Beloved Father of Mercy and Justice,

We Your children, offer our lives as a pure and holy sacrifice, uniting our lives and our death to the life and death of Your Son and our Savior.  At the Final Judgment we will stand united with the Body of Christ, body and soul, to receive Your Son's judgment.  We will face this last and definitive judgment unafraid as the Books of Works are opened to reveal the imperishable deeds of love and mercy accumulated by the Church.  This is the treasure stored up for eternity which Your children offer in the name of Christ our Savior and Redeemer.  Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to lead us in this lesson of our study on the Eight Last Things.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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While I was watching thrones were set in place and one most venerable took his seat.  His robe was white as snow, the hair of his head as pure as wool.  His throne was a blaze of flames; its wheels were a burning fire.  A stream of fire poured out, issuing from his presence.  A thousand thousand waited on him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.  The court was in session and the books lay open.
Daniel 7:9-10


For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and, because he is the Son of man, has granted him power to give judgment.  Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves at the sound of his voice: those who did good will come forth to life; and those who did evil will come forth to judgment.
John 5:26-29


Throughout salvation history God has come to deliver justice and judgment to His people.  In the Old Testament Israel was judged and disciplined according to how she lived the law of the covenant.  In addition to corporate judgment determined by covenant blessings and curses, each individual throughout salvation history, in the good or evil acts of their lives, receives God's guidance and judgment as they make their journey through this life to eternity.   At the end of one's earthly journey there is also immediate judgment upon one's death.  However, according to Sacred Scripture and the faith of the Church, man is destined to face two judgments before the judgment throne of God Almighty.  The first judgment comes the moment the soul departs the body and is called the Particular or Individual Judgment.  The second judgment, known as the General or Final or Last Judgment, takes place at the definitive moment in salvation history.


Question: What great event in salvation history occurs just prior to the Final Judgment?  See Acts 24:15; John 5:28-29; Matthew 25:31, John 5:28-29; 32, John 5:28-29; 46.

Answer: The Second Advent of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead.  When Christ returns the dead arise in the resurrection of the dead, when all souls are united with all bodies, a union which will prepare each man and woman and child for the final and definitive judgment to spend all eternity either in everlasting bliss or everlasting distress.  The resurrection of all the dead, "of both the just and the unjust," 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."  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 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." CCC# 1038


The Final or Last Judgment fully establishes the New Covenant as Jesus promised.  This definitive moment in salvation history fulfills the prophecy of the New and everlasting Covenant given by the Prophet Jeremiah in John 5:28-29; Jeremiah 31:34 when all of God's plan for salvation history will be revealed and There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbor or brother, saying, "Learn to know Yahweh!"  Instruction in the faith will no longer be necessary because everything will be revealed in the brilliant light of truth and justice.  The universal Catechism teaches: 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.  CCC# 1040


Jesus taught on the Final Judgment in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds in Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43 and in Matthew 25:31-46.  Please read those passages. 

Question: What is the message of the teaching on the Final Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46?

Answer: Every human being from every nation in every period of human history will be judged and the judgment will be very personally related to Christ concerning one's treatment of those in need of mercy and assistance.


This final and definitive judgment will demonstrate before the world mankind's relationship with God as Jesus warned in Luke 12:2-3: Everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.  For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed from the housetops.  The Catechism echoes this teaching in # 1039: In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare.  The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life...


St. Paul urges continual repentance in preparation for the final day: Your stubborn refusal to repent is only storing up retribution for yourself on that Day of retribution when God's just verdicts will be made known.  He will repay everyone as their deeds deserve.  For those who aimed for glory and honor and immortality by preserving in doing good, there will be eternal life; but for those who out of jealousy have taken for their guide not truth but injustice, there will be the fury of retribution [Romans 2:5-8].


Question: How does the Old Testament prophet Isaiah describe the Final Judgment?  See Isaiah 66:23-24; Joel 4:9-17; Daniel 7:9-10.

Answer: All humanity will do homage to God, they will be judged according to their works, and those who rebel will face eternal damnation and the faithful will receive sanctuary. 


Question: What do the New Testament passages found in Matthew 10:11-15; 12:33-37; 19:27-30; and Luke 11:29-32 tell us about the "Day of Judgment?"



Question: What will occur in the Final Judgment according to the vision of St. John in Revelation 20:11-15?



For additional Scripture passages concerning the Books of Works see Psalm 40:8; 56:8; Jeremiah 17:1; Daniel 7:10; Malachi 3:16; and Luke 10:20.


Question: Who will serve as the judge in the Final or General Judgment?  See Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:26-30; 12:44-48; CCC# 679

Answer: Jesus in His role as Davidic King and Son of God will judge the nations of the earth but those who have rejected Jesus as Savior have already condemned themselves.  CCC# 679 records: Christ is Lord of eternal life.  Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world.  He "acquired" this right by his cross.  The Father has given "all judgment to the Son."  Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.  By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.


Most complete description of the Final judgment is given by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46.

Question: How did Jesus describe the difference between the condition of the righteous and the unrighteous in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46?

Answer: Judgment is based upon how one lived the Law of Love by loving God with all one's heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving one's neighbor as oneself.  In speaking of the poor and needy Jesus equated their treatment to Himself: In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.  And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life [Matthew 25:45-46]In the Final Judgment our love of neighbor will disclose our acceptance of refusal of God's grace and divine love.

Question: According to St. John's vision in Revelation 20:10, 14-15 what is destroyed in the Last or Final Judgment?

Answer: The Devil, Death and the place of purification [Hades/Sheol/Purgatory] are destroyed by being thrown into the lake of fire which is Hell/Gehenna along with any human being whose name could not be found in the Book of Life.


Question: Why are two judgments necessary?  What is the difference between the Individual or Particular Judgment and the Last or Final Judgment?

Answer: The Final or Last Judgment is necessary for God to demonstrate to the entire family of man His justice and mercy.  The Baltimore Catechism offers good instruction on this question.  Concerning the necessity of demonstration for mankind the providence of God the Baltimore catechism gives two reasons:

  1. Sometimes here on earth we see a good man always in want, out of employment, sickly, unsuccessful in all his undertakings, while his neighbor, who is a very bad man, is wealthy and prosperous, and seems to have every pleasure.  Why this is so we cannot understand now, but God's reason for it will be made known to us on the Day of Judgment. Sometimes the wicked do good actions here on earth, help the poor, or contribute to some charity, for instance; and as God on account of their wickedness cannot reward them in the next world, He rewards them chiefly in this world by temporal goods and pleasures.  For all their good deeds they get their reward in this world and for the evil their punishment in the next.  The good man who suffers gets all his reward in the next world that even his sufferings here atone partly for the evil he had done. Baltimore Catechism VI, pages 321


  1. A second reason for a general judgment is to show the crimes of sinners and the justice of their punishment; also that the saints may have all their good works made known before the world and receive the glory they deserve.  On earth these saints were sometimes considered fools and treated as criminals, falsely accused, etc., and now the whole truth will stand out before the world.  But above all, the general judgment is for the honor and glory of Our Lord.  At His first coming into the world He was poor and weak; many would not believe Him the Son of God, and insulted Him as an impostor.  He was falsely accused, treated shamefully, and was put to death, many believing Him guilty of some crime.   Now He will appear before all as He really is their Lord and Master, their Creator and Judge.  How they will tremble to look upon Him whom they have crucified!  How all those who have denied Him, blasphemed Him, persecuted His Church, and the like, will fear when they see Him there as Judge!  How they will realize the terrible mistake worldings made!  Baltimore Catechism VI, pages 321-22.


Question: How will the physical condition of man be different in the Last Judgment?

Answer: Our physical bodies will now share in the reward or punishment of our souls.  We will have returned to our original state of immortal body and soul that man enjoyed in Eden.  The wicked will spend eternity separated from God, suffering in body and soul, but the faithful will enjoy eternal bliss, in a glorified body united with its soul for eternity, a complete and whole individual.


Concerning this final and definitive verdict for man St. Augustine wrote: 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 where 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


In this universal judgment all humanity, body and soul stand before God.  Those previously condemned to Hell, those saved who were being purified of their venial and forgiven mortal sins in Purgatory, and the Heavenly Host of Saints are all assembled before the Judgment throne of God. This Last Judgment does not change the previous Individual or Particular Judgment; it only affirms that judgment for those who have already been judged and is the Son's final word on the meaning and worth of all humanity.  It also demonstrates for all of mankind the exact and definitive meaning of divine mercy and justice.  What man has done or has failed to do will be revealed for all humanity to view every word and every deed.  Truth and goodness are the last word and everyone who has lived the Law of Love will receive a reward for deeds of goodness and mercy which are taken into eternity into the heavenly Kingdom, while the wicked, the selfish and the unloving will also receive their reward, eternal punishment and separation for all that is love.


Knowledge of this Day which will dawn in fire should call all humanity to conversion and repentance in accepting God's gift of salvation. The universal Catechism teaches, The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time,...the day of salvation."  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 believe" [CCC# 1041].  This teaching echoes the words of St. Paul in Titus 2:11-14: You see, God's grace has been revealed to save the whole human race, it has taught us that we should give up everything contrary to true religion and all our worldly passions; we must be self-restrained and live upright and religious lives in this present world, waiting in hope for the blessings which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.  He offered himself for us in order to ransom us from all our faults and to purify a people to be his very own and eager to do good.  Be eager to do good deeds performed according to the "Law of Love", for the good you do will be recorded in the Books of Works and will be counted on the Day of Final Judgment!


Catechism References:

The Final or General Judgment

679: Christ is the judge

1038: Resurrection of dead to precede the Last Judgment

1039: Judgment on works

1040: Ultimate meaning of creation and God's plan to be revealed

1041: Calls men to conversion prior to event

Resources used in this lesson:

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  2. New Jerusalem Bible
  3. Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II, 1999.
  4. Dogmatic Theology: Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, Johann Auer, Joseph Ratzinger, Catholic University of America Press, 1988.
  5. Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, edited by Russell Shaw, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, Indiana, 1997.
  6. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, volume 5, Christian Classics, Benziger Bros., New York, 1948
  7. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, volume 2:  Augustine:  City of God, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
  8. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, volume 3: Augustine: On the Trinity, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
  9. The Baltimore Catechism volume 4, Rev. Thomas Kinkeade, Tan Books Publishers, 1978.

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