We interrupt the “TRENT In Depth study” this week to add support to our Church’s emphasis and Teachings on “The Four Last Things. ” This week, with last-Sunday’s celebration of Christ The King, we are in the final week of the Liturgical year. Sunday starts anew, and I believe were now on cycle “c.” So this is a great time to reassess our own relationship with God, to determine what if any changes are called for.
The Four Last Things:
Immediate Judgment by Christ [“The particular Judgment“]
Heaven [perhaps THROUGH Purgatory if warranted?]
Eternal Damnation: Hell
It’s important because God MUST be Just, and where we end up is our own personal choice. Eternity awaits us.
CCC 282 Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves: “Where do we come from?” “Where are we going?” “What is our origin?” “What is our end?” “Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?” The two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.
Here’s what we can know for SURE.
1. Only two comings; Christ Birth and the Final Judgment
2. No BODY other than God know when it will take place
3. It WILL happen in God’s own Time
Matthew 24:29-36 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
1Thes.5: 1-13 “But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”
1Thes.4: 17“then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
1Cor.15: 42-44 “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.”
2 Thes. 2: “9 -12 The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. “
1 Thess. 4: 15-17 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.
Tim 2: 3 This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Heb. 1:13 “Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation? “
Rev, 20: 11 “ Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Mt. 24: 29-31 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”
1 John 4: 16-18 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.
Endtimes, Millennium, Rapture
The term “endtimes” applies both to the era of Christ’s first coming (Heb 1:2, 1 Cor 10:11, Heb 9:26) and to the events immediately before his return and the end of the ages (Mt 24:13, 2 Tim 2:1, 2 Peter 3:3). The definitive Catholic teaching on the endtimes is contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church under the discussion of the article of the Creed, “From thence He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” [CCC 668-682]
As the Creed infallibly teaches, the Second Coming is associated with the end of the world and the Last Judgment. Therefore, it is NOT associated with any earlier time – such as to establish a “Millennium.” The Catholic Church specifically condemns “millenarianism,” according to which Jesus will establish a throne in this world and reign here for a thousand years [CCC 676]. She teaches instead that Jesus already reigns in eternity (1 Cor. 15:24-27, Rev. 4 & 5) and that in this world His reign, established as a seed, is found already in the Church [CCC 668-669]. This is the 1000 years, which is the Hebrew way of indicating an indefinite long time – in this case, the time between the first and second comings, the era of the Church, in other words the last days in the broadest sense.The Book of Revelation situates this era between the persecutions of the Roman antichrists of the first century and the final unleashing of evil at the end.
Naturally, non-Catholics cannot accept that the Catholic Church represents Christ in this world, so they are forced to look for a personal earthly reign somewhere out in the future. The notion that Jesus will come, reign, and then depart, so that the devil can trick the world again, is incompatible with the incomprehensible dignity of the Lord and His love for His people. Jesus’ Coming will be definitive, triumphant and ever-lasting, NOT temporal and limited.
As for the Rapture, the meaning of 1 Thes 4:15-17 is that at the return of Christ (v.15) and the General Resurrection of the Dead (v.16), those who survive the persecution of the Antichrist will have no advantage in being resurrected over those who died before His Coming [CCC 1001]. All will go to meet Him and be with Him forever (v.17; cf. Rev 20:17-21:27).
The Catechism provides us with a general order of events at the End [CCC 673-677]. Chronologically they are,
1. the full number of the Gentiles come into the Church
2. the “full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles” (#2 will follow quickly on, in the wake of, #1)
3. a final trial of the Church “in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” The supreme deception is that of the Antichrist.
4. Christ’s victory over this final unleashing of evil through a cosmic upheaval of this passing world and the Last Judgment.
As [then] Cardinal Ratzinger [Now: Pope Benedict XVI] recently pointed out (in the context of the message of Fátima), we are not at the end of the world. In fact, the Second Coming (understood as the physical return of Christ) cannot occur until the full number of the Gentiles are converted, followed by “all Israel.”
Approved Catholic mystics (Venerables, Blessed and Saints, approved apparitions) throw considerable light on this order, by prophesying a minor apostasy and tribulation toward the end of the world, after which will occur the reunion of Christians. Only later will the entire world fall away from Christ (the great apostasy) and the personal Antichrist arise and the Tribulation of the End occur.
Although this is not Catholic doctrine, arising as it does from private revelation, it conforms to what is occurring in our time, especially in light of Our Lady of Fátima’s promise of an “Era of Peace.” This “Triumph of the Immaculate Heart” (other saints have spoken of a social reign of Jesus Christ when Jesus will reign in the hearts of men) would seem to occur prior to the rise of the Antichrist. The optimism of the Pope for the “New Evangelization” and a “Civilization of Love” in the Third Millennium of Christianity fits here, as well. This would place us, therefore, in the period just before the events spoken of in the Catechism, that is, on the verge of the evangelization of the entire world. Other interpretations are possible, but none seem to fit the facts as well, especially when approved mystics are studied, instead of merely alleged ones.
Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL
Apocalypse Not Now – The Church, The Millennium, and The Rapture
Revelation 20 speaks of Satan being bound and Christ reigning with His saints for a thousand years (a millennium). Many Protestants understand this 1,000-year reign literally and believe that it will occur on earth in the future. They also cite 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and try to make an historical connection between something called “the rapture”—when Christians are “taken up”—and this millennium. What does the Church teach regarding millennialism and the rapture?
: There are three basic interpretations regarding Revelation 20 and “the millennium.” The Church has traditionally taught one commonly known as “amillennialism,” which means that the reign of God began with Christ’s death and resurrection and the “thousand years” is a figurative number to describe the reign of His Church (2 Pt. 3:8-10; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 664, 668-682).
In the past two centuries, two other interpretations have become popular among Protestants. One is called “postmillennialism,” which was big in the 19th century. It teaches that the world is being Christianized over time and that Christ’s return will follow a long period of peace on the earth called “the millennium.” The second is
which is the most popular among Protestants of this century and is also called “millenarianism” and “chiliasm.” Premillennialists believe that Christ is going to establish a literal reign of 1,000 years on earth between the Second Coming and the Last Judgment. Properly understood, the “rapture” refers to Christ’s gathering His followers at the end of time. Catholics believe that this event will happen at the general resurrection and Last Judgment, but they do not refer to the event as “the rapture.”
Postmillennialists, as noted, believe that the world is being Christianized over time and that Christ’s return will follow a long period of righteousness and peace on the earth called “the millennium.” This was a very popular view in the 19th century when people had an optimistic view of world history, believing that everything was getting better and better. This view, however, lost favor among its proponents this century, after two world wars and many atrocities provided substantial evidence of a moral decline, not an advance. Though postmillennialists do not necessarily interpret the number 1,000 literally, they do interpret the “reign of Christ” to mean that the earth will have a “paradise-like” period before Christ’s Second Coming and the Last Judgment.
This position is problematic for many reasons. The chief reason is that Scripture does not depict a period of worldwide Christianization before the Second Coming and the Last Judgment. Many scriptural passages portray the time between the two comings of Christ, i.e., the age we live in, as a time of trial and tribulation for Christians. For example, the Gospel of Matthew portrays both wheat (righteous men) and weeds (evildoers) living together in a field (the world) until the final harvest of the Last Judgment (Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43).
It has clearly been more than a thousand years since Jesus’ reign through the Church began. The number “1,000” is often used figuratively in scriptural writings to show a vast number conveying completeness. For example, Psalm 50:10 tells us God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills,” but we know that in reality God owns all cattle everywhere, which would be a number much bigger than a thousand hills. Remember also the words of St. Peter: “[W]ith the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (cf. 2 Pt. 3:8-10). To God in eternity all time is present, and we must understand “1,000” figuratively, remembering the popular phrase “God works in His Own time.”
But what of Satan being “bound” during this period? Amillennialists believe that Satan is already “bound” in a sense because he cannot prevent the spread of the Gospel—which liberates people from his control—throughout the world. Although Satan can tempt us as individuals, he is unable to force anyone’s will away from God (Rom 8:38-39), which means he is already hindered in “deceiving the nations.” Jesus says that the “strong man” (Satan) must be bound before his house can be plundered, i.e., before Jesus can rescue souls from Satan’s grip. He further says, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt. 12:28-29, Lk. 11:20). So the binding of Satan and the coming of God’s Kingdom must have already taken place in some sense. The Kingdom’s full inauguration came through Christ’s death and resurrection, and that reality became more manifest to the world on Pentecost through the Church (Catechism, no. 1076).
The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the “dispensation of the mystery” the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, “until he comes.” In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to this new age. He acts through the sacraments in what the common Tradition of the East and the West calls “the sacramental economy”; this is the communication (or “dispensation”) of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s “sacramental” liturgy.
It is therefore important first to explain this “sacramental dispensation” (chapter one). The nature and essential features of liturgical celebration will then appear more clearly (chapter two). [END QUOTE]
Although Catholics do not generally call their eschatological view “amillennialism,” which is somewhat of a misnomer, this is the Church’s teaching regarding Revelation 20, a teaching, as always, in harmony with the scriptural data (Catechism, nos. 668-682).
Additional Catechism support:
678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching. Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light. Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned. Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love. On the Last Day Jesus will say: “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.
686 The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these “end times,” ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognized and welcomed as a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
2742 Pray constantly . . . always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” St. Paul adds, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints.” For “we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing.” This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer.
Definitions according to the Catholic Church From Father Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary
The cessation of the bodily functions of a human being through the departure of the soul. It is part of revelation that, in the present order of divine providence, death is a punishment for sin. According to the teaching of the Church, death is a consequence of Adam’s sin, as declared by St. Paul: “Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death” (Romans 5:12). In the case of those justified by grace, death loses its penal character and becomes a mere consequence of sin. All human beings, therefore, are subject to death, although in the case of Christ and his Mother, because of their freedom from sin, death was neither a punishment for sin nor a consequence of sin. Yet, as they were truly human, death was natural for them.
Death is also the end of human probation or testing of one’s loyalty to God. It ends all possibility of merit or demerit.
Properly speaking, only the body dies when separated from its principle of life, which is the soul. However, the Bible speaks of a second death (Revelation 20:6), referring to the souls in hell, who are separated from their principle of supernatural life, which is God
The individual judgment of each human being immediately after death. It is a judgment in the sense that God irrevocably determines a person’s lot for eternity, depending on his or her co-operation with grace during the stay on earth
The place and condition of perfect supernatural happiness. This happiness consists essentially in the immediate vision and love of God, and secondarily in the knowledge, love, and enjoyment of creatures. Until the final resurrection, except for Christ and his Mother, only the souls of the just are in heaven. After the last day, the just will be in heaven in body and soul. Although the same God will be seen by all and enjoyed by all, not everyone will have the same degree of happiness. The depth of beatitude will depend on the measure of God’s grace with which a person dies, and this in turn will be greatly conditioned by the merits that one earns during life on earth. Heaven is eternal because it will never cease. It is continuous because its joys never stop. It is communal because the happiness is shared with the angels and saints and the company of those who were known and loved on earth.
The place and state of eternal punishment for the fallen angels and human beings who die deliberately estranged from the love of God. There is a twofold punishment in hell: the pain of loss, which consists in the deprivation of the vision of God, and the pain of sense, which consists in the suffering caused by outside material things. The punishment of hell is eternal, as declared by Christ in his prediction of the last day (Matthew 25:46), and as defined by the Fourth Lateran Council, stating that the wicked will “receive a perpetual punishment with the devil” (Denzinger 801). The existence of hell is consistent with divine justice, since God respects human freedom and those who are lost actually condemn themselves by their resistance to the grace of God.
The place or condition in which the souls of the just are purified after death and before they can enter heaven. They may be purified of the guilt of their venial sins, as in this life, by an act of contrition deriving from charity and performed with the help of grace. This sorrow does not, however, affect the punishment for sins, because in the next world there is no longer any possibility of merit. The souls are certainly purified by atoning for the temporal punishments due to sin by their willing acceptance of suffering imposed by God. The sufferings in purgatory are not the same for all, but proportioned to each person’s degree of sinfulness. Moreover, these sufferings can be lessened in duration and intensity through the prayers and good works of the faithful on earth. Nor are the pains incompatible with great peace and joy, since the poor souls deeply love God and are sure they will reach heaven. As members of the Church Suffering, the souls in purgatory can intercede for the persons on earth, who are therefore encouraged to invoke their aid. Purgatory will not continue after the general judgment, but its duration for any particular soul continues until it is free from all guilt and punishment. Immediately on purification the soul is assumed into heaven. (Etym. Latin purgatio, cleansing, purifying.)
Dear friends, each of these is a manifestation of God’s incomprehensible-LOVE for the only thing in Creation that emulates Himself: Humanity! And this is why we are not only “permitted” to choose for ourselves [but “commanded” to do so.]
Duet. 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live”
“Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God“.
“Before man is life and death, good and evil, that which he shall choose shall be given him”
“For the wisdom of the flesh is death; but the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace.”
1 Peter 1:22
“Who is on the right hand of God, swallowing down death, that we might bemade heirs of life everlasting: being gone into heaven, the angels and powers and virtues being made subject to him.”
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. Behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison that you may be tried: and you shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life.”
Beyond our ability to fully understand; God’s Mercy and Love extends beyond His Cross and from His Cross to permit even the dead [without unforgiving Mortal sin John 20:19-*23; 1st. John 5:16-17] a second chance at salvation. Because God is Perfect; so to must we be, in order to enter into His Presence.
Hell too is evidence of God’s Charity and Justice. … Because everyone IS given every opportunity to make an informed choice for themselves. God provides sufficient evidence of Himself in Creation, and OFFERS “sufficient grace” to every human soul, that they could; only IF they would, hear, accept and obey.
We can’t know “WHEN”; but we do know the
Choose wisely; it’s the final and most important decision we can make.
Eph. 5: 6-10, 15-17 “
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them, for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Mt. 16:27 “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then will he render to every man according to his works“.
GOD BLESS YOU,