Particular judgment

Particular judgment

Particular judgment, according to Christian eschatology, is the judgement given by God a departed soul undergoes immediately after death, in contradistinction to the General or Last judgment of all souls at the end of the world.

Old Testament and Apocrypha

Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:1 sq.; and Hebrews 9:27, are sometimes quoted in proof of the particular judgment, but though these passages speak of a judgment after death, neither the context nor the force of the words proves that the sacred writer had in mind a judgment distinct from that at the end of the world.

The first-century Jewish writing known as the Testament of Abraham includes a clear account of particular judgment, in which souls go either through the wide gate of destruction or the narrow gate of salvation. By this account, only one in seven thousand earn salvation.

New Testament

The image of the dead judged immediately after death and awaiting judgment day in peace or torment is clear in several New Testament passages. [ What the Bible says about death, afterlife, and the future] , James Tabor] Christ represents Lazarus and Dives as receiving their respective rewards immediately after death. They have always been regarded as types of the just man and the sinner. To the penitent thief it was promised that his soul instantly on leaving the body would be in the state of the blessed: "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Saint Paul generally depicts death as sleep, and (in II Corinthians 5) longs to be absent from the body that he may be present to the Lord, evidently understanding death to be the entrance into his reward (cf. Philemon 1:21 sq.).

Early Christian writing

Some early Fathers, apparently including Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria, believed that, in general, the saved did not enter heaven until Judgment Day, and during the interval between death and the resurrection they dwell happily in a delightful abode, awaiting their final glorification. Exceptions were admitted for the martyrs and some other classes of saints, who were admitted at once to the supreme joys of heaven. [ [ "Particular Judgment"] in Catholic Encyclopedia]

After this "particular judgment", according to Orthodox dogmatic theology, the soul experiences a foretaste of the blessedness or the eternal torment that awaits it after the resurrection. [ [ The Orthodox Faith] ; [ Orthodox Confession of the Faith] ; [ Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church] ; [ What Are the Differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?] ; [ The Debate Over Aerial Toll-Houses] ; etc.]

Tertullian (c. 200) wrote that, even before final judgment, a soul "undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment, in a certain anticipation either of gloom or of glory" [ [ A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 58] ]

Hippolytus of Rome pictured a particular judgment of souls in Hades, by which the righteous are assigned to "a locality full of light" and the unrighteous are "forc(ed) down into the lower parts". [ Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe,] 1] .

Augustine of Hippo (d. 430), one of the four Church fathers of the Catholic Church, wrote that the human part of the city of God (as opposed to the part composed of the angels) "is either sojourning on earth, or, in the persons of those who have passed through death, is resting in the secret receptacles and abodes of disembodied spirits". [New Advent: " [ City of God, book 12, chapter 9] ", retrieved on Dec 11, 2006] He said that the dead are judged at death and divided into four groups: the place of the truly virtuous, such as saints and martyrs, is Paradise; the unmistakably evil are damned to eternal punishment in hell; the two intermediate groups, the not completely wicked, and the not completely good, could be helped by the prayers of the living, though it seems that for the former repentance and the prayers of the living created a "more tolerable" hell, while the latter would pass through a penitential fire before being admitted to heaven at the time of the Last Judgment. This idea would be influential in Western Christianity until the twelfth century and beyond. [ [ Three Purgatory Poems] ]

In Western Christianity, the dead begin their eternal fates after death, either immediately or after being purified in purgatory. On judgment day, the dead are reunited with their bodies and their eternal fates continue.

In Eastern Christianity, the dead are judged from the 3rd to the 40th day after death. They then await their eternal fate on judgment day, anticipating judgment either in dread or in peace. ["The souls of men, being conscious and exercising all their faculties immediately after death, are judged by God. This judgment following man's death we call the Particular Judgment. The final reward of men, however, we believe will take place at the time of the General Judgment. During the time between the Particular and the General Judgment, which is called the Intermediate State, the souls of men have foretaste of their blessing or punishment"( [ The Orthodox Faith] ).]

Medieval concepts

The Venerable Bede (c. 700), records an account of a man who had died, seen the afterlife, and returned to life to tell about it. According to this vision of particular judgment, there are four states into which the dead are placed: the eternally damned in hell, those who will enter heaven on judgment day but meanwhile are punished, those who will enter heaven on judgment day but meanwhile are at peace, and those already pure enough to enter heaven. [ [ The "Near-Death Experience"] , Orthodox perspective.]

In the supplement to the Summa Theologiae, a disciple of Thomas Aquinas argued that the soul departs for heaven or hell immediately on death, "unless it be held back by some debt, for which its flight must needs be delayed until the soul is first of all cleansed." [ [ Summa Theologiae, Supplement, q. 69, art. 2] ] ]

In 1336, Pope Benedict XII (1334-1342) issued the Bull "Benedictus Deus" [ [ Benedictus Deus] ] confirming the the teaching that souls receive immediately after death their reward or punishment, ending a controversy caused by his predecessor, Pope John XXII (1316-1334), who had personally held for a while that even pure souls would be delayed in enjoying the beatific vision. [ [ Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope John XXII] ]

From about 1300, the term "Limbo of Infants" appeared, developed in parallel to the "Limbo of the Father" (the temporal abode of the Fathers in "Hades" awaiting the advent of Christ) but was thought to be eternal. In contrast to the "Hell of the Damned", the Limbo was thought as a place where souls enjoyed natural happiness and suffered no punishments except for the lack of the beatific vision. Note, that the "Limbo" was widely held in theology but never was defined as part of Catholic doctrine.

Reformation concepts

John Calvin argued that the dead are conscious while awaiting Judgment Day, either in bliss or torment depending on their fate. [ "Pyschopannychia"] ]

Particular judgment in non-christian religions

In his Myth of Er, Plato (c. 400 BC) wrote that each soul is judged after death and either sent to heaven for a reward or to the underworld for punishment. After its reward or punishment, the soul is reincarnated. He also described the judgment of souls immediately after death in the dialogue "Gorgias".

According to the 9th century Zoroastrian text "Dadestan-i Denig" ("Religious Decisions"), a soul is judged three days after death. Depending on the soul's balance of good and bad deeds, it goes to heaven, hell, or hamistagan, a neutral place. In its appropriate place, the soul awaits Judgment Day.

In Islam, the angels Nakir and Munkar interrogate a recently deceased soul, which then remains in its grave in a state of bliss or torment until Judgment Day.


External links

* [ "Catholic Encyclopedia" "Particular Judgment"]
* [ What Happens to Me When I Die?] , description of particular judgment (Orthodox)

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