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James Gau wrote:

Hi Mike,

I have visited your web site and I have some questions. If you could give me some detailed answers it would be appreciated.

  1. What does the Catholic Church say about the doctrine of Rapture and millennial Kingdom as taught by other Christian denominations?
  2. What does the Bible teach about Hell?
    • Is it a real place or a condition of separation from God?
  3. Why would God create people when, from the beginning, He knew their fate will be to spend eternity in Hell?
  4. For those who He knew would be in Hell, wouldn't it be love if he didn't create them?
  5. If Heaven is a spiritual place, how could Enoch, Elijah and Jesus go to Heaven with their physical bodies?

The Bible says that men are destined to die once and after death judgment, but Enoch and Elijah did not die.

  1. Is this an exception?

Thanks and may God richly bless you.

James Gau
Tanzania, East Africa

  { Can you answer some questions on the Rapture, Hell, and whether physical bodies are in Heaven? }

Mike replied:

Hi James,

This is a common question; it's even in our searchable knowledge base:

http://www.AskACatholic.com/SiteSearch

There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try.

Right below where it says: AskACatholic Knowledge base Search, type in the subjects you have questions on, like:

  • Hell
  • Heaven
  • Bible
  • Rapture

Then click on the "Search our Knowledge base for Answers" button

You said:

  1. What does the Catholic Church say about the doctrine of Rapture and millennial Kingdom as taught by other Christian denominations?

I think this posting will address most of your question:

You said:

  1. What does the Bible teach about Hell?
  2. Is it a real place or a condition of separation from God?

This is what the Catechism says on the issue:

IV. HELL

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

1035 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.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God
(a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.

You said:

  1. Why would God create people when, from the beginning, He knew their fate will be to spend eternity in Hell?
  2. For those who He knew would be in Hell, wouldn't it be love if he didn't create them?

God does not choose the fate of the people he created. The people themselves, through their choices, either make good, holy choices; or bad, evil choices and in doing so decide their own fate. God doesn't send anyone to Hell. People through there own choices send themselves to Hell.

My colleagues may be able to help address your final two questions.

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi James,

Mike asked us to help him answer your remaining questions.

You said:

  1. If Heaven is a spiritual place, how could Enoch, Elijah and Jesus go to Heaven with their physical bodies?

I think you are confusing spiritual with immaterial.  No one said Heaven is an immaterial place, i.e., a place where matter cannot be admitted.

We know very little about the nature of Heaven.  In Scripture, it's the place where God dwells.  Today we might speculate that it's an alternate dimension or universe but we really do not know.  It's associated with the spiritual but there is no reason to suppose that it excludes the material, as you point out.

It's important not to equate material with non-spiritual, or to pit the material against the spiritual. That's creeping into the Gnostic heresy, which says that spirit is good and matter is bad and to combine them is a crime against nature. 

In Gnosticism, the soul is imprisoned in the body and the goal is to free the good soul from the bad body.  In Christianity, matter was created good, and our bodies are divinized by Jesus' incarnation.  So matter is spiritual too.

You said:

  1. The Bible says that men are destined to die once and after death judgment, but Enoch and Elijah did not die. Is this an exception?

What this means is that people, in general, do not die more than once (for example, as in reincarnation). It does not mean that people absolutely, without exception, have to die but as you point out it is not generally wise to take statements from Scripture as absolutes. 

For example, Lazarus, Tabitha, and several others died twice (i.e., were resurrected and then died again) but these were exceptions.  The general principle is that you die once and are then judged, but there are limited exceptions.

Hope this helps,

Eric

John replied:

Hi James,

Elijah, Enoch, and the Blessed Mother, for that matter, had their bodies transformed in similar fashion to Christ after His Resurrection.

I'm sure Enoch and Elijah were judged even though they didn't die but they aren't the only exception.

  • What about those who will be alive when Christ returns?

Certainly we will all be judged. St. Paul put it this way:

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51

We have to be careful when reading Scripture not to misinterpret figures of speech and collective use of adjectives to be imperative statements that don't allow for exceptions.

Hope this helps,

John

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