Good afternoon Fr. Can you please help with these questions from the text 1Thessalonians. 4:1-18?
1. Does one get his judgement immediately after death or until the second coming of Christ?
2. Can the prayer of the living change or effect the life of the dead into getting salvation or heaven?
3. Can one act of good deeds earn him heaven without Christ?
4.Where do we call or classify as heaven? Or where is heaven?
1. The second coming of Christ will confirm our judgement.
The Catholic doctrine of the particular judgment is this (cf CCC 1021-22) : that immediately after death the eternal destiny of each separated soul is decided by the just judgment of God. We know our state right from death. Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man implies an immediate judgement. Also look at the thief on the cross, who was promised immediate paradise just after death..
“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43); and the death of Stephen. (Acts 7:56)
However, Scripture also abounds in teaching us about the Final Judgment at the end of time just like the 1Thes. 4:1-18 you sited and many others confirm it. (CCC 1038).
This is how come we have the Particular Judgment immediately after death and Universal Judgment at the end of time.
2. The one who refuses God whilst alive and denied the holy one (cut off from the vine) gets to hell. No prayers can bring someone from hell to heaven and vice versa.
We pray for the dead because of our faith in the temporal state of purification called purgatory. (CCC 1030-32)
“Nothing impure will ever enter it (heaven), nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”_ (Rev. 21:27)
We know nothing impure can get to heaven and almost everyone has some defects. The God who spared Lot (he was not free from all sin) still spares us. Our prayers help those already getting to heaven but needing purification. If we pray or not, they will get to heaven but we pray to shorten their journey, so to speak. We are talking mystery with ordinary terms so think deeply.
3. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus is the way. No one knows how he works but he tells us that no one comes to the father except through him. So no one gets to heaven without Jesus. But does that mean no non-Christian is saved? God’s ways are not ours and I know many are in heaven who did not profess faith in him openly. God has his own way of stirring up the heart of people who do not know or have never heard of him to know him and obey his will, and so be saved. Each person is endowed with conscience to choose what is right and avoid what is wrong. The beauty and awesomeness of the created order is itself a manifestation of God to those who might not have the chance of hearing about God.
4. Heaven is not a place, just like hell and purgatory. It is not a geographical location which we can locate on a map. It may appear so in certain writings because we are only using human language to describe mysterious realities.
Heaven is a state of being in God’s presence, where we will see him as he really is.
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,a we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2). This is referred to as the beatific vision.
The pain of separation from him is hell. Ours is to remain with the Lord and we may enjoy the effects of heaven right here.
The authentic believer need not to be convinced of heaven. He knows it intuitively.
~ Padre Antonio and Padre Joseph Nyarko Asare
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