Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Some Thoughts About The End

What happens when we die?

That's a question that plagues all of us in our quietest moments. In fact, I think one of the primary reason for our preoccupation with noise is to keep such thoughts at bay. But I digress.

The Christian answer to this question gives us three possibilities: heaven, purgatory, or hell. I am not an expert theologian on these matters so I will simply offer some passing thoughts on the subject.

Heaven is the place of the beatific vision. That is, we will see God face to face and we will be as He is. The soul longs for such revelation and communion. Here our longings are met for eternity. But how do we get to heaven? Simply, we must be of pure hearts and pure lips. We are to be those who love God with all our beings. We are to be those perfected in His holiness.

Most of us cannot hope to attain to such a place with such a criteria. Therefore we are prone to dumb down the qualifications. But an honest evaluation of Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Church through the ages will reveal that this is, indeed, the criteria. Thus, purgatory becomes a comfort to us.

Purgatory is the place for those who are blessed with eternal life, but have not yet purged all the remaining vestiges of sin. They are not yet holy, and their love is not yet purified. However, they did die in a state of Grace and are, therefore, brought to this place to be purged of sin and made ready for heaven. Many (perhaps most) Christians do not believe in purgatory. This is unfortunate as it has been part of the historic Faith from its inception. It is also unfortunate because without it one finds himself in the unenviable position of dumbing down the requirements of heaven to such a degree that it could no longer truly be heaven, or he has to simply keep virutally everyone out.

Purgatory is not a second chance to get it right. It is not for those who have lived all their lives as rebels against God and then think they will get bailed out in purgatory in the end. Their destination is the next place we will discuss. No, rather, purgatory is for those who have loved and believed in our Lord, but still were in need of being perfected. (Remember Jesus told us we must be perfect as the Father is perfect- and He meant that). With this in mind, purgatory is a place of God's mercy and Grace. We may be thankful for its existence and even look forward to our time there that we may finally be perfected and made fit for heaven.

Hell is the place for those who have spent their lives in rebellion against God and His ways. Hell is real. Hell is horrible. Hell is eternal. With only that much knowledge we should do everything we can to avoid it and to keep those we love out of it. There is no escape from hell. Once there, the soul remains there forever. Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. But it is the final place for those who imitate these in their rebellion against God and His authority. God doesn't send people to hell. They choose it. God being loving and just gives each of us what we choose.

Where am I going? Where are you going? We cannot say for certain. The soul who lives righteously now does not know if he will someday turn against God and be lost for eternity. The one who lives in gross sin now has the chance to repent and receive God's mercy in the end. But the person who believes in Christ and demonstrates it by the actions of his life has the promise of Christ that he will not perish but inherit eternal life. This is the good news.

A few moments spent in sober meditation on such thoughts as these will do wonders to help us to see the greatness of God's mercy and the fearsome reality of His wrath. It is my prayer that His love revealed in the promise of heaven is enough to win your heart. But if not, then I hope the fearsome fact of hell is enough to scare you to turn from your sins and run quickly to His loving arms.

In our media saturated world we think that somehow every life will come to live happily ever after. But that is not true. Many will indeed be lost. Still, I hope that if you're reading this you will not be among them.

2 Comments:

Blogger Joni said...

Thank you for this sobering post. I learned a lot from it.

May we who believe do all we can to take others to that place of eternal life with us.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Hidden One said...

"Still, I hope that if you're reading this you will not be among them."

So do I, so do I.

7:41 PM  

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