Heaven and Hell

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1023-29, 1033-37:

  • Heaven is the fulfillment of our deepest desires, a state of perfect happiness that lasts forever, without end, without any lessening of pleasure.
  • This eternal blessedness arises from the soul’s intimate communion with God, for Whom it was created and in Whom alone it can find its ultimate joy.
  • Because heaven is the state of perfect union with God, only those who die in God’s grace, and are completely purified, are able to enter.
  • The blessed see the Most Holy Trinity “face to face,” in what is called the “beatific vision,” and as a result become like God; these saintly souls radiate heavenly glory and reign with Him, in harmony with all of the choirs of angels.
  • Our earthly minds cannot adequately conceive, let alone explain, this exalted manner of being; by way of analogy, Scripture employs such imagery as a wedding feast, the Father’s house, and paradise (a royal pleasure garden).
  • But those who definitively reject God cannot enter heaven; God respects their free will, and abides by their decision to cut themselves off from Him.
  • Hell is this state of eternal separation from God; by turning away and depriving itself of its true home, the soul feels unimaginable desolation and suffering, which Scripture describes as an eternal fire.
  • God never predestines anyone for hell; rather, He continually reaches out, offers us His grace, and calls us to repentance.
  • Those who sin gravely against God and neighbor, willfully refuse to repent, and deliberately rebuff His love, are eligible to cast themselves into hell.
  • We cannot presume to judge the state of anyone’s soul; God alone searches the inmost heart and knows how culpable someone might, or might not, be.

Live Your Faith

If we want to live with God forever in heaven, we should already live faithfully with Him now on earth.

We can lull ourselves into a false sense of security that heaven is the default position, but Jesus Himself has warned us repeatedly of the real danger of hell.

This teaching should never make us despair, for God will eagerly embrace us in His boundless mercy, if we seek it.

But we should guard against the sin of presumption, wherein we take our spiritual lives lightly, and salvation for granted.