Catechism Lesson 7: The Four Last Things
What are the four last things? (1) Death, (2) Judgment, (3) Heaven and (4) Hell
What benefit does a person get from thinking about the four last things? By thinking about death, judgment, heaven and hell, a person can take it as a warning to avoid sin, and to remember what our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us: to love God and to love others as ourselves. (Read Matthew 22:36-40)
Our lives are measured by time. In the course of a lifetime, a person can grow and change physically, mentally and spiritually; but that all comes to an end with death. Death is the end of earthly life. When a person dies, the soul is separated from the body, and the soul undergoes judgment before God.
There are two kinds of judgment: Particular Judgment and Final Judgment (sometimes also called General Judgment or Last Judgment). The Particular Judgment takes place immediately after death, whereby the soul is judged before God. If the soul is in the state of mortal sin, the final destination is Hell. If the soul is free from any mortal or venial sin, then the final destination is Heaven. If the soul is free from mortal sin but is not free from venial sin, it undergoes purification in Purgatory before finally reaching Heaven.
The Final Judgment will take place at the end of the world, when Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. Before the Final Judgment, the resurrection of the dead will take place, whereby both the just and the unjust will rise from the dead. All will be judged, including those who have undergone the Particular Judgment, for before the Judge, all nations will be gathered, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and the unjust will go away into eternal punishment, but the just into eternal life. (Read Matthew 25:31-46) The Final Judgment will reveal the furthest consequences of the good and bad deeds which a person has done during his earthly life.
The souls in Heaven behold the Beatific Vision, which is the contemplation of God in His heavenly glory. The blessed souls are united with our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the angels and saints. As they delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of Heaven, they continue to fulfill God’s holy will in relation to other men and to all creation.
The souls in Hell are separated from God for all eternity. A person who dies without repentance from mortal sin ends up in the eternal fires of Hell. After death, there is no more chance for repentance. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ warns us many times in the Gospels: (1) fiery Gehenna (Read Matthew 5:22; 25:41), (2) temptations to sin (Read Mark 9:42-48), (3) enter the narrow gate (Read Matthew 7:13-24), (4) parable of the weeds (Read Matthew 13:36-43), (5) parable of the talents (Read Matthew 25:14-30), etc.
Souls who are ultimately destined for Heaven, but are still in need of final purification go through Purgatory. Jesus said to the Pharisees: “Therefore, I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32) Jesus makes known that there are certain sins that can be forgiven in the “age to come,” and this “age to come” is understood to be Purgatory.
The Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
- What are the two kinds of judgments? ___________________ and ______________________.
- True or False. Only those who remain alive on earth at the end of the world will be judged in the Last Judgment.
- True or False. A soul in Hell can still go to Heaven.
- True or False. The blessed souls in Heaven have nothing to do with people on earth.