QUESTION 77: OF THE TIME AND MANNER OF THE RESURRECTION
We must now consider the time and manner of the resurrection. Under this
head there are four points of inquiry:
(1) Whether the time of the resurrection should be delayed until the end
of the world?
(2) Whether that time is hidden?
(3) Whether the resurrection will occur at night-time?
(4) Whether it will happen suddenly?
Article 1: Whether the time of our resurrection should be delayed till the end of the world?
Objection 1: It would seem that the time of the resurrection ought not to be
delayed till the end of the world, so that all may rise together. For
there is more conformity between head and members than between one member
and another, as there is more between cause and effect than between one
effect and another. Now Christ, Who is our Head, did not delay His
resurrection until the end of the world, so as to rise again together
with all men. Therefore there is no need for the resurrection of the
early saints to be deferred until the end of the world, so that they may
rise again together with the others.
Objection 2: Further, the resurrection of the Head is the cause of the
resurrection of the members. But the resurrection of certain members that
desire nobility from their being closely connected with the Head was not
delayed till the end of the world, but followed immediately after
Christ's resurrection, as is piously believed concerning the Blessed
Virgin and John the Evangelist [*Ep. de Assump. B.V., cap. ii, among St.
Jerome's works]. Therefore the resurrection of others will be so much
nearer Christ's resurrection, according as they have been more conformed
to Him by grace and merit.
Objection 3: Further, the state of the New Testament is more perfect, and
bears a closer resemblance to Christ, than the state of the Old
Testament. Yet some of the fathers of the Old Testament rose again when
Christ rose, according to Mt. 27:52: "Many of the bodies of the saints,
that had slept, arose." Therefore it would seem that the resurrection of
the Old Testament saints should not be delayed till the end of the world,
so that all may rise together.
Objection 4: Further, there will be no numbering of years after the end of the
world. Yet after the resurrection of the dead, the years are still
reckoned until the resurrection of others, as appears from Apoc. 20:4,5.
For it is stated there that "I saw . . . the souls of them that were
beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God," and
further on: "And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."
And "the rest of the dead lived not till the thousand years were
finished." Therefore the resurrection of all is not delayed until the end
of the world, that all may rise together.
On the contrary, It is written (Job 14:12): "Man when he is fallen
asleep shall not rise again till the heavens be broken, he shall not
wake, nor rise out of his sleep," and it is a question of the sleep of
death. Therefore the resurrection of men will be delayed until the end of
the world when the heavens shall be broken.
Further, it is written (Heb. 11:39): "All these being approved by the
testimony of faith received not the promise," i.e. full beatitude of soul
and body, since "God has provided something better for us, lest they
should be consummated," i.e. perfected, "without us---in order that," as
a gloss observes, "through all rejoicing each one might rejoice the
more." But the resurrection will not precede the glorification of bodies,
because "He will reform the body of our lowness made like to the body of
His glory" (Phil. 3:21), and the children of the resurrection will be "as
the angels . . . in heaven" (Mt. 22:30). Therefore the resurrection will
be delayed till the end of the world, when all shall rise together.
I answer that, As Augustine states (De Trin. iii, 4) "Divine providence
decreed that the grosser and lower bodies should be ruled in a certain
order by the more subtle and powerful bodies": wherefore the entire
matter of the lower bodies is subject to variation according to the
movement of the heavenly bodies. Hence it would be contrary to the order
established in things by Divine providence if the matter of lower bodies
were brought to the state of incorruption, so long as there remains
movement in the higher bodies. And since, according to the teaching of
faith, the resurrection will bring men to immortal life conformably to
Christ Who "rising again from the dead dieth now no more" (Rm. 6:9), the
resurrection of human bodies will be delayed until the end of the world
when the heavenly movement will cease. For this reason, too, certain
philosophers, who held that the movement of the heavens will never cease,
maintained that human souls will return to mortal bodies such as we have
now---whether, as Empedocles, they stated that the soul would return to
the same body at the end of the great year, or that it would return to
another body; thus Pythagoras asserted that "any soul will enter any
body," as stated in De Anima i, 3.
Reply to Objection 1: Although the head is more conformed to the members by
conformity of proportion (which is requisite in order that it have
influence over the members) than one member is to another, yet the head
has a certain causality over the members which the members have not; and
in this the members differ from the head and agree with one another.
Hence Christ's resurrection is an exemplar of ours, and through our faith
therein there arises in us the hope of our own resurrection. But the
resurrection of one of Christ's members is not the cause of the
resurrection of other members, and consequently Christ's resurrection had
to precede the resurrection of others who have all to rise again at the
consummation of the world.
Reply to Objection 2: Although among the members some rank higher than others and
are more conformed to the Head, they do not attain to the character of
headship so as to be the cause of others. Consequently greater conformity
to Christ does not give them a right to rise again before others as
though they were exemplar and the others exemplate, as we have said in
reference to Christ's resurrection: and if it has been granted to others
that their resurrection should not be delayed until the general
resurrection, this has been by special privilege of grace, and not as due
on account of conformity to Christ.
Reply to Objection 3: Jerome, in a sermon on the Assumption [*Ep. x ad Paul. et
Eustoch., now recognized as spurious], seems to be doubtful of this
resurrection of the saints with Christ, namely as to whether, having been
witnesses to the resurrection, they died again, so that theirs was a
resuscitation (as in the case of Lazarus who died again) rather than a
resurrection such as will be at the end of the world---or really rose
again to immortal life, to live for ever in the body, and to ascend
bodily into heaven with Christ, as a gloss says on Mt. 27:52. The latter
seems more probable, because, as Jerome says, in order that they might
bear true witness to Christ's true resurrection, it was fitting that they
should truly rise again. Nor was their resurrection hastened for their
sake, but for the sake of bearing witness to Christ's resurrection: and
that by bearing witness thereto they might lay the foundation of the
faith of the New Testament: wherefore it was more fitting that it should
be borne by the fathers of the Old Testament, than by those who died
after the foundation of the New. It must, however, be observed that,
although the Gospel mentions their resurrection before Christ's, we must
take this statement as made in anticipation, as is often the case with
writers of history. For none rose again with a true resurrection before
Christ, since He is the "first-fruits of them that sleep" (1 Cor. 15:20),
although some were resuscitated before Christ's resurrection, as in the
case of Lazarus.
Reply to Objection 4: On account of these words, as Augustine relates (De Civ.
Dei xx, 7), certain heretics asserted that there will be a first
resurrection of the dead that they may reign with Christ on earth for a
thousand years; whence they were called "chiliasts" or "millenarians."
Hence Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xx, 7) that these words are to be
understood otherwise, namely of the spiritual resurrection, whereby men
shall rise again from their sins to the gift of grace: while the second
resurrection is of bodies. The reign of Christ denotes the Church wherein
not only martyrs but also the other elect reign, the part denoting the
whole; or they reign with Christ in glory as regards all, special mention
being made of the martyrs, because they especially reign after death who
fought for the truth, even unto death. The number of a thousand years
denotes not a fixed number, but the whole of the present time wherein the
saints now reign with Christ, because the number 1,000 designates
universality more than the number 100, since 100 is the square of 10,
whereas 1,000 is a cube resulting from the multiplication of ten by its
square, for 10 X 10 = 100, and 100 X 10 = 1,000. Again in Ps. 104:8, "The
word which He commanded to a thousand," i.e. all, "generations."
Article 2: Whether the time of our resurrection is hidden?
Objection 1: It would seem that this time is not hidden. Because when we know
exactly the beginning of a thing, we can know its end exactly, since "all
things are measured by a certain period" (De Generat. ii). Now the
beginning of the world is known exactly. Therefore its end can also be
known exactly. But this will be the time of the resurrection and
judgment. Therefore that time is not hidden.
Objection 2: Further, it is stated (Apoc. 12:6) that "the woman who represents
the Church had a place prepared by God, that there she might feed [Vulg.:
'they should feed her'] a thousand two hundred sixty days." Again (Dan. 12:11), a certain fixed number of days is mentioned, which apparently
signify years, according to Ezech. 4:6: "A day for a year, yea a day for
a year I have appointed to thee." Therefore the time of the end of the
world and of the resurrection can be known exactly from Holy Writ.
Objection 3: Further, the state of the New Testament was foreshadowed in the
Old Testament. Now we know exactly the time wherein the state of the Old
Testament endured. Therefore we can also know exactly the time wherein
the state of the New Testament will endure. But the state of the New
Testament will last to the end of the world, wherefore it is said (Mt. 28:20): "Behold I am with you . . . to the consummation of the world."
Therefore the time of the end of the world and of the resurrection can be
On the contrary, That which is unknown to the angels will be much more
unknown to men: because those things to which men attain by natural
reason are much more clearly and certainly known to the angels by their
natural knowledge. Moreover revelations are not made to men save by means
of the angels as Dionysius asserts (Coel. Hier. iv). Now the angels have
no exact knowledge of that time, as appears from Mt. 24:36: "Of that day
and hour no one knoweth, no not the angels of heaven." Therefore that
time is hidden from men.
Further, the apostles were more cognizant of God's secrets than others
who followed them, because they had "the first-fruits of the spirit" (Rm. 8:23)---" before others in point of time and more abundantly," as a gloss
observes. And yet when they questioned our Lord about this very matter,
He answered them (Acts 1:7): "It is not for you to know the times or
moments which the Father hath put in His own power." Much more,
therefore, is it hidden from others.
I answer that, As Augustine says (Qq. lxxxiii, qu. 58) "as to the last
age of the human race, which begins from our Lord's coming and lasts
until the end of the world, it is uncertain of how many generations it
will consist: even so old age, which is man's last age, has no fixed time
according to the measure of the other ages, since sometimes alone it
lasts as long a time as all the others." The reason of this is because
the exact length of future time cannot be known except either by
revelation or by natural reason: and the time until the resurrection
cannot be reckoned by natural reason, because the resurrection and the
end of the heavenly movement will be simultaneous as stated above (Article ).
And all things that are foreseen by natural reason to happen at a fixed
time are reckoned by movement: and it is impossible from the movement of
the heaven to reckon its end, for since it is circular, it is for this
very reason able by its nature to endure for ever: and consequently the
time between this and the resurrection cannot be reckoned by natural
reason. Again it cannot be known by revelation, so that all may be on the
watch and ready to meet Christ: and for this reason when the apostles
asked Him about this, Christ answered (Acts 1:7): "It is not for you to
know the times or moments which the Father hath put in His own power,"
whereby, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xviii, 53): "He scatters the
fingers of all calculators and bids them be still." For what He refused
to tell the apostles, He will not reveal to others: wherefore all those
who have been misled to reckon the aforesaid time have so far proved to
be untruthful; for some, as Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xviii, 53),
stated that from our Lord's Ascension to His last coming 400 years would
elapse, others 500, others 1,000. The falseness of these calculators is
evident, as will likewise be the falseness of those who even now cease
not to calculate.
Reply to Objection 1: When we know a thing's beginning and also its end it
follows that its measure is known to us: wherefore if we know the
beginning of a thing the duration of which is measured by the movement of
the heaven, we are able to know its end, since the movement of heaven is
known to us. But the measure of the duration of the heavenly movement is
God's ordinance alone, which is unknown to us. Wherefore however much we
may know its beginning, we are unable to know its end.
Reply to Objection 2: The thousand two hundred sixty days mentioned in the
Apocalypse (12:6) denote all the time during which the Church endures,
and not any definite number of years. The reason whereof is because the
preaching of Christ on which the Church is built lasted three years and a
half, which time contains almost an equal number of days as the aforesaid
number. Again the number of days appointed by Daniel does not refer to a
number of years to elapse before the end of the world or until the
preaching of Antichrist, but to the time of Antichrist's preaching and
the duration of his persecution.
Reply to Objection 3: Although the state of the New Testament in general is
foreshadowed by the state of the Old Testament it does not follow that
individuals correspond to individuals: especially since all the figures
of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ. Hence Augustine (De Civ.
Dei xviii, 52) answers certain persons who wished to liken the number of
persecutions suffered by the Church to the number of the plagues of
Egypt, in these words: "I do not think that the occurrences in Egypt were
in their signification prophetic of these persecutions, although those
who think so have shown nicety and ingenuity in adapting them severally
the one to the other, not indeed by a prophetic spirit, but by the
guess-work of the human mind, which sometimes reaches the truth and
sometimes not." The same remarks would seem applicable to the statements
of Abbot Joachim, who by means of such conjectures about the future
foretold some things that were true, and in others was deceived.
Article 3: Whether the resurrection will take place at night-time?
Objection 1: It would seem that the resurrection will not be at night-time.
For the resurrection will not be "till the heavens be broken" (Job 14:12). Now when the heavenly movement ceases, which is signified by its
breaking, there will be no time, neither night nor day. Therefore the
resurrection will not be at night-time.
Objection 2: Further, the end of a thing ought to be most perfect. Now the end
of time will be then: wherefore it is said (Apoc. 10:6) that "time shall
be no longer." Therefore time ought to be then in its most perfect
disposition and consequently it should be the daytime.
Objection 3: Further, the time should be such as to be adapted to what is done
therein: wherefore (Jn. 13:30) the night is mentioned as being the time
when Judas went out from the fellowship of the light. Now, all things
that are hidden at the present time will then be made most manifest,
because when the Lord shall come He "will bring to light the hidden
things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1
Cor. 4:5). Therefore it ought to be during the day.
On the contrary, Christ's resurrection is the exemplar of ours. Now
Christ's resurrection was at night, as Gregory says in a homily for
Easter (xxi in Evang.). Therefore our resurrection will also be at
Further, the coming of our Lord is compared to the coming of a thief
into the house (Lk. 12:39,40). But the thief comes to the house at
night-time. Therefore our Lord will also come in the night. Now, when He
comes the resurrection will take place, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Therefore the resurrection will be at night-time.
I answer that, The exact time and hour at which the resurrection will be
cannot be known for certain, as stated in the text (Sent. iv, D, 43).
Nevertheless some assert with sufficient probability that it will be
towards the twilight, the moon being in the east and the sun in the west;
because the sun and moon are believed to have been created in these
positions, and thus their revolutions will be altogether completed by
their return to the same point. Wherefore it is said that Christ arose at
such an hour.
Reply to Objection 1: When the resurrection occurs, it will not be time but the
end of time; because at the very instant that the heavens will cease to
move the dead will rise again. Nevertheless the stars will be in the same
position as they occupy now at any fixed hour: and accordingly it is said
that the resurrection will be at this or that hour.
Reply to Objection 2: The most perfect disposition of time is said to be midday,
on account of the light given by the sun. But then the city of God will
need neither sun nor moon, because the glory of God will enlighten it
(Apoc. 22:5). Wherefore in this respect it matters not whether the
resurrection be in the day or in the night.
Reply to Objection 3: That time should be adapted to manifestation as regards the
things that will happen then, and to secrecy as regards the fixing of the
time. Hence either may happen fittingly, namely that the resurrection be
in the day or in the night.
Article 4: Whether the resurrection will happen suddenly or by degrees?
Objection 1: It would seem that the resurrection will not happen suddenly but
by degrees. For the resurrection of the dead is foretold (Ezech. 37:7,8)
where it is written: "The bones came together . . . and I saw and behold
the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin was stretched
out over them, but there was no spirit in them." Therefore the
restoration of the bodies will precede in time their reunion with the
souls, and thus the resurrection will not be sudden.
Objection 2: Further, a thing does not happen suddenly if it require several
actions following one another. Now the resurrection requires several
actions following one another, namely the gathering of the ashes, the
refashioning of the body, the infusion of the soul. Therefore the
resurrection will not be sudden.
Objection 3: Further, all sound is measured by time. Now the sound of the
trumpet will be the cause of the resurrection, as stated above (Question , Article ). Therefore the resurrection will take time and will not happen
Objection 4: Further, no local movement can be sudden as stated in De Sensu et
Sensato vii. Now the resurrection requires local movement in the
gathering of the ashes. Therefore it will not happen suddenly.
On the contrary, It is written (1 Cor. 15:51,52): "We shall all indeed
rise again . . . in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." Therefore the
resurrection will be sudden.
Further, infinite power works suddenly. But the Damascene says (De Fide
Orth. iv): "Thou shalt believe in the resurrection to be wrought by the
power of God," and it is evident that this is infinite. Therefore the
resurrection will be sudden.
I answer that, At the resurrection something will be done by the
ministry of the angels, and something immediately by the power of God, as
stated above (Question , Article ). Accordingly that which is done by the
ministry of the angels, will not be instantaneous, if by instant we mean
an indivisible point of time, but it will be instantaneous if by instant
we mean an imperceptible time. But that which will be done immediately by
God's power will happen suddenly, namely at the end of the time wherein
the work of the angels will be done, because the higher power brings the
lower to perfection.
Reply to Objection 1: Ezechiel spoke, like Moses to a rough people, and
therefore, just as Moses divided the works of the six days into days, in
order that the uncultured people might be able to understand, although
all things were made together according to Augustine (Gen. ad lit. iv),
so Ezechiel expressed the various things that will happen in the
resurrection, although they will all happen together in an instant.
Reply to Objection 2: Although these actions follow one another in nature, they
are all together in time: because either they are together in the same
instant, or one is in the instant that terminates the other.
Objection 3: The same would seem to apply to that sound as to the forms of the
sacraments, namely that the sound will produce its effect in its last
Reply to Objection 4: The gathering of the ashes which cannot be without local
movement will be done by the ministry of the angels. Hence it will be in
time though imperceptible on account of the facility of operation which
is competent to the angels.