CHAPTER XIX — THE END OF LIFE
(Suppl., Q. 69-91)
THE climate of Washington, in itself, is a harmless thing. Natives will insist that it is ideal; it has variety, beauty, mildness, with just enough rigor to satisfy a virile man’s appetite for an occasional bout with the forces of nature. Strangers, normally, are not to be quoted publicly on the climate. The mind of man, you see, is very stubborn; often enough, even an obvious fact will not stop the human mind short of a denial, though they crash against it as solidly as against a brick wall. But there is one obvious fact that no man denies. There is absolutely no argument about the fact of death. A man may speculate as to the time of his death; but no one wonders whether or not he will die.
Judgment and the end of life: The possibility of judgment
The argument really begins on the other side of death. What are the consequences of it? The answer to that question determines the character of a man’s whole life; and there is great variety in the answers. To some, death is merely corruption and oblivion; to others it is an absorption into something superior. In either case, there is a complete destruction of and an end to the individual. A third answer maintains that death leads to a kind of half-life where the soul drags on its lonely existence without the body; and here again the person has ceased to exist at death. Still another answer has death as an entry into a superior, full, divine life of both body and soul, a life of the whole person. The difference between the two is the difference between the end of a blind alley and the long stretches of an arterial highway. Obviously, the steps of men, in each case, have a totally different ring: in the first, they will be the tired, dragging steps of the hopeless; in the other, the eager or fearful steps of one who hag control of his life and must answer for it personally. We know that life is not a walk down a blind alley; so we know that death means a settling of the accounts of our stewardship over the rich humanity that was put into our hands for so many yean.
The time of judgment
There is no other time for judgment but at the end of life; for the game is not over until the last man is out, but then, definitely, it is done with. A judgment on the good thief, passed the day before he died, would have been premature and wrong; it was not until the halter had squeezed the last breath out of Judas that the success or failure of his life could be determined, a determination obviously beyond the power of men. Christ was one of the very few who could approach death saying, as He bowed His head, that His work was finished. To most men, only death brings a finish to work. Logically, then, it is appointed to every man once to die, and after death, the judgment.
The character of judgment: A thing of triumph
This final casting up of accounts will have startlingly different effects on different individuals, as, indeed, ib contemplation has now; some men flourish on it, others are nauseated at the very thought of it, some run to it eagerly, while others must be dragged to the judgment seat. For Dominic and Thomas, who threw away their lives in literal imitation of the extravagance of Christ, judgment is a triumph; they were fools of the world revealed by judgment to be the wise men of eternity. The king who sat on his throne lost it, while the three who came from the East, gained much greater kingdoms in paying homage to a King in a cave.
A thing of gratitude
It is not hard to see that men and women who stood helpless as ruthless power robbed, defamed, beat, spit upon, and killed them, will greet judgment with sighs of gratitude; what is theirs is at last given back to them, and much more After the judgment, Lazarus, to whom the crumbs from the rich man’s table seemed such a delicacy, need bother no more about crumbs. This is one of the secrete of the patient suffering of Christians as contrasted with the bitter, hating, hopeless suffering of those who have no recourse against injustice; something like the difference between the submission of an only child to the pranks of a school bully, and that of the boy who, all unknown to the bully, has five older brothers.
A thing of terror
There is little difficulty in understanding the triumph and gratitude that may be found in judgment; there is no difficulty at all in grasping the terror of it, the terror of the wise men of the world who have laughed at the fools of Christ, of the strong men of the world who scorned weakness and trampled on it. They have good grounds for terror; but, then, so have we, even though not on the same grounds. One of the privileges of his citizenship that an ordinary citizen is not eager to exercise is that of standing before a judge or being subjected to a verdict of his peers. He has a real terror of a court of law; nor is that terror based on his criminal record, in fact, the more innocent he is, the more likely he is to be terrified. His terror is of human, not divine judgment; and there is a considerable difference between the two.
The basis of terror of judgment: Of human judgment
This man’s fear may have somewhat the same basis that prompts us to hang curtains on windows, put locks on dove, and find secret places for diaries. We do not like to throw the doors of our lives open to public inspection. Not that we are hiding criminal activities, we may be concealing very sacred things; but we know the unsympathetic attitude of strangers and the details of our private lives are not to be mocked. Then, too, this man knows the limitations of human judgment. He has at least heard of its blindness, its capacity for error, its inevitable incompleteness, its bias and venom when hostility lies at the bottom of it. He is taking a chance submitting to it; for even when he wins, he loses, for the veil is torn aside from his life for an instant for all the world to stare in.
Of divine judgment
The basis of terror of divine judgment is something else again. There is no worry about bias, venom, or hostility; here we can be sure the judge has a complete grasp of all the evidence and will give an objective judgment. We can rest assured of an eternally wise consideration of all the motives and extenuating circumstances; we can be sure of full and complete justice. That is just the difficulty; to a race of sinners, justice can well be a terrible thing. What we fear is not God but ourselves; our very terror of judgment is itself an acknowledgment of the faults on our side which we dread to face.
Terror and truth
The difference between the terrified and the undisturbed at this judgment seat is not so much the difference between sinners and angelically innocent saints; rather, it is the difference between men who have lived in a fool’s paradise by shrugging aside their sins, forgetting or ignoring them, and the men who were solidly courageous enough to face the fact of their sins in life and do something about them. Sins are unpleasant things at any time; but it is only when we refuse to face them ourselves and have to be forced to see them as they are by the action of a divine judge that they make us victims of terror. For there is nothing so terrible as a truth that cannot be faced.
The particular judgment: The fact and manner of judgment
It would be much better if fear of judgment were a healthy seasoning of all of a lifetime, instead of being saved up for a climax of terror at death. At any rate, every man will have to face judgment. It is of faith that this judgment will come immediately after death; there will be no agonizing period of restless waiting for a tardy judge or endless hours of uncertainty as the trial drags on. This judgment is after death, and it is immediate. That it should be so is fairly evident. It would not be fair to keep the souls of the just on a rack of anxiety, waiting for the parade of all the generations of the world to pass by before they learned what their lives and had been worth; and there is no point to encouraging a smug complacency in sinners who, for ages on end, would hold to the baseless conviction that somehow, some way, they will slip by this last test. No. A man has a right to know his destiny immediately. After death, he can do no more about it; there is no point in waiting, for the soul is ready and capable of punishment and reward.
Man is not kept waiting for centuries for his judgment; he does not even wait an instant. This is a divine judgment accomplished with divine dispatch. In the human order, there is good sense in discussing a case from all angles, a deliberated, measured sentence, and finally, execution of that sentence. For a divine judge, no discussion or deliberation is necessary; He does not learn about the case bit by bit, His judgment is instantaneous. In reality, it is the soul that judges itself. This trial is an uncovering of truth and it is the soul that faces that truth and acknowledges it. The deeds of a lifetime are made known to it in an instant through divinely infused species the natural mode of knowledge of a separated soul; in an instant, by the help of the divine light, the full significance of these deeds is seen; in an instant the soul knows itself, knows what it deserves and receives its deserts. The judged soul has its place and sinks or rises to it. There is dramatic truth in the picture of Satan plummeting from heaven to hell as a stone might crash from the top of a tower to bury itself in the ground at the tower’s base.
The place of judgment
We usually think of this judgment in metaphorical terms. The book of life, kept by a recording angel, is solemnly opened; there is a terrified advance to the tribunal of Christ; or Christ, the Judge, comes to the bedside of the dying man to pronounce His judgment. There is reason to this sort of thing, for we must take things apart to see them well; even though the thing to be dissected is an instant of divine judgment. The soul of the dead man does not, in fact, penetrate into heaven to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Indeed, it never gets into heaven until it is already judged; nor does the physical presence of Christ leave heaven to preside at all the death-beds of the world.
Judgment takes place in the very instant after death and in the very place of death. The soul is judged. What then? Where does it go? Thinking in such terms does not mean that we are allowing our imagination to run wild; rather, it means we are thinking along the lines of the absolutely universal doctrine of the Church. We know, of course, that spiritual substances, such as the souls of men, have no quantity and so have no need of a place in our ordinary sense of the word; they are not stored layer on layer as we pack sardines in a can or New Yorkers in a subway. After the resurrection, of course, it is a different story; for when we have a body, we must have some place to put it.
Its consequences — the places of souls: Fittingness and variety
Before the resurrection, we are dealing with purely spiritual substances. They are not in place in a way that can be measured, for they are not extended surfaces to be figured out inch by inch; rather, they are in place by a contact of power, that is, by their operation or, in the case of their punishment, by their being acted upon. That is what the very nature of spiritual substances demands; by the divine ordination, more than hinted at in the Scriptures, it is fitting that these spiritual substances be assigned corporal places proportionally responding to their condition of free operation or constant punishment.
Consequently, there is a place assigned for the souls of the just which we call heaven; a place for the souls of the damned which we call hell; and an intermediate place of purgation in preparation for heaven which goes by the name of purgatory. Finally, there is that place of natural happiness, where the sun of the supernatural never penetrates, which is called limbo. These are the states possible to souls of men who have died; these, then, are the places corresponding to these states.
Our visualization of the heavenly city as heavily walled with Peter guarding the massive gates, or of Satan’s kingdom with its gates thrown wide open to all comers, is more than an imaginative help to our minds. It is actually much more difficult to get into heaven than to break into a walled city; and, while entry into hell is not so difficult, it is quite another thing to get out of it. As a matter of fact, there is not much point to getting out of either place. A soul never does get out of one or the other in the sense of a prisoner escaping jail; for always and everywhere, the damned soul carries its punishment with it, as the blessed soul its happiness.
Exists from them
Look at the souls of the blessed. Their original contact with the material world, through their bodies, had two purposes: to allow them to reach perfection, and to gain knowledge through sensible things. Without the body, a soul can learn nothing from an inferior world, for all its knowledge must come from above; and its time of perfectibility is all over and done with. Why should it come back? Ah yes, but New York is still New York, and a grand place to visit! After all, some of them have come back; how and why did they do it? Well, an angel can take on a physical appearance, for an angel was made to act directly as a spiritual substance, by intellect and will. But if we want a drink of coffee, mere will power is by no means enough. A soul is not made to act directly but rather through the body; for it to do otherwise, a miracle is necessary. Normally, these appearances of the dead are to be explained by the ministry of angels, though it is a difficult thing to determine whether the appearance is that of an angel or the miraculous work of a dead soul. Since, however, miracles are not to be multiplied, the supposition is that it is an angel unless there is incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.
Help of separated souls: From them
However, it is a mistake to picture souls as existing in heaven completely isolated from the events of the world, crowding about each newcomer for family news, somewhat as expatriates in the Paris of long ago scanned the meager pages of Paris editions of American newspapers. These souls have intellects and wills; they can think, and love, and pray. In the vision of God, they see all that pertains to them of the events of this earth; indeed, they see much more than ever they could in this life, for they are seeing with the eyes of God which do not stop at the face of a man. It is with very good reason that we ask Our Lady and the saints to intercede for us, even though their time of strict merit is over at death; they are tries and true friends of God, living in an eternal intimacy with Him, and fully conversant with our condition. They can and they do help us immensely. There is nothing we can do for them m return beyond offering them the delicate compliment given to a friend in a request for his help.
For them — Purgatory: Its existence and nature
There are other souls, though, who are badly in need of our help and completely at our mercy. The souls of those who died in venial sin or with punishment still due to sin remain in purgatory until they pass muster for the pure air of heaven. They possess the same equipment of intellect and will; they can, therefore, think, and love, and pray. They have not the sweeping knowledge of the beatific vision, but their state — separated from the body — is itself a demand for the infused species by which spiritual substances naturally know. The common belief in their ability to help us by their intercession is solid.
The pains of purgatory
The point is that they are in a state which of itself demands rather than offers help. Their time of merit is over; the one means at their disposal for ultimately reaching heaven, which is, of course, assured to them, is by the slow process of paying every last farthing. But our time of merit is still with us; these souls must suffer, while we can satisfy for them. They are suffering a double punishment comparable to the pains of hell. They are stripped of all the illusions, the distractions, the sensations offered by the rush of the world; of the fever of passion and the darkness of ignorance. They can, then, turn to heaven with all of their being in a torment of desire that makes every instant of delay an era of agony. This is their parallel of hell’s eternal “pain of loss.”
Over and above that, there is the “pain of sense” which, in the common opinion of the Fathers and in the revelations of such saints as Catherine of Siena, is a greater pain than any which can be suffered in this life. The common doctrine is that this pain is caused by fire which, operating supernaturally as an instrument of divine justice, causes much more suffering than it does operating on bodies by its natural power. Still, these souls see the justice of all this punishment; they submit to it willingly, eagerly, even lovingly, for it means that the eternal vision is brought closer every instant. They are friends of God who know how, and are equipped to suffer; the guilt of their venial sins is probably wiped out in the first instant after death, allowing them to turn to God with pure, burning love.
The help of suffrages
Obviously they need our help. That we can help them has been solemnly defined by the Council of Trent, a definition that flowed easily from the nature and doctrine of the Mass, indulgences, and the Communion of Saints. These souls can be helped by the official prayers of the Church, by the sacrifice of the Mass, by the gaining of indulgences, indeed, in a lesser way, by all the good works that merit the generous reward so eagerly given by our divine Friend.
The general resurrection: Fact and predisposition of the world
The immediate judgment of the soul of man might have been argued on purely natural grounds. Purgatory has its reasonableness, but only divine revelation could assure us of its existence. The resurrection of the body, while certainly doing no violence to the nature of man, is so entirely supernatural that to speak of it in a pagan world is to talk a foreign language. It was quite unsuspected by the Greek and Roman philosophers. Christianity, following on Jewish tradition, introduced the notion of an eternally enduring person upon which Western civilization rests. The notion has been thrust aside in some contempt by all the philosophers who shudder at the material world as a thing of evil and who look forward with joy to the release of the soul from the prison of the body. The resurrection is one of the truths lost sight of in the process of liberalizing Protestantism. The moderns, of course, shuddering at the spiritual because it will not behave like the material and stay penned up in a laboratory, see in the truth of the resurrection only a bogey man conceived to frighten the weak-minded.
There is reason enough for the mind of man to stop short at the barrier of death; for this barrier is simply too high for reason to hurdle. The obvious fact of death; the completeness of its corruption and solution of the body, would seem to settle the question of further life for the body. On the other side, there are no more than vague hints from man’s own nature: the incompleteness of his immortal soul separated from the body, the insufficiency of sanctions which stop at death, the human yearning for love that will not die and happiness without the tragedy of its loss, man’s inner taste for eternity.
Its universality and cause
All these, however, are only hints. The truth of the resurrection of the body is supernatural, known only by revelation from God Himself; but it is known, for God did make the revelation. It is not merely the soul of man, but man himself, all of him, that will live forever; not this or that man alone, but all men, and each possessed of his own proper body. The fact is certain. On the same authority, it is clear that it will be a general resurrection, that is, of all men at the same time, coming only after the last man has been born and has died. We rightly couple it with what has been called the end of the world, although Catholic doctrine has never coupled it with the destruction of the world but rather with the mysterious purification of the world.
There are several vague, mysterious descriptions of that final purification in Scripture; since they are prophetic, however, they are not to be thoroughly grasped before their time. To Thomas, it was a purification by fire that would consume the imperfections of the world and be followed by a changeless perfection. He thought it would be rather nice if hell were made the dumping ground for all the debris. For him, the scientific side of this was easy: it was explained by merely stopping the motion of the celestial bodies and thus bringing an end to all change, all corruption and generation. Science has moved along since his day, with the result that the scientific side of this purification is not so easily explained today. Why should the world endure? Well, on the other hand, why waste a perfectly good world? It would make a kind of Central Park for the Sunday stroll of the blessed when they feel like stretching their legs again on earth, and there is always the heavenly home to return to. How can it be done? Certainly not by any means familiar to us; but then there are a good many things in the divine instrument bag that have not been submitted to human inspection.
Whatever happens to the world, all men will rise again from the dead, good and bad, young and old. They will rise at the sound of a trumpet; not that ears long dead, turned to dust, and blown about the face of the earth will be tuned to that note. Lazarus, dead for four days, was hardly on tiptoe waiting for the voice of Christ which, nevertheless, he promptly answered. Rather, the sound of the trumpet will be an instrument of divinity, as the voice of the priest in the consecration of the Mass is a divine instrument; surely, the bread is not listening for those sacred words, impatient to be changed into the body of Christ. The model and exemplar of this last resurrection was the first resurrection, that of Christ on Easter Sunday; its cause must, of course, be divinity. The humanity of Christ, in this and the other divine works of Christ, is always the instrument of the Godhead.
Thomas has a pleasant statement of the part the angels will play in the resurrection of men. It is not to be a necessary part but rather a share thoughtfully provided by God much as a mother allows a child to pay street-car fare or to carry a package along a busy street. The angels have been working with men from the beginning; guiding, guarding, teaching, helping them. It is only fitting that they should have a part in this last climax of human life. Thomas says that they will “prepare the material for the resurrection”; though it is no doubt an exaggeration to picture them as scurrying to the ends of the earth, gathering the dust of men’s bodies, assorting it, arranging it in piles, and waiting for the divine word.
Its time and manner
Thomas follows this up with a phrase as to the time of the resurrection, a phrase notable in the beauty of its simplicity. He says it will come “when the work of the angels is finished.” This is their last work for men; when that is over, both they and their wards can rest, rest forever. Thomas does not try to determine the time of the resurrection; Christ Himself had put an end to that speculation when He said that this was known only to the Father. Granted the secrecy of the time, as secret as the end of the world with which it will coincide, Thomas says that it will probably take place suddenly — since divine power works in an instant — when the work of the angels is finished.
It will be at dawn, conforming to the model of Christ’s own resurrection. It will be as though the turn of the wheel of time had just been completed. At creation, which was time’s beginning, the day started off at its beginning; not at the siesta hour, not in time for a late dinner, but at dawn with the sun in the east and the moon in the west; so it will be at the resurrection. At that last moment, the world will look as it did long, long ago, when time itself was just starting; in a real sense, time will start again, for men will begin to live again, men, understand, not souls, not a new race of men but the same men, body and soul, as first inhabited the earth.
Its consequences. Condition of risen bodies: integrity, identity, quality
The resurrection is necessary if men are to live eternally. Yet, there is no point to it if each soul has a body different from its original one; for then not the same, but a different person lives. It is to its same, identical body that the soul has its inclination; this is the body that has merited its share in reward and punishment; this is the body that should be judged. There would be a thoroughly justified grumpiness, for example, in a wrestler who received the body of a chorus girl because of a mixed-up resurrection. It is not enough to retain the same sex and general contours of the original body; the risen body must not only be similar, it must be numerically identical or we have not the same person; it has not been a resurrection but a constitution of a new creature.
This point, reasonable as it is, has been the source of much amusement to scoffers. Perhaps that is why God, in a kind of divine contempt, while assuring us of the fact gave us no information of the manner in which it will be accomplished. Objections have been offered which were meant to be devastating but actually turn out to be amusing. There is the famous case of the cannibal. The difficulty is offered not on the grounds of the bones he picks — after all this was not a bone-eating cannibal — but from the side of the cannibal himself. When he comes to die, there will be nothing in his body that was not taken from the meat and marrow of other human bodies; someone will have to go unresurrected, probably the cannibal. Really to make the point it is aiming at, this objection should maintain that the cannibal started his meat diet in the first days of his mother’s pregnancy; a thing of extreme difficulty, even for a cannibal. If the objector is willing to accept this, he should have no difficulty accepting anything, even the resurrection of worms. The whole thing arises from a confusion of a man’s body with the whole mass of material that a man possesses in the course of his whole life; as a matter of fact, some of w can do without a great deal of that right now. What is demanded for the resurrection is that some of the identical material go into the risen body, actual defect of material being made up by divine power. After all, if a child dies at seven and is to rise at thirty, or a man born with one ear is to be perfect in the resurrection, some material must be added; but the bodies will still be identical.
The same objection is given scientific force when it is said that the resurrection is an impossibility because, obviously, human bodies return to their chemical constituents after death, to enter into the make-up of vegetables, flowers, animals, and ultimately, no doubt, bodies of other men. The answer, however, does not change. The resurrection does not pose God the problem of spreading five pounds of flesh over a big frame; after all, the original material had its source in a divine command. God does not need a whole mass of the material; but not even God can make the same body from totally different materials.
Men, then, will be the same men, but much improved. They will be integrally perfect, that is, they will have all that pertains to the integrity of the human body. Specifically, Thomas mentions fingernails and hair, not primarily for the comfort of the bald, but because there might be some slight doubt about these superfluities If, through accident, disease, or congenital defect, anything is missing at death, it will be supplied in the resurrection.
Thomas thinks that men will rise at the age at which their development and perfection reached their height and before they have started to deteriorate. He thought thirty would be about right. And all men and women will rise at the same age, so that a mother can really be young with her daughter, and with her grandmother for that matter; perhaps it is only then that we shall get to know our ancestors. Of course there will be mothers and grandmothers there, for not all arise in the same sex; they must, you see, be the same persons. Clearly a strangely bearded grandmother would not be the same grandmother we had known on this earth; moreover, the diversity of sex is a part of the perfection of the species.
While all will be the same age, they will not all be the same size. There is no particularly perfect size for a human being. Some will be big, some small, some tall and some short; but all with the defects of nature corrected, that is no one will be too big, too small, too tall, or too short. In a word, there will be a pleasant variety, as great a variety, in fact, as there is now; for there will be exactly the same individuals with the rough spots smoothed off. Yet, with all this physical perfection, there will be none of the operations of animal life; there is simply no point to this activity. Man remains a rational animal, but with his animality totally spiritualized; even the damned will forego all animal life.
Properties of glorified bodies: impassibility, subtlety, agility, clarity
In the just, the bodies will be examples of matter completely dominated by spirit. By nature, man is a creature of reason in whom spirit was made to command; in glory, the submission of body to soul far surpasses nature. Four instances of this domination of the soul over the body have been singled out by theologians and called the gifts of the glorified body. The body is said to be “impassable,” that is, not subject to injury in any sense, even in that delicate sense of suffering in the very exercise of sense faculties. The soul will dominate the body both as its form and as its mover: in the first case, the result is the gift of “subtlety” which subjects the organic character of the body to the soul; in the second. it is the gift of “agility” which enables the body to move with something of the speed of thought. Finally, just as the body will hinder no operation of the soul, so neither will it cloud or veil the soul’s beauty; this is the gift of “clarity” which allows the splendor of the soul to shine through the body, thus making the spiritual beauty a’ visible as physical beauty is to w in this life.
Properties of bodies of the damned
The bodies of the damned will have none of this super. natural perfection. Since they will have all that nature demands, they will be free from all defects and deformities; but they will have no more than that except for the immortality which keeps them incorruptible, not immune to injury, but rather guaranteed an eternity of punishment. When all men have risen equipped with bodies for eternity, they are prepared for that last great drama in the history of mankind, the drama that strikes such terror to our hearts, principally because we look at it sentimentally rather than rationally; the last judgment.
The general judgment: Fact and manner
To put the fundamental reason for general judgment in simple language, it would be enough to say that it takes away from men for all time any grounds for that comforting activity we call grumbling; no sinner will make his way back to hell mumbling “we were robbed.” In more dignified language, the general judgment is the ultimate vindication of the justice and mercy of God. Man, after all, is more than an individual, he is a citizen; he is a member of the great family of humanity. He is judged, justly and finally, as an individual immediately after death and there will be no change in that sentence; as a citizen, he stands before the whole world on the day of general judgment that all might know the wonder of God’s ways and the complete justice of the original sentence. There will be no grounds for such a gossip’s wonder and speculation as “What is that one doing in hell, she seemed such a grand person?” or “Look at Johnny Smith in heaven! Wait a few centuries till they find him out.”
The original sentence is final. The just, then, can suffer no unhappiness; a revelation of their sins to the world is an emphasis on their courage and penance in getting rid of sin, not a cause for terror and shame but of wondering gratitude at the mercy of God. Today in heaven, Magdalen feels no shame at the public recitation of her crimes in the Divine Office; nor do those reciting the tale revel in an unholy exultation at uncovering the weakness of another. Rather, like Mary herself, they find these things an occasion for wondering at the goodness of God.
It is quite another thing for the damned. All excuses are made impossible; they are shown plainly in their perversity, their pettiness, their stupidity, with no reason for anything but shame in their sins. It will be, this judgment, a public vindication of Christ the Judge and of those who took Him at His word, taking up their crosses to follow Him. Such complete justice is impossible in this world, or even in the particular judgment; here, the whole person, body as well as soul, is finally rewarded or punished.
The fact of this general judgment is sure from faith. That it will not proceed eternally, with a hopelessly boring recitation of details for all the infinite number of men to be judged is evident to reason itself. At the particular judgment, it is the work of an instant for men, by a divine illumination, to know their own sins and their own judgment; in the general judgment, a like divine illumination will make plain all the virtues and sins of all other men. All minds will agree, as the intellect must always agree to the clearly evident, to the disposition of men by the justice of God.
Its time and place
When this judgment will take place is God’s secret, made known to absolutely no man. Its place is equally mysterious. The prophetic references to the valley of Jehosaphat may or may not be allegorical; indeed, the location of the valley is itself subject to controversy. Thomas thinks it fitting that this general judgment be in the neighborhood of Mt. Olivet from which Christ ascended into heaven after the triumph of His life and death on earth; there He might descend for His eternal triumph and take all good men with Him from the same spot on which He originally blessed the apostles and left them to the mercy of men.
In the beginning of this chapter, we spoke of the different ways of looking at death and the consequences; these did not represent a variety of views thrown open to the choice of man. There is no choice; we cannot take what pleases us, for only one of these is true. Terror of death is really the result of the fear of life; both are ultimately a fear of the truth of human responsibility, the truth of sin, and the truth of the punishment due to sin. Fear, however, does not destroy these things for they remain the central characters in the drama of life; we are not released from them by fearing them, whereas truth itself, respecting them, does give freedom beyond the ordinary dreams of men.
Conclusion. The freedom of truth: From injustice, the consequences of injustice, judgment
In comparison with this freedom, political and economic freedom, however precious, are petty things. For by the truth of death and its consequences, and the truth of judgment, man is really set free from injustice done to him and from the desire to do injustice to others. He need not despair at the thought that injustice visited upon him will not be rectified; it will. He is not on fire with revenge, for his persecutor must pay to the last farthing; and there is no hurry about demanding the payment. He is not rushed off his feet, reaching out in panic to grab what he can in the few years of his life; the rewards of life will come without his rushing after them. He is not haunted by a fear of life that loses hold even of what little life is given to every man in the attempt to dodge the responsibility of a greater life. Above all, he knows that life is not to be understood by concentrating on its beginnings to the neglect of its end.
The repository of the truth of human life
All these truths have been obscure to some men of every age; but it is the last that seems almost to have been lost to our times. Priding ourself on our knowledge of life’s processes and progress, the end of life is neglected and denied with an inevitable loss of life’s meaning. The mistake cannot be made without a more fundamental one running along with it, one that would embarrass a child; the mistake of supposing that something comes from nothing, that the world accounts for itself.
Freedom of the flesh and freedom of the spirit
On the other hand, a man who has been freed by truth is free to know human life and, above all, to live it. Others may lay claim to a freedom of the flesh; but that freedom has always been a shame rather than a glory to men, robbing them, ultimately of manhood itself, of the right to hope, of sovereignty of their own lives. Freedom of truth does not release a man from the flesh, but from slavery to it, from cringing before appetite, and surrendering to things beneath him. It gives him freedom of the spirit which finds its immediate expression in the freedom to live life, and its ultimate climax in the glory of the risen man. By it, he can drink deeply of the cup of life, finding it always full to overflowing and his own capacity not diminished, but constantly increasing.