At funerals, you will often hear people say, “Heaven just gained an angel”. As well-intentioned as this person may be, this is simply untrue. Heaven did not gain an angel, it gained a human being. God willing when you die and enter the glories of Heaven, you will not become an angel, but remain a human being. This truth – that we remain human – is absolutely key to answering this question about whether or not we will have bodies in heaven.
It has been the consistent teaching of the Church that in the resurrection, our bodies will be reunited with our souls. Why is this? Well, if heaven gains a human being – not an angel – we need to know what a human being is. A human being is an embodied spirit. A being that is made of both body and soul, or a body and soul composite. It is impossible to be a human being, without a soul or a body – you need both! The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Hope in the bodily resurrection of the dead established itself as a consequence intrinsic to faith in God as creator of the whole man, soul and body” (CCC 992). It makes sense then, that the body would be raised.
The question that naturally follows from here is, “So do the saints in heaven have their bodies now?” The moment a person dies, their soul is ruptured from their body. The soul is instantly judged by God and is directed to Heaven or Hell, depending upon what the person chose throughout their life. The soul then goes to Hell where it will remain permanently, to Heaven or to Heaven via a period of purgation in Purgatory. Purgatory is not a final resting place, it is merely a clean up on the way to Heaven. A soul only goes to Purgatory if they are going to Heaven.
Let’s go back to the body. There are rare cases where the body of a person who lived with heroic sanctity and virtue may not decompose or corrupt, also known as incorruptible. But for most of us, our body is buried and will decompose or it will be cremated (which is permissible according to CCC 2301).
At this time, the soul will either suffer torment in hell or experience the bliss of heaven in a spiritual way only. The souls in heaven do not see Christ with their eyeballs, but with their intellect. They experience the joys of Heaven, but in a limited way according to their imperfect human state. This is not to say that the souls in heaven now are unhappy, but that they are not experiencing the fullness of the ecstasy of Heaven because they are without their bodies.
At the end of time, at the Final Judgement, Christ will return and raise every body from the grave. To the souls in Hell, their bodies will be raised ugly and dark. Their bodies will be a source of constant torment and pain for them. No longer will they experience the suffering of Hell spiritually, it will be amplified by a bodily experience.
To the souls in Heaven, their bodies will be raised glorious and beautiful. The joys of heaven will be amplified through the body. We will even participate in the inner life of the Trinity bodily! Wow! What does this mean? What will this look like? I don’t know, ask St Paul. St Paul says in 1 Cor 2:9, he says, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love him.”
So yes, we will have our bodies in heaven. We will experience a time where we enjoy the blessings of Heaven without our bodies, but when Christ comes again, we will be reunited with our bodies in a glorified state and experience God’s love for us in and through our body.
Tell your friends and family! I want to see every body in Heaven!