The General Judgment and the Resurrection

The fact there will be a General Judgment is emphasized throughout the Sacred Scriptures. The Prophets of the Old Law call it the "Day of the Lord" (Joel ii, 31; Ezekiel xiii, 5; Isaias ii, 12). Our Lord describes it in minute detail (Matt. xxiv, 27; xxv, 31); and His Apostles mention it frequently (Acts x, 42; xvii, 31; Rom. Ii, 5; xiv, 10; 1 Cor. iv, 5;2 Cor. v, 10; 2 Tim. iv, 1; 2 Thess. i, 5; James v, 7).

The General Judgment of mankind will take place at the end of the world. The bodies of all men will be reunited with their souls and every man will come before God for a second and final judgment. In the Particular Judgment only the soul appears before God. In the General Judgment the body as well as the soul of each individual will receive the reward or punishment that it justly deserves. At that time all the words and works of men, even their most secret thoughts, will be made manifest to the world. At that time the Mercy and Justice of God will be vindicated before all the world. At that time will take place the great and eternal segregation of the good from the wicked; the former to hear the welcoming words of Our Lord, "Come ye blessed of My Father, possess you the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. xxv, 34); and the latter those terrifying words that will ring in their ears throughout eternity, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. xxv, 41.)

What an awakening that will be on Judgment Day! How different the sentiments that will well up in the souls of the just and the unjust on that day of days! What remorse and regret will haunt the heart of the impious, the ungodly, the scoffer at religion. What joy and peace and holy happiness will possess the soul of the saved! Banished from God eternally, yet beholding for one brief moment the glory and rich reward of those who in life served God sincerely, the lost will lament: "These are they whom we had some time in derision and for a parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God and their lot is among the saints. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways, but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us! All those things have passed away like a shadow, and as a ship that passes through the waves whereof, when it is gone by, the trace cannot be found, nor the path of its keel in the waters; so we also have been able to show no mark of virtue, but are consumed in our wickedness. Such things as these said the sinners in Hell. ... But the just shall live forever-more, and their reward is with the Lord, and the care of them with the Most High. They shall receive a Kingdom of glory and a crown of beauty at the hand of the Lord." (Wisdom 5, 5.)

The integrity of the human person -- body and soul, in this life and in the next -- has been and continues to be one of the more difficult aspects of divine revelation to understand. St. Augustine's words remain relevant: "No doctrine of the Christian faith is so vehemently and so obstinately opposed as the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh" (Enarrationes in Psalmos, Ps. 88, ser. 2, par. 5).

This doctrine, constantly affirmed in Scripture and Tradition, finds its most sublime exposition in the 15th Chapter of St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. And it is perennially affirmed by Christians in the recitation of the Nicene Creed: "I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting." It is matter of faith in the promises of God.

Unaided human reason frequently grasps the immortality of the soul, but fails to grasp the essential unity of the human person who is created in the "imago Dei." Thus unaided, reason and paganism have often seen "through a glass darkly" glimmers of the eternal life revealed by Christ and confirmed in his own bodily resurrection from the dead but cannot see "the plan of the mystery hidden for all ages in God who created all things" (Ephesians 3:9).

Te individual soul, at its particular judgment, enters immediately into eternal bliss in heaven (or a purgative period necessary to the delight of heaven) or into eternal torment in hell (Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus).

With the last Judgment, the body will be reunited with its soul at the general judgment. Each resurrected body will be united with its soul, each will then know identity, entirety and immortality.

The just will continue to enjoy the beatific vision with their souls and bodies reunited and benefit from the characteristics of impassibility, glory, agility and [subtlety]. The unjust, without the aforementioned characteristics, will continue their everlasting punishment as integrated persons.

The resurrection of the body precludes any idea of reincarnation because Christ's return was neither a return to earthly life nor a migration of his soul to another body. Rather, the resurrection of the body is the fulfillment God's promises in the Old and New Testaments.

The resurrection of the Lord's body is the first fruits of the resurrection. "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each is his own order: Christ first, then at his coming those who belong to Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:21-23).