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Eschatology part 1
 

Eschatology part 1

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  • End of time Rapture Epiphany Apocalypse A Pauline construct – 2 Timothy – Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.
  • Creedal activity

Eschatology part 1 Eschatology part 1 Presentation Transcript

  • First Part The Christian Notion of Eschatology The Last ThingsNotes taken from Escatologia by J. Jose AlviarNotes taken from Escatologia by J. Jose Alviar
  • Eschatology: Consummated Eschatology• Introduction: The Christian Notion of Eschatology• The Parousia• The Kingdom of God• The Resurrection of the Dead• The New Heavens and the New Earth• The Universal Judgment• Eternal Life• Eternal Death
  • Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION1. The Christian Idea of the Consummation of History• The Judeo-Christian faith makes two affirmations:(1) History has direction, and is on its way to a fullness.(2) Its progress is presided over by a loving God.
  • 2. Peculiarities of Christian Eschatology• The mission of eschatology is to give light which shines through the ephemeral, for us to be able to contemplate the meaning of history from God’s point of view.• Eschatology is called to give a solid basis for men in history to be vigilant and hopeful.
  • Divine action in history can be traced inbroad strokes in 5 fundamental theses:(1) Overcoming the “distance” (introduced by sin) between God and his creatures is a “dynamics of coming close” (rapprochment) at God’s initiative. This will culminate in the Parousia, the divine coming and presence among creatures.(2) The divine nearing aims to establish a communion with free creatures.
  • Divine action in history can be traced inbroad strokes in 5 fundamental theses:(3) This will reach its culmination at the end of history. Then, the divinizing effects of the divine presence in creatures will be fully manifested: Man will resurrect and will possess Life, and the rest of creation will be transfigured.(4) Creatures would not necessarily receive God- who-comes-near. In the end, human beings will be segregated into two states which they themselves will have chosen: either communion, or non-relation with God.
  • Divine action in history can be traced inbroad strokes in 5 fundamental theses:(5) With his calling to belong for ever to the family of the Trinity (as “son in the Son”), man advances step by step to his goal.• The first milestone in his itinerary is Baptism, the sacrament by which one first participates in the death and Resurrection of Christ.• The process of Christological assimilation continues throughout earthly life, characterized by contrition, purification, sacramental life.• It culminates in a special way with death, which seals the individual’s identification with the Christ of the Pasch.• It is prolonged beyond that moment, because he who dies in Christ shall remain united to him forever.
  • FIRST PART:CONSUMMATED ESCHATOLOGY
  • Parousia
  • Parousia• In Christian language, the term is used to refer to the glorious Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of history.• The term derives from the Greek pareimi (= to be present).
  • Chapter 2: THE PAROUSIA• Theology is called to recover the understanding of the Parousia as the mystery of God who lovingly seeks the encounter with men.
  • 1. The Approach of God to Men in the History of Salvation• In the Old Testament, the notion of Parousia is prepared by three ideas:1)general and basic idea, i.e., God who is “near”2) expectation of the Day of Yahweh, and3)expectation of the Messiah
  • a) The God of Israel who is “far away” and “near”• Faith in a God who stays close to men is a characteristic element of the religion of Israel.• It is the paradoxical complement of another basic belief: that of divine transcendence.• At the same time that the Lord is exalted and his sublime majesty and holiness are underlined, the fact that he accompanies men (and especially the Chosen People) is also insisted.• Even when men draw away from God by sinning, God does not abandon them.• This idea of the nearness of God fosters hope for a future perfect presence of God in the midst of the people.
  • (i) Expectation of the Day of Yahweh• This longing for a divine visitation which brings with it complete salvation is condensed in the expression “Day of Yahweh”.• The Day represents the maximum nearing of God to men. On one hand, that Day contains a promise of salvation; but on the other, it also has a terrifying aspect, particularly for the unfaithful.• From the time of the exile, under the guidance of the prophets, a hope develops that is characterized by: (1) the longing for a future presence of Yahweh that is truly lasting (eternal Kingdom); and (2) the acute consciousness that the saving nearness of God depends on the fidelity of the people to the Covenant.
  • (ii) Hope in the Messiah• In parallel with the thematic line of the Day of Yahweh, a second line develops in Old Testament Revelation that links future salvation to a mysterious person: the Messiah or Anointed of Yahweh.• In the apocalyptic book of Daniel, the prophet sees one “like the son of man” who “comes” (twice the verb pareimi is used) “with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13-14), and who receives from the “Ancient of days” all the “power, and glory, and a kingdom”, in such a way that “all peoples, tribes and tongues” shall serve him.
  • b) The Coming of the Son of Man “in the flesh” and “in glory”• New Testament Revelation brings two new elements: (1) It concentrates the mystery in Christ. (2) It distinguishes between two Comings, one humble and the other glorious.
  • The Coming of the Son of Man DIVINITY HUMANITY• This look towards the figure of Christ in New Testament texts contains a primary indication of the “internal structure” of eschatology.• The divinity gets near to humanity through the Son made man, the one Mediator between God and men.
  • 2. The Parousia, in the Professions of Faith and in the Liturgya) The Return of the Lord, in the professions of faith• Reference to the Return of the Lord in glory was incorporated early into the professions of faith.• In modern times, the special attention which Vatican II dedicates to the topic of the Parousia signals its revival.
  • b) Presence of the Parousia, in the lex orandi of the Church• The doctrine of the Return of the Lord has always found a secure “home” in the lex orandi of the Church.• This fact—pertaining to the very life of the Church—has great dogmatic value, because it manifests the unanimous belief of Christians from different places and at different times.
  • 3. Theological Reflection: The Parousia as Culmination of God’s Coming Near His Creaturesa) Christianity, a “religion of presence”• The doctrine of the Parousia speaks to us about: (1) a distance between God and creatures; (2) the coming near of the two parties; and (3) a final encounter
  • • There is in the first place the metaphysical abyss, between the transcendent Creator and his work. Free creatures, upon sinning, widen the abyss.• In the mystery of rapprochement, we could distinguish two “movements”: (1) God’s stooping down to creatures (synkatabasis) to open up for them the possibility of communion with Him; and (2) Man’s corresponding motion by which he rises to encounter God.• The Parousia represents the climax of the divine- human encounter, and implies mutual interpenetration: God-in-us; we-in-God.
  • b) Love as the essential element of the mystery of the Parousia• There is no explanation for the marvelous divine initiative to get close to his creatures, other than Love. The only valid response of man, before this God-Love, is to also love.
  • TIME AND SIGNS OF THE PAROUSIA• In New Testament writings we can find three types of statements about the time of the end:(1) The Son of Man will come very soon: Imminence.(2) The Son of Man will come by surprise: Uncertainty.(3) The Second Coming will be preceded by signs: Forebodings.
  • 1. Biblical Formulae of Imminencea) Two texts from the Synoptics• In Matthew 10:23 Jesus says: “Amen, I say to you, you will not have gone through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”• In Matthew 16:28 (= Mark 9:1) he says: “Amen I say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death, till they have seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
  • (i) A literal interpretation• The first line of interpretation points to specific historical events that took place very soon after, and which imply some glorious manifestation of the Son of Man, without being the Parousia itself, like the Transfiguration, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Resurrection, Pentecost, destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, etc.
  • (ii) A prophetic and apocalyptic interpretation• A second line of interpretation places these expressions under a prophetic and apocalyptic style.
  • (iii) The Christological interpretation• A third line of interpretation stems from a peculiar Christian perspective regarding time. In Christ, God-with-us, is found the closeness of He who is hoped for. In this sense, “little is lacking” for the end.
  • b) The eschatological discourse• In the middle of the eschatological discourse, Jesus concludes: “Amen I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things have been accomplished.” (Mark 13:30) – The phrase can refer to the end of the material Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem that actually occurred soon after. – It can also be understood as an apocalyptic statement, with its typical notes of imminence and urgency. – It can express a “theological” closeness: With the Coming of Jesus in history, only a closing act is lacking to conclude it.
  • 2. Biblical Texts of Uncertainty• Other biblical texts refer in different ways to the time of the Parousia.• In his eschatological discourse, Jesus makes reference to the last day saying: “But of that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Mark 13:32)• God is the Lord of history, and the date of his last act depends on his sovereign authority and not on human circumstances.• Jesus, in order to carry out the salvific plan of the Father, did not need to communicate to men the exact time of the end.• It is precisely the not-knowing that gives rise to an attitude of permanent vigilance.
  • 3. Forebodings of the Enda) Biblical references to the final events(i) Spread of the Gospel and of the “anti-gospel”• A principal source containing the forebodings is the eschatological discourse of Jesus. Basically, reference is made here to two types of events: (1) the universal spread of the Gospel; (2) the opposition that this message and their carriers suffer in the world: persecutions, false prophets, etc.
  • (ii) Conversion of the Jewish people• In Romans 11, St Paul develops extensively the idea of the final recovery of the Jewish people, framing this “mystery” within the perspective of divine fidelity.
  • b) Theological significance of the “forebodings”• The following seem to be the essential lessons which these texts teach: (i) human freedom in relation to God who approaches us; (ii) the struggle between the power of God and the forces of evil; (iii) a particular aspect of salvation history: the Jews.• The “signs of the last days” contribute to maintain the vigilance of each Christian
  • 4. The Three Types of Pronouncements Regarding the Time of the Parousia• The texts of imminence tell us that the Lord is always at the door, not so much in the sense of chronological closeness, as in a higher sense:• The messianic era of salvation has already been inaugurated by Christ, and now we wait for the last act (his Return or Parousia).• The texts referring to uncertainty emphasize the ascetical consequences derived from this “closeness” of our Lord: – Each believer should respond by keeping himself open through faith, hope and love. – The forebodings help to maintain the faithful on their toes throughout history.
  • THE KINGDOM OF GOD (I)• The coming close of God which culminates in the Parousia implies his intimate union with creatures, to constitute a mystery of communion.• As divine Son made man, he is the core of the Kingdom as divine-human union. Christ invites men to unite themselves to his Person, to form with him a “body” animated by the Spirit and loved by the Father.• This structure of salvation absorbs all men who desire to enter, and thus it builds up in history to its completion in the eschaton.• This relational and interpersonal reality constitutes the very essence of the Kingdom.
  • 1. Biblical Revelation about the Kingdom, as Relation between God and Mena) Kingdom, People, Covenant in the Old Testament• From partial hopes with limited scope, a more consistent hope takes shape: God will stabilize his relationship with men, to form with them an enduring structure of salvation.• The eschatological Kingdom will be the result of the perfect meeting of divine generosity and human correspondence.
  • b) The Kingdom of God comes with Christ(i) Revelation of the Kingdom, in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ• New Testament Revelation offers two aspects which are new (relative to the Old Testament): 1) the announcement of the arrival of the Kingdom; and 2) the centrality of Christ.• The presence of the Kingdom is tied to his Person and works. The works of Jesus corroborate that the Kingdom has effectively come with him: the cures, resurrections, teachings and exorcisms; the miracles of abundance; the miracles over nature; the pardon of sins.
  • (ii) Christological union in the Kingdom, according to St Paul• “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)• The sovereignty of Christ is realized in history and in the world, in a veiled but real and efficient way, in the Church and by means of the Church.
  • (iii) Christ, beginning of theKingdom, according to St John • St John gives relevant ideas about the mystery: (1) the centrality of Christ; (2) the necessity of faith, Baptism and the Eucharist to belong to the Kingdom; and (3) the interior character of this mystery. • The total triumph of God at the end of time does not suppose the annihilation of the human part of the mystery: perfect obedience and fidelity to God.
  • 2. From People to Family of God (Plenitudo Legis Est Dilectio)• There are two principal “familiar” categories used by Scripture to express the loving plan of God for men:1)spousal covenant and2)paternal-filial relation• Jesus shows to men the possibility of really becoming, in him, adopted sons of the Father.
  • Trinitarian Dimension of the Kingdom, in Patristic Doctrine• Progress in this theological direction—Trinitarian, filial—was the collateral effect of intense debate against the subordinationist heresy.• Defense of the divinity of the Son and the Spirit necessitated serious thought about the biblical passages alluding to the “submission” of Christ to the Father, and led to the study of the mystical body to which men are called to form with Christ to finally enter into the intimacy of the Trinity.
  • 2. The Kingdom of God, in the Magisterium of the Church• Lumen gentium describes the ultimate goal of the People of God in relational terms: – Christ, Shepherd and head, forms a new humanity; he acts through the sacred ministers, who “assemble the family of God as a brotherhood fired with a single ideal, and through Christ in the Spirit they lead it to God the Father.”
  • 2. The Kingdom of God, in the Magisterium of the Church• Gaudium et spes uses terms markedly personalist when talking about the end of man: – “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God.• The eschatological picture which the Catechism offers is characterized as communion among divine and human persons, with a family structure and a Christological core. – “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity—this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed—is called ‘heaven’.”
  • 3. Theological Reflection: Kingdom as Mysteryof Communion between the Trinity & Mankinda) Union with the Trinity in the Kingdom• God’s plan to elevate rational creatures to the status of (adopted) sons, through incorporation into Jesus, implies placing men in a position analogous to that which the Son has relative to the Father: a relation, not of simple subordination, but of ineffable familiarity.• “Christ has become what we are, to give us the possibility to be what he is.” (St Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, V)
  • b) Collective dimension of salvation• God wants to save man, not as an isolated being, but as part of a collectivity.• This plan reveals that the human person is not only de facto capable of relations, but, as imago Dei, is structurally and metaphysically related with other beings.• The parallelism which the Bible and the Fathers establish between the first Adam and the second makes more sense in light of the relational dimension of the person.• The expression “communion of saints” is an expression of the corporate aspect of salvation.
  • THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD• We can distinguish two essential elements contained in the dogma of the resurrection:(1) the identity between the person who lives in history and he who resurrects, as well as the transformation of this person; and(2) full communion with Christ which the resurrection implies: For the just, it is to- resurrect-in-the-Lord.• The resurrection will be the work of the Most Holy Trinity, like the Resurrection of Jesus.
  • THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD• The “how” of the resurrection could be a balance between two schools, seeing that:(1)the survival of a spiritual core has a crucial role in the resurrection of the human subject, and(2)the present body is not totally irrelevant to the body that will resurrect.
  • THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH• “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ forever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1060).• This point of faith indicates the profound solidarity between human creatures and inferior creatures: – Basically, the two groups constitute one unity, in such a way that man does not exist without a cosmic setting, and the material universe has in man its most sublime point of contact with God.• In the final analysis, it is the global unity that will be saved, elevated, transformed by God.
  • 1. The Cosmos, Part of the Historia Salutisa) Solidarity between man and the rest of creation, in the Old Testament• The human being appears as a most special work of the Creator (formed by divine action), at the same time that it pertains to the earth (taken from it).• He is placed by Yahweh in the garden for him to till it and take care of it (cf. Genesis 2:15).• Isaias 65:17-21 speaks of a new creation: “For behold I create new heavens, and a new earth.”
  • b) Regeneration of the world in Christ• The expectation of eschatological salvation which includes cosmic renewal continues in the New Testament, and is formulated in various ways: – as palingenesia (= regeneration); – as apokatastasis (= restoration); – as ouranoi kainoi kai ge kaine (= new heavens and a new earth, equivalent to the Old Testament phrase).
  • 2. Continuity/Discontinuity Betweenthe Present World and the New World• Tradition echoes the doctrine of universal renewal, insisting on two principal points:(1)Against spiritualist currents, it defends the transfiguration of material creation, not its annihilation.(2)It gives reasons of convenience for the adaptation of the universe to the glorious situation of men and the total presence of God at the end of time.
  • a) Transformation, not annihilation• Even though Christian writers of early times sometimes give the impression of a depreciative attitude to the world when they express a longing for the prompt return of the Lord, Christians in fact quickly and clearly stay away from dualist currents (of the Gnostics, etc.) which see with pessimist eyes matter in general and the human body in particular.• Contrary to the Gnostic theory of two gods—one revealed in the Old Testament as a god of ire, and another revealed by the New Testament as a god of goodness—Christian Tradition defends a strongly unitary view of the Creator of the created universe.
  • b) A home apt for the resurrected• With regard to the reasons of convenience for the palingenesia, writers of Christian antiquity cite the congruence which the transfigured state of man demands.• St Augustine cites an additional reason for the mystery of the eschatological transformation of the cosmos: Only a transfigured world would be able to manifest the brightness of the presence of God.
  • 3. The Magisterium of the Church Regarding the New Heavens and the New Earth• The appearance of many magisterial declarations in modern times is due to the proliferation of worldly utopias (e.g. the Marxist proposition) which propose the goal of a worldly paradise as an alternative to Christian hope for an eschatological Kingdom.• Also, the Church of the 20th century sees the need to respond to certain pessimistic and spiritualist currents which put in doubt the salvific relevance of human activity in a world and a history affected by sin.• The thesis here is not that of an invalidation or future annihilation of the present world, but its future purification and transfiguration.
  • 4. Theological Reflection: ThePalingenesia as Redemption of the Cosmos• God, world and man are three realities that have been somehow separated by sin.• Man, upon breaking his original link with his Creator, causes the formation of an abyss, not only between his person and God, but also— being responsible for the cosmos—between the world and God.• The final state of man will be to live in Christ by the work of the Spirit, and the final state of the cosmos will be to participate through resonance in the transfiguring power flowing from the Person of the Son to men.
  • THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT1. Divine Judgment, in the Old Testament• The development of the idea of a Final Judgment is set within a wider framework of Old Testament concepts:(1)The functions of governance and judgment are united in the person of the sovereign.(2)God is not indifferent to the moral conduct of men.
  • 2. The Judgment United to the Parousia, in Tradition• The idea of a universal Judgment in the Patristic age is extensively intertwined with the expectation of the Parousia: – When Christ returns, he will bring with him complete retribution for each one.
  • a) A mystery of retribution• St Clement of Rome assures us: “God is faithful to his promises, and just in his judgments.”• The reason is basically theological: Justice, understood as an attribute of God.• Furthermore, the notion of perfect justice seems to demand a “waiting” until the end of history, so that the balance considers all the consequences in time of human actions.
  • b) A mystery of discrimination• The Fathers speak of the judgment of God as capable of producing either one of two final sentences: either eternal salvation or eternal condemnation, according to each one’s deeds.• The doctrine occasions a mixture of hope and fear, of longing and anxiety.
  • c) The mystery of revelation• The Fathers emphasize the convenience quoad homines of a complete revelation at the end of history of the value of persons and events.
  • 3. The Last Judgment, in the Symbols of Faith• The affirmation that “he shall come to judge the living and the dead” already appears as the conclusion of the Christological article in the first creeds, being the echo of apostolic preaching.• The 4th Lateran Council (1215) adds a phrase: “he shall give to each one according to his works”.
  • 4. Theological Reflection: The Judgment, Corollary of the Parousiaa) God’s coming close, the differentiation among men• The final mystery contains a discriminatory dimension (between the wheat and the chaff, between the sheep and the goats).• God’s coming close to his creation will finally result in a differentiation among free creatures.• God’s coming close to men throughout history, in fact, acts like a sword dividing hearts.
  • b) Primacy of salvation over condemnation• Theologians affirm with reason that the double prospect (salvation/condemnation) contained in the revelation of the Judgment is not “symmetrical”.• Salvation has more weight, since that is the original objective of the divine economy.
  • c) The last judgment as revelation of the meaning of History • The final Coming of the divine King will bring a clear order to creation, by which each creature will occupy its definitive place within the whole. • The King “will put everything in its place”, even in the mind of his creatures, making them know exactly—as He knows—the value of persons and works.
  • d) Christological dimension of the Judgment• This does not simply mean that Christ will exercise his authority over men as God and Redeemer.• It tells us exactly how God works out the salvation of men: Christ configuring them to himself, sending them his modeler Spirit, presenting them to the Father.• Christ will not only be the Judge, but also the Criterion for the Judgment.
  • ETERNAL LIFE• “I believe… in life everlasting.” (Apostle’s Creed)• “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” (Nicean- Constantinopolitan Creed)• With these few words we try to express the object of the hope of every human being.• In reality, with these terms we try to say much (in a certain sense, everything): union with God and the saints, the fullness of corporeal and spiritual existence, an experience of joy and peace… that await the just at the end of time.
  • 1. Richness of Biblical Revelation about Eternal Life• Our scriptural survey groups the principal categories by which the mystery is formulated according to the following order:(1) “Local” expressions, which simply serve to indicate “to be where God is”: heaven, paradise, promised land, house of the Father, heavenly Jerusalem, heavenly temple, etc.(2) More formal expressions: to be with God, to be with Christ(3) Expressions which add the aspect of intimate colloquium: to see, to know God.(4) Expressions which indicate the fullness that comes with union with God: eternal life, banquet, etc.
  • 2. Divine Communication and Divinization of Man• The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms the following aspects of the mystery: – The essence of eternal life as communion; – The central place of Christ in this mystery; – The aspect of vision and divinization, in the mystery of communion; – The concomitant consummation of the deepest dimensions of man.
  • 3. Theological Reflection: Communion with God as Essence of Eternal Life• From the mystery of communion between human persons and the divine Persons flows the dimensions of happiness in heaven: – The assimilation of man to the Person of the Word implies a divinization. – Insertion in the Son gives a greater participation in his intimate knowledge of the Father. – Incorporation in Christ brings with it solidarity with other just men also. – Intimate union with God produces in the creature joyous effects: fullness, Life, etc.
  • a) A God who gives Himself• The essence of that which we call heaven or blessedness is not so much the permanence in a physical place, but a “stay” of another kind: staying in God.• It is God with us, we in God.
  • b) Trinitarian dimensions of the mystery• Human fulfillment does not consist simply in the contemplation of the divine unitary essence, but in contemplating the different relations of the three divine Persons according to the order which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit live within themselves.
  • c) The transformation of man united to God• The repercussions in the creature caused by the Trinitarian presence are: – elevation and divinization of the poor creature; – joyful knowledge of divine intimacy, and understanding of things which are deep inside God; – joy and fruition of love; – experience of vital fullness, spiritually and corporeally (feelings and senses included); – in sum, superabundant satisfaction and happiness.
  • d) The profound sense of heaven as reward• Eternal life consists in abiding in the interior of God.• The loving dialogue requires a prepared correspondent, made in some way connatural with the Trinity.• Who can eternally contemplate the Father, if not someone who has already learned to love him in this life as his son?• Our stay on earth is a verum spatium (moment of truth).• Our moral efforts here, now, acquire an “eschatological value” to the extent that they make us better or less prepared to live Life-without-end, with him who is All-Holy, and with all the saints.
  • ETERNAL DEATH• “Life” and “Death” are two faces (albeit unsymmetrical) of just one mystery: the response of the free creature to God-who- comes-near.• The contrast in biblical expressions shows that they are diametrically opposed existential situations.• The union of man with God is the logical conclusion of the salvific plan; to be lost is the thing most contrary to the divine intent.
  • 1. Eternal Death as the Reverse of Eternal Life, in Sacred Scripture• As in the case of eternal life, we find in the Revelation about eternal death a great variety of formulations, all of them expressions of different facets in the mystery.• Evidently, there is a certain parallelism between the formulations about eternal life and eternal death: – Heaven // abyss or the depths of the sheol; – to be within (the eschatological Jerusalem) // to be outside (in Gehenna, outside the walls); – to be with Christ // “depart from Me”; – house of the Father, “children of the Kingdom” // not to inherit the Kingdom; – to see, to know God // “I do not know you”; – joy // weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
  • a) Geographic terms• The difference and separation between the two states (salvation and perdition) is made clear using graphic expressions.(i) The “deep places” in the Old Testament: The deepest place in the sheol. Gehenna.(ii) Hades, abyss and Gehenna in the New Testament
  • b) Exclusion from God’s presence• As counterpart to the formulations for “eternal life” (e.g. “to see” or “to know” God, “to be with” Christ, etc.) we find in the Bible expressions which formally indicate a mystery of exclusion from the company of God and the just.
  • c) Eternal death• As it happened with the idea of “life”, the theo-logical dimension of “death” (i.e. its dimension of non-relation with God) expanded with time until it became the fullest expression of the mystery of definitive separation from God.
  • d) Other Biblical expressions• A last group of expressions describes the consequences of separation from God as: inextinguishable or eternal fire; worm that does not die; weeping; gnashing of teeth; darkness; shame; lack of rest.
  • 2. The Reality and Duration of Hell• The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the dogma of the existence of hell thus: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’• The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.” (no. 1035)
  • 3. Theological Reflection: Hell as the Creature’s Shunning Goda) Hell as the absence of God (God lost by man)• Hell is above all the free creature’s shunning God who comes to him.• In Trinitarian terms, it is to repel or “sadden” the Spirit (cf. Ephesians 4:30) who wants to live in the person in order to conform him to the Son and bind him intimately with the Father.• Seen in this way, hell is man’s creation, not God’s.
  • b) Theories that deny the existence of hell• There have been theories which deny the reality of hell. The most widespread are based on two principal arguments:(1) The infinite love, mercy and power of God make the possibility of “failure” in his plans to save mankind unthinkable.(2) The existence of creatures lost for ever seems incompatible with the full happiness of the angels and saints.
  • b) Theories that deny the existence of hell• The thesis of “the impossibility of condemnation of anyone” falls apart when we consider a particular dogmatic fact: the fall of some angels, and their consequent state of permanent enmity with God.• The alternative proposition that “hell exists but is empty” is simply false because devils exist.
  • c) Poena sensus (pain of sense)• The theological concept of eternal death as an existential situation, self-inflicted by man himself, allows us to avoid a sadistic view of the sufferings of the damned as extrinsic punishments violently inflicted by an avenging God.• It seems more correct to think of the sufferings of the condemned as the necessary effect of their chosen separation from God, i.e. as an internal dimension of the divine absence: – It is he himself who allows chaos to reign in his existence, in the disordered function of his intellect (since he thinks only of himself) and will (since he loves only himself and not others).