Jesus_Lamb3I often think we haven’t done a very good job in setting forth the doctrine of Eternal Life. For most people the concept seems a rather flat one, namely, that we shall live for ever and ever and ever…. And frankly for many such a concept seems rather unappealing even if the place of it is heaven. Heaven too is often poorly understood. It is reduced to a rather egocentric notion of a place where I will be happy. I’ll have a mansion, I’ll see my mother again, I won’t suffer…. But most moderns in their description never get around to mentioning God. If God is mentioned at all he’s down on the list somewhere, not at the top where he belongs. This is sad for the heart of heaven is to be with God!

Pope Benedict in his Encyclical Spe Salvi also ponders the problem of the poor understanding of eternal life:

Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever —endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable….The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it. (Spe Salvi, 10, 12).

My own pondering and experience of the concept of eternal life is that ultimately eternal life is not about the length of life, it is about the fullness of life. To enter eternal life mean to become fully alive. For now we are not fully alive. We experience much of death in these lowly bodies of ours. However, most of us do get glimpses of eternal life and can experience aspects of it even now. For example, have you ever had a day when you had all the energy in the world. Not only did you feel energetic but your mind was sharp and your day was efficient and effective. Everything seemed to click and there was joy and contentment. Most of us have days like that from time to time but they don’t last. :-( But it is a glimpse of what eternal life might be like multiplied by a factor of 10 Trillion.

Another experience I have of eternal life I hope you share too. At age 51 my body is not in prime condition. It is aging to be sure and death will one day come to it. But my soul is more alive than ever. I am more joyful, more serene, more confident, more prayerful, more content. Many sins that used to plague me are gone or greatly diminished. In effect, I am more alive at 51 than I was at 28. And wait to you see me at 68 and 88! As I get older I become more alive. What I am saying is that eternal life doesn’t just begin after we die. It begins now and should grow in us more and more. It’s fulfillment will only be heaven but I am witness (and hope you are too) that eternal life has already set deep roots in me.

So again, the main point here is that with eternal life the word “eternal” refers not so much to the length of life as to the fullness of life. To enter eternal life is to become fully alive with God forever, to experience untold joy, serenity and peace in an eternal embrace with God forever. And having our communion with God perfected we will also have our communion with one another perfected. Who really needs a mansion when you can live in the heart of God? That is our true dwelling place that the Father is preparing. It’s not about houses and seats of honor its about a place in the heart of the God who made us and loves us. It is to become fully alive and perfect as the Father is perfect.

Pope Benedict also has a very beautiful image of eternal life in Spe Salvi:

To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John’s Gospel: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22). (Spe Salvi, 12)

In the following video Fr. Robert Barron makes an interesting point, one that I have made elsewhere in these pages, namely, that when the Church fails to teach her doctrine well or casts aside her traditions, the world often picks them up but distorts them. In this rather Halloweenesque video Fr. Barron notes that as we have struggled to present well the concept of eternal life the world has taken up the notion of those “who can never die” in the vampire craze. Obviously the fact that they live forever is a horrible curse to them and any biblical notion of eternal life is absent. They are merely the “un-dead.” When the Church drops the ball the world pick it up but flattens and distorts it.

25 Responses

  1. TaylorKH says:

    Yes, I believe I have experienced a short glimpse, too. Eternal life is always present – not past or future. It is joyful / blissful. We will be presently blissful and never anxious for a future or a “what if…?” or “who’s going to..?” or “why did they…?” We will be with “I AM” and we will “be” like He Is – always in the present. For me, it is a glimpse of being a care-free, blissful child playing in the presence of his sweet, smiling, loving, laughing, caring mother with lots of other children who are also bubbling over with joy. We will always be children to God, and He will be Father to us, and we will bring joy to each other, and all will be provided for us, and we will not know nor will we need to know how or when it is provided. It just IS. :-)

  2. Steve M says:

    For many years I have visualized Hell as an endless succession of days being alone from God but also everyone I have every loved. What could be more horrible?

    Msgr Pope: I think the answer is “it is a mystery” but what does the Church teach about what we will be in heaven? That is a pretty vague question but will we take some part of our Consciousness with us? I think that CS Lewis in “The Great Divorce” must have had insight from God into Heaven because it is so satisfying logically.

    • Peregrinus says:

      The specific answer to your first question, Steve M, depends on to what future condition you are referring. Are you inquiring about the condition of the disembodied souls of saints in Heaven or about the state of the blessed after the resurrection of the just?

      Monsignor Pope and TalyerKH have already alluded to the general answer to your question. Heaven essentially consists, in either state, in the perfect union of the human soul with God. This union is an immediate vision of God called the beatific vision or vision of the blessed; for those who enjoy it are truly blessed. They contemplate the very essence or nature of God and, by doing so, share, in a real way, in His perfect, divine life. I have explained in more detail on this same blog site the nature of this sharing or participation (see my comments of 05/19/2010 4:01 p.m., 05/20/2010 5:39 p.m., and 05/21/2010 5:51 p.m. at http://blog.adw.org/2010/05/eternity-is-not-a-long-time-it-is-all-time).

      The human person never loses his consciousness in the sense that his soul never perishes. The kind of consciousness the disembodied soul has, however, is significantly different from that of a soul united to his body.

      • Steve M says:

        Thanks Peregrinus. A first read of MSgr. Pope’s blog and the discussion in the link you provide make it clear that I will need to have a nother couple reads to absorb the ideas. Thank you for the response. Again the first pass read does answer my question. Have you read “The Great Divorce”? The book is very approachable and for me provides a picture that ties the many threads about Heaven together. The writing here and in the link are not in conflict with the book.

        As a side note…Holy Scripture cannot be replaced or improved upon by other books. Other authors though can often provide insight into Scripture.

        • Peregrinus says:

          I have read The Great Divorce, Steve M. In fact, I facilitated a book study group’s reading of it. You are correct in noting that the book’s description of Heaven does not necessarily conflict with the Catholic Church’s teaching of it, except in respect to the idea that one can leave either Heaven or Hell. We know from divine revelation and theology that Heaven and Hell are ultimate destinations. Of course, C.S. Lewis also knew this fact; and he used the hypothesis of a refrigerium simply to make the point that those who are in Hell have chosen to be there and would not choose differently, even if they were allowed to visit Heaven.

          Lewis’ description of the solidity of Heaven in The Great Divorce actually relates to our current discussion. He illustrates the fact that the blessed directly united to God in Heaven have, in a sense, a more metaphysically real existence through participation in His divine life by describing Heaven and the people in it as being physically much more solid than the visitors to Heaven.

  3. Doug says:

    Steve M writes: ” “it is a mystery” but what does the Church teach about what we will be in heaven?” Steve, your Church’s Bible teaches this:
    Gen 1:28 And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.
    Isa 45:18 For thus says the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth, and made it, the very maker thereof: he did not create it in vain: he formed it to be inhabited. I am the Lord, and there is no other.
    Ps 115:23.24 Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s: but the earth he has given to the children of men.
    Ps 37:11,29 But the meek shall inherit the land, and shall delight in abundance of peace; But the just shall inherit the land, and shall dwell therein for evermore.
    Isa 55:10,11 And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth, and water it, and make it to spring, and give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.
    Mt 5:4 Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
    Rev 21:3,4 And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men: and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people: and God himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more. Nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.
    “CS Lewis in “The Great Divorce” must have had insight from God into Heaven because it is so satisfying logically.” Well, now you have insight into heaven and earth, from Moses, David, St John and others. What do you think of the view?

    • Steve M says:

      @ Doug: Thank you for trying. I appreciate the time you took for the response. Some very beautiful verses. BY “mystery” I did not intend to mean that I have no idea. The Bible verse your provide align with Msrg. Pope’s post. Maybe my question would be clearer if I was very specific although Ido intend to be broad. Do we believe that we will carry with us memories of our experiences on Earth? I look forward to seeing the fullness of Truth ( assuming I make it). I am off into speculation of course but will we be filled with the presence of God to the point that nothing else will matter or will we have our memories but we will understand given the fullness of God why something happened?

      Again, I know my question is vague and abstract but curious if there was teaching from the Church into this area.

      • Peregrinus says:

        Your question concerning the survival of memories after death, Steve M, is not a topic, precisely speaking, of Church teaching. That is to say, the question does not belong to the Deposit of Faith or the sciences of theology or even eschatology, except to the extent that divine revelation and the sciences that study it confirm the existence of the human soul after death. Your question pertains to the science of psychology, i.e., the study of the soul.

        The human soul is immaterial and, therefore, immortal, given the nature of its faculty or power of deliberative thought or cognition (see Aristotle, De Anima, Book III, esp. 429a30- 430a25; cf. CCC, Para. 366). The memory is part of the human soul, so to speak, or an act of it; and it, therefore, survives death. A disembodied soul, however, cannot, according to Aristotle, use its memory, since the memory depends upon a material part to function, which is separated from the soul at death (see De Anima 430a 10- 25).

        Note that God can, nonetheless, infuse memories or knowledge into the disembodied human soul, similarly to the way He does with angels but not, of course, to the same extent.

        • Steve M says:

          Thanks again. Re-read posts and comments. A lot of Beauty in Creation.

        • Doug says:

          To Steve and Peregrinus:
          “Your question concerning the survival of memories after death, Steve M, is not a topic, precisely speaking, of Church teaching.” Yet, as usual, his Bible does consider it a “topic”
          Rev 21:3,4, quoted by me: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and death shall be no more. Nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away.” So, no bad memories to disturb us. (No more need for Scientology, then. :-) )
          Moreover, Ps 145:16 says, “You open your hand, and fill with blessing every living creature.” The KJV, of the same vintage as the Douay says, “Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Likewise the modern NIV says, “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” What part of complete satisfaction won’t you like, whether on earth or elsewhere?
          So, many good memories to be talked over (it seems, in my “protestant” interpretation :-) ) but no bad ones. And no need to remember our loved ones in many cases- they’ll be there with us! “Having hope in God, which these also themselves look for, that there shall be a resurrection of the just and unjust.” Acts 24.
          Steve writes: “The Bible verse your provide align[s] with Msrg. Pope’s post.” Really? He wrote, “you can live in the heart of God … That is our true dwelling place that the Father is preparing. It’s not about houses and seats of honor its about a place in the heart of the God who made us and loves us.” Do not be misled; lay and titled Catholics believe in life in Heaven or Hell; nothing in between. Just ask the Lollards, Albigenses and such … Oops, can’t do that; they’ve all been burned.
          The verses I quoted say that our true dwelling place was on the earth that the Father prepared for us. Moreover they say his purpose hasn’t changed so it’s still our true dwelling place. As to “houses” the prophets were specific. “And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruits of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of my people, and the works of their hands shall be of long continuance.” Isa 65:21; see also Isa 36:16; Mic 4:4. None of this is in Heaven, where the residents have incorporeal bodies. 1 Cor 15. Heaven is for another group entirely- the “saints”, or holy ones; those who have been “born again” into immortality.
          My “hidden agenda” in many of these posts is to show that the theology of the Bible is simple, clear, and appealing to humans provided they are teachable. (By Jehovah and Jesus, not by me.) OTOH mainstream church theology is encumbered by highfalutin’ language, traditions of men (and what did Jesus say about that …?), rituals, tithing, penalties and other things that most of us call bad government when we see it in the secular world. Many of them are ready for change they can believe in; I was, and grabbed it. Haven’t regretted it.
          There! Not hidden anymore. :-)

          • Peregrinus says:

            I assume, Doug, that you are asking your questions because you wish to know the truth, and not because you wish to discredit the holy Catholic Church or the Deposit of Faith that she preserves. I will, therefore, respond to your comments and questions; but I will do so succinctly, for I do not wish to turn this comment stream from a discussion of eternal life into an apologetic of Catholicism. This is not the proper forum for doing so.

            None of the Biblical verses that you quote, Doug, explains the precise nature of the human soul, let alone memory, after death, your interesting interpretations notwithstanding. Nor should those verses; for the subject of the Bible is God Himself, and not psychology or the natural sciences. The Bible does, it is true, touch upon and describe a great many things, and its description assumes a number of truths from psychology and the natural sciences (e.g., the immortality of the human soul); but we must look elsewhere (e.g., to psychology) for a precise formulation of those truths. I would note that the failure to understand the nature of Sacred Scripture has led many, including both the Catholic Cardinals overseeing the Galileo proceedings and today’s Fundamentalists, to fall into difficulties concerning the interpretation of the Bible.

            I infer from your comments, Doug, that you are unaware that the disembodied souls of the blessed are united with God immediately after death in the beatific vision while they await the resurrection of their bodies, which will happen on the Last Day (see Acts 24:15, John 5: 28-29, I Cor 15, and CCC, Para. 1038). They are truly in Heaven during this time, albeit without their bodies, since Heaven is, as I have noted above, essentially direct union with God (see John 17:3 , I John 3:2, I Cor 13: 12, Rev. 22:4, & CCC, Para. 1023). Monsignor Pope can, for this reason, define Heaven without reference to place and can understand the Bible verse describing “many mansions” in Heaven in a figurative sense, so to speak, without being in error. It is true that eventually the blessed will enjoy Heaven on the New Earth in both body and soul and perhaps even in literal mansions; but the happiness of Heaven consists primarily in the joys of the soul.

            I will only note in reference to your comments of 07/27/212 at 3:17 p.m. below, Doug, that truth does not contradict truth, since there is but one origin of all truth, viz., God, who is Truth Himself. The true conclusions drawn by philosophers in their sciences do not contradict the truths of Sacred Scripture. There is nothing wrong, therefore, in bringing out the gold of the Egyptians (or Aristotle), so to speak, to adorn the Temple of God and His divine revelation, to paraphrase St. Augustine. Those who do not accept the true conclusions from the philosophical sciences because those conclusions do not support their interpretations of the Bible ought to re-consider their interpretations. You, in point of fact, Doug, ought to re-consider your interpretation of Gen. 2:7. It is based on a mis-understanding of the meaning of “living soul” (a figure of speech here, and not a technical term) and brings you too close to the errors of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other materialists.

            Note that I will not have the use of my computer during the weekend and will not, therefore, be able to respond to any more of your questions until July 30th. I apologize for any inconvenience that this delay may cause you.

            May God preserve us in the truth Faith of the Apostles.

        • Doug says:

          Peregrinus writes: “The human soul is immaterial and, therefore, immortal, given the nature of its faculty or power of deliberative thought or cognition (see Aristotle, De Anima, Book III, esp. 429a30- 430a25; cf. CCC, Para. 366).”
          Aristotle, CCC … traditions of men. (Aristotle … What diocese was he in? Or was it that same Aritstotle whose now-discredited teachings about astronomy got Galileo in trouble with Bellarmine?)
          The Bible: Gen 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man BECAME a living soul.” BECAME, not HAD a soul.
          On the corollary side, the phrase “immortal soul” does NOT appear in the Bible.
          A life-and-death matter; a broad gulf between your magisterium and tradition on the one hand and “your” Bible on the other; and you stick with M & T.

  4. RichardC says:

    When I was younger, for some reason I became confused into thinking that heaven was purely spiritual. The purely spiritual is unimaginable and the unimaginable is undesirable, as the will is only moved by particulars. It wasn’t until I started thinking about the resurrection of the body that heaven became appealing to me again.

  5. Steve C says:

    Here’s a great Lenten retreat talk by Fr Isaac Mary Relyea on the 4 Last Things
    http://youtu.be/ERsQjoJOf9Y <-intro
    http://youtu.be/oGJPfdqe6l0 <- death
    http://youtu.be/tKPesRK1M2A <- judgement
    http://youtu.be/kxiyRRUTHUA <- Hell
    http://youtu.be/ZPFW1NXkR9Y <-Heaven

    Sorry for the double post but I messed up on pasting the links on previous one

  6. Jim J. McCrea says:

    The vision of God and our embrace of Him in heaven will fulfill all of the deepest desires of the soul.

    The transcendental properties of being are infinitely realized in Him.

    He is infinitely intelligible (infinite truth), so He will perfectly slake our thirst for truth and the knowing of the ultimate logic of reality. He is infinite good, therefore is infinite love, and we will thus have a perfect and infinite happiness in that love. He is infinite beauty, therefore, will be infinitely ravishing to souls who behold Him. In His absolute simplicity (having no parts or attributes distinct from His being) means that there is nothing in God but God, and will thus have infinite joy in beholding His infinite purity.

    As additional transcendentals that can be posited, He has the infinite “otherness” of perfect being, therefore is infinitely exotic, and we will have infinite pleasure in His originality and novelty. At the same time as being infinitely exotic He is infinitely natural (infinitely more natural than pristine nature on earth), so we will have the infinite comfort of home and “right.”

    The first chapter of Genesis may be considered the foundational chapter of the Bible, as that is the record of the Trinity, infinitely blessed in itself, creating being other than itself, so that rational beings other than God may share in the blessed eternal life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and thus share in their infinite happiness.

    In heaven, we will realize that the ultimate core of reality is infinitely right and good. Relatively speaking, evil is only around the fringe and superficial.

  7. Nick says:

    The Eucharist is a glimpse or foretaste of eternal life. Jesus is eternal life, the fullness of life in the flesh.

  8. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Look at the wonderful work that the angels have done for us over the millienia. Will we have some sort of fulfilling and exciting task that allows us to use our free will and intellect in a way that is subject to God but unrestricted in the amount we use it, like is sometimes seen when a management person distracts us from doing our best due to some fear; jealousy perhaps or a fear of being reminded of opportunities they’ve missed? Struggling not to judge here.
    This bit about sitting around on clouds endlessly strumming harps kinda leaves me cold. Yes to the joy of sharing the experience of the perfect and divine Prescence being a timeless joy but, couldn’t there be more? A new sibling race to help in their struggles perhaps?
    All I know fro sure is that God has a plan and that it’s better than mine.

  9. Aloysius Duque says:

    John 17:3

    We must understand ‘knowing God and Jesus’…. that’s the key. Trust me it aint about feeling good, smart and healthy…

  10. Cathy says:

    My spiritual director once asked me to write some some purely human and puny conceptualizations of the Beatific Vision.
    Will beholding Jesus be like: First day of school. First Confession. Receiving First Eucharist. Singing the Exodus Song/Gloria at Easter Vigil. Placing baby Jesus in the manger at the start of Midnight Mass. Newborn brother. Soap Box Derby. Embracing dear Mom after a long absence. Tasting that first bite of hot apple pie. Saluting the flag at dawn at boot-camp morning formation. Smelling a beautiful rose. Road trip! Warm sweater & slippers and cocoa on cold winter’s night. Running healthy, heart racing, across the finish line. Tossing the cap at graduation. First solo – flying final approach. First cross-country flight – “There’s Mansfield!” Diving off the high-board. Slam-dunk. Tennis ace. Trampoline flip. Home run. Par for the course. First bite on the fishin’ line. Picking the lock; breaking the code; breaching the security. Straight flush; Five of a kind. Riding the Blue Streak. Listening to Smetana’s “Moldau”. Viewing Caravaggio’s “Entombment”. Strumming guitars by the campfire. First cry of the newborn. Last agonal breath. All wrapped into one timeless moment with the Great I AM. …I can hardly wait.

  11. Michael says:

    Dear Msgr Pope: What a great illustration of Jesus lovingly holding the formerly lost lamb? I’d love to buy a framed copy of that. Do you know the name of the artist of the illustration? Any info, if available, would be appreciated. God Bless you and my former undergraduate college classmate, Fr. Knestout. Ave Maria, Michael

  12. Michael says:

    Msgr Pope: Turns out that I found the website of the artist, Katherine Brown… Jesusandthelamb.com. Ave Maria, Michael

  13. jess says:

    As coincidence would have it, there is a post at http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/07/according-to-bible-christians-and.html, which includes what is claimed to be A Chronology of the Evolution of the Christian Afterlife, part of which I’ve pasted below (I left out the part about mormon beliefs and some unnecessary jibes). I don’t recommend visiting the site because I fear many would find it offensive. However, assuming the chronology is correct (?), it does perhaps throw some light on how current thinking on life after death came about.

    A Chronology of the Evolution of the Christian Afterlife

    A. Pre-Exilic Israel (9 – 8 century BCE to 586 BCE): Like all her neighbors, Israel (a term used by the Northern Kingdom (exiled 722 BCE) and taken over by the Southern Kingdom of Judah (exiled 586)), or the Hebrews believed the souls of all people (both good and bad) continued to exist in Sheol – a place darkness and loneliness under the earth and opposite from the gods who lived on top of a sacred mountains (such as Sinai).

    B. Exilic / Post-Exilic Israel 586 BCE to the Hellenistic Period 332 BCE: Theological monotheism theism [...] suppresses Pre-Exilic theology’s polytheism and human sacrifice. Ancestral cult worship (divinatory and magical practices with the dead) are prohibited in both the Torah and the Deuteronomistic History. Persian theological influence began to shape the ideas of good and evil and an afterlife. Now at death, there is no consciousness in Sheol nor is there any contact there with this world and God (Psalms 6:5, 30: 8 – 10, 88: 3-12, Job 3: 11-19, 14: 10 – 14, 21: 19 – 21; and Ecclesiastes 9: 3-10).

    C. Hellenistic Period 332 BCE to the Roman Period 63 BCE): The view that the righteous Jew will be either rewarded while the unrighteous Jew will be punished is made theologically orthodox in such forged texts as the book of Daniel (especially Daniel 12: 2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”) Theologically, this verse in Daniel was in direct conflict with the afterlife position of the Testament of Abraham which teaches that immediately at death, Jewish souls receive judgment before Abel (Adam’s son) for either salvation or fiery torments (Test. Abraham 12 -13). Text such as Trito-Isaiah 66: 24 (“Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”) will influence the writer of the Gospel Mark to have Jesus state in “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9: 48) Also Paul uses the theology of the Hellenistic book of the Wisdom of Solomon to paint the human race with Original Sin.

    D. The Roman Period 63 CE to the Council of Nicaea 325 CE: The conflict and tension of the theology of the so-called “Intertestamental Period” with its forge texts in the names of famous Israelite Patriarchs continued the confusion of an afterlife for Christianity with Paul’s view of an “End Time Bodily Resurrection” by stating in his final theological work of Romans 8: 10- 12 “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” now contrast with that of the late Gospel of John having Jesus state that the Christian’s soul has eternal life immediately ““Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5: 24). However, Christian eschatology remains in contradictory tension in that if the righteous soul is ALREADY with God in Heaven, then why would there ever need to be a resurrection of the body? Thus, Christians must face the fact that the majority of the New Testament (likely 99%), especially Paul’s letters and the Book of Revelation both teach that all souls (both good and evil) sleep in the earth (much like the Israelite dead did in Sheol) until the general resurrection and Final Judgment when Jesus returns. Soul Sleep is also the theme of other the Nicaea Creed and other Christian Creeds. [...]

    E. Beginning with Cyprian of Carthage (died 258 CE) some theologians came to view Heaven as a place where people will meet their relatives and friends forming an eternal society with them.

    F. Purgatory: This Catholic dogma as founded by Pope Gregory the Great (540 – 604) and is an afterlife place where all souls of the faithful must be purified before being allowed into Heaven.

    G. Limbo: To counteract the claim of St. Augustine that all unbaptized infant are damned, a state of both none suffering and no Heaven was invented. This place for unbaptized babies has basically been discontinued since 1950 when Catholic dogmas on non-baptized babies were changed.

    • Philip Maguire says:

      You’re a trifle confused, Jess. When a person dies they enter eternity where all is accomplished. So while from the viewpoint of those in time the soul is in Heaven but the body in the grave, the “deceased” experience Heaven body and soul. This doesn’t contradict The Resurrection where Jesus was in the grave for three days because that three days existed in time. Same reasoning applies to the Catholic dogma of The Assumption.

  14. [...] What Is Eternal Life?- Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington [...]

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