What happens when we die.
Part of arguing is understanding the claims. This is my short summary of the teaching of Christianity about what happens after death, regarding Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. This item was prompted by a question on Quora, "Which religion invented the concept of Heaven and Hell first."
OT means "Old Testament." NT means "New Testament." The primary structure of this argument was worked out by Jeremy Jackson, in Syracuse. I changed only parts, and of course, any errors are mine. I originally developed this as a talk for a church, which I based on Dr. Jackson's work. Here, I tried to cut out the polemical or motivational parts, which are not appropriate for the blog.
Because they are the spokesmen for much of worldwide Christianity, I have attached the official teaching of the Catholic Church at the end.
1. OT, what it says.
OT says the place we go is “Sheol.”In the OT, it’s used 65 times—the place if you wish, of the human being after death.
- We don’t know what Sheol means, as a matter of fact. Most probably it is a word that indicates depths. We may think this because when the Jews translated the OT into Greek in the Septuagint, they used the corresponding Greek word, hades, the Greek place of the dead, which approximately means the lower depths. In English, we piggyback on this by speaking of the underworld. Since you bury a body, it is natural for us to think, at least pictorially, as the body as being after death somewhere beneath.
- Except for two unique people in the OT, Enoch and Elijah, all go to Sheol, whether they are the righteous or the unrighteous. Nevertheless, they all go to sheol, because all indeed go beyond death, to some place or state of being.
- Yet there is a very distinct final destination: on the one hand for the wicked, on the other hand for righteous.
- Psalm 49:the psalmist says that sheol shall be their home. That is to say, where the wicked truly belong. He sees them as being incarcerated there. Period.
On the other hand, in verse 14-5 we see:
- Ps 49:14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. 15But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,for he will receive me.
- Notice the word ransom. Jesus said that he as the Son of Man had come to be a ransom for many, delivering us from the power of death.
- When the psalmist says “God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me,” it’s intriguing that he is using a word—the same word as in Psalm 73:24, “receiving me to glory”—a word which is used of Enoch. In Genesis 5:24: 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. The word “took” is the same word as “received” in Ps 73:24.
- So, what was the exceptional experience of Enoch and Elijah, that without having died, to be received by God, will also be the experience of all the righteous at some future point.
2. NT, what it says.
IN THE NT: Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, who had passed beyond death—in Luke 16: 19-31; where clearly these two, the rich man and Lazarus, are conscious. I can only note in regard to this, that parables are not a very good foundation for doctrine, in themselves. Especially a parable that isn’t exactly concerned with the afterlife. If you read it. The reason Jesus told the story was to focus on the significance of our choices, and our conduct in the present life.
- There is a key shift in the NT re what happens after death, and it depends on the resurrection. Paul would tell the Jews in Antioch, Acts 13:5, that Psalm 16:10 had been fulfilled, that God did not give Jesus up to sheol, that he did not allow his body to see corruption. In other words, God wasn’t allowing Jesus to be bound by that experience.
- Peter says the same thing in the Pentecost sermon, in Acts 2.
- 1 Cor 15, Paul connects the resurrection to us. He says that because Jesus was raised, we might be quite sure that if we trust in him, that we shall be raised also. Otherwise, he says, we might as well eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. And in that context, when he says “die”, he means die, finally, period, there’s nothing else.
3. How then does the resurrection of Jesus affect us? By the resurrection, Peter says at Pentecost, Acts 2:24, he says that God loosed the pangs of death.
- Acts 2:24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
- He loosed the pangs of death, in death’s total physical and spiritual meaning, in the sense of separation from God and separation from bodily existence as we know it physically. If this is a loosing of the pangs of death, by the resurrection of Jesus, it fulfills the hope of all those OT saints, who trusted in God’s mercy, and all of us NT saints who do the same. The hope that we will be delivered from corruption, from final death, and delivered to eternal life. That is our hope, that is what the resurrection achieved, and what the resurrection promises.
- The resurrection pronounces judgment upon death.
- The resurrection pronounces judgment upon Satan, through whom death has come.
- And also, the resurrection not only is a hope to us, unfortunately and tragically, it is a pronunciation of death upon all those who have chosen the ways of death and the ways of Satan. And so the resurrection marks a great division of human life and in human history.
- For that reason, I believe, Paul when speaking to the Athenians, in Acts 17:31, singles out not the death of Jesus but the resurrection of Jesus as being decisive. He says that whereas in the past, God excused or did not act upon the wickedness of men, but now since the resurrection, he’s going to do so. That’s the decisive moment, with regard to judgment and salvation.
4. What about the unrighteous? Those who have not trusted in Christ, after they leave this life. Peter may give a hint in 2 Peter 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment...
- —The Lord keeps the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.
5. What about the righteous?
- I do believe, more certainly than what may happen to the unrighteous, that the state of the righteous is positively affected. Because Jesus is now revealed as our savior. All the prophets speak of Jesus, of what he’s going to do. But in history, at a specific point of time, and it must be at a specific point of time, Jesus came, and he died, and he was raised from the dead. And that makes a difference in human experience and in human history. And because of that, there is a difference in the human experience of all those who have trusted in that, who have trusted in the mercy of God, which is revealed and expressed in the cross of Jesus Christ. Thus, although our final resurrection, when our souls and our bodies will be one as they were normally intended to be by God in creation, by our final resurrection awaits the appearing and the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- There is a time beyond, when Jesus is fully revealed in His glory, when we will see him in that way which will be new for us. We will not have the fullness of the sight of Jesus until the final resurrection, when we receive our new bodies—which is when we will be able to see Jesus in all his glory.
- As John says in 1 Jn 3:2, We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
6. “Falling asleep.” Paul uses the term “falling asleep” only for Christians, nine times; never for unbelievers, when he is describing what happens when Christians die. I think the reason why he uses that term is to contrast it with what happens when the unrighteous die. When the unrighteous die, he doesn’t merely fall asleep, he is dead, dead-dead. Not dead in the sense that he won’t have a conscious soul existence, before the final judgment; but dead in the sense that that death was the final statement.
He had been dead in life spiritually toward God, and his death in life marks the end. By contrast with the righteous in Jesus Christ. For them, that death is not final. It’s final in regard to their bodies, but Paul said in that passage we read, this body is a mere temporary tent. And we are waiting a permanent dwelling and permanent clothing to settle upon us in time to come.
- So what I believe he wants us to understand, and the Christian church has overwhelmingly understood—he wants us to understand that for a Christian, it’s as if we merely fall asleep, and we’re going to awake, we’re going to awake at the last trumpet, with a resurrected body.
7. The three things we go thru as Christians
- There seems to be a clear cut, three part progression, in our experience of the Lord when we die. 2 Cor 5, has this, in J.B. Phillips' paraphrase:
- 2 Corinthians 5 J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
- 5 1-4 We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling were taken down, like a tent, we have a permanent house in Heaven, made, not by man, but by God. In this present frame we sigh with deep longing for the heavenly house, for we do not want to face utter nakedness when death destroys our present dwelling—these bodies of ours. So long as we are clothed in this temporary dwelling we have a painful longing, not because we want just to get rid of these “clothes” but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent house that will be ours. We want our transitory life to be absorbed into the life that is eternal.
- 5-8 Now the power that has planned this experience for us is God, and he has given us his Spirit as a guarantee of its truth. This makes us confident, whatever happens. We realise that being “at home” in the body means that to some extent we are “away” from the Lord, for we have to live by trusting him without seeing him. We are so sure of this that we would really rather be “away” from the body (in death) and be “at home” with the Lord.
- 9-10 It is our aim, therefore, to please him, whether we are “at home” or “away”. For every one of us will have to stand without pretence before Christ our judge, and we shall be rewarded for what we did when we lived in our bodies, whether it was good or bad.
- The first experience is NOW, as we are Christians. What we experience the closeness of Christ through the Holy Spirit. We experience that blessedness, even in suffering, as we’re told by James, Paul, Peter and others. We experience Joy in that suffering. And we have a great hope of what is to be.
- And then there is a second stage, an intermediate stage, a progressive stage. Which is not ideal. He shrinks from the idea of nakedness, in the passage we read, where the body is stripped away. Which is unnatural, because as human beings we’re defined as a spirit-body unity. It’s UNNATURALLY separated by physical death. Nevertheless he states, it is better than our current condition. Why?
- Our resurrection bodies, there’s a final point of progression, that we will finally see Jesus, with all our restored human faculties, as real human beings. And that is Glory, that is Resurrection, and that will be, unlike the other two states, whether now or after death, it will be permanent. It will be forever. It is Everlasting Life.
8. The Saints in Heaven
- Revelation 6:9, 10, the saints who have departed this life. Who are under the throne, under the altar, who cry out, How Long, O Lord, How Long will this wickedness on the earth continue? Most plausibly, John is expressing there in that vision, using visionary language, parallel to the parables of Jesus,
- —in the language that he ascribes to them, saying “How Long o Lord”, he is echoing a traditional prayer. It’s in Psalm 74:9-10 (9. We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet, and there is none among us who knows how long. 10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile your name forever?)
9. Purgatory. Purgatory is our alleged probationary character of our time after we died. The term ‘purgatory’ is normally used for that. It means a purgation, a purging, like this: After we die and before Jesus comes in glory, we need to be purged, we need to be cleansed; but some people (the "Saints") were so righteous in life that they don’t need that.
- It seems to me that to regard the afterlife as a time when we undergo purging is to confuse quality of our life with quantity. The qualitative problem of you and me as human beings is that we need to be cleansed from sin; and the cross of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. We ARE justified. That’s a qualitative statement. It doesn’t yield to a sort of quantitative dealing with after this life, I think.
- I think purgatory reflects more certain sensibilities, certain anxieties of some people, including incidentally C.S. Lewis. It says more about their sensibilities and background and teaching than it does about the reality that scripture presents. When we look in scripture to find any evidence of this, hardly anything.
- Let me note here with regard to Catholicism that official Catholic Doctrine with regard to Purgatory is far more restrained than the popular belief among most Catholics. Popular belief and popular practice speaks of indulgences, whereby one can in this life by paying for Masses and other things, can guarantee that not only yourself but those who have already passed on might be helped on this purging process. That the purging process might be hurried up. [I have attached "Article 12. I Believe In Life Everlasting" from the official Catechism of the Catholic Church which speaks of purgatory, at the end of this article.]
- A popular corruption of Catholic teaching on purgatory is to encourage those who live a life of self-indulgence to suppose that somehow their sins and conduct now can be excused because it will be paid for or covered in the interim, intermediate stage to come. Scripture gives no encouragement to that view, condemns it, and suggests that anyone who so thinks may not know of the cleansing work of Jesus Christ.
- 10. Conclusion. Hebrews 9:27-28 But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
“I BELIEVE IN LIFE EVERLASTING”
1020 The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life. When the Church for the last time speaks Christ’s words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance: (1523-1525, 2677, 336)
Go forth, Christian soul, from this world
in the name of God the almighty Father,
who created you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God,
who suffered for you,
in the name of the Holy Spirit,
who was poured out upon you.
Go forth, faithful Christian!
May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints....
May you return to [your Creator]
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life....
1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.http://...592 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.http://...593 (679)
1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purificationhttp://...594 or immediately,http://...595—or immediate and everlasting damnation.http://...596 (393, 1470)
1023 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face:http://...598 (954)
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.http://...599
1024 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. (260, 326, 2794, 1718)
1025 To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”http://...600 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.http://...601 (1011)
1026 By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has “opened” heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ. (793)
1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father’s house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”http://...603 (959, 1720)
1028 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”: (1722, 163)
1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God’s will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him “they shall reign for ever and ever.”http://...605 (956, 668)III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory
1030 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.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.http://...606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:http://...607 (954, 1472)
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.http://...608
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.”http://...609 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.http://...610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: (958, 1371, 1479)
1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”http://...612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.http://...613 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.” (1861, 393, 633)
1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna,” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.http://...614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather... all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”http://...615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”http://...616
1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”http://...617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (393)
1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”http://...618 (1734, 1428)
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”http://...619
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;http://...620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:http://...621 (162, 1014, 1821, 678-679)
V. The Last Judgment
1038 The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,”http://...623 will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “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.”http://...624 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.”http://...625 (1001, 998)
1039 In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare.http://...626 The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life: (678)
All that the wicked do is recorded, and they do not know. When “our God comes, he does not keep silence.”... he will turn towards those at his left hand:...” I placed my poor little ones on earth for you. I as their head was seated in heaven at the right hand of my Father—but on earth my members were suffering, my members on earth were in need. If you gave anything to my members, what you gave would reach their Head. Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence.”http://...627
1040 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. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvellous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.http://...628 (637, 314)
1041 The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them “the acceptable time,... the day of salvation.”http://...629 It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the “blessed hope” of the Lord’s return, when he will come “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all who have believed.”http://...630 (1432)VI. The Hope of the New Heaven and the New Earth 2854
1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed: (769, 670, 310)
The Church... will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.http://...631
1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”http://...632 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.http://...633 (671, 280, 518)
1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men.http://...634 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”http://...635
1045 For man, this consummation will be the final realization of the unity of the human race, which God willed from creation and of which the pilgrim Church has been “in the nature of sacrament.”http://...636 Those who are united with Christ will form the community of the redeemed, “the holy city” of God, “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”http://...637 She will not be wounded any longer by sin, stains, self-love, that destroy or wound the earthly community.http://...638 The beatific vision, in which God opens himself in an inexhaustible way to the elect, will be the ever-flowing well-spring of happiness, peace, and mutual communion. (775, 1404)
1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man: (349)
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God... in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.... We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.http://...639
1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.http://...640
1048 “We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.”http://...641 (673)
1049 “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.”http://...642 (2820)
1050 “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.”http://...643 God will then be “all in all” in eternal life:http://...644 (1709, 260)
1051 Every man receives his eternal recompense in his immortal soul from the moment of his death in a particular judgment by Christ, the judge of the living and the dead.
1052 “We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ’s grace... are the People of God beyond death. On the day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies” (Paul VI, CPG § 28).
1053 “We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in Paradise forms the Church of heaven, where in eternal blessedness they see God as he is and where they are also, to various degrees, associated with the holy angels in the divine governance exercised by Christ in glory, by interceding for us and helping our weakness by their fraternal concern” (Paul VI, CPG § 29).
1054 Those who die in God’s grace and friendship imperfectly purified, although they are assured of their eternal salvation, undergo a purification after death, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of God.
1055 By virtue of the “communion of saints,” the Church commends the dead to God’s mercy and offers her prayers, especially the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist, on their behalf.
1056 Following the example of Christ, the Church warns the faithful of the “sad and lamentable reality of eternal death” (GCD 69), also called “hell.”
1057 Hell’s principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
1058 The Church prays that no one should be lost: “Lord, let me never be parted from you.” If it is true that no one can save himself, it is also true that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him “all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
1059 “The holy Roman Church firmly believes and confesses that on the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ’s tribunal to render an account of their own deeds” (Council of Lyons II : DS 859; cf. DS 1549).
1060 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.