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Michael Miller wrote:

Hello Mike,

I have a question for you.

  • Do the souls in Heaven or Hell have a concrete body of some sort?
    <Notice I didn't say physical.>
  • If not, how can they exist as humans without a body?

I noticed that in a previous answer when you mentioned death, you made reference to a Particular Judgment, as opposed to the Final Great White Throne Judgment.

  • If a Christian requires Purgatory time, what exactly is judged in the Final Judgment?
  • According to Catholic doctrine, are works judged only at the Last Judgment or at the Particular Judgment as well?
  • If at the Last Judgment, does not the Christian receive particular rewards after their Particular Judgment?
  • Finally, what is you view of the witness accounts of people who claim to have seen Heaven?

Personally, I have decided to suspend my judgment on the matter but I want to hear your thoughts.

Regards,

Mike

  { Can you answer questions on the Particular and Final Judgments and what about these accounts? }

Mike replied:

Hi Mike,

I am going to share your questions with the rest of the team so we can all pitch in. If I am off on anything, they will chime in. For my colleagues: Mike is a Catechism participant — one of the last ones before I had to suspend the program.

You said:

  • Do the souls in Heaven or Hell have a concrete body of some sort?
    <Notice I didn't say physical.>
  • If not, how can they exist as humans without a body?

We will not have a body but exist as spirits who have received their Particular Judgment and are awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus.

At the Second Coming, we will be re-united with our body but, for the saved and justified, it will be a glorified body, not an earthly one.

You said:
I noticed that in a previous answer when you mentioned death, you made reference to a Particular Judgment, as opposed to the Final Great White Throne Judgment.

  • If a Christian requires Purgatory time, what exactly is judged in the Final Judgment?

The Catechism tells us:

V. The Last Judgment

1038 The resurrection of all the dead, "of both the just and the unjust," (Acts 24:15) 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." (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)

1039 In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare. (cf. John 12:49) The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life:

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." (St. Augustine, Sermo 18, 4:PL 38,130-131; cf. Psalm 50:3)

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 marvelous 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. (cf. Song of Songs 8:6)

1041 The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2) 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 marveled at in all who have believed." (Titus 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:10)

You said:

  • According to Catholic doctrine, are works judged only at the Last Judgment or at the Particular Judgment as well?

Works are judged at the Particular Judgment but their consequences revealed at the Last Judgment.

You said:

  • If at the Last Judgment, does not the Christian receive particular rewards after their Particular Judgment?

Hmmm. <Scratching my head.> Not sure on this one.

You said:

  • Finally, what is you view of the witness accounts of people who claim to have seen Heaven?

Personally, I have decided to suspend my judgment on the matter but I want to hear your thoughts.

One can only speculate, but they appear to manifest human experiential testimonies that any logical-thinking agnostic would have to consider if they are searching for the truth about whether a God does exist or not.

I don't mention atheists because, my personal experience is, they have no interest in using their minds in a logical manner. I believe some have been unjustly hurt by people who they grew up with in a scandalous, unjust manner while others have unknowingly fallen into Adolescent Atheism. This is based, not so much on a true cognitive belief that there is no God, but is a reaction to overbearing religious parents and teachers just to get under their skin.

They project their anger or rebellion toward God and go on to irrationally deny His existence because of these early childhood experiences.

Mike

John replied:

Hi, Mike —

Let me just preface my comments by saying:

  • what we know about these things or
  • rather what the Church Teaches about these things

is in human language. Therefore it really doesn't do these mysteries of faith justice. Rather it is the Church's attempt, led by Holy Spirit, to understand and explain what is to come.

My understanding is that the Particular Judgment is between you and God. It happens at the time of death.

The Final Judgment is simply the same judgment but it is very public and it happens at the end of time. Of course even this is a difficult thing to understand.

  • How does time end?

Well, for those of us who exist within time, it's a concept we can only grasp at so the idea of when something happens is relative.

All that said, let's deal with some of the specifics.

With a few exceptions, the souls of the Faithful Departed don't have bodies. We really don't know how they exist. Obviously, they are still individuals that are recognizable so they must have so form but they are in a form of a pure spirit without a body as we understand it, or a body such as the Resurrected Body Christ has.

Catholics believe that Mary was assumed body and soul in to Heaven. Whether or not she died first is a matter of two different traditions.

  • In the East, the tradition is she died or fell asleep and her body along with her soul was taken to Heaven.
  • In the West, the tradition is that she was assumed without dying.

In any event, she would have been transformed into her resurrected body, as we will be, at the end of time. Scripture seems to indicate that Elijah was assumed alive and there are references in the New Testament of Moses being assumed after death. On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus meets with both of them while Peter, James, and John witness it.

There is also an obscure reference to a man named Enoch in Genesis 5 (Noah's grandfather) who is said to have walked with God and then was no more. Some traditions believe that Enoch was assumed. We know dogmatically that Mary has her body and a very strong case can be made for Moses and Elijah having their bodies.

Finally, there is this passage in Matthew 27

51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks were split; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints that slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Matthew 27:51-53

Now at first, this seems to have taken place just as Jesus died but verse 53, indicates it happened after His Resurrection. No other Gospel records this but it happened to take place on the Feast of First Fruits and Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, knew that the readers would understand that this Resurrection of some of the Old Testament Saints was a fulfillment of the Jewish feast of First Fruits so if this literary construct is to be understood as historically accurate then whoever these folks are, they have bodies in Heaven, but as I said, the majority don't.

Now to your Purgatory question. I don't treat Purgatory in terms of judgment or punishment for sin or even temporal punishment. Yes, that's a paradigm the Church has used in the past but Purgatory is place where the effects of sin on your soul are dealt with so time in the Purgatory is not exactly a sentence but it's time in Holy Spirit Hospital or Rehab Clinic for the soul.

Sure it will involve suffering but it is best compared to a healing suffering. It's perfectly fine to use the old juridical paradigm of Judgment and temporal punishment but it can lead to confusion.

Purgatory is nothing but the Love of God burning away all our selfishness and while it may hurt, it is also a source of great joy. I can give you a personal example from my own life.

Four years ago I underwent heart surgery. Somehow during my surgery, they managed to paralyze my right foot. When I woke up I was in excruciating pain because of the nerve damage. For months my foot would not move at all. If I tried to stand on it, it felt like I was ripping my calf muscle off the bone but the pain I was feeling were the nerves healing. About eight months later, I started to get the slightest of movement back. As time passed, the pained started to change, both in sensation and in location and, sure enough, every time that would happen, I would start to regain sensation and movement in that area of the foot and leg a few weeks later. So I started to recognize this pattern. Every time I felt a new pain, in different spot, as much as it hurt, it also gave me hope that I was truly healing. After a year, I was told I was done healing and that I would always need a brace and never be able to drive but I was convinced God would continue to heal me and indeed a few months later I dumped the brace and started to drive a bit.

Today, I rarely use my cane to walk. It still hurts very badly but now the pain is concentrating in my toes that still don't move. I can feel the nerves contract when I try to move my toes. It is excruciatingly painful but I love it because I know in few months my toes will move.

Well, I believe that is very much the experience of the Holy Souls in Purgatory. God is not extracting punishment rather He is healing them and healing, just like growing, comes with pain.

So I would compare the Judgment that happens vis-a-vis Purgatory to a physical exam before one is admitted to the hospital.

Ultimately, the purpose of both Judgments is to demonstrate God's mercy. Even those who are damned, are shown their sins and shown all that God was willing to forgive, if they would accept His Love and Mercy.

In fact, the soul who experiences Hell is experiencing God's love but, in their case, it is a source of torment, because they are constantly rejecting that Love. They don't believe they deserve it. And they're right they don't, just as the saved don't deserved to be saved either.

Love, Grace, and Mercy are not extended because we deserve or earn it. It is extended because we need it. More importantly, because it is God's nature and character to Love, forgive, and give of Himself, that's all He wants to do: Give Himself to us. That's why He created us. He wants to treat us a Father, not a Judge.

As to you're last question about those who claim to have seen Heaven — It's possible.

The Church has approved certain private revelations. Again, we must be careful. Obviously, if the person who claims to have seen Heaven in some out of body experience then comes back spewing things which contradict orthodox Christian doctrine, we have reason to doubt what they saw. They might have had a real experience but they could have also been deceived by demons.

I hope this helps,

God Bless

John

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