Catholicism and End Times
Catholicism mainly adheres to the Amillenial school of thought, promoted by Augustine of Hippo in his work “The City of God”.
Augustine claims a non-literal fulfillment of prophecy.
Catholics may also refer to Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 24, Verse 36, in which Christ is quoted as saying:
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.“
While some who believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible insist that the prediction of dates or times is futile, some other writers believe that Jesus foretold of signs which would indicate that the “end of days” was near. Some of these signs include earthquakes, natural disasters, civil problems, ‘wars and rumors of wars’, and other catastrophes. Of the precise time, however, it will come like a “thief in the night.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Catholic beliefs concerning the “end times” are addressed in the Profession of Faith.
The eschatological summary which speaks of the “four last things” (death, judgment, heaven, and hell) is popular rather than scientific.
For systematic treatment it is best to distinguish between (A) individual and (B) universal and cosmic eschatology,
the particular judgment;
heaven, or eternal happiness;
purgatory, or the intermediate state;
hell, or eternal punishment;
(B) universal and cosmic eschatology:
the approach of the end of the world;
the resurrection of the body;
the general judgment; and
the final consummation of all things.
The superiority of Catholic eschatology consists in the fact that, without professing to answer every question that idle curiosity may suggest, it gives a clear, consistent, satisfying statement of all that need at present be known, or can profitably be understood, regarding the eternal issues of life and death for each of us personally, and the final consummation of the cosmos of which we are a part..
Death, which consists in the separation of soul and body, is presented under many aspects in Catholic teaching, but chiefly
as being actually and historically, in the present order of supernatural Providence, the consequence and penalty of Adam’s sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12, etc.);
as being the end of man’s period of probation, the event which decides his eternal destiny (2 Corinthians 5:10; John 9:4; Luke 12:40; 16:19 sqq.; etc.), though it does not exclude an intermediate state of purification for the imperfect who die in God’s grace; and
as being universal, though as to its absolute universality (for those living at the end of the world) there is some room for doubt because of 1 Thessalonians 4:14 sqq.; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 2 Timothy 4:1.
That a particular judgment of each soul takes place at death is implied in many passages of the New Testament (Luke 16:22 sqq.; 23:43; Acts 1:25; etc.), and in the teaching of the Council of Florence (Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 588) regarding the speedy entry of each soul into heaven, purgatory, or hell.
Heaven is the abode of the blessed, where (after the resurrection with glorified bodies) they enjoy, in the company of Christ and the angels, the immediate vision of God face to face, being supernaturally elevated by the light of glory so as to be capable of such a vision. There are infinite degrees of glory corresponding to degrees of merit, but all are unspeakably happy in the eternal possession of God. Only the perfectly pure and holy can enter heaven; but for those who have attained that state, either at death or after a course of purification in purgatory, entry into heaven is not deferred, as has sometimes been erroneously held, till after the General Judgment.
Purgatory is the intermediate state of unknown duration in which those who die imperfect, but not in unrepented mortal sin, undergo a course of penal purification, to qualify for admission into heaven. They share in the communion of saints and are benefited by our prayers and good works. The denial of purgatory by the Reformers introduced a dismal blank in their eschatology and, after the manner of extremes, has led to extreme reactions.
Hell, in Catholic teaching, designates the place or state of men (and angels) who, because of sin, are excluded forever from the Beatific Vision. In this wide sense it applies to the state of those who die with only original sin on their souls (Council of Florence, Denzinger, no. 588), although this is not a state of misery or of subjective punishment of any kind, but merely implies the objective privation of supernatural bliss, which is compatible with a condition of perfect natural happiness.
But in the narrower sense in which the name is ordinarily used, hell is the state of those who are punished eternally for unrepented personal mortal sin. Beyond affirming the existence of such a state, with varying degrees of punishment corresponding to degrees of guilt and its eternal or unending duration, Catholic doctrine does not go. It is a terrible and mysterious truth, but it is clearly and emphatically taught by Christ and the Apostles.
Rationalists may deny the eternity of hell in spite of the authority of Christ, and professing Christians, who are unwilling to admit it, may try to explain away Christ’s words; but it remains as the Divinely revealed solution of the problem of moral evil. Rival solutions have been sought for in some form of the theory of restitution or, less commonly, in the theory of annihilation or conditional immortality.
The restitutionist view, which in its Origenist form was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 543, and later at the Fifth General Council, is the cardinal dogma of modern Universalism, and is favoured more or less by liberal Protestants and Anglicans. Based on an exaggerated optimism for which present experience offers no guarantee, this view assumes the all-conquering efficacy of the ministry of grace in a life of probation after death, and looks forward to the ultimate conversion of all sinners and the voluntary disappearance of moral evil from the universe.
Annihilationists, on the other hand, failing to find either in reason or Revelation any grounds for such optimism, and considering immortality itself to be a grace and not the natural attribute of the soul, believe that the finally impenitent will be annihilated or cease to exist — that God will thus ultimately be compelled to confess the failure of His purpose and power.
Universal and cosmic eschatology
The Approach of the End of the World
Notwithstanding Christ’s express refusal to specify the time of the end (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:6 sq.), it was a common belief among early Christians that the end of the world was near. This seemed to have some support in certain sayings of Christ in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, which are set down in the Gospels side by side with prophecies relating to the end (Matthew 24; Luke 21), and in certain passages of the Apostolic writings, which might, not unnaturally, have been so understood (but see 2 Thessalonians 2:2 sqq., where St. Paul corrects this impression).
On the other hand, Christ had clearly stated that the Gospel was to be preached to all nations before the end (Matthew 24:14), and St. Paul looked forward to the ultimate conversion of the Jewish people as a remote event to be preceded by the conversion of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25 sqq.).
Various others are spoken of as preceding or ushering in the end, as a great apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3 sqq.), or falling away from faith or charity (Luke 18:8; 17:26; Matthew 24:12), the reign of Antichrist, and great social calamities and terrifying physical convulsions. Yet the end will come unexpectedly and take the living by surprise.
The Resurrection of the Body
The visible coming (parousia) of Christ in power and glory will be the signal for the rising of the dead. It is Catholic teaching that all the dead who are to be judged will rise, the wicked as well as the Just, and that they will rise with the bodies they had in this life. But nothing is defined as to what is required to constitute this identity of the risen and transformed with the present body.
Though not formally defined, it is sufficiently certain that there is to be only one general resurrection, simultaneous for the good and the bad. Regarding the qualities of the risen bodies in the case of the just we have St. Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15 (cf. Matthew 13:43; Philippians 3:21) as a basis for theological speculation; but in the case of the damned we can only affirm that their bodies will be incorruptible.
The General Judgmenthttp://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08552a.htm
Regarding the general judgment there is nothing of importance to be added here to the graphic description of the event by Christ Himself, who is to be Judge (Matthew 25, etc.).
The Consummation of All Things
There is mention also of the physical universe sharing in the general consummation (2 Peter 3:13; Romans 8:19 sqq.; Revelation 21:1 sqq.). The present heaven and earth will be destroyed, and a new heaven and earth take their place. But what, precisely, this process will involve, or what purpose the renovated world will serve is not revealed. It may possibly be part of the glorious Kingdom of Christ of which “there shall be no end”. Christ’s militant reign is to cease with the accomplishment of His office as Judge (1 Corinthians 15:24 sqq.), but as King of the elect whom He has saved He will reign with them in glory forever.
Sources: dictionnaire.sensagent.leparisien.fr | Sources: en.wikipedia.org | newadvent.org