I welcome those who have either caught the first part of the two-part series or those who visiting for the first time. The Eschatological traditions of the Catholic faith can seem overwhelming at first glance; however, a fantastic place to begin to understand what Catholics believe is found in an explanation of the faith by Michael Pennock in his book This is Our Faith. Pennock goes over every single element of the end times and explains it in a manner that can be understood by the laity.
The Resurrection of the Body
Pennock explains, “At death our souls will separate from our bodies which will decay.” (p.155) Our souls will meet God, but when Christ returns on a cloud, God will “grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls.” (CCC 997) Pennock writes, “Our Christian belief in the resurrection of the body contrasts sharply with many other religions that teach some type of nebulous spiritual form of existence in the afterlife. Christians belief gold that the whole person—body and soul—will survive death.” (p. 155) Pennock reminds Catholics that the Resurrection of the Body doctrine is core to Christian belief of respecting the human body, especially the defenseless (like unborn babies). (Ibid)
Of course, a natural question is what will be the state of our bodies? Will some be children? Will some be old? Pennock reminds us that “The most important quality of the resurrected body is immortality; we will never die again…We will never feel pain. Our bodies will shine brightly, reflecting the glory of the beatific vision, that is, “seeing God.”—like Moses.
St. Paul allows the best insight on the topic in his first letter to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 15:35-37, 42-44.
35 But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain…
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.
The Second Coming
In the first paragraph of Pennock’s description of the Second Coming, he highlights the second to last verse in the Bible, Revelation 22:20, which reads “Come Lord Jesus.” (p.153) It’s plea that many Christians have forgotten in their prayers in this modern temporal world. As humans, we look at the hostility of war, politics, famine, etc., and believe that somehow if we just put aside our differences we can make a paradise here on earth. However, only Christ can do so, and before he comes, our world will only decay further into ruin. Christ will come again at the Parousia, a day that Christians do not fear, and a day that only the Father knows the hour. The second coming of Christ, explained by Pennock, “will mark the time when God’s reign will be fully established on earth.” (p. 154) As the Apostle’s Creed confesses that during Christ’s seconding “from Thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
St. Paul gives a description of the event of the Second Coming and the Resurrection of Body in his letter to the Thessalonians; 1 Thes. 4:16-17 RSV:
16 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; 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.
The Second Coming of Christ is intrinsically connected to both the Last Judgment and the Resurrection of the Body. In the CCC 1040 it declares, “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.”
Our Judgment is broken into two judgments, the first being a particular judgment and the second being the general judgment, or also known as The Last Judgment. The Particular Judgment occurs immediately after our earthly death when we will appear before God. (p.152) During this judgment, God will decide whether we worthy of entering into Heaven. Pennock explains, “At death, our time of trial is over. The Particular Judgment will reveal us for what we are…either loving lives of service or lives of self-centeredness.” (Ibid) As noted by Pennock, If choose a life of love and service, this judgment is nothing fear, as there will be no surprise during the outcome of this judgment for we truly know in our hearts whether we have done God’s will or not. (p. 153)
The general judgment or the Final Judgment takes place during the end of time. God’s saving plan will be revealed to everyone who has every lived in the world. The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 25 gives a vivid account of this judgment where the Son of Man will separate the sheep from the goats. Pennock articulates that “The basis of this last or general judgment is simple: the love of God with our entire beings and our neighbor as ourselves.” (p, 153)
Mt. 25: 31-46 RSV
The Judgment of the Nations
31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 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, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”