The Catholic position, that judgment takes place at death, results in a day-to-day ignorance of our ultimate salvation, for it is true that we do not know whether our life is seen by God as “worthy” of eternal life. Yet, Catholics also have hope in Jesus Christ and the power of the cross and it is from this hope that they persevere, building up the kingdom in their own hearts and in the world.
Protestants, on the other, with all respect to them, strongly believe that judgment has already taken place and that the moment they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, a moment Luther calls “the blessed exchange,” they are saved even though they remain sinful. Judgment for Protestants is not an evaluation of one’s own life, but, if one has faith, of the life of Jesus. In other words, the righteousness of Christ is imputed on to the believer as his own. Thus, the Lutheran maxim: “simul justus et peccator”-- at the same time a sinner and justified.
Ultimately, however, Catholics should be just as “certain” about their final destination as Protestants. It is a harsh reality, however, that all people continue to sin. We must hope therefore, and believe in the power of the cross, so that we might continue to persevere. To this effect, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which draws its power from the cross and Jesus’ power to forgive sins, provides an awesome and ever-present reality to recommission us for the sake of Christ until the day we die.