04 Nov Chapter 22: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Resurrection of the Body
Chapter 22: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Resurrection of the Body
The teachings contained in this chapter are based on Holy Scriptures, the Tradition of the Catholic Church [especially The First and Second Vatican Councils, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Fathers of the Church (especially St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine)], the Magisterium of the Catholic Church (especially Saint Pope Paul VI, Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis). All Apostolic Encyclicals and Letters are found on the Vatican Website: Vatican
Definition of Heaven
Heaven is a glorious state of being ~ the infinite nature of God: Heaven is a glorious state of our being. It is the ultimate transformation of our being from its earthly category to its heavenly category. St. John said: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2). When St. Paul was defining Jesus Christ in his heavenly glory he said: “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:15-16)
The Catechism defines heaven: “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (CCC, 1024) Meditating on the glorious state of the Virgin Mary, Pope Benedict XVI says:”Today’s feast impels us to lift our gaze to Heaven; not to a heaven consisting of abstract ideas or even an imaginary heaven created by art, but the heaven of true reality which is God himself. God is Heaven.” (Homily, August 15, 2008)
No human category can capture the essence of Heaven: What is heaven? Heaven is the infinite nature of God shared by us. It is the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that the human mind can’t fathom. St. Paul taught that no human mind can imagine what God had prepared for those who love him. So, any time anyone thinks about heaven in this or that way, those categories are inadequate to capture the essence of heaven. In this sense we read in the Book of Kings: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you.” (1 King 8:27) It is impossible for the created mind to fathom the infinity of God’s nature. Seeing God face to face is a mystery that cannot be understood. Such a mystery is called ‘beatific vision’ by the Church. The Catechism teaches: “Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory ‘the beatific vision’.”
Heaven is a not a ‘place’ it is a state of being: It is not a ‘place’ in the same way we have a place here on earth. When we say heaven is a place, it is a place only in the sense that it exists and not in the sense that it is a space. In this sense St. Paul says that “if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1) Every category of space and time will be replaced by a heavenly category totally foreign to our state of mind here on earth. St John describes the city of God saying: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22)
Those who enter heaven will never leave it: Those who enter the infinite glory of the Blessed Trinity, heaven, will never fall away from being a part of it. their status is forever the same. The Book of Revelation states: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.” (Revelation 3:12) When the rich man who was agonizing in fire asked Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool his tongue, Abraham confirmed that it was impossible: “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” (Luke 16:26)
Personal Judgment at death
Heaven is the fulfillment of our earthly life: After a long journey of moral acts and decisions through which we fulfill God’s plan and commandments, we will be called home to God. Every act draws us near to God or pushes us away from him. Therefore, the earthly journey is a non-stop voyage toward the Blessed Trinity where our being will receive its ultimate perfection. So, the grace of the Blessed Trinity that bestows on us eternal life is both an exclusive gift of God and a reward for our moral journey. Pope St. John Paul II says in this regard: “Indeed, just as man in exercising his dominion over the world shapes it in accordance with his own intelligence and will, so too in performing morally good acts, man strengthens, develops and consolidates within himself his likeness to God.” (Veristatis Splendor, 39)
It is a fulfillment of life, a state of eternal bliss and happiness. St. Paul teaches: “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) This state of eternal joy is steady and is not subject to change. St. John affirms: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22) It is a state of “entering into the joy of ‘our’ master.” (Matthew 25:21) In heaven, we will be like angels who “always behold the face of my (Jesus’) Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10) Therefore, those who share the divine life of the Blessed Trinity, will receive the ultimate perfection of their being; they will have their true identity and their own name.
Judgement at the moment of death ~ not same destiny for everyone: As soon as someone dies he/she will be present in front of the Blessed Trinity. At that time, they will immediately and mercifully receive their reward depending on the life they had. Some will go immediately to heaven (see 1 Jn 3:2; cf. 1 Cor 13:12; Rev 22:4); others will go to to heaven through purgatory; others to final damnation (see CCC, 1022). Love, as St. John of the Cross states, plays a major role in God’s criteria of judgment: “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.” (Dichos, 64)
No need to wait till final judgment to receive our reward: Being in the dimension of heaven, not everyone will receive the same destiny. The Catechism teaches: “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.” [(CCC, 1021); see also Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23)]
No need to wait till final judgment to enter heaven: As soon as someone dies they will enter the reality of heaven, if that’s God’s judgment on them. Already Pope Benedict XII, in a very authoritative tone, confirmed this teaching as a part of the Divine Revelation: “By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment – and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven – have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.” (Benedictus Deus, 1336)
Universal Judgment at the end of time
Death and the resurrection of the body at the end of time: When the human person dies, their soul will be right away in the presence of God to receive the reward. At the end of human history (nobody knows when it will be) all bodies will rise from the dead, and the risen body will join the risen soul so the totality of the human person (body and soul) will be with God. Jesus said to Martha when he was about to raise her brother Lazarus from the dead: “Your brother will rise again,” and she replies: ” I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:23-24) Such a resurrection at the end of time is possible only because of the resurrection of Jesus who replied to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25-26) After his historical resurrection from the dead, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit on the Church to continue his work until the end of time. It is the Holy Spirit then who will raise us from the dead on the last day. Therefore St. Paul writes: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)
If the soul is in heaven, the risen body will join the soul in heaven; if the soul is in hell, the risen body will join the soul in hell. In fact, the Acts of the Apostles confirmed that “both the just and the unjust will rise.” (Acts 24:15) Therefore, the Prophet Daniel says: “When that time comes, your own people will be spared, all those whose names are found written in the Book. Of those who lie sleeping in the dust of the earth many will awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace. The learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.” (Daniel 12:2-3)
Since the human history will come to an end, the universal resurrection of all bodies will take place then. The second coming of Jesus Christ will happen when God decides to end human history. Of course some people will already be dead and others still alive: “God chose us to possess salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us in order that we might live together with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes.” (1 Thessalonians 5:10) Right after the resurrection of the bodies, the final judgment will take place. It is at “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.” (John 5:28-29) 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.” (Matthew 25: 31, 32, 46)
Old body and new body: The risen body is at the same time in continuity and discontinuity with the old body. St. Paul taught in the same way a grain of wheat dies in the ground and a plant of wheat grows from it, so the old body is the seed for the new spiritual body. The old body is the seed, but the new body surpasses the properties of the seed and becomes a new creation. The grain of wheat is the reason why we have the plant, so the old body is the seed for the new spiritual body. Yet the whole plant was not hidden in this little grain; similarly, the new body is a new spiritual body. Keep in mind therefore that what we do in the old body will influence the glory of the new risen body. In that same sense St. Paul taught: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) The Book of Revelation confirms that Jesus Christ will give those thos who conquer “a white stone with anew name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Rev 2:17) Perhaps this mysterious identity after we receive the ultimate salvation is the new body that will be given by God a totally new dimension.
Illness in the old body will not effect the perfection of the new body: Illnesses that influence the shape of the old body are irrelevant in the resurrection of the new body. Having one arm or being blind will have no influence on the shape and the state of the new risen body. This risen body will experience the ultimate joy that no human mind can imagine. If we had moments in our lives where we were laughing so hard we think we might have a stroke, multiply this by a billion times and even that would be but a little taste of heaven.
The challenges of faith in the existence of heaven: God created us to share his eternal glory and life. It is the will of God that every human person be saved, no exception. No doubt should destroy our hope from being with God and sharing God’s eternal life because his will is our eternal redemption, and God’s will never changes. However, because of the limitations of our human nature many times we doubt the realities of faith and it is natural. Keep in mind that our faith is a free decision of the will and not of the emotions. If we don’t feel anything sometimes, it is does not mean we don’t have faith. The storm will pass the sun will shine again.
Sharing heaven with those we don’t like or love! Sometimes we have a deep hatred toward someone wishing them to rot in hell. We must be very careful in going against God’s eternal will for everyone to be saved. It is a reality that these people we hate might be sharing God’s eternal life with us and it will last forever. Purgatory will purge our imperfections of love, so we can love everyone with the eyes and heart of Christ and Mary. The Catechism teaches that at the end of time, everything will be renewed and purified because there is no communion between light and darkness: “Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, ‘new heavens and a new earth’…She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community.“(CCC, 1043 and 10:45; Revelation 21:1)
Transformation of the universe: The entire universe will be transformed into a new earth; but we don’t know how that will happen. The fact that there will be a ‘new earth’ at the end of time, should be a reason for us not to care for our earth today. The transformation of the old universe into a new one is rooted into our universe here on earth, even though it transcends it. Vatican II teaches: “Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society…When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise . . . according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom” (GS, 39:2-3) That is exactly what St. Paul has already stated in his Letter to the Corinthians that God will then be ‘all in all’ in eternal life (1 Cor. 5:28)
Sin disturbs the moral order and incurs punishment: When we sin, we disturb the moral order. In his love and mercy, God allows us to suffer in order to re-establish the moral order and bring our being back to the level God intended it to be. Now, there are two ways we can amend our lives and pay for our sin: temporal punishment or punishment after life. If we pay here on earth for our sins, then we escape paying for them after life. Somehow, we must make up for our sins and be cleansed here or in the afterlife. The Catechism teaches: “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.” (CCC, 1030)
Definition of Purgatory: Purgatory is not the same as hell. Many people don’t accepted the idea of purgatory because they misunderstand it. Purgatory is not a place where people are burned by fire the way we normally imagine it. The theology of purgatory is different. When a person dies having sins still on their soul, they long to possess the supreme good, God, but they can’t. They are in the presence of the Almighty God; they look at it and they want to possess it, but they can’t yet because of their sins. That fire of not being able to be fully with God burns their sins. Purgatory is the fire of God’s love that is purging them to be able to fully possess the supreme good and be able to be in heaven. Those who are in purgatory will ‘eventually’ be in heaven.
Old Testament Biblical foundations of Purgatory ~ The Book of Maccabees and the cleansing of sin after death: The reference to purgatory is very evident in the Book of the Maccabees. When Judas, their leader, found that those who had fallen in the war had sacred tokens of idols, he praised the righteous God who allowed them to die. However, he and the Jews “turned to prayer, begging that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out. and the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin…In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Maccabees, 12:42-45). Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, dropped this book from the Bible because it teaches that we are capable of praying for the dead to help their sins to be forgiven.
The book of Tobit alludes to the same theology of God allowing his people to experience ‘Hades’ and then bring them up again: “Blessed is God who lives for ever, and blessed is his kingdom. For he afflicts, and he shows mercy; he leads down to Hades, and brings up again, and there is no one who can escape his hand.” (Tobit 13:1-2)
Biblical foundations of Purgatory ~ St. Paul and the cleansing after death: The First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul invites us to found our Christian life and actions on Christ. The result of our work on the Day of judgment, if we haven’t done the greatest job, will be salvation but after being purified. St. Paul says: “For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ… each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, the fire will test what sort of work each one has done…if any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor 3:11-15) Everyone’s work will be tested by fire by the very merciful Christ: only he knows the deepest recesses of our hearts and all the details and circumstances of our actions.
When praising the service and the mission of Onesiphorus, St. Paul prays: “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:18) St. Paul here alludes to the mercy of God that will accept Onesiphorus and purifies him. Again such a terminology does not imply a state of holiness of Onesiphorus, neither does it state that he is condemned to hell.
Biblical foundations of Purgatory ~ The Book Revelation and the cleansing of sins after death: In the Book of Revelation St. John boldly teaches that purification after death is necessary before entering the kingdom of God. He affirms that part of God’s heavenly city presupposes a complete holiness of life: “But nothing unclean shall enter it, nor any one who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev 21:27) By no means the description of these ‘unclean’ points to people who are already condemned to hell. In the entire New Testament, the condemned described by Jesus are way far worse then the category of the ‘unclean’. The images and terminology applied to the ‘unclean’ and ‘condemned’ are radically and completely different. This verse implies that the ‘unclean’ are not yet in the city of God but, at the same time, they are not in hell either.
Biblical foundations of Purgatory ~ Letter to the Hebrews temporal punishment to avoid the cleansing of sins after death: In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author invites us to accept God’s punishment as sign of his love for us: “For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves and chastises every son who he receives.” (Heb 12:6). Such a punishment is necessary because its result are the holiness of our lives. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews continues to urge us to “strive for peace with men, and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) A holy life that establishes peace and eliminates sin, is the condition of possibility of ‘seeing the Lord.’ Again, the terminology used here implies that the people without such a ‘holiness’ will not see the Lord; yet, they are not condemned to hell either.
Biblical foundations of Purgatory ~ Mark’s Gospel: In the Gospel of Mark 9, Jesus teaches in these similar terms “If your eye leads you to sin, cut it out. It’s better for you to enter heaven with one eye rather than going to hell with two eyes. Or, if your hand leads you to sin, cut it out etc.…” After that Jesus utters a tricky statement to interpret, “Everyone will be salted by fire”. What does that mean? Is that an indication of purgatory? Most likely yes, because in a context where Jesus invites us to a radical commitment to reject sin (to the point of plucking our eyes), he confirms that there will be punishment. Right then he adds “everyone will be salted by fire.” It is the fire that will burn our sins if we don’t stop sinning in our body.
Biblical foundations of Purgatory ~ Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospel: temporal punishment to cleanse sins and avoid cleansing after life: In Matthew 5:25-26 and Luke 12:58, Jesus’ teachings implies the temporal punishment that will help us avoid purgatory. He was telling his disciples, when they are going with their opponent to court, they needed to try to settle with them on the way. Because if they don’t, the judge might throw them in jail and they won’t get out till they had paid the last penny. This could be an image of making up for our sins here on earth to bring our being to the level God intended it to be from the beginning of our creation. Amending our lives here might save us the ‘jail’ of purgatory in the future. Creating love and peace with our neighbor instead of a harsh fight in court could help us avoid jail and paying for our sins to the last penny in this life and in the next.
In Matthew 12:31-32, Jesus explains the seriousness of the sin of those who accused him of being possessed by an evil spirit. They are rejecting the Holy Spirit of Christ and their judgment will be severe. Because Jesus looks like he is a mere human being, sinning against him could be forgiven at the day of judgment, but not the sin against the Holy Spirit who boldly reveals that the kingdom of God is at hand: “Therefore I tell you. every sin and blasphemy with be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says 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.”
St. Gregory the Great comments that since Jesus taught that some sins could not be forgiven neither in this age nor in the age to come, this implies that some sins can be forgiven in the age to come. Here is what St. Gregory says: “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.” (Dial. 4:39)
Biblical foundations of Purgatory ~ St. Peter’s Letter: St. Peter invites his reader to welcome suffering as a part of our final destiny when the Lord Jesus is revealed. Such a pain will result in an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. He writes: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Purgatory is also the teaching of the Holy Tradition of the Catholic Church: At the end of the John’s Gospel, we read that many other things Jesus did and said that were not written in this book. If they were to be written the whole world can not contain what could be written. Therefore, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to continue his redemption work and to extend in space and time the presence and teachings of Jesus. Jesus assured the Apostles that when he leaves, the Holy Spirit of truth will come down on them and will continue to teach them everything Jesus had taught them until the end of time. He is the Spirit of Truth who will ensure that the Tradition is accurate and immune from error. From the beginning of her life, the Holy Spirit taught the Church’s Magisterium that purgatory is a matter of faith to be held by the Church. St. John Chrysostom summarizes the tradition of the Church saying: “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.” (Hom. in 1 Cor 41,5)
Definition of hell: Big problem! Vatican II teaches us about hell. It explains that if a person knows and is fully aware that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that Jesus gave the Church the means of salvation, and they still deliberately rejects Christ and the Church till the end of their life, they are in danger of eternal death. These are the four conditions for endangering our eternal salvation: 1) True knowledge of Christ as the Only Savior; 2) The Church was given by Christ as a means of salvation; 3) A deliberate decision to reject Christ and the Church; 4) A decision to reject them until the end of life. The Church teaches that if these four conditions are present, a person is in danger of going to hell. Vatican II also: “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (Nostra Aetate, 4) The Catechism summarizes hell in this way: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’. (CCC, 1033)
God never predestines anyone to go to hell: In the teachings of Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, it is obvious that God’s will is for everyone to be saved with no exception. Just because God has no time sequence and already knows who will be saved, it does not mean that he predestines us to be saved or condemned. God’s eternal will does not change and it is our salvation since we were created by him and for him. Those who go to hell, they choose that fate freely and consciously (see CCC, 1033-1037). St. Peter rightly teaches that God does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Officially the Council of Orange (529) states: “God predestines no one to go to hell.”
Is it possible to reject Christ and the Church until the end of life: Is it possible that a person could truly know that Christ is their Savior who established the Church as a means of salvation, and still freely reject that until the end of their life? An example will illustrate the complexity of this theology. Suppose I meet a family whose son Joseph is super intelligent. Everyone thinks that he might be the doctor to find a cure for cancer, but his family does not have any money. I fund the money asking the parents not to tell Joseph who I was. Joseph becomes the most important doctor in the world, and in fact he does find a cure for cancer. One day he is driving his Ferrari in Rome and I, driving behind him, hit him by mistake. He comes out of his car and beats me up to the point of almost killing me. He does not know who I am. If he knew that I am the one who “saved” him, do you think he would still have beaten me up like that? If he knew who I was and still decided to beat me or kill me, how evil of a person would he be? Still it is possible to not choose God as the Catechism teaches: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice.” (CCC, 1033)
Hell as negation of God’s very purpose of creating us: In my opinion many people who think they know Christ and the Church, don’t really know in the full sense of the word. But is it possible for someone to truly know and still decide to be evil? Yes, because they have a free will. The tragedy of hell consists in this: God made the human person to inherit eternal life, body and soul. In the same way the body dies, hell is the death of the soul. The death of the soul is hell, and thus it is the negation of the identity of a person who was created by God to perfect their being not for their being to “die”. Hell reverses God’s plan of eternal life. Thus, it is the ultimate reversal of the person’s identity, which suffers eternal death instead of eternal life. In heaven we pass from glory to glory as we are immersed in the infinite God. Hell is the negation of all that: the human being passes into more and more death of the being instead of its glorification. The being continues to exist but in a reverse state of being: death instead of life. The Book of Revelation calls it “second death.” (Rev 2:11)
Hell exists even though the Church has never confirmed that a “specific” person went to hell. The Bible does not confirm that Judas, who betrayed Jesus, went to Hell. Actually, the Acts of the Apostles state that he went to “the place prepared for him.” (Acts 1) The Church will never identify that “place” as hell. Where someone goes after death is the exclusive decision of God. It is the Church’s responsibility to identity and confirm certain actions as grave sins, but deciding who goes where is totally and completely up to God.
Because of the heroic lives of many saints, the Church has canonized many faithful, confirming their immediate presence in heaven at the moment of death. May all of us, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, inherit eternal life and be with God forever, body and soul.
Choosing hell is irrevocable: Once in hell, salvation is not an option anymore. The Church has always rejected the theory of apokatastasis according to which the entire humanity will be saved even Satan and the devils. When Jesus was delivering the parable of the Rich and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31, the rich man asked Abraham if Lazarus could dip his finger in cold water and help refreshing him while in fire. Abraham clearly indicated that there is a quantum leap between him in heaven and the rich man suffering in hell and there is no way that once could cross from one side to the other.
If everyone will be saved automatically because of the love of God, then the human freedom and the value of all moral actions would not have any value. Creating the human person as a free agent and saving him through the blood of the Cross are real and authentic not just a game.
Capítulo 22: El Cielo, el Infierno, el Purgatorio, y la Resurrección del Cuerpo
Las enseñanzas en este capítulo se basan en las Escrituras Sagradas, la Tradiciones de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica (CCC)), los Padres de la Iglesia (especialmente San Thomas Aquinas y San Agustín) él Magisterio de la Iglesia Católica (especialmente San Papa Pablo VI, San Papa John Paul II y Papa Benedicto XVI).
Cielo: El cielo es un estado de ser. No es un lugar de la misma manera que tenemos un lugar aquí en la tierra. Cuando decimos que el cielo es un lugar, es un lugar solo en el sentido de que existe y no en el sentido de que es un espacio. ¿Qué es el cielo? El cielo es la naturaleza infinita y el ser supremo de Dios. El Cielo es la Naturaleza del Padre, del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo que la mente humana no puede comprender. San Pablo enseñó que ninguna mente humana puede imaginar lo que Dios preparó para quienes lo aman. Entonces, cada vez que alguien piensa en el cielo, esos pensamientos serán inadecuados.
Cuerpo Antiguo y Nuevo Cuerpo: Cuando la persona humana muere, su alma estará inmediatamente en la presencia de Dios para recibir la recompensa. Al final de la historia humana, todos los cuerpos se levantarán de los muertos y el cuerpo resucitado se unirá al alma resucitada para que la totalidad de la persona humana (cuerpo y alma) esté con Dios. El cuerpo resucitado está al mismo tiempo en continuidad y discontinuidad con el viejo cuerpo. San Pablo dijo de la misma manera que un grano de trigo muere en el suelo y una planta de trigo crece a partir de él, entonces el viejo cuerpo es la semilla del nuevo cuerpo espiritual. El viejo cuerpo es la semilla, pero el nuevo cuerpo sobrepasa las propiedades de la semilla y se convierte en una nueva creación. El grano de trigo es la razón por la cual tenemos la planta, entonces el viejo cuerpo es la semilla del nuevo cuerpo espiritual. Sin embargo, la planta entera no estaba oculta en este pequeño grano; de manera similar, el nuevo cuerpo es un nuevo cuerpo espiritual.
Las enfermedades que influyen la forma del viejo cuerpo son irrelevantes en la resurrección del nuevo cuerpo. Tener un brazo o estar ciego no tendrá influencia en la forma del nuevo cuerpo levantado. Este cuerpo resucitado experimentará la alegría suprema que ninguna mente humana puede imaginar. Si tuviste momentos en tu vida en los que te reías tanto que crees que podrías sufrir un derrame cerebral, multiplica esto por mil millones de veces e incluso eso sería una pequeña muestra del cielo.
Desafíos de la Fe en el Cielo: Dios nos creó para compartir su gloria y vida eterna. Es la voluntad de Dios que cada persona humana sea salva. Por lo tanto, no dejen que ninguna duda destruyan su esperanza de estar con Dios y compartir la vida eterna de Dios porque su voluntad es tu redención eterna. A veces tienes un profundo odio hacia alguien deseando que se pudra en el infierno. Debemos ser muy cuidadosos en ir en contra de la voluntad eterna de Dios para que todos sean salvos. Vuelve a ti mismo, cálmate y date cuenta de que estas personas que odias pueden estar compartiendo la vida eterna contigo. El purgatorio purgará tus imperfecciones de amor para que puedas amar a todos con los ojos y el corazón de Cristo y María.
Purgatorio: Muchas personas aún no han aceptado la idea del purgatorio. El Purgatorio no es un lugar donde las personas son quemadas por el fuego de la manera que normalmente lo imaginamos. La teología del purgatorio es diferente. Cuando una persona muere teniendo pecados en su alma, en la presencia de Dios anhelan poseer el bien supremo, Dios, porque no pueden. Están en la presencia de la gloria de Dios Todopoderoso; lo miran y quieren poseerlo pero no pueden. Ese fuego de no poder estar con Dios destruye sus pecados. Es el fuego del amor de Dios el que los purga para poder llegar al cielo.
Los Fundamentos Bíblicos del Purgatorio: En el capítulo 9 de Marcos, Jesús enseña en estos términos similares “si tu ojo te lleva al pecado, córtalo”. Es mejor para ti entrar al cielo con un ojo en lugar de ir al infierno con dos ojos. O si tu mano te lleva al pecado, córtala, etc. … “Después de eso, Jesús elaboró un versículo complicado para interpretar, “todos serán salados por el fuego “. ¿Qué significa eso? ¿Es eso una indicación del purgatorio? Lo más probable es que sí, porque en un contexto en el que Jesús nos invita a un compromiso radical de rechazar el pecado (hasta el punto de sacarnos los ojos), confirma que habrá castigo. En ese momento agrega que “todos serán salados por el fuego”. Es el fuego que quemará nuestros pecados si no dejamos de pecar en nuestro cuerpo.
La segunda carta de San Pablo a los Corintios, al hablar de la salvación como resultado de nuestro compromiso con la fe y las buenas acciones, establece que “El trabajo de todos será probado por fuego. Esa persona se salvará, pero como alguien quien está pasando a través del fuego “. San Pablo está hablando sobre el juicio final donde el trabajo de todos será probado por fuego porque Dios conoce todos los detalles de nuestras vidas y acciones.
El otro más obvio es el Libro de los Macabeos, en donde leemos que las oraciones por los muertos expiaban sus pecados. Martin Luther, el fundador de la reforma protestante, abandonó este libro de la Biblia porque enseña que somos capaces de orar por los muertos y ayudar que sus pecados sean perdonados.
En Mateo, 10 las enseñanzas de Jesús podrían implicar el purgatorio. Él les estaba diciendo a sus discípulos, cuando vas con tu oponente a la corte, trata de resolver con ellos en el camino. Porque si no lo haces, el juez puede llevarte a la cárcel y no podrás salir hasta que hayas pagado el último centavo. Esta podría ser una imagen de compensar nuestros pecados para llevar nuestro ser al nivel que Dios quería desde el comienzo de nuestra creación. Crear amor y paz con nuestro vecino en lugar de una dura batalla en la corte, podría ayudarnos a evitar la cárcel y pagar nuestros pecados hasta el último centavo.
El Purgatorio es también una enseñanza en la Santa Tradición de la Iglesia Católica: Al final del Evangelio de Juan, muchas otras cosas que hizo y dijo Jesús que no estaban escritas en este libro. Si se escribieran, el mundo entero no podía contener lo que podría escribirse. Por lo tanto, Jesús envió al Espíritu Santo para continuar su obra de redención y para exponer en el espacio y el tiempo la presencia y las enseñanzas de Jesús. Jesús le aseguró a los Apóstoles que cuando él se iba, el Espíritu Santo descenderá sobre ellos y continuará enseñándoles todo lo que Jesús les había enseñado hasta el fin del tiempo. El Espíritu Santo prometido por Jesús es la Tercera Persona de la Trinidad que extenderá en el espacio y el tiempo (en la iglesia) las palabras y los hechos de Jesús. Él es el Espíritu de la verdad que se asegurará de que la Tradición sea precisa e inmune al error. Además, la autoridad de enseñanza de la iglesia católica desde abajo asegura que lo que el Espíritu Santo siempre ha enseñado a la iglesia, siempre revelará lo que está bien y lo que está mal en cualquier tradición. El Espíritu Santo inspiró al Magisterio de la Iglesia de que el purgatorio es una realidad.
Infierno: ¡Gran problema! El Vaticano II nos enseña sobre el infierno. Explica en términos similares: que si una persona sabe y está plenamente consciente de que Jesucristo es nuestro Salvador y que Jesús le dio a la Iglesia los medios de salvación, si todavía deliberadamente rechazan a Cristo y la Iglesia hasta el final de su vida, ellos son en peligro de muerte eterna. Estas son las cuatro condiciones: 1) conocimiento verdadero 2) de la identidad de Cristo y de la Iglesia rone 3) decisión deliberada de rechazar a Cristo 4) hasta el final de la vida. La iglesia enseña que si estas cuatro condiciones están presentes, esa persona corre el peligro de perder su alma para siempre al ir al infierno.
¿Es posible que una persona realmente sepa que Cristo es su salvador que estableció la iglesia como un medio de salvación, y que aún así lo rechazaría libremente hasta el final de sus vidas? Un ejemplo ilustra la complejidad de esta teología. Supongamos que conozco a una familia con un hijo Joseph quien es súper inteligente. Todos piensan que podría ser el médico para encontrar una cura para el cáncer, pero su familia no tiene dinero. Yo financió el dinero pidiéndoles a los padres que no le digan a Joseph quién era yo. Joseph se convierte en el médico más importante del mundo y, de hecho, si encuentra una cura para el cáncer. Un día él conduce su Ferrari en Roma y yo, conduciendo detrás de él, lo pego por error. Él sale de su auto y me golpea hasta el punto de casi matarme. Él no sabe quién soy. Si él supiera quién era yo, si yo fuera el que lo “salvó”, ¿Crees que todavía me hubiera golpeado? Si él supiera quién era y todavía decidiera golpearme o matarme, ¿Qué tan malvado sería él?
En mi opinión, muchas personas que creen que conocen a Cristo y a la Iglesia, en realidad no saben en el pleno sentido de la palabra. Pero si uno realmente sabe y aún decide ser malvado, ¿Es posible? Sí, porque tenemos libertad auténtica. La tragedia consiste de esto: Dios hizo que la persona humana heredará la vida eterna, el cuerpo y el alma. De la misma manera que el cuerpo muere, el infierno es la muerte del alma. La muerte del alma es el infierno; es la negación de la identidad de una persona que fue creada por Dios para heredar la vida eterna. Es el reverso del plan de vida eterna de Dios y es el reverso final de la identidad de la persona que “desaparece” en la muerte eterna. De la misma manera en el cielo, pasamos de gloria en gloria al estar inmersos en el Dios infinito, el infierno es la negación de todo eso. Es al revés entrar en más y más aniquilación del ser.
El infierno existe a pesar de que la iglesia nunca confirmó que una persona “específica” fue al Infierno, ni siquiera Judas, que traicionó a Jesús, fue al “lugar preparado para él” (Hechos, 1). La iglesia nunca identificará a una persona como segura se fue al infierno porque es la decisión exclusiva de Dios. Es responsabilidad de la iglesia identificar y confirmar ciertas acciones como pecados graves, pero decidir quién va a donde está total y completamente depende de Dios.
Debido a la vida heroica de muchos santos, la iglesia canonizó a muchos fieles que confirmaban su presencia inmediata en el cielo en el momento de la muerte. Que todos nosotros, por intercesión de la bendita Virgen María y de todos los santos, heredemos la vida eterna y estemos con Dios para siempre, en cuerpo y alma.