Easter Celebrates the Resurrection into the Kingdom

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When we pray in the Our Father, “Thy Kingdom come,” what are we praying for?

Jesus most preached and taught not about love, but about the Kingdom of God. “After John (the Baptist) had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:15).

Most of Jesus’ parables were about the Kingdom, which often begins, “The Kingdom of God is like . . .” “Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God . . . are made known through parables” (Luke 8:10).

Jesus’ actions typically consisted of performing miracles. Yes, He performed them to meet the need of the person encountering Him. More than that, Jesus performed miracles in order to provide signs or examples of the Kingdom.

So the Kingdom of God was the theme of Jesus’ words and actions. Jesus’ mission was to bring the Kingdom. “But he said to them, ‘To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God because for this purpose I have been sent’” (Luke 4:43).

Jesus called everyone to follow Him. To where? To the Kingdom. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).

We might know many facts about Jesus Christ—e.g., where He was born, how He died, who His mother was, His relationship with the Father and the Spirit, etc.,—but we only have random bits of information about Jesus unless we understand the Kingdom of God.

What Is the Kingdom?

It is not Heaven if the word Heaven is used to mean “the place where souls-without-bodies are with God.” When Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” He was not proclaiming, “The place-where-souls-without-bodies-are-with-God is at hand.”

What can be confusing is that in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says “Kingdom of Heaven” unlike the other Gospels in which Jesus says “Kingdom of God.” Still, the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not Heaven (the place-where-souls-etc.); the “Kingdom of Heaven” is the Kingdom of God. The confusion is cleared by realizing that Matthew follows a Jewish tradition of showing respect for God by not using His name, similar to what is done in the Old Testament and among Jews today. Matthew is simply substituting the word Heaven for the word God.

One way to understand what Jesus meant by Kingdom is to become familiar with everything Jesus taught about it. Another way is to combine in our minds all of Jesus’ miracles at one time as though He performed all of them on the same composite person. In other words, in the Kingdom, no one will be blind or paralyzed or deaf or crippled or mute or hungry or sick or possessed or dead—even though everyone in the Kingdom will have a body.

The Best Example of the Kingdom

“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning . . .” (John 20:1). The Resurrection of Jesus is the best example of the Kingdom. The best way to understand the Kingdom is to understand the Resurrection. It is in the Resurrection that God most clearly reveals His Kingdom. The Resurrection is the most important event in history.

Jesus’ experience after He rose from the dead was radically different from the experience of the people He had raised from the dead—Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and the widow’s son. After they were raised from the dead, their immortal souls were reunited with their mortal bodies. As magnificent as it was to be raised from the dead, they picked up where they left off: once again they got hungry, thirsty, and dirty; needed new clothes; got older; suffered sickness or injury; had to deal with their emotions, desires, and temptations; and eventually died again.

When Jesus rose from the dead, however, His immortal soul reunited with His now-immortal body. Jesus’ risen body could be touched and digest food and yet could instantly appear in the middle of a locked room and instantly disappear. Jesus rose into a glorified body that will never get older, never suffer pain, and never die again—a body that is both physical and supernatural, a body that is physical and yet transcends space and time, a body with perfect human existence. No wonder the apostles were confused by the Risen Christ—they had seen bodies raised from the dead by Jesus, but they had never seen Jesus’ kind of risen body.

The Kingdom that Jesus had proclaimed was coming did indeed come for Jesus when He rose from the dead and then ascended to His Father.

This is what we celebrate at Easter.  This is what we pray for in the Our Father.

“I look forward to the resurrection of the dead . . .”

“But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised” (1 Corinthians 15:12-13).

“We also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (Philippians 3:20).

As we say in both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed, Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. It is at Jesus’ Second Coming that the Kingdom that we pray to come in the Our Father will indeed come for us, both living and dead. Those who died before the Second Coming will be raised, and their immortal souls will be reunited with their now-immortal bodies. Those who are alive at the Second Coming will have their mortal bodies transformed into immortal bodies without dying first. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-58).

Those who enter the Kingdom will have the same perfect human existence that Jesus has had since the Resurrection. As Jesus performed miracles in order to heal, His bringing the Kingdom at His Second Coming will be His ultimate act of healing. In the Kingdom, He will give the fullness of life with perfect harmony between mind, will, emotions, and body.

This is what we celebrate at Easter. This is what we pray for in the Our Father.

“. . . and the life of the world to come.”

Just as individual bodies will be transformed at the Second Coming, so will the universe be transformed. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away. . . . ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. . . . He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away’” (Revelation 21:1, 3-4).

Heaven and the best of the earth will be unified in a single reality. The universe will be transformed into a physical yet supernatural reality. The Garden of Eden will be restored. Creation will be perfected. The Kingdom is the ultimate salvation from Original Sin.

Those who enter the Kingdom with their glorified bodies will not exist in splendid isolation. In the Kingdom, there will be perfect relationships. Every human will have a perfect relationship with God, with every other human, and with nature. There will be a perfect community, perfect communion between God and human, human and human, human and nature.

This is what we celebrate at Easter. This is what we pray for in the Our Father.

Takeaways from Connecting the Resurrection and the Kingdom

For good reason the three formulas for the Mystery of Faith that we say after the Consecration at Mass link Christ’s Death, Resurrection, and/or His Second Coming.

The literal meaning of the word gospel is “good news.” Jesus’ gospel during His public ministry—that the Kingdom is coming—is not only good news, it is the best possible news. It is news that is almost too good to be true.

The Post-Resurrection Gospel can be formulated as Christ has died and Christ is risen to begin the Kingdom of God, and Christ will come again to complete the Kingdom of God.

Following Christ means spreading the great news of the Kingdom in missionary activity, evangelization, New Evangelization, catechesis, and apologetics.

To truly be “on the right side of history” is to be on the side of the Kingdom of God, the culmination of history.

There will be no utopias and no panaceas until the Second Coming. Only the Kingdom will make us perfectly happy and solve all our problems. Only the Kingdom is the Kingdom.

The only other person to enter the Kingdom—to already have an immortal, glorified body in eternity—is Saint Mary, the Blessed Mother. This is what we celebrate on the feast of the Assumption.

Over the centuries, the Church has gotten somewhat confusing in its use of the word Heaven. It uses Heaven both to mean being with God without a body before the Second Coming and to mean the Kingdom, as in “Mary was assumed body and soul into Heaven.”

Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell are what happens after death before the Second Coming. The Final Judgment at the Second Coming will confirm the Particular Judgment at the moment of death. After the Second Coming, only the Kingdom and Hell will exist.

Both the saved and the damned will have immortal bodies. As Jesus said, “. . . the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear (the Son’s) voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is a helpful description of how an individual person becomes “more solid” in eternity. Lewis’ The Last Battle and That Hideous Strength are helpful descriptions of the transformation of the world at the end of time.

It took Jesus’ atoning death on the cross to “open the gates” of the Kingdom. We have the free will to go through those gates or turn away from them.

In the Old Covenant, God offered the Chosen People, among other things, the Promised Land. In the New Covenant, God offers all people the Kingdom.

“God loves me unconditionally” means “God offers me His Kingdom in spite of my sins,” not “I can reject God and still get to enter His Kingdom.”

Anyone can enter the Kingdom if he or she does their best to pursue Truth and Love. Non-Catholics can enter the Kingdom. Baptism into the Catholic Church does not guarantee entrance into it. We should not judge the state of others’ souls at the moment of their deaths.

Jesus founded the Catholic Church with the fullness of the means of salvation—the fullness of creed, morality, worship, and prayer—as the surest way to enter the Kingdom. “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18). If any part of this column contradicts Catholic doctrine, it is false. The Catechism of the Catholic Church covers the Kingdom in CCC 541-560; the Resurrection in CCC 638-655; the Ascension in CCC 659-664; the Second Coming in CCC 668-679, 988-1004, and 1038-1050; Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell in CCC 1020-1037; and the relationship between the Kingdom and the Church in CCC 763-769 and 865.

The Catholic Church is the seed of the Kingdom. The more we practice Catholic morality, worship, and prayer in harmony with Catholic doctrine, the more we can experience degrees of the Kingdom, the joy of being Catholic, before the Second Coming.

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42). We need to be ready to meet God face-to-face—either at death or at the Second Coming.

Alleluia! Alleluia! He has risen as He said! Truth and Love conquer death, evil, and sin! Thy Kingdom come! Happy Easter!

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2 thoughts on “Easter Celebrates the Resurrection into the Kingdom”

  1. Pingback: Voting Catholic - Catholic Stand

  2. Thanks for laying it out for me about the difference between the place where souls without bodies go after death and the Kingdom, where we will have perfect and immortal bodies. This is an area of Church teaching I’ve never been too sure about before. “Heaven and the best of the earth will be unified in a single reality” is a wonderful image and an outcome we should never stop striving and praying for!

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