The seventh way, which is worse[t] than all the ways that have been mentioned, because they shall utterly waste away in confusion and be consumed with shame,[u] and shall wither with fear at seeing the glory of the Most High in whose presence they sinned while they were alive, and in whose presence they are to be judged in the last times.
88 “Now this is the order of those who have kept the ways of the Most High, when they shall be separated from their mortal body.[v]
89 During the time that they lived in it,[w] they laboriously served the Most High, and withstood danger every hour so that they might keep the law of the Lawgiver perfectly.
90 Therefore this is the teaching concerning them:
91 First of all, they shall see with great joy the glory of him who receives them, for they shall have rest in seven orders.
92 The first order, because they have striven with great effort to overcome the evil thought that was formed with them, so that it might not lead them astray from life into death.
93 The second order, because they see the perplexity in which the souls of the ungodly wander and the punishment that awaits them.
94 The third order, they see the witness that he who formed them bears concerning them, that throughout their life they kept the law with which they were entrusted.
95 The fourth order, they understand the rest that they now enjoy, being gathered into their chambers and guarded by angels in profound quiet, and the glory waiting for them in the last days.
96 The fifth order, they rejoice that they have now escaped what is corruptible and shall inherit what is to come; and besides they see the straits and toil[x] from which they have been delivered, and the spacious liberty that they are to receive and enjoy in immortality.
97 The sixth order, when it is shown them how their face is to shine like the sun, and how they are to be made like the light of the stars, being incorruptible from then on.
98 The seventh order, which is greater than all that have been mentioned, because they shall rejoice with boldness, and shall be confident without confusion, and shall be glad without fear, for they press forward to see the face of him whom they served in life and from whom they are to receive their reward when glorified.
99 This is the order of the souls of the righteous, as henceforth is announced;[y] and the previously mentioned are the ways of torment that those who would not give heed shall suffer hereafter.”
100 Then I answered and said, “Will time therefore be given to the souls, after they have been separated from the bodies, to see what you have described to me?”
101 He said to me, “They shall have freedom for seven days, so that during these seven days they may see the things of which you have been told, and afterwards they shall be gathered in their habitations.”
I believe with the Church, however, that the dead in Christ are completely pure, and enjoying the “Beatific Vision”; they are with God. You can call this state “heaven “, “Paradise” (where God was said to openly communicate with the un-fallen man and where Jesus told the thief on the cross he was going to be with him that day) or simply “Glory” or “Bliss”. They are not unconscious unless you do not believe what Jesus told the thief on the cross. They are even much more aware: they see clearly but we now see dimly from a mirror (1 Cor. 13:12).
The “thief on the cross” has not resurrected yet, and other dead ones in Christ too. This means that it is their spirits (their souls, as distinct from their bodies) that are enjoying the Presence of God (cf Heb. 12:22-24) On the resurrection day, at the sound of the Trumpet, these spirits will join their discarded bodies and the complete human being (body and soul) will now enjoy heaven together in one piece. They will first resurrect and those alive at that time will then transform in an instant and join them in the cloud to then meet Jesus in the air to stay with Him forever in this state of ecstatic delight called Rapture!
It follows that those who have died in mortal sin are in a state of severe suffering; you can call that state of severe agonizing restlessness “hell”. The body and soul will join at resurrection to continue the hell-fire experience. Those dead whose sins are not mortal (cf 1 John 5:17) are now in a state of purifying fire and will be saved later (cf. 1 Cor. 3: 12-15). This state is called Purgatory.