The best place to start would be in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1038-1060, which describes the resurrection and the upcoming New Heavens and New Earth. This details what we believe as Catholics and, as you will notice, it really isn’t too different from what the JWs are expecting.
What are the differences?
A Resurrection Based on Memory
Now it is true that the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold a belief in the immortality of the soul. Unlike Catholics who hold that God transcends space and time, they believe that God is so confined to temporal reality that God has to have a literal spiritual body that requires it to be located in an actual “place” called “heaven.” In God’s spiritual “head” the Jehovah’s Witnesses say he has a “spiritual brain” with memories, including the memories of all the people who have ever lived and died.
The Witnesses also believe God cannot transcend time and therefore has to be selective with his attention and the use of his almighty spirit brain. (They even officially claim that God has the ability to know all, but actually only filters out information much like a radio listener who can get all the stations but only chooses to listen to one thing at a time.) Using His superior photographic memory, they claim, God will reconstruct the body and personality of each person who has passed.
What the Church Believes
What we as Catholics believe is that the soul does survive death, put that neither it nor God continues to be limited by time or space at this point. Going into the presence of God after death is not going to a place for we believe that God is so almighty that God transcends time and space. “Heaven” is not a location per se, but it is no less very real, even more real than any place you or I know now. Being with God is “heaven,” what we call the “Beatific Vision.” And this experience will extend beyond our mere death and afterwards when we expect to be in “heaven.”
The faithful will also remain in this Presence of Beatitude at and after the Resurrection. Raised to life a new era will begin wherein both we and the physical universe will undergo a “re-creation,” so to speak. The “new heavens and new earth” of Revelation will be fulfilled wherein physical reality will no longer be a limiting barrier to being with God. In fact, the description of life in this new reality after the resurrection is that God will dwell with us:
Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.–Revelation 21:1-4.
While the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a bit of a cartoonish concept of what this will be like, Catholics expect something far greater than anyone can illustrate in a book or a religious magazine.
Blowing Their Minds
And this is what blows the minds of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Don’t just read those sections of the Catechism to yourself. No, show them to Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially section 1042 onward, entitled: “The Hope of the New Heaven and the New Earth.”
You see, Jehovah’s Witnesses are very convinced that one of the earmarks of true religion (which only they possess) is believing that the earth will someday be a paradise in which humanity is to dwell. I’ve spoken with one of them who believed it was impossible for anyone else to know this but them because the belief in a New Earth was unique to their “one true religion.”
Boy, was she shocked to be confronted with section 1042 in the Catechism. In fact, she acted as if I had somehow concocted it just to confuse her because, to quote her: “I’ve seen for myself and know what the Catholic Church teaches, and that which you are showing me is not it!”
But if you are a Catholic you pray about this all the time when you say the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.” And every Sunday we mention it as we say the Nicene Creed: “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
To quote Hebrews, “it was not to angels that he subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.” (Hebrews 2:5) No, we are speaking of the coming New Heavens and New Earth that we have believed in for 2000 years, longer than the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They got their belief from us and don’t even know it!
Why don’t we talk about it more? One reason, as you will learn from reviewing your Catechism, is that we don’t know exactly how the details of this promised “world to come” will come to pass. We trust in it, believe in it, and have our minds set on the Beatific Vision, “heaven,” which is what will be carried on into it. Heaven is what will be truly lasting and what we will be experiencing regardless of what this New Heavens and New Earth turns out to be. This everlasting future is but part of our Heaven that we are citizens of.
As it is written:
“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit. --2 Corinthians 2:9, 10.