Every religion has an eschatology

1. The resurrection of Christ and our resurrection

1.1. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For above all I delivered to you what I also received: Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and was buried. He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures ”(1 Cor 15: 3–4). So now Christ is not only risen in truth, but he is "the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11:25) and also the hope of our resurrection. Therefore, today as in the past, Christians add to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, in the same formula "the immortal tradition of the holy Church of God" [20] in which they believe in Jesus Christ, "rose on the third day according to the scriptures" Confess, add: “We await the resurrection of the dead” [21]. In this creed, the testimonies of the New Testament find an echo: "Those who have died in Christ shall rise" (1 Thes 4:16).

“Christ was raised from the dead as the first of those who fell asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). This saying goes that the fact of Christ's resurrection is not something self-contained, but that it should one day extend to those who are in Christ. Inasmuch as our future resurrection is "the extension of the resurrection of Christ himself to men" [22] it is easy to understand that the Lord's resurrection is the model of our resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is also the cause of our future resurrection: “Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man” (1 Cor 15:21). Through the rebirth of baptism from the Church and the Holy Spirit, we obtain the resurrection in a sacramental way in the risen Christ (Col. 2:12). The resurrection of those in Christ must be seen as the culmination of the mystery that began in baptism. Therefore it presents itself as the highest communion with Christ and with the sisters and brothers as well as the highest object of hope: "Then we will always be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4:17; "we will" in the plural!) . Therefore, the final resurrection in glory will be the most perfect communion - also bodily - between those already resurrected who belong to Christ and the glorified Lord. From all this it becomes clear that the resurrection of the Lord is, as it were, the place of our future resurrection in glory and that this our future resurrection must be interpreted as an ecclesiastical event.

Because of this belief, the Christians of our time, when they affirm the resurrection of the dead, are mocked like Paul on the Areopagus (Acts 17:32). The present situation on this point is not different from that which Origen described in his day: "Isn't the mystery of the resurrection, because it is not understood, the subject of conversation and ridicule among the unbelievers?" [23].

This attack and ridicule did not result in early centuries Christians ceasing to profess the belief in the resurrection or in early theologians ceasing to interpret that belief. All symbols of faith, like the one already quoted, find their climax in this article of the resurrection. The resurrection from the dead is “the most common monographic theme in pre-Constantine theology; there is hardly a work in early church literature that does not speak of the resurrection ”[24]. The less we must shrink back from the present contradiction.

The confession of the resurrection has been made in a completely realistic way since the time of patristicism. It seems that the formula “Resurrection of Meat“In the old roman Symbolum It found its way into and later from here into many others in order to avoid a spiritualistic interpretation of the resurrection which, under Gnostic influence, attracted some Christians [25]. At the 11th Synod of Toledo (675) the doctrine was carefully interpreted: The resurrection takes place “neither in an airy nor in any other flesh”; Faith relates to the resurrection "in the [flesh] in which we live, stand and move": this confession is made according to the "example of our head", i.e. in the light of the resurrection of Christ [26]. This last allusion to the risen Christ shows that realism must be maintained in such a way that a transformation of our bodies living on earth into glorified bodies is not excluded. But an ethereal body that would be a new creation does not correspond to the reality of the resurrection of Christ and would therefore bring with it a mythical element. The Fathers of this Synod presuppose that conception of the resurrection of Christ which only agrees with the biblical statements about the empty tomb and about the appearances of the risen Jesus (note the use of the word ôphthêto express the apparitions of the risen Lord, and between the reports of the apparitions the so-called "recognition scenes"); this resurrection, however, maintains the tension between the real continuity of the body (the body that was nailed to the cross is the same body that rose and revealed itself to the disciples) and the glorious transformation of that same body. The risen Jesus not only invited the disciples to touch him, because “there is no spirit like you see in me”, but he showed them his hands and feet so that they could see “that I myself it am "(Lk 24:39: oti egô eimí autós); however, in his resurrection he did not return to the conditions of earthly and mortal life. In order to maintain the realism of the future resurrection of the dead, we must in no way forget that our real flesh in the resurrection will be shaped like the glorified body of Christ (Phil 3:21). This body, which now takes its form through the soul (psyche) receives his form in the resurrection in glory by the Spirit (pneûma) received (1 Cor 15:44).

1.2. A novelty in the history of this dogma (at least since the tendency that emerged under the influence of the Gnostics in the second century) is the fact that in our time some theologians are criticizing this realism. The traditional representation of the resurrection seems overly crude to them. The overly physical descriptions of the events of the resurrection are particularly difficult. That is why one sometimes seeks refuge in a certain spiritualistic explanation of the resurrection. In view of this, a new interpretation of the traditional statements about the resurrection is required.

The theological hermeneutics of the eschatological statements must be correct [27]. They should not be treated as statements that refer only to the future (which as such have a different logical status than statements about past or present realities that can practically be described as provable objects), even if they are with regard to us not yet entered and in this sense future, they are in Christ beautiful really become.

In order to avoid exaggeration through an overly physical description as well as through a spiritualization of the events, certain basic lines can be pointed out:

1.2.1. A specifically theological hermeneutics includes full acceptance of revealed truths. God possesses the knowledge of the future, which he can also reveal to man as credible truth.

1.2.2. This was revealed in the resurrection of Christ, to which all patristic literature refers when it speaks of the resurrection of the dead. What grew in hope in the chosen people became reality in the resurrection of Christ. Accepted by faith, the resurrection of Christ also signifies something final for the resurrection of the dead.

1.2.3. One must have a conception of man and the world based on Scripture and reason, which is suitable for recognizing the high calling of man and of the world insofar as they are creatures. But more must be emphasized: “God is the 'last thing' of the creature. He is as Heaven won, as Hell lost, as Trial Judgment, as Cleansing Purgatory. He is He who dies of the finite and through which it rises to Him, in Him. But it is as he is turned towards the world, namely in his son Jesus Christwho is the revelation of God and thus the epitome of the 'last things' ”. [28] The care required to preserve realism in the doctrine of the risen body must not take precedence over this aspect of the community (communio) and connectedness (societas) forgotten with God in Christ (this communion of ours in the risen Christ will be perfect when we too are physically risen), who are the ultimate goal of man, the church and the world [29].

1.2.4. The rejection of eschatological “docetism” also requires that communion with God in the last eschatological stage is not understood as a purely spiritual reality. God, who in his resurrection invites us to a final communion, is at the same time the God of the creation of this world. This “first work” will also be accepted in the end in the glorification. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council affirmed: "Love will remain like what it once did, and all creation that God created for man's sake will be freed from the bondage of impermanence" [30].

1.2.5. Finally, it should be noted that the symbols of faith contain dogmatic formulations full of realism with regard to the resurrection body. The resurrection takes place “in this flesh in which we now live” [31]. So it is the same body that lives now and that will be resurrected. This belief is clearly evident in early Christian theology. Saint Irenaeus thus accepts the “transfiguration” of the flesh “when this mortal and perishable flesh, which is also marked by death”, “has attracted incorruptibility and immortality” in the final resurrection [32]; but such a resurrection takes place “in the same [bodies] in which they died. For if it had not been so, those who had died would not have been resurrected ”[33]. So the fathers thought that without the identity of the body, the identity of the person could not be defended. The Church has never taught that it takes the same matter to be able to say that it is the same body. But the worship of relics shows that the resurrection cannot be explained independently of the body that lived; In it Christians profess that the bodies of saints, “who were living members of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit”, “will be raised and glorified” by Christ [34].

 

2. The second coming of Christ, our resurrection

2.1. The resurrection of the dead is assigned a specific point in time in the New Testament. After proclaiming that the resurrection of the dead will take place through Christ and in Christ, Paul adds: “But there is a certain order: first is Christ; then, when Christ comes, follow all who belong to him ”(1 Cor 15:23: en tê parousía autou). A specific event is given as the time of the resurrection of the dead. With the Greek word parousía denotes the second coming of the Lord in glory, which is still to come, which differs from the first coming in humility [35]: the revelation of glory (Tit 2,13) ​​and the revelation of the second coming (2 Thess 2,8) refer on the same arrival. The same event is expressed in the Gospel according to John (6.54) with the words “on the last day” (cf. also John 6: 39-40). The same connection of events is found in the vivid description of the first epistle to the Thessalonians 4: 16-17 and is confirmed by the great tradition of the Fathers: "At his [Christ's] coming all men must be resurrected". [36]

The theory of the "resurrection in death" contradicts this statement. In its mainly common form, it is explained in a way that seriously undermines the realism of the resurrection, for it asserts a resurrection unrelated to the body that lived and is now dead. The theologians who speak of the resurrection in death want the existence of a "separated soul" (anima separata) exclude after death, which they consider to be a relic of Platonism. Very understandable is the fear that moves theological proponents of a resurrection in death; Platonism would be a serious departure from the Christian faith. For faith the body is not a prison from which the soul has to free itself. Precisely for this reason, however, it is not quite understandable why theologians who flee Platonism state the final corporeality or the resurrection in such a way that it cannot be seen that it is really still about "this flesh in which we now live" [ 37], acts. The old formulas of faith spoke with a different force of the resurrection of the same body that is now alive.

The conceptual separation between body and corpse or the introduction of two different terms in the conception of the body (the difference is expressed in German with the words “body” and “body”, while in many other languages ​​it cannot even be expressed) poorly understood outside of academic circles. Pastoral experience teaches that the Christian people hear with great confusion sermons in which - while a corpse is being buried - it is claimed that the dead person has already risen. It is to be feared that such sermons will have a negative impact on the believers inasmuch as they may encourage the current doctrinal confusion. In this secularized world, in which believers see themselves drawn under the spell of the materialism of total death, it would be even more serious to increase their perplexity.

On the other hand, the parousia in the New Testament is a concrete event that closes the story. Violence is inflicted on the New Testament texts if one wishes to interpret the parousia as an ongoing event that is nothing other than the encounter of the individual with the Lord in his own death.

2.2. “On the last day” (Jn 6:44), when people are resurrected in glory, they will have full communion with the risen Christ. This can be seen clearly because man's fellowship with Christ will then go hand in hand with the full existential reality of both. As soon as the story has come to an end, the resurrection of all fellow servants and brothers will complete the mystical body of Christ (Revelation 6:11). Origen therefore emphasized: "There is one body that is said to be resurrected in judgment". [38] The 11th Synod of Toledo rightly confessed not only that the glorious resurrection of the dead would follow the example of the risen Christ, but also the “Example our head“[39].

This communal aspect of the ultimate resurrection seems to dissolve into the theory of the resurrection in death, as such a resurrection turns into an individual process. Hence, among theologians who lean towards the theory of the resurrection in death, there is no lack of those who propose the solution in a so-called Breath poralism have been looking for: They claim that after death there is no time in any way, and while recognizing that viewed from this world, people die one after the other, they mean that people in the afterlife in which there is none Kind of time more gonna be resurrected at the same time. This attempt at a breath-poralism, according to which individual successive deaths and collective simultaneous resurrection coincide, involves recourse to a philosophy of the time that is alien to biblical thought. The New Testament way of speaking about the souls of the martyrs does not seem to withdraw them from either the reality of a temporal sequence or any perception of such a sequence (Rev 6: 9-11). Similarly, if there were no aspect of the time after death, not even a purely analogous one in comparison to earthly time, it would not be easy to understand why Paul used futuristic formulations for the Thessalonians who asked about the fate of the deceased speaks of her resurrection (anastêsontai) (1 Thess 4: 13-18).Moreover, a radical negation of any notion of time for the so understood resurrections, which are both simultaneous and occur in death, does not seem to take sufficient account of the true corporeality of the resurrection; for one cannot speak out in favor of a true body that is alien to any concept of time. Even the souls of the blessed, insofar as they are in communion with Christ and are raised in a truly bodily manner, cannot be viewed without some connection with time.

 

3. Immediate fellowship with Christ after death according to the New Testament

3.1. Early Christians, whether they considered the parousia imminent or distant, soon learned from experience that some of them were carried away by death before the parousia. Paul comforted those who were concerned about the lot of these dead by reminding them of the doctrine of the future resurrection of dead believers: "First those who have died in Christ shall rise" (1 Thes 4:16). This conviction of faith left unanswered other questions that soon had to be asked, e.g .: In what condition are the deceased in the meantime? It was not necessary to work out a completely new answer to this question, for elements for a solution had long been found throughout the biblical tradition. The people of Israel have thought from the earliest stages of their history, known to us, that something of people endures after death. This thought already appears in the oldest conception of what Sheol is called.

3.2. The old Jewish conception of the Sheol was quite imperfect in the first stage of its development. It was thought that it was located underground as the opposite pole to heaven. Hence the expression “descend into the Sheol“(Gen 37:35; Ps 55:16, etc.). Those who live there are called refaim. This Hebrew word does not have a singular, which seems to indicate that no attention was paid to an individual life of these deceased. They do not praise God and are separated from him. Like an anonymous crowd, they all have the same fate. In this sense, the post-death persistence ascribed to them does not yet include the idea of ​​retribution.

3.3. Simultaneously with this idea, the faith of Israel begins to show itself, which trusts that the omnipotence of God will make someone out of Sheol can lead out (1 Sam 2,6; Am 9,2 etc.). This belief prepares the idea of ​​the resurrection of the dead, which is expressed in Dan 12: 2 and in Isa 26:19 and which prevailed widely among the Jews at the time of Jesus, with the well-known exception of the Sadducees (Mk 12:18).

Belief in the resurrection leads to an advancement in the way of the Sheol to think. The Sheol is no longer seen as a common abode for the dead, but as divided into two floors, one of which is for the righteous and the other for the wicked. The dead are there until the Last Judgment, when the final verdict is pronounced; but already in these different floors they initially receive the retribution they deserve. This way of understanding is shown in the Ethiopian Book of Enoch 22 [40] and is presupposed in Lk 16: 19–31.

3.4. Some intermediate stage of this type is affirmed in the New Testament in that life immediately after death is taught as a subject different from the resurrection, which is most certainly never associated with death in the New Testament. It should be added that in the statement about this survival, communion with Christ is emphasized as the central idea.

The crucified Jesus promises the good thief: "Amen, I say to you: today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk 23:43). The paradise is a jewish Terminus technicusthat the expression "Gan Eden" corresponds to. However, it is stated without being further described; the central idea is that Jesus wants to take the good thief into fellowship with himself immediately after death. Stephen shows the same hope at the stoning. In the words “I see heaven open and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7.56), together with his last prayer “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7.59), he affirms his hope to be received directly by Jesus into his community.

In Jn 14: 1–3, Jesus speaks to his disciples about the many apartments that are in his father's house: “When I have gone and have prepared a place for you, I will come again and will bring you to me, with that too you are where I am ”(14.3). It can hardly be doubted that these words refer to the time of the death of the disciples and not to the parousia, which is secondary in the Gospel according to John (although not in the first letter of John). Once again the idea of ​​communion with Christ is at the center. He is not only "the way, but also the truth and the life" (Jn 14: 6). Note the similarity of the words between "Monaí" (Apartments) and "Ménein" (stay). With reference to earthly life, Jesus exhorts us: “Remain in me, then I shall remain in you” (Jn 15.4), “remain in my love” (15.9). Already on earth it is true: “If someone loves me, he will hold fast to my word; my father will love him and we will come to him and live with him (monên)“(Jn 14:23). This “dwelling”, which is community, becomes more intense beyond death.

3.5. Paul deserves special attention. His main section on the intermediate stage is Phil 1: 21–24: “For to me Christ is life, and death is gain. But if I am to go on living, that means fruitful work for me. What should i choose? I dont know. It pulls me on both sides: I long to set out and be with Christ - how much better that would be! But because of you it is more necessary that I stay alive ”. In verse 21 "the life" is (tò zên) Subject, "Christ" is a predicate. Thus the idea of ​​communion with Christ is always emphasized, which began on earth and is proclaimed as the only object of hope in the post-death stage: “to be with Christ” (1:23). The fellowship after death becomes more intense, and therefore the post-death stage is desirable.

No contempt for earthly life speaks from Paul's actions; finally he decides to remain “in the flesh” (Phil 1,25). Paul does not naturally long for death (2 Cor 5: 2-4). Losing one's body is painful. It is customary to contrast the attitudes of Socrates and Jesus with regard to death. Socrates regards death as a liberation of the soul with a view to the dungeon or the grave (sôma) of the body (sôma); Jesus, who gave himself up for the sins of the world (Jn 10.15), also felt fear in the garden of Gethsemani of approaching death (Mk 14.32). Paul's attitude is not devoid of resemblance to that of Jesus. The stage after death is to be longed for only because in the New Testament (with the exception of Lk 14.19–31, where the context is completely different) it means communion with Christ.

It would be completely wrong to claim that Paul went through a development in which he moved from faith in the resurrection to hope of immortality. With him, both exist at the same time from the start. In the same letter to the Philippians in which he sets out the motive for longing for the intermediate state, he speaks with joy of the hope of the Lord's return "who will transform our poor body into the form of his glorified body" ( Phil 3:21). The intermediate stage, however, is understood as temporary, undoubtedly as worth striving for for the sake of the unity with Christ contained therein, but in such a way that the highest hope always remains the resurrection of the bodies: "For this transitory must clothe itself with immortality and this mortal with immortality" 1 Cor 15.53).

 

4. The reality of the resurrection in the current theological context

4.1 It is easy to understand that, proceeding from this double line in the teaching of the New Testament, the whole Christian tradition, without significant exceptions, has understood the object of eschatological hope to be constituted in two phases almost up to our time. She believes that between the death of man and the end of the world there is a conscious element of man, which is called "soul" (psyche) which is also used in the Holy Scriptures (Wis 3,1; Mt 10,28) and is already there the subject of retribution. At the return of the Lord, which follows the end of history, the blessed resurrection “of those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15:23) is expected. From then on, the eternal glorification of the whole already risen human being begins, without prejudice to continuity and identity in survival [subsistentia] between the man who lived and the man who will be raised; thanks to this continuation, the concrete human being never ceases to exist entirely.

4.2. Exceptions to this tradition are certain Christians of the second century who, under the influence of the Gnostics, opposed the “redemption of the flesh” and called the resurrection the mere survival of the soul endowed with a certain corporeality [41]. Another exception is that Thnetopsychism of Tatian and some Arab heretics who assumed that man died so completely that not even his soul lived on. The final resurrection was understood as a new creation out of nothing, out of dead man [42].

From these heresies to almost our own time, there has been practically not a single exception on this subject. Martin Luther is no exception, as he admits the eschatological two-phase nature. For him, death is “the separation of soul from body” [43]; he maintains that souls live on between death and the ultimate resurrection, although he expresses doubts about the way to represent the stage in which souls are between death and resurrection: at times he confessed admitted that the saints may pray for us in heaven [44], while in other passages he rather meant that souls are in a state of sleep [45]. However, he never negated the intermediate state, even when he interpreted it in a way that is different from the Catholic faith [46]. Lutheran orthodoxy preserved the biphasic nature while abandoning the idea of ​​soul sleep.

4.3. For the first time in the 20th century, a rejection of the two-phase approach began to spread. The new tendency arose with some evangelical theologians, namely in the form of total death (like the old Thnetopsychism) and the resurrection at the end of times, which was declared as creation out of nothing. The reasons on which one appealed were predominantly confessional: man could not show anything of his own before God, not only no works, but just as little the natural immortality of the soul; the seriousness of death is only preserved if it affects the whole person and not just the body; If death is a punishment for sin and the whole person is a sinner, then the whole person must be affected by death, otherwise it would be suggested that the soul in which the root of sin is located is freed from death. Gradually, in an almost programmatic way, the submission of a new eschatological scheme began: alone the resurrection instead of immortality and Resurrection.

This first form of tendency posed many difficulties: if the whole human being disappears into death, God could create a human being who would be completely like him; but if there was no existential continuity between the two, the second person could not be the same as the first. Therefore, new theories were elaborated regarding the resurrection in death claim that there is no empty space between death and parousia. It must be admitted that in this way a theme was introduced that is unknown to the New Testament, since the New Testament always speaks of the resurrection at the Parousia and never in the death of man [47].

When the new tendency began to spread to some Catholic theologians, the Holy See, in a letter addressed to all bishops [48], deemed it inconsistent with legitimate theological pluralism.

4.4. All these theories would have to be judged with serious consideration of the biblical testimony and the history of tradition, both in terms of eschatology itself and in terms of its anthropological presuppositions. But beyond that, one might rightly wonder whether a theory can easily discard all the motivations that led to its creation. This must be taken into account especially when a particular theological line has indeed emerged from denominational, non-Catholic principles.

Furthermore, the disadvantages for the ecumenical dialogue that would result from the new understanding would have to be taken into account. Even if the new tendency arose among some evangelical theologians, it still does not correspond to the great tradition of Lutheran orthodoxy that now also prevails among the believers of this denomination. Among the divided Christians of the East, the belief in an eschatology of souls that precedes the resurrection of the dead is even stronger. All these Christians consider the eschatology of souls necessary because they see the resurrection of the dead in connection with the parousia of Christ [49]. Even more, if we look beyond the realm of Christian denominations, it must be remembered that the eschatology of souls is largely a common property of non-Christian religions.

In traditional Christian thought, the eschatology of souls is a stage at which in the course of history the brothers and sisters in Christ gradually unite with him and in him. The idea of ​​the family-like union of souls through death, which is known to not a few African religions, offers an opportunity for interreligious dialogue with them. Finally, it must be added that in Christianity such a union reaches its climax at the end of history, when all human beings are led through the resurrection to their full existential and bodily reality.

4.5. In the history of this question, a different line of reasoning has been put forward in favor of just a single phase. It is objected that the two-phase scheme stems from a Hellenistic distortion. The only biblical idea is that of the resurrection; in contrast, the immortality of the soul emerged from Greek philosophy. It is consequently suggested that Christian eschatology be purged of any Hellenistic additions.

It is to be recognized that the idea of ​​the resurrection in the Holy Scriptures is quite recent (Dan 12: 1-3 is the first unquestioned text in this regard). The oldest conception of the Jews was rather that the shadows of the people who lived persisted (refaim) in a common abode of the dead (sheol), which is different from their graves. This way of thinking is very similar to Homer's way of thinking about souls (psychaí) in the underworld (Hades) spoke. This parallel between the Hebrew and Greek cultures, which also existed in other epochs, casts doubt on their supposed opposition. In antiquity, the cultural similarities and mutual influences on all coasts of the Mediterranean were much greater than is often assumed, and they do not constitute a phenomenon that is secondary to the Holy Scriptures and would distort its message.

On the other hand, it cannot be assumed that only the Hebrew categories were an instrument of divine revelation. God spoke "many times and in many ways" (Heb 1: 1). It is inconceivable that the books of Scripture, in which inspiration is expressed in the words and concepts of Greek culture, should therefore have less authority than those written in the Hebrew or Aramaic language.

After all, it is not possible to speak of a Hebrew and a Greek mentality as if they were monotonous entities. The imperfect ideas of the patriarchs were honed by later revelation. For its part, Greek philosophy cannot be restricted to Platonism or Neoplatonism. This must not be forgotten, as the fathers had many contacts not only with middle Platonism, but also with the Stoa [50].For this reason, both the history of Revelation and tradition and the relationship between Hebrew and Greek cultures should be presented in a more nuanced way.

 

5. Man called to resurrection

5.1. The Second Vatican Council teaches: “In body and soul as one, man unites the elements of the material world through his corporeality: through him they reach the height of their destiny and raise their voice in free praise of the Creator [...] . But man is not wrong if he affirms his priority over physical things and does not see himself only as part of nature or as an anonymous element in human society, because in his inwardness he exceeds the totality of things. He goes back to this depth when he enters his heart, where God awaits him, who searches the hearts, and where he himself decides his own fate under the eyes of God. If he therefore affirms the spirituality and immortality of his soul, he does not become the victim of a deceptive imagination, which is derived from merely physical and social conditions, but on the contrary, he reaches the deep truth of reality ”[51]. With these words the Council recognizes the value of the spontaneous and elementary experience through which man perceives that he is superior to all other earthly creatures and is certain that he can participate through the knowledge and love of God. The fundamental difference between human beings and those other creatures is shown in the innate pursuit of happiness. It makes man reject and abhor the idea of ​​complete destruction of himself. The soul or the “germ of eternity in man cannot be traced back to mere matter and defends itself against death” [52]. Because this immortal soul is spiritual, the Church maintains that God is its Creator in every person [53].

This anthropology makes the two-phase eschatology already mentioned possible. Because this Christian anthropology is one duality of elements (the scheme "body - soul") that can separate in such a way that one of the two ("the spiritual and immortal soul") persists and lives on separately, it is sometimes the platonic dualism been charged. The word "dualism" can be understood in many ways. Therefore, when speaking of Christian anthropology, it is better to use the word "duality". On the other hand, because in the Christian tradition the state of the soul's survival after death is not final, nor is it the ontologically highest state, but an "intermediate state", temporary and related to the ultimate goal, the resurrection, Christian anthropology has its own characteristics and is different from the well-known anthropology of the Platonists [54].

5.2. In addition, Christian anthropology cannot be confused with Platonic dualism because in it the human being is not just soul, so that the body would be despised like a dungeon. The Christian is not ashamed of his body like Plotinus [55]. The hope of the resurrection would appear absurd to the Platonists because the hope of a return to dungeon cannot be placed. However, this hope in the resurrection is central in the New Testament. As a result of this hope, early Christian theology viewed the separated soul as "half man" and derived from it the appropriateness that later the resurrection would follow: "Oh, how unworthy it would be for God to raise half a man to redemption" [56] . St. Augustine expresses the common sense of the fathers well when he writes about the separated soul that there is “a certain natural urge to lead her body ... as long as the body is not subject to its leadership, that urge for its breastfeeding needs ”[57].

5.3. We encounter the dual anthropology in Mt 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but rather fear him who can plunge soul and body into the ruin of hell”. When we hear this “logion” in the light of contemporary anthropology and eschatology, it teaches us that it is a fact willed by God that the soul lives on after earthly death until it becomes one with the body again in the resurrection. One need not be surprised that the Lord proclaimed these words on the occasion of the teaching He presented on martyrdom. Biblical history shows that martyrdom for the truth is also the privileged moment when, in the light of faith, the creation carried out by God as well as the future eschatological resurrection and the promise of eternal life are illuminated (2 Makk 7: 9, 11, 14, 22 -23.28 and 36).

In the Book of Wisdom, too, the revelation of the eschatology of souls is placed in a context that speaks of those who were “punished in the eyes of men” (Wis 3: 4). “In the eyes of the foolish they have died, their going home is considered a misfortune” (Wis 3,2), but: “The souls of the righteous are in God's hand” (Wis 3,1). This eschatology of souls is connected in the same book with the clear affirmation of God's power to bring about the resurrection of man (Wis 16: 13-14).

5.4. The Church faithfully accepts the words of the Lord Mt 10:28 and "asserts the persistence and persistence of a spiritual element after death that is endowed with consciousness and will, so that the 'human I' itself persists, but in the meantime without the completion of his body" [58 ]. This statement is based on the characteristic duality of Christian anthropology.

Nevertheless, a few words of St. Thomas countered, who claims: "My soul is not the 'I'". [59] The context of this statement, however, is determined by the words immediately preceding that emphasize that the soul is part of man. This teaching runs through the whole Summa theologiae of St. Thomas; if the objection is made: “The separated soul is the individual substance of a rational nature, but it is not a person”, he answers: “The soul is part of the human being; even if it is therefore separate [from the body], its nature retains the ability to unite [with the body] and therefore cannot be called a single substance, that is, hypostasis or first substance, just as little as the hand or any other Part of man. And so it does not have the definition or the name of the person ”. [60] In this sense, i.e. insofar as the human soul is not the whole person, it can be said that it is not the "I". What is more, one has to hold onto this in order for the traditional line of Christian anthropology to continue. Hence, St. Thomas deduces from the fact that in the separated soul there is a desire for the body or for the resurrection [61]. This position of St. Thomas expresses the traditional sense of Christian anthropology, as it was already used by St. Augustine expressed it [62].

In another sense, however, it can and must be said that “the same human 'I'” continues in the separated soul [63]. In so far as it is the conscious and persistent element of the human being, thanks to the soul we can maintain a true continuity between the human being who lived on earth and the human being who will be resurrected. Without such a continuity of an enduring human element, the person who lived on earth and the person who will be resurrected would not be the same “me”. Therefore, after death, the acts of understanding and will that were performed on earth continue to exist. The soul, even in so far as it is separate, realizes personal acts of understanding and will. Furthermore, the continuation of the separated soul is evident from the practice of the Church of directing prayers to the souls of the blessed.

From these considerations it follows that on the one hand the separated soul is an ontologically incomplete and on the other hand it is a reality endowed with consciousness; even more, according to the definition of Benedict XII. The souls of the completely cleansed saints “immediately after death” and certainly already as separate ones (“even before their bodies are accepted again”) have the full bliss of the direct contemplation of God [64]. Such bliss is in itself perfect, and there cannot be anything higher in nature. The glorious transformation of the body in the resurrection is itself the effect of this vision with regard to the body; In this sense Paul speaks of a pneumatic body (1 Cor 15:44), i.e. shaped under the influence of the "spirit" and no longer just the soul ("psychic body").

Compared to the bliss of the individual soul, the final resurrection includes the ecclesial aspect in that then all the sisters and brothers who belong to Christ will come to the fullness (Rev 6:11). Then all creation will be subjected to Christ (1 Cor 15: 27-28), and so it too will be “set free from the slavery of perdition” (Rom 8:21).

 

6. The Christian death

6.1. The conception characteristic of Christian anthropology offers a concrete way of understanding the meaning of death. Since in Christian anthropology the body is not a prison from which the incarcerated person desires to flee, and also not a dress that one could easily take off, death, viewed as natural, is not something worth striving for for a single person, nor is it an occurrence that people calm down Could seize the senses without first overcoming the natural reluctance. Nobody needs to be ashamed of the feelings of natural aversion that he experiences before death, since the Lord himself wanted to suffer through them before his death and Paul testifies that he had such feelings: "We do not want to be undressed, but overclothed" ( 2 Cor 5,4). Death divides man inwardly. Even more, because the human person is not just soul, but soul and body in their essential union, death affects the person.

The absurdity of death becomes clearer when we consider that it exists in the historical order against the will of God (Wis 1: 13-14; 2: 23-24): because "man, had he not sinned" would be "been withdrawn" from physical death [65]. Death must be accepted by the Christian with a certain sense of repentance, in view of the words of Paul: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23).

It is also natural that the Christian should suffer from the death of the people he loves. “Jesus began to weep” (Jn 11:35) for his dead friend Lazarus. We too can and must weep for our dead friends.

6.2. The reluctance man experiences in the face of death, and the ability to overcome this reluctance, represent an attitude characteristic of man that is completely different from that of any other living being. In this way, death is an occasion for man to be able and to prove himself to be man. The Christian can also overcome fear of death by relying on other motives.

Faith and hope teach us another face of death. Jesus accepted the fear of death in the light of the will of the Father (Mk 14.36). He died "to set free those who, in fear of death, had been subjected to bondage all their lives" (Heb 2:15). Consequently, Paul can already long to leave in order to be with Christ; this communion with Christ after death is viewed by Paul as something that would be “much better” (Phil 1:23) compared to the state of the present life. The advantage of this life is that we “dwell in the body” and thus have our full existential reality; but with a view to full communion after death, we live “far from the Lord in a strange place” (2 Cor 5: 6). Even if we move out of this body through death and see ourselves robbed of our existential fullness, we accept it in good spirits, yes we can even long for it, insofar as it leads to "being at home with the Lord" (2 Cor 5, 8th). This mystical longing for communion with Christ after death, which can exist together with the natural fear of death, shows up every now and then in the spiritual tradition of the Church, especially among the saints, and must be understood in its true sense . If this longing leads to praise God through death, then this praise is in no way based on a positive assessment of this state itself, in which the soul lacks the body, but in the hope of participating in the Lord through death [ 66]. Death is then viewed as a gateway to communion with Christ after death, and not as a liberation for the soul in view of a body that would be a burden to it.

In the Eastern tradition the thought is often found that death is good inasmuch as it is the condition and the way to the future resurrection in glory. “So if it is not possible that without a resurrection our nature is changed for the better, but the resurrection cannot take place without death preceded, is deathin that it has become the beginning and path of change for the better for us, probably one good". [67] In his death and resurrection Christ gave death this goodness: “So he wanted, by reaching out his hand to the man who was lying down and bowing down to our corpse, as it were, death so close that he drank up mortality and in his own body ushered in the resurrection of mankind by raising the whole human race with his power ”. [68] In this sense Christ changed "the setting into the rising" [69].

The pain and sickness that are the beginning of death should also be accepted by Christians in a new way. Even in themselves they are borne as a burden, but even more so insofar as they are signs that the dissolution of our body is progressing [70]. But now, by accepting the pain and sickness that God allows, we partake of the passion of Christ, and by offering them we unite with the act in which the Lord offered His own life to the Father for salvation of the world. Each one of us should affirm, as Paul once did: "For the body of Christ, the Church, I add in my earthly life what is still missing in the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1:24). Through the connection with the Passion of the Lord we are also led to attain the glory of the risen Christ: "Wherever we go, we always carry the suffering of Jesus on our body so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies" 2 Cor 4:10). [71]

Similarly, we are not allowed to mourn the death of friends “like others who have no hope” (1 Thes 4:13). They used to lament "with lamentations, tears and sighs" "the miserable dying, as it were their complete extinction"; but we console ourselves, like Augustine at the death of his mother, with the thought: "This woman [Monica] neither died miserably, nor did she die completely". [72]

6.3. This positive aspect of death is only achieved through what the New Testament calls "to die in the Lord": "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" (Rev 14:13). This “dying in the Lord” is desirable insofar as it leads to happiness, and it is prepared in a holy life: “Yes, says the Spirit, let them rest from their toil; for their works accompany them ”(Rev 14:13). In this way earthly life is arranged in communion with Christ after death; it is already attained in the state of the separated soul [73] which is undoubtedly ontologically imperfect and incomplete. Because communion with Christ is of a higher value than existential fulness, earthly life cannot be regarded as the highest value. This justifies the mystical longing for death in the saints, which, as already said, is common.

Through a holy life, to which the grace of God calls us and in which it comes to our aid, the original connection between death and sin is broken, not because death is abolished in the physical sense, but insofar as it becomes eternal life begins to lead. To die in this way is a participation in the paschal mystery of Christ. The sacraments prepare us for this death. Baptism, in which we mystically die to sin, consecrates us to participate in the Lord's resurrection (Rom. 6: 3-7). By receiving the Eucharist, which is the “remedy of immortality” [74], the Christian receives the guarantee of partaking in the resurrection of Christ.

Dying in the Lord implies the possibility of another way of dying, namely death outside the Lord, which leads to the second death (Rev 20:14). In this death the power of sin through which death came into the world (Romans 5:12) shows in the highest degree its power to separate from God.

6.4. Christian customs quickly emerged - and certainly under the influence of belief in the resurrection of the dead - for the burial of the corpses of believers. The way of speaking that is in the words coemeterium (Greek koimêtêrion = dormitory) or depositio (The right of Christ to regain the body of the Christian, as opposed to donatio) implies this belief. In the care given to the corpse, a “duty of humanity” is seen, but “if such a thing is done by people who do not believe in the resurrection, how much more is it the duty of those who believe it Service of love, which they render to a dead body but destined for resurrection and eternal life, at the same time, to a certain extent, is a testimony to this very faith! "[75]

For a long time the cremation of corpses was forbidden [76] because it was historically perceived in connection with a Neoplatonic mentality, which aimed at the destruction of the body by means of this act so that the soul could free itself completely from prison [77] (in later this act referred to a materialistic or agnostic attitude). The Church no longer forbids cremation "unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine" [78]. Care must be taken that the current spread of the cremation, even among Catholics, in no way obscures their correct attitude towards the resurrection of the flesh.

 

7. The “living communion” of all the members of the Church in Christ[79]

7.1. The Communion-Ecclesiology, which is most characteristic of the Second Vatican Council, believes that the communion of saints or the union of sisters and brothers in Christ, which consists in the bond of love, is not interrupted by death, it “becomes according to the constant faith of the Church, strengthened by the communication of spiritual goods ”[80]. Faith gives Christians who live on earth "the opportunity to have fellowship in Christ with their beloved brothers who have already died" [81]. This communion takes place through various forms of prayer.

A very important theme in the Revelation of John is the heavenly liturgy. The souls of the blessed participate in it. In the earthly liturgy, above all “in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we are certainly closely connected to the cult of the heavenly Church, since we unite in venerable memory above all with Mary, the glorious, always pure Virgin, but also with the Holy Joseph as well as the holy apostles and martyrs and all saints ”[82]. When the earthly liturgy is celebrated, the will to unite it with the heavenly liturgy is truly evident. In the Roman prayer this will appears not only in the prayer “In communion with the whole Church” (at least in its present form), but also in the transition from the prefation to the canon and in the canon prayer “We ask you, almighty God “Asking that the earthly offering be carried on the sublime altar of heaven.

But this heavenly liturgy is not just about praise. Its midst is the Lamb, who stands there as if slain (Rev 5: 6), that is, "Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, who sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us" (Rom 8:34 ; cf. Heb 7:25). Because the souls of the blessed take part in this intercession liturgy, they also care for us and our pilgrimage: “They intercede for us and help us in our weakness through their brotherly care”. [83] As we become aware in this union between the heavenly and earthly liturgy that the blessed are praying for us, “it is perfectly fitting to love these friends and co-heirs of Christ, our brothers and special benefactors, [and] God for to pay them their thanks ”[84].

Furthermore, the Church persistently exhorts us to "plead with them and seek refuge in their prayers, assistance, and help in order to obtain benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alone our Redeemer and Savior" [85]. This invocation to the saints is an act by which the believer confidently surrenders himself to their love. Because God is the source from which all love flows (Rom. 5: 5), every invocation of the saints is an acknowledgment of God as the deepest foundation for their love, and it strives towards the ultimate goal, to Him.

7.2. The thought of incantation (evocatio) the spirit is completely different from the concept of invocation (invocatio). The Second Vatican Council recommends calling on the souls of the blessed, but at the same time reminds us of the most important documents which originated from the Magisterium of the Church and which are directed “against any form of evocation of the necromancer” [86]. This constant prohibition has its biblical origin in the Old Testament (Deut. 18.10-14; cf. also Ex 22.17; Lev 19.31; 20.6.27). The description of the evocation of spirits by Samuel is very well known (’Obot), which he carried out for King Saul (1 Sam 28: 3–25) and to whom the Scriptures ascribes the rejection and even the death of Saul: “So Saul died because of the unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord. He had not obeyed the word of the Lord and consulted the spirit of the dead for information; but he had not turned to the Lord. Therefore he let him die and gave the kingdom to David the son of Jesse ”(1 Chr 10: 13-14). The apostles maintained this prohibition in the New Testament by rejecting all magical arts (Acts 13: 6-12; 16: 16-18; 19: 11-20).

At the Second Vatican Council, the Doctrinal Commission set out what is meant by the word "conjuration"; "Conjuring" is any method "by which one intends to use human techniques to evoke a sensually perceptible communication with the spirits or the separated souls in order to receive various messages and various aids" [87]. This set of techniques is commonly referred to as “spiritism”. Often - as stated in the quoted answer - one strives through necromancy to obtain hidden messages. In this area the believers must refer to what God revealed: "They have Moses and the prophets, they should listen" (Lk 16:29). Any further curiosity about what happens after death is unhealthy and must therefore be suppressed.

There is no shortage of sects today that reject the invocation of the saints, as the Catholics practice them, and refer to their prohibition in the Bible; in this way they do not distinguish it from necromancy. For our part, we must exhort the believers to invoke the saints and at the same time teach them to invoke the saints in a way that does not cause the sects to be confused.

7.3. With regard to the souls of the deceased, who still need purification after death, "the pilgrim church has since the beginnings of the Christian religion [...] also offered intercessions for them" [88]. For she believes that "they benefit from the intercession of the living believers, such as mass offerings, prayers, alms, and other works of piety ordinarily performed by believers for other believers according to the ordinances of the Church" [89].

7.4. The “General Introduction to the Roman Missal” after the post-conciliar liturgical renewal explains very well the meaning of this diverse communion of all the members of the Church, which culminates in the liturgical celebration of the Eucharist: the intercessions “express that the Eucharist is communal is celebrated with the whole Church, both heavenly and earthly, and that the offering is made for her and all her members, the living and the dead, since they are all called to participate in the salvation of the redeemed through Christ's body and blood " [90]

 

8. The purification of the soul in the encounter with the glorified Christ

8.1. When the Magisterium of the Church affirms that the souls of the saints enjoy the blessed vision of God and perfect communion with Christ immediately after death, it always presupposes that these are souls found to be cleansed [91]. Therefore the words of Psalm 15: 1-2, even if they refer to the earthly sanctuary, have great significance for the afterlife: “Lord, who may be a guest in your tent, who may dwell on your holy mountain ? Who lives flawlessly and does what is right; who speaks the truth from the heart ”[92]. Nothing defiled can enter the presence of the Lord.

These words express the awareness of such a fundamental reality that in most of the great religions of history there is, in one way or another, a glimmer of the need for purification after death.

The Church also confesses that any defilement is an obstacle to intimate encounter with God and his Christ. This principle must be understood not only by the defilements that break and destroy friendship with God and therefore, if they remain in death, make the encounter with God finally impossible (deadly sins), but also by those who obscure this friendship and before make a purification necessary for this encounter to be possible. These include the so-called daily or venial sins [93] and the consequences of sin, which can also remain in justified people after the forgiveness of guilt, which excludes eternal punishment [94]. The sacrament of the anointing of the sick is arranged to atone for the consequences of sins before death [95]. Only when we become conformed to Christ can we have fellowship with God (Rom 8:29).

Therefore we are invited to the cleaning. Even those who come from the bath must free their feet from the dust (Jn 13:10). The Church believes that for those who have not done this adequately through repentance on earth, there exists a state of purification after death, [96] that is, "a purification prior to the contemplation of God" [97]. Since this purification takes place after death and before the final resurrection, this state belongs to the eschatological intermediate stage; yes, the existence of this state proves that there is an eschatological intermediate phase.

The Church's belief in this state of affairs is already implicitly expressed in the prayers for the deceased, for which there is a multitude of very old testimonies in the catacombs [98] and which are ultimately based on the testimony of 2 Makk 12:46 [99] . These prayers assume that the prayers of believers can help the dead attain their purification. Theology about this condition began to unfold in the third century on the occasion of those who had received peace with the Church without having completed full repentance before their death [100].

It is imperative to keep the practice of prayer for the dead. It contains a confession of belief in the existence of this state of purification. That is the meaning of the funeral liturgy, which must not be obscured: the justified person may need further purification. In the Byzantine liturgy the soul of the deceased is very beautifully represented and calls to the Lord: "I remain an image of your unspeakable glory, even when I am wounded by sin". [101]

8.2. The Church believes that there is a state of ultimate damnation for those who die burdened with grave sin [102]. It must be avoided altogether to understand the state of purification for encounter with God in too similar a way as the state of condemnation, as if the difference between the two were only that one was eternal and the other temporal; the purification after death is "completely different from the punishment of the damned" [103]. Indeed, one state centered on love and another centered on hate cannot be compared. The justified lives in the love of Christ. His love becomes more conscious through death. The love that is held back from partaking of the loved one suffers pain, and through the pain it is purified [104]. St. John of the Cross explains that the Holy Spirit, as a “living flame of love”, cleanses the soul so that it can achieve perfect love for God, both here on earth and after death, if it should be necessary; in this sense he makes a certain parallel between the purification that is achieved in the so-called “nights” and the passive purification of the purgatory [105]. In the history of this dogma, a lack of care in pointing out this profound distinction between the state of purification and the state of condemnation has created serious difficulties in conducting dialogue with Eastern Christians [106].

 

9. The unrepeatability and uniqueness of human life. The problems of reincarnation

9.1. With the word "reincarnation" (or with other equivalents such as the Greek terms metempsychôsis or metempsômátôsis) is a doctrine according to which the human soul takes on another body after death and in this way incarnates again. It is a conception that arose in paganism and, as being in complete contradiction to Scripture and to the tradition of the Church, has always been rejected by faith and Christian theology [107].

"Reincarnation" is widespread in the world today, including in the West and among very many who call themselves Christians. Many means of communication announce it. In addition, every day the influence of the oriental religions and philosophies that cling to reincarnation grows stronger; the growth of a syncretistic mentality seems to be due to this influence. The ease with which many accept reincarnation may be due in part to a spontaneous and instinctive response to growing materialism. In the way of thinking of many people of our time, this earthly life is perceived as too short to realize all the possibilities of a person in it or to be able to overcome or correct the mistakes made in this life.

The Catholic Faith offers a full answer to this mindset. It is true that human life is too short to overcome and correct the mistakes made in it. Nor is it possible to realize all of a person's virtual possibilities in such a short time of a single earthly life; but the ultimate resurrection in glory will lead man to a state beyond all longing.

9.2. Without it being possible to explain in detail all the aspects with which the various reincarnationists explain their system, the tendency of the doctrine of reincarnation that prevails in the western world can be synthetically reduced to four points [108].

9.2.1. There are many earthly existences. Our present life is neither our first physical existence nor will it be the last. We have lived before, and we will continue to live repeatedly in new material bodies.

9.2.2. There is a law in nature that drives continuous progress towards perfection. This same law guides the souls to ever new life and does not allow any regression, not even a final standstill. All the more, a definite state of endless condemnation is excluded. After more or less centuries everyone will be led to the final perfection of a pure spirit (negation of hell).

9.2.3. The ultimate goal is achieved through one's own merits. In each new existence the soul advances in the measure of its own efforts. Every evil that has been committed is remedied through personal expiatory performances which one's own spirit suffers in new and difficult incarnations (negation of redemption).

9.2.4. As the soul progresses to final perfection, it will take on a less material body each time in its new incarnations. In this sense, the soul tends to become definitively independent from the body. In this way the soul is led to a final state in which it will ultimately always live free of the body and independent of matter (negation of the resurrection).

9.3. These four elements that make up the anthropology of the doctrine of reincarnation contradict the central statements of Christian revelation.There is no need to insist further on their diversity in relation to a characteristically Christian anthropology. Christianity defends one dualitywho have favourited reincarnation dualismin which the body is a mere instrument of the soul and is abandoned after every earthly existence in order to take on another, completely different body. In the field of eschatology, the doctrine of reincarnation rejects the possibility of eternal damnation and the idea of ​​the resurrection of the flesh.

Their main error, however, is the negation of Christian soteriology. The soul saves itself through its effort. In this way a soteriology becomes the Self redemption represented that of the Christian soteriology Foreign solution is completely opposite. If the foreign redemption is now abolished, one can no longer speak of Christ, the Redeemer, in any way. The essence of the New Testament soteriology is contained in these words: God has graced us “in his beloved Son; through his blood we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace. Through her he has given us abundantly with all wisdom and understanding ”(Eph 1: 6–8). With this central point stands or falls all doctrine on the Church, the sacraments and grace. Thus the weight of the doctrines contained in this question is evident, and it is easy to understand that the Magisterium of the Church has rejected this system under the name of Theosophy [109].

With regard to the crucial point that is asserted by the proponents of the doctrine of reincarnation - the repeatability of human life - the statement of Hebrews 9:27 is well known: “Man is destined to die once, after which the judgment follows ". The Second Vatican Council quoted this text to teach that the course of our earthly life is unique. [110]