Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

A second look at what heaven will be like 

By ALEX BROWN and ANDREW McGOVERN | Published July 20, 2023

Heaven, besides God himself, is one of the highest things to think about and a main purpose of philosophy and theology—seeking to know what will happen after this life. 

In our last reflection, we opened the idea of the beatific vision, or seeing God as he truly is, and deification, the eternal process of becoming like God. We continue with detailing the experience of heaven, specifically what perfect communion with God and the other blessed persons there will be like. 

Christians believe what Jesus said of the Resurrection—that our bodies and souls will be reunited at the end of time. The Christian message of the Resurrection of the body offers an important message, especially needed in our time. Writers and speakers often note that we fall along two extremes—that the body is bad and the spiritual is good, or that the body and pleasure are the only things that matter and the spiritual is not important, if it is there at all. 

In our lives, we fell victim to both these harmful ideologies in one way or another either repressing or indulging because we didn’t see the whole picture. Christ slices between these two, speaking the truth that our whole being was created good and is destined for eternal goodness.  

The full truth is that we are a body soul composite of the physical and spiritual. Currently in heaven we would just have our souls, but later they will be reunited as God originally intended. We share a very loose analogy—that of a sports ball (soccer ball, basketball, football). Imagine it without any air. The two together make it what it is. The skin without the air sits lifeless. The air by itself ultimately would have no meaning if left that way forever.  

Similarly, our body soul composite is who we are, a union of the material and non-material. Perhaps more accurate is thinking of a beloved friend or family member. You love them—not just a part of them (but certainly there may be things that annoy us or make us feel closer to them). It is the whole them whom we love. We would use them if we loved just their body, or as a psychological puppet-master controlling a robot-like corpse. Jesus frees us in that he came to the earth fully God and fully man to fully give peace, joy, harmony and unity in his body and his soul. 

Our bodies are broken, though, and the “flesh” and we follow disordered desires. St. Paul even commiserated– “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:19)  

The risen Christ is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Anthony of Padua Church in East Northport, N.Y. OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

We get sick and injured, old and achy. In heaven, this will change. In the Nicene Creed at Mass we profess, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and in the life of the world to come.” This ancient creed speaks to the Catholic’s future hope of a body that is renewed through the grace of God and free from the ailments and weaknesses of this present life. We only need to look to the scriptural accounts of the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-13) and the Resurrection of Christ (Lk 24) to find the promise of the glory to come. That promise tells us that the road our Lord walked is open to us as well. 

But what is this resurrected body going to be like? St. Thomas Aquinas sheds some light on this at the end of his Summa Theologiae. The first truth that he addresses is that upon the resurrection of the body, we will receive our same body back. We do not get re-created into a new one, but the body that we lived and died in will be returned to us, albeit, glorified (more on that in a minute).  

Here, we can look to the Risen Christ for our proof. When Christ rose from the dead, he rose with the same body that was crucified and laid in the tomb. Our Lord’s encounter with St. Thomas the Apostle shows us this, “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless but believing.’” (Jn 20:27) The Apostle sees that it is the crucified and risen Christ in front of him by the wounds that he carries in his glorified body. 

Next, how old will we appear? We likely will have a young body about the same age as Christ when he died and rose (explanation next time).  

And what qualities will this youthful body possess? St. Thomas gives four: impassibility, subtlety, agility and clarity. Impassibility is freedom from any sort of corruption—our bodies will not break down, experience pain or grow old. Subtlety is that the body is completely subjected to the soul. Our souls will rule over our bodies and the bodies will perfectly follow the soul with no miscommunication between the two. Agility is perfect freedom of movement, like the risen Christ being able to suddenly appear to the Apostles even through locked doors. Lastly, clarity is simply that our bodies will “shine like the sun” as it says in Matthew 13:43. 

Finally, a short note on the companionship of the blessed others in heaven. We understand this to mean that those who enter into the beatific vision will have perfect communion with each other. We will love one another in a perfect love and rejoice in each other’s good. There will be no discord, no animosity, no sorrow, no offense, unlike here and now. We will possess all good in common. St. Thomas says, “the joy and gladness of one will be as great as the joy of all.” (Aquinas Catechism). 

In our next piece, we’ll discuss what it will mean when our earthly time is done and we pass in a state of perfect love or not. Until then, continue to ponder these great mysteries and truths—doing so has reordered how we view the world and what directs our every choice and action to continue on the journey to eternal bliss. 

Brown is a computer science teacher and amateur theologian, and McGovern is a doctoral candidate in theology. Their previous piece on heaven may be found at