Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two judgements

Today we come to one of the areas where misunderstanding of what Christianity believes runs rampant. Catholicism neatly categorizes it as the particular and the general judgement.

We start with the fundamental belief that humans are humans and angels are angels. Christianity has never taught that humans become angels. When we die we experience the particular, that is individual judgement. But that is not the end of the story it is only step one in the process.

Step two begins with another fundamental Christian belief, the whole human person is saved, not just the soul. The Apostles' Creed, "We believe in the resurrection of the body" is well grounded in the gospels but also in Paul who had to first address the issue when the first generation of disciples began to die. Until that time many thought that when Jesus said he was coming back they thought he meant right away. Paul address this most directly in 1 Thes 4

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together* with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another with these words.

This is what we refer to as the general judgement that will take place at the end of time, bringing God's work to completion by raising our bodies reuniting them with our souls. Christianity has never taught that the final disposition of a human being is to be a disembodied spirit. The body is good, it is a part of God's creation, and should therefore participate in salvation.

The end of the world and the general judgement are necessary for another reason. Going back to Genesis we believe that all human beings are inter-connected, part of a single humanity. That being true, none of us can be said to have truly reached the end of our journey until all others have reached the end of their journey. When every human being, body and soul, has reached the end of their journey then our journey is complete, and not before.

We don't like to talk about judgement because we think "trial" as if God is going to separate the guilty from the innocent. If that were true we would all be in trouble. Which of us, after all, can claim to be truly innocent?

In the end God merely gives us what we have sought through our lives. If we have sought to be with him, we get eternity with God, heaven. If we sought life on our own terms, we get eternity without God, hell. Until the last moment of our earthly life the choice is in our hands.