As to the Last Things. Cornerstone of the Church's doctrinal edifice is eschatology, the doctrine of the end of things. Man came from God, and to God he will return. The doctrine of the last things is what gives the deepest supernatural meaning to the history of the world, which is ultimately the history of salvation to the glory of God.
At the last judgment Christ will finally reveal himself as the head of the Church, as the redeemer and the victor over death and hell, and will lay his kingdom at his Father's feet.
Naturally the position of Christ and his Church in eschatology has not always been proclaimed with the same emphasis at all times and in every individual decree. Almost always the Church's decrees are aimed at heresies which arise and these mostly concern the last things as they affect individuals. In this way the Church's magisterium lays no claim to systematize the inner structure.
In its dealing with heresy concerning the last things the Church has stressed three main fundamental truths: 1. The nature of the direct vision of God in the next world which is essentially different from the indirect knowledge of God in this world. 2. The dignity of the human body and with it the whole of material creation as opposed to that form of dualism in which matter stems from the principle of evil and is thus incapable of redemption or supernatural life. Throughout the Early and Middle Ages the Church had to engage in this struggle for the dignity and value of the human body and at the same time to fight for the basic facts of a true anthropology.
The Church Teaches: Souls which depart this life without sin or punishment due to sin, go the eternal happiness. The happiness of heaven consist in the direct vision of God. For this vision, an end which is not owed to man, man needs the Light of Glory.
The soul which has temporal punishment still due goes to purgatory. The faithful can help the holy souls by prayer and good works. Souls which depart this life in grievous sin go to hell. Hell is eternal. For souls burdened with original sin alone it consists of the loss of the Beatific Vision, but for those in actual sin there are also the torments of hell.
At the end of time souls are re-united with their risen bodies following Christ's example. Christ will then pronounce the last judgment and hand over his kingdom to the Father.
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