National Catholic Reporter: The Resurrection of the Dead

The debate about the time of the resurrection of the dead is ongoing. The two sides are represented on the one hand, by Karl Rahner, SJ (died 1984) and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), on the other. Rahner holds for the resurrection at the moment of death, while Ratzinger maintains the more traditional view that the resurrection happens only at the end of history, when all experience the General Judgment. I hope since these topics have been mentioned before that you shall find this interesting in further discussion.

Edward Miller

Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2 speak of resurrection as a future eschatological event, so I’m going with Ratzinger.


I agree with you here 100% friend Reggie. That is why I also believe in an intermediate state. Even though I am Protestant, I must admit that I liked Ratzinger.

You have the classic line from John 11:

23 Jesus replied, “Your brother will come back to life again.” 24 Martha said, “I know that he will come back to life again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, 26 and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who comes into the world.”

I’m not too sure where/how this falls but it seems that Jesus is challenging her belief (possibly common to the Jewish culture at the time, I’m not sure?) that this resurrection is some kind of last day type of thing. Can we find various Scriptures to go either way? Presumably the answer would be yes in which case I must turn it over to the theologians. Those that side on both sides unfortunately as seems to be far too often (for my liking) the case. I’m not sure that anyone can truly know since the only ones who can really tell us are already dead and aren’t in the habit of clarifying these sorts of things for us apparently. I’m open to any thoughts outside of my agnosticism so to speak on the issue.

I must believe as Ratzinger. There are many verses that support an intermediate state of the human spirit and a resurrection at the end of the age. I would recommend Billy Graham’s book " Death and the Life After" pages 168 and 169. Since you teach at Regent University, I would also recommend Renewal Theology by J. Rodman Williams. The volume that I recommend has to do with eschatology. There are all so many verses I could show you from the Bible; however, I will give you a short quote of the Statement of Faith of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It goes as follows:

XIX: The Resurrection
The bodies of men after death return to dust, but their spirits return immediately to God-the righteous to rest with Him; the wicked, to be reserved under darkness to the judgment. At the last day, the bodies of all the dead, both just and unjust, will be raised.

God bless you.

@Totti Luca, @Reggie_O_Donoghue

What I must wonder is that upon death, where do we go, do we transport into the future, or do we wait for thousands of years in the grave? Some I believe are taken up to heaven immediately after death (Psalm 49:15)

The spirits of the righteous are taken to God at the moment of death. Ecclesiastes 12:7 states: And the spirit returns to God who gave it. The wicked go to a place of punishment. I believe that hell is a place of darkness and without the presence of God. Their spirits cannot find God where they are. At the end of the age, the spirits of the blessed return with the Savior (1 Thessalonians: 4:14). They receive their resurrection glorified bodies from their graves and live forever on the new heaven and new earth. The wicked are resurrected and separated from God forever. I would recommend the New International Version. In my opinion, it is the best translation of the Gospel message today.

I think to us it will feel like an instant. Like sleeping and waking up in a way.

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John 11 is a combination of physical death and spiritual death. This is why even though our bodies may die until the physical resurrection, our spiritual nature has already been spiritually resurrected. You and I are already spiritually resurrected because we have been born again (Greek: born from above). That is as you know in John 3 where Jesus talks with Nicodemus. This is what Jesus is implying in John 11.


But notice the resurrection implied doesn’t sound like a general resurrection.

This more robust version of resurrection hadn’t matured yet until Enochian literature drives the idea home!

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Hello, George.

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It seems there are 3 conflicting views in the bible;

  1. At the crucifixion Jesus tells the criminal crucified with him Luke 23:43 “today you will be with me in Paradise”.

  2. Luke 16:20, the parable of Lazarus after death in bosom of Abraham, and the rich man was in Haedes.

  3. I Thesalonians 4:14 “For if we believe that Jesus dies and rose, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus”

1 Seems to say we go instantly to heaven.
2 Seems to say that even the dead are alive after death.
3. Seems to say we sleep until the end times.

Actually 1 & 3 are not contradictory if we consider that after we die we wake as if no time passed at the end times. Time is different for God than for us.

But 2 is a bigger issue. However, upon studying this parable in more detail, it seems to be a message to the Pharisee view of after life, that rich Pharisees will not be in the bosom of Abraham after death because they do not help the poor and live on earth as rich uncaring and arrogant religious zealots that really don’t know God.

Take the 2 is a parable for the Pharisees and not a literal account of the after life, then the bible indicates here only what it takes to get into the kingdom…follow the Way of Jesus.

In summary, I don’t see a conflict. We sleep at death waiting for end times which comes instantly to us in our time - same day we are in heaven. And all our loved ones there with us? Yes I think so.

I am not all trying to insult you. When you write could be taken that way. I believe we have an eternal spirit that goes to heaven until the general resurrection. At that time, the spirits will reunite to their glorified bodies and rise from the grave. You interpretation sounds like Emil Brunner or Norman Vincent Peale. God bless.


A quick version of the explanation of these oddities is that the New Testament appears to include references to at least 3 different views of the afterlife. The Old Testament seems starkly empty of something that should have been a primary concern (especially if they spent 2 or more centuries in Egypt, where the afterlife was all important!).

Josephus has some famous discussions where he compares and contrasts the views of the Sadducees, the Pharisees and even of the Essenes.

Generally speaking, the Pharisees see resurrection as tied to a body of flesh, and that while waiting for the End of Days, the soul is “sleeping” in repose either in or around the last location of his/her physical body.

The Essenes were prone to beliefs in a non-material existence of the Soul, and that the Soul (of the righteous anyway) would wait for the End of Days in a regular waking mode (presumably sleeping and waking in some regular fashion) in an island (“of the Blessed” in Greek parlance) separated from the living by an uncrossable river or ocean.

The Sadducees (families of the High and “highest” Priests) were said to believe in no afterlife at all, except in those few cases where God bodily took someone to his realm (Enoch, Elija in the whirlwind, maybe Moses - because nobody could find his grave).

But I have pondered whether the High Priests secretly thought that only the Highest Priests were interesting enough to God to privilege the families of the High Priests with an afterlife… and everyone else just disappeared.

I understand and respect your belief.
Many people agree with you, and so do I actually.
Time is a relative thing and as such to us humans on earth it may seem you are asleep as Paul puts it, but indeed to the person who dies, by their timeline they go instantly to heaven. The soul never perishes and the body resurrects.
From a purely scientific view, a person traveling at very close to the speed of light in their timeline would zip across the universe in the blinking of an eye, while to the another person on earth billions of years pass.
As a soul we zip in such a timeline to the end times, get a resurrected body and meet up with all of our other brothers and sisters in Christ.
Hard to believe but it is actually scientific as well as consistent with the bible.
So indeed the soul does not perish ever!

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I understand what you are saying now. It is similar to what Emil Brunner said. He was a neo-orthodox theologian at Princeton University. Some theologians and philosophers call it instantaneous resurrection. Time and eternity are not the same. The United Methodist Church holds a similar view. Enjoy your thinking and God bless. Philosopher J. P. Moreland, a former professor of mine at seminary, mentions this view in one of his books.

The name of the book is "Beyond Death, Exploring the Evidence for Immortality. It is called the Perspectival View. PP 225 to 228

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