The Trumpet Shall Sound - The End of the World

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At the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven, two angels spoke to the apostles saying:  "Why do you stand looking into Heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into Heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into Heaven" (Acts 1:11).

In the Nicene Creed we say that Jesus "will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead".  When Christ first came among us, he came in poverty, humility, and weakness.  He was born in a stable fit for animals, not a King.  He was God, but he took on human nature and began his life in the most humble state - as a baby.  He was God, but he took on the weaknesses of human nature - except sin - in order to teach us.  When Christ comes again - the Second Coming - at the end of the world, he will come in triumph, as the King and Judge of the world.  He will come in glory and be recognized by all men as Christ the King.

The time when this will occur is unknown.  When the apostles asked Our Lord about the end of the world (Mt 24), he spoke of various signs and warnings which would precede the event.  He said that there would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, false prophets, and persecutions.  All of these, however, have occurred at various times in history.  And many individuals in the past (as well as the present) have mistaken the troubles of their own times as signs of the end of the world.  But they neglected Our Lord's final words about the end, which are the most important:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of Heaven . . . only the Father . . . (Mt 24:36).

Just as we do not know when the world will end, we do not know exactly how it will end either.  It is possible that the end of the world will be caused by humans, for example through war or the misuse of natural resources.  But it is also possible that God will directly bring about the end of the world.  However, it will not take place until God wills it.

At the end of the world Our Lord will judge the entire human race.  This is known as the General Judgment and is described by Our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 25).  At that time Christ will judge both those who are alive at the end and those who have already died.  All of our deeds - even secret ones - will be made known.  Everyone will recognize the holiness of the just and understand why they have been rewarded.  We will also see God's justice in the condemnation of unrepentant sinners who will be banished for eternity to Hell.  There will be no changes in the judgment for those who have already died.  But now, however, their judgment will be made known to all.

The Dies Irae (which means "day of wrath") is a Latin poem which was written many centuries ago and sung on All Souls' Day and at Masses for the dead.  It reminds us of this day of final judgment.  Below are two verses which illustrate what will occur at the last judgment:

    Then the volume shall be spread
    And the writing shall be read
    Which shall judge the quick and dead.

    When the Judge his place has taken
    All things shall be made plain
    Nothing unavenged remain.

Those who have loved God and served him on this earth will stand on his right.  They will be rewarded with Heaven.  Those who have turned away from God will stand on the left and will be banished forever to Hell.  There will no longer be any need for Purgatory at the end of the world.  Those souls who are in Purgatory at the end will go to Heaven.  All the wisdom, justice, mercy and loving kindness of God in his dealings with men will be made known.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will be fully glorified.  He will appear in splendor and triumph.  Evil will be completely overcome.  The reign of God will be complete.

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishably and we shall be changed.  For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality (1 Cor 15:51-53).

At the end of the world, also, our human natures will once again be complete.  Our bodies will be reunited with our souls, because man is both body and soul.  This is called the resurrection of the body.  We will enjoy the glories of Heaven or suffer the pains of Hell as a complete human being - body and soul.

The bodies of the just will be glorified in Heaven.  This means that our bodies will be perfected as was Our Lord's body after the Resurrection.  Theologians have distinguished four properties or gifts which will belong to the glorified body.  The glorified body will be incapable of physical suffering and will be free from death.  This is known as impassibility, which comes from the Latin word "to suffer".  Our bodies will have the property of subtlety, which means that our spiritual nature will shine through the body instead of being hidden by it.  thirdly, the glorified body will possess agility, which means that the body will be able to obey the soul with great ease and speed.  This was manifested by the risen Christ, who quickly disappeared from the midst of the apostles (Jn 20:19, 26).  Finally our resurrected bodies will have clarity.  They will be free from all deformities - even minor ones - and will be filled with beauty. 

Even the earth will be transformed in some way.  St. John had a vision of the transformation of all things which he tells us in the book of Revelation:

Then I saw a new Heaven and new earth; for the first Heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God . . . and I heard a great voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men.  He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. . . " (Rev 21:1-3).

All of this is the perfect happiness which awaits us.  God has prepared this for us.  We must spend our lives preparing for this so that we may enjoy the blessings of Heaven for eternity.

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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