St. Luke’s vivid description of the Lord’s first appearance to the Apostles after the resurrection presents us with significant details about the status of the resurrected body. It further points to the importance of both the body and soul in understanding personal salvation and what will happen to each of us at the end of time.
The evangelist purposely includes details about the status of the resurrected body. Jesus assures the Apostles that He is not a ghost, “because a ghost does not have flesh and bones.” Jesus did not appear to the Twelve as some type of spirit. He was resurrected both in body and soul.
The resurrection should not be confused with resuscitation, as was the case with Lazarus, the son of the widow of Naim and Jairus’ daughter — three examples of resuscitation, but not resurrection. While all three of these people were brought back to life, they all would eventually die again. By contrast, a resurrected body would never taste death again.
The claim that Jesus did not appear as a ghost is further evidenced by the fact that in His resurrected state, the Lord ate food. Luke records that Christ took a piece of baked fish and “ate it in front of them.”
These realities should remind us that salvation is not merely for the soul, but for the body as well. There are some who claim that our bodies are not a part of what it means to be saved. After all, when we die, our body is placed in the ground. However, orthodox Christian belief holds for the truth of the resurrection of the body and life of the world to come, as is recited in the Nicene Creed.
This means that at the end of time, everybody will rise from the dead and be reunited with their soul and undergo final judgment. Purgatory will cease to exist and all of the souls there, having been reunited with their glorified bodies, will be taken up to heavenly beatitude. It may be helpful to think that cemeteries will be very busy places.
These realities also should remind us that while the saints (except for Mary, who already enjoys heaven in body and soul by virtue of her Assumption) enjoy heaven, they only enjoy heaven in their souls. Their bodies are here on earth.
So, when the souls of the saints are reunited with their bodies to enjoy heaven at the Final Judgment, their experience of heaven will also change. After all, none of them are truly themselves (intact) when their bodies are separated from their souls. They will experience heaven in a more excellent manner than before. Unfortunately, the converse would be true for those bound for eternal punishment.
Finally, these resurrection realities should remind us that our bodies are an integral part of our salvation. We will be saved or condemned in both the body and the soul. This means that the body is holy — a temple of the Holy Spirit. As such, what we do in our bodies affects who we become in our souls. We cannot divorce the two constitutive parts that make us who we are, as if to say that while our bodies may participate in immoral acts, these acts have no bearing on the soul’s state of grace or sin. This false division has misled many to think that it is only the soul that needs to be saved. Thus, the body is free to do whatever it likes.
May the Resurrected One remind us of what to expect when He returns in glory — to judge the living and the dead in body and soul.