Catholic Q&A: The Meaning and Effects of the Resurrection of Jesus

Catholic Q&A: The Meaning and Effects of the Resurrection of Jesus

By Fr. Rick Poblocki

What is the ultimate meaning of Christ’s Resurrection?

“The Resurrection above all constitutes the confirmation of all Christ’s works and teachings.  All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by His Resurrection has given proof of His divine authority, which he had promised” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 651).

What is meant when the Nicene Creed used at Mass speaks of Christ’s Resurrection in terms of the phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures“?

“Christ’s Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus Himself during His early life (Matthew 28:6; Mark 16:7; Luke 24:6-7, 26-27, 44-48).  The phrase ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; cf. also the Nicene Creed) indicates that Christ’s Resurrection fulfilled these predictions” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 652).

How is Christ’s Resurrection related to His Divinity?

“The truth of Christ’s divinity

[i.e. that Jesus Christ is God] is confirmed by His Resurrection.  He had said: ‘When you lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am He’ (John 8:28).  The Resurrection of the Crucified One  shows that he was truly ‘I Am,’ the Son of God and God Himself.  So St. Paul could declare to the Jews: ‘What God promised to the fathers, this He has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten You’ (Acts of the Apostles 13:32-34; Psalm 2:7)” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 653).

How is the Resurrection of Christ related to the Incarnation?

The Resurrection and Incarnation are connected to each other, because in order to “raise up” our fallen human nature in the Resurrection, the Son of God had to become “Man.” Therefore, the Resurrection is the fulfillment or the reason why God became Man.  The Incarnation is defined as “the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature and became man in order to accomplish our salvation in that same human nature” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, p. 883). “Christ’s Resurrection is closely linked to the Incarnation of God’s Son and is its fulfillment in accordance with God’s eternal plan” (Catechism, 653).

What are the two aspects of the “Paschal Ministry”?

“The Paschal Mystery has two aspects: by His Death, Christ liberates us from sin; by His Resurrection, He opens for us the way to a new life” (Catechism, 654).

  • Paschal Mystery mean’s “Christ’s work of redemption accomplished principally by His Passion, Death, Resurrection, and glorious Ascension, whereby “dying he destroyed our death, rising He restored our life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, p. 891; Cf. also: 654, 1067).  The Introduction to Palm Sunday defines the Paschal Mystery in these simple terms: “Today we gather together to herald…Our Lord’s Paschal Mystery, that is to say, of His Passion and Resurrection” (Roman Missal, 3rd Edition: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, no. 5).
  • Passion comes from the Latin word passio (to suffer) and means “the suffering and death of Jesus” (Glossary, p. 892; 572, 602-616).

What is the nature of the “new life” given to us by Jesus’ Resurrection?

The “new life” opened to us by Jesus’ Resurrection includes these aspects of our redemption:

  1. This new life is above all a justification that reinstates us in God’s grace, ‘so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:4; cf. also Romans 4:25).  Justification means “the gracious action of God which frees us from sin and communicates (i.e. gives to us) the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22; Catechism, Glossary, p. 885). Justification involves the remission of sins, and the sanctification (i.e. being made “holy” by God) and renewal of the interior human person (Catechism, 1987-1989). Remission of sins means “the forgiveness of sins, which is accomplished in us through faith and Baptism” (Catechism, Glossary, p. 896). Faith and Baptism come as a result of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
    Sanctification means “to make holy.” Sanctification is the healing of our human nature that was wounded or damaged first by Original Sin, and then by the actual sins we commit (i.e. our Mortal and Venial Sins). We are sanctified or healed in our nature by God’s Grace – which gives us a share (participation in) in the actual life of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. If we “share” or participate in the life of a God Who is All-holy and Immortal, that sharing in God’s life makes us holy and immortal. Sanctifying Grace is the grace that gives us a share in God’s life. Adam and Eve lost this participation in God’s life when they committed Original Sin. We gain God’s life back through Sanctifying Grace given in Baptism.
  2. Justification consists in both victory over death caused by sin and a new participation in grace” (Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 Peter 1:3).
  3. It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christ’s brethren, as Jesus Himself called His disciples after His Resurrection: “Go and tell My brethren” (Matthew 28:10; John 2017).  Filial adoption is the name given to the process in which god “adopts” us, or makes of us His sons and daughters: “He is destined us in love to be His sons” and “to be conformed in the Image of His Son” through “the Spirit of sonship” (Ephesians 1:4-5, 9; Romans 8:15, 29; Catechism 257).

What is the nature of our sonship in Christ?

“We are the brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son, which was fully revealed in His Resurrection” (Catechism, 654).

  • “Not by nature”: by this phrase the Catechism is making it clear that those who “share in God’s” life do not “become God” in the sense that our nature is somehow changed into God’s Nature.  We always will be human; but god will allow us to share in His Life, Immortality, etc.
  • A real share in God’s life means that we really and actually share in God’s life as His adoptive children. The best way of picturing this is the analogy of a piece of metal placed in a fire: while always staying a piece of metal, by growing hot, glowing, and being able to burn what it touches, the metal “takes on” the properties or characteristics of the fire or flame – without becoming the fire itself.  So it is with us who share in God’s life.

What will cause our resurrection from the dead?

“…Christ’s Resurrection – and the risen Christ Himself – is the principle and source of our future resurrection: ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep…for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all remain alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Catechism, 655).

  • “The principle and source”: this phrase means that Jesus Himself and His Resurrection will be the CAUSE of our rising.

When does this “new life” in Christ, leading to our resurrection, begin?

It begins with Baptism.  We are already participating or sharing in God’s life – but this life will only come to completion when we are raised from the dead.  And yet, even now “the risen Christ lives in the hearts of His faithful while they await that fulfillment.  In Christ, Christians “have tasted…the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5) and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may ‘live no longer for themselves but for Him Who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15; Cf. Colossians 3:1-3; Catechism, 655).

Will only Christians be saved by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

God desires that all people be saved – even those “outside” the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church is the presupposition for those “outside” the Catholic Church to be saved.  This means that if someone knows and understands that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ, then they are obliged to embrace the Faith: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).  This means that Christ made the Catholic Church a necessary means of salvation, and commanded all to enter it, so that a person must be connected with the Church in some way to be saved (Cf. The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, no. 2, Question 167, p. 80).

How can persons who are not members of the Catholic Church or even non-Christians be saved?

Persons who are not members of the Catholic Church and non-Christians can be saved, if through no fault of their own they do not know that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and yet, they love God, try to do His Will and follow His commandments – for in this way they are connected with the Church by desire.  Since Christ commands us to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them all that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:19-20), we must pray and direct our efforts to helping all enter the Catholic Church where the fullness of the means of salvation lies.

Where was the Lord Jesus between the time He died on God Friday and when He rose on Easter morning?

The Fifth Article of the Apostles Creed tells us that from the time He died on Good Friday until His Resurrection on Easter Sunday, “He descended into Hell…” (Catechism, p. 164).

Did the Son of God actually die in His human nature?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “By the expression ‘He descended into Hell,’ the Apostles’ Creed confesses that Jesus really did die and through His death for us conquered death and the devil ‘who has power over death’ (Hebrews 2:14)” (See CCC, no. 636).

What do we mean by this article of Faith? Is it Scriptural?

Catholic belief in Jesus’ descent into “hell” is entirely Scriptural, as Ephesians 4:9-10; Acts 3:15; Romans 8:11; and 1 Corinthians 15:20 show us.  Of course, this leads the Catechism to assert that “The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was ‘raised from the dead’ presuppose that the Crucified One  sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to His Resurrection.” (CCC, no. 632).  When the Apostles preached that Jesus “descended into Hell,” they meant “that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in His Soul joined the others in the realm of the dead.  But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there” (1 Peter 3:18-19; CCC, no. 633).

Did Jesus descend to the same place the Devil and the damned are?

No.  The mention of the word “hell” in the Apostles’ Creed does not refer to the “hell of the damned.”  The “hell of the damned” is the state of eternal separation from God (freely chosen by those who refuse to repent of their sins).  Jesus did not go there!  The use of the word “hell” in the Apostles’ Creed is an old Victorian English translation of the Hebrew word Sheol (pronounced shay-yoll) and the Greek word Hades (pronounced hay-deez) – the designations given to the realm where the dead were believed to go after they died.  Because the ancient Jews and early Christians shared with other people of their times the same way the universe was pictured, the Sacred Scriptures and the Apostles’ Creed reflect the common belief of the time that the dead went to dwell under the surface of the earth when they died (that’s why Jesus descended in to “hell,” i.e. the realm of dead!).  Jesus did not go to the place where the Devil and the damned are!  The ancient world believed that there was an area in Sheol/Hades where the wicked would suffer perpetual torment and punishment for the evil they did.  This place of torment and punishment was  called Tartarus (pronounced tar-tar-roose).  Jesus did not visit Tartarus!

In what form did Jesus visit all of those waiting for Him in Sheol/Hades?

The Catechism tells us that Jesus visited them “in His human Soul united to His Divine Person” (CCC, no. 637).

  • At His death on the Cross, Jesus’ body and soul separated from each other – as it happens with all who die.
  • Jesus’ Body was separated from His Soul, but still united to His Being as the Son of God.
  • Jesus’ Soul was separated from His Body, but also still united to His Being as the Son of God.
  • When Jesus visited the realm of the dead, He left His body on earth in the tomb, and went to visit the dead with his Soul united to His Being as the Son of God.  With this visit He released them and allowed them to enter Heaven.

Were the people in Sheol/Hades able to see God?

The souls in the realm of the dead (Hell/Sheol/Hades) were not able to behold the heavenly vision of God (the Beatific Vision) until Jesus their Redeemer visited them and opened the gates of Heaven to them.  These holy and righteous souls were awaiting Jesus to rescue them and bring them into God’s Presence.  It was only when the Lord Jesus went down into the realm of the dead, that “He opened heaven’s gates for the Just who had gone before Him” (CCC, 637).

When Jesus descended into Hell, did he release the damned or put an end to Hell?

No, Jesus did not descend into the hell of the damned to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the Hell of damnation.  He descended to the realm of the dead in order to free the just who had died awaiting the redemption He would bring.  The Council of Rome (745 AD), Pope Benedict XII in Cum dudum (1341) and the Catechism, 633 (Cf. footnote 483) all definitively teach this truth.

How was the descent into hell connected with God’s saving plan?

The descent into hell is the last phase of Jesus’ mission as Messiah.  The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment.  St. Peter writes: “The Gospel was preached even to the dead!” (1 Peter 4:6).  It “shows the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption” (CCC, no. 634).

Fr. Rick Poblocki is the Pastor of St. Josaphat’s Parish in Cheektowaga, NY. This article also appears in St. Josaphat’s Weekly Bulletin, available for view in its entirety at Don’t miss Fr. Rick on the Tuesday and Thursday Open Forum Editions of Calling All Catholics, weekdays at 5pm on The Station of the Cross Catholic Radio Network and the NEW iCatholicRadio App. Used with permission.



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