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Casey Jeter wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a few questions about your faith. The Bible says there will be a Resurrection of the righteous: that those, in Jesus, will rise first and unrighteous will be judged.

Sometimes I read posts that say Heaven just gained an angel or My grandma is watching over me.

  • How are spirits going to Heaven when the final judgement hasn't come?
  • Wouldn't that ruin the point of the Resurrection, the Second Coming, and the Last Trumpet?
  • Do you know anything about the word Hell replacing Sheol, Hades, and Gehenna?

Please correct if I am wrong but this is what I think happens after death:

  1. We die
  2. Our spirit, or [rauch/pneuma] or breath, returns to God
  3. We turn to dust from which we were made, and
  4. Wait until the Resurrection.

Casey

  { Would spirits going to Heaven ruin the point of the Resurrection and do these words replace Hell? }

John replied:

Hi Casey,

Thanks for your questions.

First off Scripture has to be taken as a whole and understood with Apostolic Tradition or Sacred Tradition (of which Scripture is a part). By this we mean, the Teachings handed down, often interpretations or understandings from the Scriptures which can be found in various writings of the Early Church Fathers and Councils.

So let's start with the fundamentals.

There is one Resurrection of the Dead at the end of time and the Second Coming. Now Paul writes in 1st Thessalonians 4, that the dead in Christ shall rise first and be caught up with Christ and those who are living will be caught up with them. (1 Thessalonians 4:17) Paul is writing to people who fear that they would miss the Second Coming. You see, back then as now, there were various speculations about this and various theories. Today we see many Protestants embracing very unorthodox teachings about a Pre-Tribulation rapture, (A rapture that happens seven years prior to the actual Second Coming), so they have got two separate resurrections and all kinds of variations on this theme. Most of this dates back to around 1850 and guy named John Nelson Darby . . . who wrenched various Scripture passages out of context, completely ignoring the many Early Church texts and Church's Apostolic Tradition.

All the dead rise at the Second Coming and all will be judged at that time . . . everyone. St. Paul makes it clear that we must all face the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Now we all are judged upon death. Some will reject God's Mercy, because they rejected His Grace and Mercy in this life. Others, having responded to His grace in this life, will accept that Grace and Mercy. Those who rejected it will be condemned to eternal Hell or Gehenna. The righteous will enter into the presence of God's love . . . however not all of us die, although saved by grace, in a state of total sanctity, where we are completely detached from sin, self-love, or selfishness.

  • Why?

Because when we sin, not only do we damage or sever our relationship with God, we also self-inflict wounds on our soul. For that reason, we need to be healed. Catholics call this condition Purgatory or Purification. At times, we have referred to this model as a place or experience of temporal punishment but that's sort of confusing. A better model is to look at this as a healing process. . . and so by grace, the Love of God draws the soul closer to Him and, in that process, the fire of God's love purifies the Soul. (Hebrews 12:29) It involves some suffering but it's healing pain, accompanied by great joy as the soul gets closer and closer to the Lord. Again, there are many Scripture passages I could point to in order to support this but instead I will refer you to our database for explanations about Purgatory and our Scripture Passages page.

So all this happens when we die. We are judged personally and privately. Now, at the Second Coming there is another Judgment. That is a public judgment for everyone to see, as everything will be made known to everyone. The souls who have already been condemned have been in the Hades or the Sheol of the damned, and will go to the Lake of Fire, Gehenna, or the Hell of the Damned however now they will be in their eternal bodies. The saved will rule and reign with Christ with Glorified Bodies in the New Heavens and New Earth. We can only speculate what this will be like but we know the entire Cosmos will be remade.

Now let's deal with some of the minor questions.

When people die, they don't have wings and become angels. Angels are pure spiritual beings that can take on a corporal form but are an entirely different creation made to serve man for all eternity. Remember God is now and forever a Man in and through the Person of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word Incarnate and Second Person of the Trinity. We, as Christians, are in Christ. We are both in His Bride and in His Body. We will forever be mystically united to Him. So in short, the idea of a dead person getting their wings is pious, popular tradition that is completely wrong.

Hades replaced Sheol in the New Testament, simply because the Old Testament is written in Hebrew and Aramaic . . . hence the word Sheol is used. The New Testament is written in Greek . . . hence the word Hades is used . . . though it is sometimes called Hell or Gehenna, an actual literal place or a gate in Jerusalem. It was a dump, where human excrements were brought and burned. Jesus used the name of that actual, physical, earthly place to describe the Lake of Fire or the Hell of the Damned.

Hades and Sheol, simply mean place of the dead. Before the Resurrection, with little exception, everyone went there. By tradition the section of the righteous was called the Bosom of Abraham and the damned section was called Sheol.

. . . and, in fact, when we say in the Creed,

He (Jesus) descended to Hell.

He went to the Bosom of Abraham and freed the souls waiting. One could compare this area of Sheol or Hell as a kind of Purgatory. Scriptures imply that neither Elijah or Moses went there as they were bodily assumed into Heaven. Elijah appears to have been transformed and assumed alive. Moses died first and appears to have been resurrected.

So Hades, Sheol, and Hell are often used interchangeably in Scripture and it gets confusing. In Revelation it says Hell itself will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:14)

Well in that case, Hell is a reference to Purgatory which will end with the End of Time at the Second Coming.

But let me give you a huge disclaimer here. Don't get caught up thinking these places are realms or places. These are paradigms, metaphors, or models used to explained spiritual realities which we can't fully fathom and therefore are Mysteries. That is something revealed to us, that we accept by faith, but don't fully understand. Hence Pope St. John Paul II gives us a great explanation.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory are all the Presence and Love of God.

  • The person in Hell is still loved immensely by God but since the person is eternally rejecting God's love, His love becomes a source of eternal torment.
  • The soul in Purgatory experiences joy because he accepts God's love at the same time that Divine Love is burning away all remaining selfishness, purifying and perfecting the soul . . . so there is healing pain.
  • Now in Heaven, it is pure joy so . . .

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory are actually conditions.

The time element in your questions can be confusing as well.

Remember God is always, and eternally, in the Eternal Now. He created time itself so since we live in time, we use time periods to explain things.

I hope this helps and I would be happy to answer any further questions you have.

Under His Mercy,

John

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