True story -the other day I had this conversation with my teenage daughters:
While they are quite wrong (especially if you are reading this after September 23rd), people have long been fascinated with the end of the world, death, judgement and what is to come in the final days.
In his newest book, The Four Last Things: a Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, Father Wade Menezes has a guide to help us through these tough question. Here are some fast facts about the final days:
1. Only the Father knows when the end of the world will come
When others tell you the end of the world is coming on a specific date, they really don’t know what they’re talking about.
In Matthew 24:36, Jesus tells his disciples: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Plus, don’t you think the Apostles would have pestered Jesus like little children do when you know a secret and they don’t?
2. Jesus already gave us a road map
Jesus taught us all we need to know about how to get to Heaven! There are a couple of problems, though. People don’t read what Christ said, and they don’t follow His words. The first one is easily solved: The Bible is literally everywhere. Homes, bookstore, libraries, websites, phone apps, and (especially!) churches.
The second one is more difficult because Jesus calls us to live in the world, not of the world. Christians are called to be different than those who don’t believe, so that we can attract them to the Church. (Ever hear the phrase, “Holiness attracts”? It’s true!).
3. Start preparing before you die
Here’s your “DUH” moment: You need to prepare starting NOW – before you die! Our society is focused on prolonging life, anti-aging, youth, and living forever. People are even freezing themselves before they die in hopes of being woken up when cures for diseases are found (don’t do that, please!). But as believers, we look forward to dying well. The Catechism even says that we are to pray for a holy and happy death. There are 5 components for a “happy” death:
- Die in a state of sanctifying grace (no mortal sin)
- Receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick
- To receive Holy Viaticum (final Holy Communion)
- To have the Prayers of Commendation prayed over us
- To have received the Apostolic Pardon
According the Fr. Wade Menezes, “Sometimes death surprises us, and no provision can be made. This is all the more reason, then, to strive to live in such a way that we are ‘eternity minded’ in our everyday lives.”
4. We don’t know what happens at the moment of death
Whether the world is coming to an end or not, this is the BIG question. The short answer is we just don’t know what happens at the moment of death until it happens. But there is one thing we for sure can count on, the first judgement of our soul, referred to as the “particular judgment”. This is where we are judged first for how we lived our lives, and our eternal destination is decided: straight to Heaven, purgatory (with Heaven guaranteed), or Hell. Honestly, the choice is yours, and yours alone.
5. We don’t know what will happen when Jesus returns
Again, the short answer is we just don’t know, until it happens (I’m starting to sound like a broken record). It is written that Jesus will return at the sound of the Trumpet, as he left at the Ascension. The bodies of the dead will be rejoined with their souls, and there will be a General Judgement for all to see. Can you imagine witnessing everyone’s judgement? How about the world witnessing your judgement? Does that scare the *^(% out of you? It probably should which is why we are called, “to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
6. The book of Revelations gives us a sneak-peek vision of Heaven
After the end of the world, what comes next? Well, not to be a broken record…
We have a very limited vision of what Heaven will be like because it has been hidden from us since the fall of Adam and Eve. We struggle because of sin, we can not be fulfilled here on earth because of our separation from God. Heaven is being in the eternal presence and worship of God alone.
In the Book of Revelation, we are given a small image of Heaven in the words of St. John. “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all round and within, and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
St. Robert Bellarmine said, “If you are wise, then, know that you have been created for the glory of God and your own eternal salvation. This is your goal: this is the center of your life; this is the treasure of your heart.”
7. We choose hell with our actions here on earth
The vision of Hell is the total opposite of Heaven, because it lacks God. Yet those in Hell will know Him. God is the only judge of a soul that no man can know, therefore until the General Judgment, we won’t know who is damned to Hell. What is Hell like? Scripture tells us it is a “lake of fire” (Rev 20:15), “a place of torment” (Luke 16:23), “a place where men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt 13:42), “a place where they curse God” (Rev 16:11). Doesn’t sound like a place where I would ever want to be!
8. We have to repent – the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
Because we don’t know when Jesus is coming, and we don’t know the date and time we are going to die, there is no time like the present to turn way from sin. God wants us in Heaven, and He is always calling us to Him. But it is our choice to put off going to church or participating in the sacraments.
We put off today what we think we can do tomorrow. Stop doing this! Just as the unprepared bridesmaids were left outside the wedding feast when the bridegroom came home (Check out Matthew 25:1-13). While this parable sounds cruel, this is how it is if we die unprepared for a “happy death” or when our Bridegroom returns.
Want to learn more?
If you want to continue to learn about the final days, check out The Four Last Things, A Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. by Father Wade L.J. Menezes, CPM. It is a complete theological based explanation of the mysteries that deal with the end of life and end of the world. He defends the Truth, and dispels the myths of Heaven and Hell and Judgement. Father Menezes will lead you to the narrow path to eternal salvation and reassure you of your place in God’s Kingdom.
St. Joseph, Patron Saint of a Happy Death, Pray for Us!