This is the third lesson in a series that is being hosted at St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Las Cruces. Lesson 2 can be found here.
In lesson 2 we discussed Fr. Alar’s view of those 5 stages in End Times. Those 5 stages are:
- Time of great sin
- Minor Chastisement
- Era of Peace – Triumph of the Immaculate Heart – Restoration of Christianity – Great Leader – Holy Pope
- Great Chastisement
- General Judgement
In tonight’s topic we will discuss those 4 last things that happen upon everyone’s death. Those 4 last things are:
The NCResgister had a good article a few years back by Fr. John Cush titled “The First Thing You Should Know About the Four Last Things.”
Fr. Cush opened with “As we well know, the sense of the eschaton was greater in the early Church. What is the eschaton? It is the end time. Eschatology is the study of the reality of the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven, and hell. Sadly, the four last things are not preached about very often today. and, when they are, there seems to be some confusion concerning them. But the early followers of the Way, who daily were risking their lives because they believed in Christ, who were considered enemies of the state due to their faith, truly believed that, at any moment, Jesus, King of Glory and Lord of the World could descend, just as he had ascended, to judge each man according to his deeds.”
It’s great to fantasize that we might actually live to see Jesus “the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven” but for most the more normal sequence will occur. What does the Catechism say about death and what happens afterwards?
When a Christian is close to death, they may request the Anointing of the Sick. This sacrament is discussed in the Catechism
PART TWO, SECTION TWO, CHAPTER TWO, ARTICLE 5 – THE ANOINTING OF THE SICK
Paragraph 1532 summarizes the benefits.
1532 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:
1) the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c2a5.htm#1523
2) the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
3) the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
4) the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for passing over to eternal life.
This sacrament is the best way for a Christian to prepare for the Particular Judgement that happens immediately upon death. The Catechism discusses this starting at paragraph 1021.
Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.
Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation.
At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.CCC 1021-1022
The soul then knows it’s destiny as either Heaven or hell. If there is unrepentant sin staining the soul of the person, there will need to be a purging or cleansing of that stain to remove it from the soul before the soul goes to Heaven to be with God. This purging is the purging of fire discussed in 1 Corinthians 3.
If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.1 Corinthians 3:14-15
This will be a fire like the fire in the bush. The fire never consumes the bush. This purging process is what is termed purgatory. Possibly not as much a place as a state of being, like the burning bush that is never consumed.
Early Christians were the first to rejoice in their suffering because their faith was being tested like a refiners fire (1 Peter 1:7) and that suffering would in some way remove that stain of sin and possibly lessen that time in the purging process. If not for them, than for someone else who was already destined for Heaven.
The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: “As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.“
This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: “Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”CCC 1031-1032
For those not destined for Heaven “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” CCC 1035
How many people are destined for Heaven or hell? Sacred Scripture says “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matt 7:13-14
At the end of the fullness of time there will be a Last Judgement as discussed in CCC paragraphs 1038-1041. The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,” will precede the Last Judgment (also known as the General Judgement).
V. THE LAST JUDGMENT
The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,” will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him. . . . Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life: “All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When “our God comes, he does not keep silence.”. . . he will turn towards those at his left hand: . . . “I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father – but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence.”“
The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he determines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.
The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them “the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation.”629 It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s return, when he will come “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.”CCC 1038-1041
A YouTube by Fr. Ripperger on Sensus Fidelium is a good review of the Judgement phase.
Many blessed and saints through the years have been given a chance to understand what Heaven and Hell are like. St. Faustina wrote many entries in her diary of these four last things that a pamphlet was created. If you would like a copy, please send me an e-mail.