RCIA question: Heaven vs. Second Coming

I am hoping that I can get some help. I am really confused about something our priest said at our RCIA class last week, and talking to him didn’t really clear it up! (Please let me know if this isn’t the right place to ask - I am still new to these forums!)

Father was giving a talk about the meaning of Advent - that we are preparing for the birth of Christ at Christmas, and we are also called to prepare for the second coming.

Then he seemed to say that at the second coming, when the world ends, that is when we will be together with God, and that even though we talk about people who die going to heaven, they aren’t there - that won’t happen until after the second coming.

After the lecture I asked our priest about the saints - don’t we ask for their prayers because they are in heaven with God? He kind of laughed and said that yes that was confusing, and nobody really knows. And then we (with a few other confused people) talked about it. The discussion ended when someone remembered that Jesus himself told one of the criminals dying on the cross that they would be in paradise today.

I guess that he misspoke about heaven the first time - but I am confused as to what he WAS trying to say. Can anyone clear this up for me? I am thinking it has something to do with where it says in the Creed “He will come again to judge the living and the dead…”

Help, please? Oh… and I come from an atheist background, so my Bible knowledge is still pretty limited, so try to go easy!


I’m just going to tell you how I have learned this.
The saints are in heaven.
When Jesus comes again the world will end, so you will stay in heaven or hell (or go to one of these places if you are alive when he comes again)- and purgatory will cease to exist.
I have no idea what this priest was telling you.

This is what the Church teaches about the “Last Things”:

When each of us dies, our souls are immediately taken to the presence of God and judged. This is called the Particular Judgment. At this point we begin our eternal destiny. If we are going to hell, our souls go directly there. If we are deemed worthy of heaven, our souls will go directly to heaven, or if we are going to heaven but are in need of purification, we may go to Purgatory first for a while (everyone in Purgatory will eventually go to heaven). Whatever our fate, our souls will stay there (heaven or hell) until the end of time, at which time the Second Coming will occur.

At the Second Coming at the end of time, those Christians still alive will be taken to heaven (what some Protestants think of as of the rapture). Then will occur the General Judgment. *At that time the souls of the living and the dead will be reunited with their bodies *and brought together in God’s presence and judged before all. Those who have already been judged in the Particular Judgment will be brought from wherever their souls were -heaven, hell or Purgatory-- and have their judgment confirmed before all, so that both the justice and mercy of God will be manifest to all.

After this, time and Purgatory will be no more and all will enter with their souls and bodies into their eternal destiny, either hell or heaven.

This is an extremely bare-bones sketch, so if you want to get the details, see the five articles I linked below:


Hope this helps! :slight_smile:

Thank you SO much! That has really cleared things up for me.

I still have no idea what our priest was trying to say. It makes me a little nervous.

As someone who has taught the Faith to adults, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt in that he probably just had trouble articulating it. The Church’s teaching on the Four Last Things is one of the most difficult things there is to teach in a concise manner. That, and the Church’s teaching on justification.

Giving Father the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was referring to the resurrection of our physical bodies and the joining of our souls to our now glorified bodies and our being before God forever in this way.

Well, part of it is right. We don’t know for certain if anyone is in Heaven when they die so we have to pray and trust to the mercy of God. We do know however, that once the Church declares someone a Saint, they are in Heaven because canonization is an infallible act of the Pope. Perhaps Father was confusing canonized “Saints” with the Communion of the Saints (i.e. everyone in the Church)?

What you might want to do is read the appropriate sections of the Catechism and then ask Father again if it still seems he is telling you something contrary.

P.S. - welcome home. I will pray for you.

Here’s the Catechism’s full description of these events.


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