A STUDY OF THE EIGHT LAST THINGS:

CROSSING THE THRESHOLD TO ETERNITY

Part III: Heaven

 

Eternal Lord,

You created man to be sinless and immortal so that he could live eternally in communion with You.  When we reach the heavenly Sanctuary we have finally entered into the destiny for which we were intended.  Help us, Lord, to keep heaven as of goal and to strive to reach those gates, which thanks be to the sacrifice of our Savior, stand open and ready to welcome all the faithful into eternal bliss living within the life of the Most Holy Trinity.  Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study as we explore the abode of Saints and angels.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.  When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.  Roman Missal, Preface of Christian Death I

 

My earthly desire has been crucified;...there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.  St. Ignatius of Antioch

 

Heaven is the vision of the Triune God in His essence.   Read St. John's vision of the heavenly Sanctuary in Revelation chapters 4-5

Question: In what passages do you find the Triune God?

Answer: Revelation 4:2-3 = God the Father, Revelation 4:5 = God the Holy Spirit, and Revelation 5:7 = God the Son.

 

Question: What did Jesus tell the Apostles about heaven?  See John 14:1-3.

Answer: He told them that He was going home to the Father to prepare a place for them. This is the promise which keeps the Church's hope alive that one day, individually and collectively, we will be with the Savior. 

Question: What did St. Paul write concerning his desire to be with God in heaven in

2 Corinthians 5:1-10?  What did the inspired writer of Hebrews say is waiting for the faithful believer in Hebrews 12:22-25?

Answer: Paul said all believers are exiles here and long to be away from our earthly existence to be with God.  The inspired writer of Hebrews wrote of the heavenly Jerusalem where the baptized are enrolled as "firstborn" sons and citizens of heaven.

 

To live with God in heaven is to enter into His rest to participate in the perfect communion between man and God for which man was created in Eden. 

Question: Was communion with God in heaven possible for the Old Testament Saints?  See CCC# 536 & 1026?

Answer: No, heaven was closed to man upon the fall of our original parents.

Question: When did Jesus open heaven for the righteous?  See CCC# 1026.

Answer: At His baptism the gates of heaven began to open and when He freed the souls from the grave after His death, He stormed the gates of heaven.  After His Ascension, His presence in the heavenly Sanctuary as Priest-King has kept the gates of heaven opened for all who accept Him as Savior and Lord [Hebrews 5:9; 8:1-2; 9:10-12].

 

Question: What does it mean when we are promised that those who die in a state of grace will enter into eternal bliss?  See Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 3:26-29;  CCC# 1023-24.

Answer: One who dies in a state of grace is a child of God and a co-heir of Christ Jesus and as His co-heir a believer inherits a portion of His heavenly kingdom.

 

Question:  What does it mean to be an heir of heaven?

Answer:  The Baltimore Catechism defines what it means to be an "heir of heaven."  When our Lord died we were left an inheritance and spiritual property.  The inheritance was Heaven, which we had lost through the sin of Adam and regained by the death of Our Lord.  The spiritual property was God's grace, which He merited for us.  [..].  The Church is the executor of Christ's will, and it is its business to see that all men receive what Christ left them, namely, God's grace and Heaven.  It must also see that they are not cheated out of it by their enemies—the devil, the world, and the flesh [pages 140-41, Baltimore Catechism].

Question: What is heaven like and how do we get there? See CCC# 1023-29; Isaiah chapter 6; Revelation chapters 4-5.

Answer:

 

 

 

 

 

 

In heaven we will return to the state of bliss the first man and woman enjoyed in Eden when they were invited to "enter into God's rest".  To have rest from our labors is not to say we will not have other duties like service to the Lord.  The Apostles are told they will judge the 12 tribes of Israel [see Luke 22:30].  We do not know the glories that await us, but we do know to receive God's gift of salvation and to enter into His radiant presence is the destiny He has intended for us from the moment life began for each of us.

 

When we arrive in heaven we will be greeted by those faithful brother and sisters in faith who have preceded us and who have prayed for us on our journey to salvation.  We will join with them, in the Communion of Saints, in which we share in Christ's spiritual goods and in which we will intercede for those still on earth who are journeying to salvation.  We will have joined the Saints Glorified!

Question: What are the three states of the Church? See CCC# 954.

Answer:

  1. The Church glorified [in Heaven]
  2. The Church purified [in Purgatory]
  3. The pilgrim Church; also called the Church militant [in exile on earth]

 

Question: In addition to continually giving glory to the Most Holy Trinity, what other duties will we have as members of the Church glorified?  See CCC# 956.

Answer: The Church glorified continually offers intercession for those on earth: "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness...[T]hey do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus...So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped." CCC# 956

 

As St. Dominic lay dying he comforted his brothers: "Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life."  Taking our place in heaven among the Saints we continue to cooperate in God's plan of salvation for mankind.

 

How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God,...to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.  Council of Florence (1439) CCC# 1028

 

Catechism References:

Heaven

260: Heaven, the ultimate end

954: the three states of the Church

1023: to live forever in Christ

1024: perfect life in the Trinity

1025: in Christ we find out true identity

1026: by His death and Resurrection Christ has opened heaven

1027: the mystery of blessed communion

1028: to be in "the beautific vision"

1029: to reign with Christ forever

 

Resources used in this lesson:

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  2. New Jerusalem Bible
  3. The Sixteen Documents of Vatican II, Pauline Books and Media, Boston, 1999.
  4. Dogmatic Theology: Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, Johann Auer, Joseph Ratzinger, Catholic University of America Press, 1988.
  5. Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, edited by Russell Shaw, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, Indiana, 1997.
  6. The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, volume 5, Christian Classics, Benziger Bros., New York, 1948
  7. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, volume 2:  Augustine:  City of God, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
  8. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, volume 3: Augustine: On the Trinity, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995.
  9. The Baltimore Catechism volume 4, Rev. Thomas Kinkeade, Tan Books Publishers, 1978.
  10. The Roman Missal

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