Back to the Home Page | Death | Particular Judgement | Heaven | Hell | Purgatory | Parousia - the Second Coming | Resurrection of the Body | General Judgement
 

Catholic Apologetics


Chapter 22 -- Eschatology


 

Eschatology is the study of the last things. The end times are what transpire after death. After death comes the particular judgement. Those who already are in a state of perfection go directly to Heaven. Those who have unrepented mortal sin on their souls, or unresolved original sin, go directly to Hell. The rest of us go to Purgatory to receive whatever grace is required to attain a state of perfection, whereupon we enter Heaven. At a time uncertain, Jesus will come again to initiate the end of the world as we know it. After Jesus' second coming will be the resurrection of the bodies, the general judgement and eternity in either Heaven or Hell-Purgatory will exist no more. Let's look at each of these in turn.

Death

Gen 2:16-17 - The LORD God gave man this order: "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die."

Of course, Adam disobeyed God, whereupon God said

Gen 2:19 - By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return."

That sealed our fate. From that moment on, death was man's one earthly assurance. (Taxes came much later.) But, as Paul reminds us, just as Adam's sin brought death, Jesus' resurrection brought life. See Rom 5:18.

In a theological sense, death is the separation of body and soul. It is the end of our period of testing--the moment of determination of how we will spend eternity. Jesus tells us we know not when that will happen, and we must always be prepared. (John 9:4, Luke 12:40, 16:19 et seq) And, in case there are suspicions of former lives, reincarnation and the like, consider the following:

Heb 9:27 - Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment,

All human beings die once, and then receive their judgement.

Particular Judgement

There is no verse in Scripture that definitively establishes the particular judgement. Like many doctrines and dogmas, it may be inferred from verses focusing on other truths. We know that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, which we call the general judgement, but we also know some judgement takes place immediately on death, which we call the particular judgement.

Luke 23:43 - "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Jesus promised the penitent thief on the cross that he would be with Him that very day. Now it is supposed there is no time reference in Heaven, so we aren't sure what Jesus meant when He said "today", but considering He rose again from the dead on the third day, one can surmise the penitent thief was already in Heaven by then. This infers he was already judged. We call this the particular judgement.

Luke 16:19-29 - "There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.' Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.' He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.' But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.'

We notice several things from this passage. First, Lazarus went straight to Heaven. He did not have to await the general judgement. Likewise, the rich man went straight to the netherworld. Second, this entire parable is spoken in the past tense. It is as if it already happened, even before Jesus' second coming. Third, the rich man speaks of his brothers as if they are not yet dead, and they are still roaming the earth. Still, Lazarus and the rich man have already received a judgement of some kind. We call this the particular judgement.

Sirach 11:26-28 - For it is easy with the LORD on the day of death to repay man according to his deeds. A moment's affliction brings forgetfulness of past delights; when a man dies, his life is revealed. Call no man happy before his death, for by how he ends, a man is known.

The particular (as well as the general) judgement is based on the state of the soul at the time of death.

Heaven

Scripture describes Heaven in many ways. It is described as eternal life (Matt 28:46), eternal glory (1 Pet 5:10), crown of righteousness (2 Tim 4:8) and paradise (Luke 23:43). We are told you can store up treasures in Heaven (Matt 6:20) and receive great rewards in Heaven (Luke 6:23). The saints in Heaven are heirs with God and heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17) and will see the beatific vision (1 Cor 13:9-12, Rev 22:4). God will dwell with them (Rev 21:3) with Jesus at His right hand (Mark 16:19). They will be like angels (Matt 22:30), illuminated by God's presence (Rev 22:5), with incorruptible bodies (Rev 21:4). In Heaven, "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt 13:43). They will experience "glory, honor and peace" (Rom 2:10).

It sounds like a nice place. I want to go there.

Luke 20:34-36 - "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise."

This is Jesus speaking. So, marriage is for earthly existence only. I still want to go there. And we also note that saints no longer die for they are like angels.

The Book of Revelation has lengthy, albeit cryptic descriptions of Heaven. Without trying to completely understand all that is written, just get a feel for the glory and splendor of Heaven as revealed to John:

Rev 7:9-17 - After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb." All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: "Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, "Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?" I said to him, "My lord, you are the one who knows." He said to me, "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "For this reason they stand before God's throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Rev 21:2-7 - I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). 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." The one who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then he said, "Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true." He said to me, "They are accomplished. I (am) the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son.

Rev 21:10-11 - He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal.

Rev 21:23-27 - The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and to it the kings of the earth will bring their treasure. During the day its gates will never be shut, and there will be no night there. The treasure and wealth of the nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any (one) who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Rev 22:1-5 - Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.

John describes the concept of what it will be like for us in Heaven:

1 Jn 3:2 - Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

as does Paul:

1 Cor 2:9 - But as it is written: "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,"

Hell

Scripture describes Hell in many ways also. It is the abyss (Luke 8:31; Rev 9:1-2,11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1,3), Tartarus (2 Pet 2:4), Babylon (Rev 18; 19:1-3) and Gehenna (Matt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 18:9; 23:33). It is eternal fire (Matt 18:8, 25:41; Jude 7; Mark 9:42-47; Luke 3:17), a fiery furnace (Matt 13:42, 50), a pool of fire (and sulfur) (Rev 14:9-14; 19:20; 20:10, 14; 21:8). It is spiritual death (Rom 2:12, 6:21; 8:6; 8:13; 2 Cor 2:14-16; Rev 2:11; 20:6; 21:8; Jn 3:16; 10:27), eternal ruin (2 Thess 1:9; 1 Tim 6:9), darkness (Matt 8:12; 22:11-13; 25:30; 2 Pet 2:17; Jude 13), destruction (Matt 7:13; Phil 1:28; 2 Pet 3:7), damnation (Mk 16:16; Jn 12:25), corruption (Gal 6:8), and eternal punishment (Mt 25:46).

Tartarus were the infernal regions according to Greek mythology.

Gehenna in Hebrew means "Valley of Ben-Hinnom." In a dark period in Israel's past, the rulers slipped into idolatry of the worst sort. Among other things, children were burned as sacrifices to Molech in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, which was just outside of Jerusalem. It was a place of perpetual stench, burning and defilement. (see 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31). When Jesus speaks of Hell, He compares it to Gehenna.

Hell is not a nice place. I don't want to go there. Let's visit some specific verses of Scripture on the subject of Hell.

In the dialog of the Son of Man coming to judge, and placing the sheep on His right and the goats on His left, we pick it up where He begins to address the goats:

Matt 25:41-46 - Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Jesus is stating these words. He describes Hell as the "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" and "eternal punishment". He doesn't appear to speaking metaphorically about the nature of Hell.

Mark 9:43-48 - If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'

It appears Gehenna, the unquenchable fire, is worse than a lot of morbid things, such as maiming your body. Jesus is recommending hand, foot and eye removal as shock value to emphasize the point, but regardless, the point is made. As unthinkable as it would be to pluck out your eye, it is worse to enter Hell.

Jesus explains the parable of the sower of seeds to his disciples:

Matt 13:37-42 - "He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Hell is a fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Conventional theology has Hell reserved for those who die in a state of dis-grace--those with unrepentant mortal sins on their souls or the stain of original sin. There is a new-age logic existing in the world today that suggests if God is all-good, He not only would not, but could not condemn anyone or anything to an eternity of torment. After all, God is merciful. Whatever mistakes we make while alive on Earth, however decrepit and heneous, are mistakes made by ignorant human beings. Surely God can find room for forgiveness? Perhaps after they learned their lessons, He could condemn the wicked to an eternity of second-class status or something equally just, but eternal damnation? Doesn't that seem a bit extreme? And what about those who were in essence good people, but didn't know all the rules about Jesus and baptism and everything else Christian because they lived in the wrong place or time? Surely they won't be eternally damned?

Consider the words of Peter as he is warning the people about false teachers. He explains:

2 Pet 2:4-10 - For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but condemned them to the chains of Tartarus and handed them over to be kept for judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, together with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the godless world; and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (to destruction), reducing them to ashes, making them an example for the godless (people) of what is coming; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man oppressed by the licentious conduct of unprincipled people (for day after day that righteous man living among them was tormented in his righteous soul at the lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the devout from trial and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who follow the flesh with its depraved desire and show contempt for lordship.

Peter says, the Word of God says, the Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, especially those who show contempt for His lordship. There doesn't appear to be a reprieve for those who later wish to repent on the day of judgment.

2 Thess 1:6-9 - For it is surely just on God's part to repay with afflictions those who are afflicting you, and to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.

Paul says, the Word of God says it is just on God's part inflicting the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord.

John 3:36 - Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

The wrath of God remains on whoever disobeys the Son. It doesn't appear, then disappear; it doesn't linger then disappear, it remains.

John 5:28-30 - Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear [the voice of the Son of Man] 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. "I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

Jesus tells us those who have done wicked deeds will be condemned, and it is the will of God.

Purgatory

I devote an entire chapter on Purgatory (in fact it is the next chapter) since it is a topic of great division between Catholics and Protestants. Without getting into great detail, for the purposes of introducing the concept of Purgatory in this chapter, I will discuss it briefly.

CCC 1030 - All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Heaven is for the righteous, Hell is for the unrighteous. Purgatory is for the not-yet-righteous. It is a place or state of existence where one is purged of the temporal effects of sin. There are always consequences to sin, and even though our sins are forgiven, we must purify ourselves of those consequences before we attain perfection. Those who enter Purgatory are assured Heaven at some point.

Parousia - the Second Coming

The Rapture, the second coming of Jesus, and other portions of End Times theology are, like Purgatory, a source of division in the Body of Christ. Like Purgatory, I address it in detail in another chapter.

Catholics see the Parousia at the moment of consecration when the bread and wine become the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus arrives everyday in the flesh. But, Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Resurrection of the Body

After the second coming of Jesus and before the general judgment, we will all raise from the dead and receive our immortal bodies. It won't be like Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, and they unwrapped his burial cloths to reveal a dead body brought back to life. We will receive bodies that are superior in many ways to the ones we now enjoy.

In Jesus' day, the Sadducees were a powerful priestly sect of Judiasm who did not believe in the resurrection. They also honored only the Pentatuch (the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses), not the rest of Scripture as Jesus did. In an attempt to prove their point, they took a story from Scripture, Tobit 3:8, about a widow who married seven brothers, but each, in turn, was killed by the evil demon Asmodeus before she had intercourse with them. The Sadduccees thought they could prove there is no resurrection and that Tobit was not Scripture by posing a question to Jesus. Much as modern apologists quote only from the scripture accepted by Protestants, in order to better prove their points, so Jesus answers quoting from the Pentatuch, so they cannot claim it was not the Word of God.

Matt 22:23-32 - On that day Sadducees approached him, saying that there is no resurrection. They put this question to him, saying, "Teacher, Moses said, 'If a man dies without children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up descendants for his brother.' Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died and, having no descendants, left his wife to his brother. The same happened with the second and the third, through all seven. Finally the woman died. Now at the resurrection, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had been married to her."

Jesus said to them in reply, "You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

As regards the resurrection of the body, we learn from the passage above that there is a resurrection, and after the resurrection, we are alive with God. We might also infer we are like angels in heaven.

Note, Tobit is one of the books of the Bible disputed by Protestants. Since it was written after the Babylonian exile, it is among the books discarded by the Jews at the council at Javneh in 90 A.D. Here, we see Jesus admonishing the Sadduccees for not knowing Tobit was a part of Scripture.

John 6:38-40,54 - I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day." Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

Jesus repeats three times here that we will be raised on the last day. There is little dispute that there will be a resurrection of the body.

We don't know for certain what our bodies will be like when resurrected. We know Jesus was human, and when He was resurrected, his body could appear and disappear at will, pass through walls, and look different so that His followers didn't even recognize Him.

Paul tells us what little we know about our resurrected bodies:

1 Cor 15:35-44 - But someone may say, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?" You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind; but God gives it a body as he chooses, and to each of the seeds its own body. Not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for human beings, another kind of flesh for animals, another kind of flesh for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the brightness of the heavenly is one kind and that of the earthly another. The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one.

What you sow is not what is to be. In other words, the way your body looks at death is not the way it will be in life after death. Heavenly bodies are brighter, incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual.

General Judgement

Eccl 11:9 - Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes; Yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment.

As we saw earlier, there is the particular judgment immediately after death, and the general judgment had by all at the end of time.

Matt 16:27 - For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.
Matt 25:31-32 - When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats
Rev 20:11-15 - Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire.

These verses describe the general judgment, when we are sent to our eternal reward.

Parting Comments

We see that there is a Heaven, a place of eternal bliss. As much as we may wish otherwise, there is a Hell, a place of eternal torment. Purgatory is that temporary state where the not-yet righteous await purification so they can enter Heaven.

Upon death, there is a Particular Judgement, and after Jesus comes again, we are resurrected from the dead, given immortal bodies, and then there is the General Judgement sentencing us to our eternal abode.


Back to the Home Page

Developed with HTML-Kit
Sandersongs Web Tutorials
Contact the Webmasterwith comments.
©2017, by Bill Sanders, all rights reserved.
This domain had 4,043 different visits in the last 30 days.
435,609 hits on this domain since 24 Nov 2006.
http://www.sandersongs.com/apologetics/eschatology.php
This page was last modified on our server on 5 Jan 2012
and last refreshed on our server at 3:58 am, MST
This file took 0.02266 seconds to process.