Life after death is not something to be afraid of if you have lived a good life, with love for God, yourself and your fellow man. The future that awaits us is so bright that many people do not dare to believe it. They prefer to stick to what they see and understand, no matter how miserable life on earth is. However, anyone who dares to surrender to faith in, hope in and love for God will not be disappointed. On the contrary, our greatest trials and pains pale in comparison.
Our life on earth is a probationary period and a learning process. It is a time given by God to develop and prove our love for him; to prove our love
- to Him is greater than any of the gifts He has created, such as health, wealth, family and friends.
- can withstand the pressure of human evil such as pain, poverty, humiliation or injustice.
Whether we feel good or bad, we must always be able to demonstrate our love for God and prove it through our behavior .
And then we die – the soul separates from the body – due to old age, illness or an accident, the body deteriorates to such an extent that the soul can no longer function. As soon as the soul leaves the body, the person has died. We don’t know exactly when this will be. The heart no longer works, breathing has stopped, but the soul can still be present. Sometimes someone who appears dead can be resuscitated. That is impossible if the soul has already left the body. That is why the Church allows a dying person to be administered absolution and anointing of the sick immediately after death, if the soul is still present. When the blood begins to clot and death has really occurred, the soul has permanently left the body.
As soon as the soul leaves the body it is judged by God Almighty; this is the personal judgment, this is what we have lived and worked for. The soul does not have to go anywhere to be judged (he does not have to knock at Peter’s gate), because outside this earthly life there is no place, no room, and the judgment is carried out on the spot.
Theologians think that what actually takes place during this judgment is that God illuminates the soul so that it sees for itself what state it is in – a state of grace or of sin, a state of love for God or of rejection of God and what fate this entails. follows according to God’s infinite justice. This fate is certain! The time of preparation and learning has ended. God’s mercy (which we received through His death on the cross) has come to an end, and now it is God’s justice that reigns.
If the soul has chosen self over God, and has not returned to God even in the last second, it dies in a state of mortal sin. She has willfully cut herself off from God and has now lost Him forever and ever; that’s hell.
What does hell look like? Jesus talks about an eternal fire. However, the soul is immaterial, so it cannot be destroyed, so it must be a feeling. Even worse than this feeling of pain, the soul experiences a sense of loss: the eternal separation from God. Possibly each person experiences hell in his/her own way; think of what would be the worst thing that could happen to you and that is your private hell, forever and ever. And you yourself, voluntarily, chose it!
If we have not rejected God, but if we recognize that we are not squeaky clean, then we can certainly hope that the sacrament of the sick, which we receive on our deathbed, has purified our soul from all stains. The general indulgences serve this purpose, specifically the indulgence that we receive at the moment of our death during the last blessing of the priest. That is why it is so important that we ensure that every dying person actually receives this!
If we are thus strengthened at the hour of death with the last sacrament and the fully deserved general indulgence, our death will no longer frighten us, but will be the moment of ultimate victory. The new reality that surpasses our imagination reveals itself: from that moment on we are one with God. Our greatest trials and pains pale in comparison. This state of pure bliss is everlasting! Added to this is the joy of the presence of Jesus, His Mother Mary and all the saints, including our own family and friends who have gone before us.
But what if we’re not ready for heaven yet? What if during our lives we were satisfied with a superficial spirituality, if we lived our faith with ease, if we hardly practiced self-criticism, if we were quickly prepared to make worldly compromises? In that case, our love for God was not as perfect and selfless as it could have been. Our uncontrolled passions and inclinations may have been somewhat purified by praying the Creed (and forgive us our sins), but we have not done our utmost to completely purify our souls. This makes us too good for hell, but not good enough for heaven and we go to purgatory for our final purification. To cleanse us from our sins that stand between us and God.
Purgatory is a state of suffering. Our soul is strongly drawn to God, but we are not yet in that perfectly pure state where we can go to him. During our lives, our body functions as a shield against the strong pull of God. Some saints feel this nevertheless, but most of us do not. As soon as our soul leaves our body, it sheds its shield, but the attraction is overwhelming, inescapable. Unfortunately we have to wait, without being able to do anything to shorten this time. During our lives we have missed our opportunities. In purgatory we still have to be purified, while we have no idea how long this process will take.
Fortunately, this suffering is not endless, it is not hopeless. Moreover, the soul itself does not want to appear before God until it is completely purified; she is happy to be able to undergo this purification completely. We don’t know how long this will last. That depends on the seriousness of the sins committed. And furthermore: there is no time after death, there are no days, no weeks, not even minutes. Fortunately too, the souls already in heaven, and we humans on earth, can help those in purgatory. With our love and memory, with our prayers and with the masses that we have celebrated for them, such as on All Souls’ Day, with the 6-week service and with annual services.
We don’t know when the world will end: tomorrow, in a century, or in many millions of years. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus predicts wars, famines, deadly diseases and the reign of the Antichrist before we see the Son of God appear. Depending on how you look at it, we’ve already been through all this, but perhaps even worse things await us. Perhaps what the world has suffered is nothing compared to what is yet to come. In other words, we can only make sure that we are ready when the time comes, that we are prepared.
What we do know is that at the end of history our bodies will rise from the dead to be united with the soul. For, we were created with body and soul, in that capacity we honored God and suffered for him. So it is only right that soul and body are reunited to be with God forever, as a gift of love. However, our bodies will be different: they will not experience hunger, thirst or fatigue. They are spiritualized. Being part of God they will radiate perfection and splendor. The church therefore prefers burial over cremation, out of respect for the body given to us by God.
At the end of the world a general judgment will be made. This is God’s glorious moment when He will reveal His justice, His wisdom, and His mercy. Nothing will change, but everything we didn’t understand is now becoming clear to us: why there is a hell, how God can make souls suffer forever when so many people think he won’t because he is a loving God. Even the condemned, despite themselves, will realize and understand God’s justice forever.