We Catholics profess belief in everlasting life. Each of us will spend eternity in either heaven or hell.
While we will undergo a particular judgment and know our fate after our death, there will also be the General Judgment at the end of the world. This is where we’ll all be judged together.
The Church has a rich tradition of reflection on the General Judgment. Some of it is based on beliefs we hold as immutable truths; some are based on speculation.
To get you up to speed in preparation for that day, here are four things to know about the General Judgment of the whole human race.
1. You’ll get your body back. This we hold as fact based on God’s revelation. God created us as a union of body and soul. At death, the two are separated for a period of time. Our bodies will rise again at the General Resurrection, which will take place around the General Judgment.
At this reunion of body and soul, you’ll experience great joy — not because you were feeling “sad” over the absence of your body. If you’re in heaven, the vision of God precludes such sadness. But you’ll experience an overflow of joy because you’ll have that union of body and soul that God intended.
2. It’s a communal event. At our individual deaths, God renders to us our due based on how we lived our lives. At the General Judgment, God will give communities their due. He’ll reward the Church, which is His Mystical Body. As members of this Mystical Body, we’ll experience His love not only individually, but also through our communion with one another.
3. Everything will be made manifest. We often hear of the General Judgment as being a sort of bombshell event, where everyone’s secret sins are put on display for all to see. Maybe you’re feeling nervous about some of your sins being seen by family members or friends.
To be honest, we can only speculate about what this great manifestation entails. Church teachings don’t give us the details. Here’s one way to picture it: Everyone’s focus will be on Christ and we’ll see each person as they’ve been transfigured by his grace. In other words, at least for the saved, no one’s going to be hyper-focused on the awful things you’ve done. If they see your sins, they’ll also see how Christ’s mercy has purified you of them.
4. We’ll finally realize the common good. Throughout our lives, we seek not only our own good but the common good of the communities we belong to: family, city, nation, and Church. We are, after all, social beings.
But due to the reign of sin, this effort is marred by mistaken ideas of what our true good — the good of the human race — actually is.
That will be cleared up in heaven. We’ll see God as our ultimate good and the relationships we had on earth as steps to our union with Him.
We don’t know when the General Judgment will happen. But we do know that we are all going to die. If you spend your life properly preparing for your death, you can breathe easily and know you’ll be ready.