I too have puzzled over the justification for the Particular Judgement and the doctrine of the particular judgement is crucial as without it the doctrines of the saints in heaven, purgatory and indulgences would fall. As the New Advent link says “The Scriptural arguments in defence of the particular judgment must be indirect.” Indeed there is one passage that seem to imply the contrary; that we sleep after death until the second coming:
Job:14 - “But when a man dies, all vigour leaves him; when a man expires, where is he?” (verse 10) … “So men lie down and rise not again, till the heavens are no more, they shall not awake, nor be roused from their sleep.” (verse 12).
For me the passage in Philippians 1 where Paul wants to depart this life to be with Christ, but thinks it is better to stay for their sakes is very convincing (verses 23-24). If Paul were merely going be asleep when he died and not be immediately with Christ there would be no dilemma for him.
I think one of our problems with trying to understand the after-life is just that – trying to *understand* it. With our philosophical western mind sets we want to understand things that are beyond our comprehension.
I remember discussing with someone what exists out side of our universe – nothing. If we were to go to the edge of the universe what exists on the other side of it – nothing. But what does that mean? The universe is expanding – but into what? If I blow up a balloon it expands into space, but outside the universe there is no time and space. So we stick a label on it – nothing – and think we have explained it. But just try and get your head around it. We can’t, it’s outside our experience and conceptual framework.
And I think it’s the same with what exists the other side of death. We use phrases like “God is out of time” and there is no time in heaven, purgatory or whatever. “Outside time” is outside of our conceptual framework and we cannot understand it.
We can say that after death, there is a judgement, heaven, hell, and for some a purification by something we call purgatory. We know that from our time based viewpoint Christ will come again and the world as we know it will come to an end. What all that looks and feels like from a heavenly viewpoint we cannot know or understand, whatever speculation or metaphors we come up with. Does everything happen in a sequence? Does it all appear to be happening at once? Is the word happening inappropriate?
I used to want understand everything before I would accept church teaching. But I’m slowly accepting that the magisterium and great theologians and saints of the past probably know more than me and I just have to take some things on trust… (Don’t worry this temporary touch of humility will pass and I’ll soon be back to my usual stroppy and argumentative self)