Salvation History: Sinai, priesthood, Jesus' baptism, Last Supper, Crucifixion

The Story of Salvation

Introduction

Every person asks himself/herself at some point the great questions of life: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is the point of my life? Is there a God? Does He care about me? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Are true peace, love and happiness really attainable in this life? What happens after death?

The stunning order, complexity and beauty of the world around us, as well as the deep longing for truth, beauty, and goodness within our own hearts point to the existence of God*. It would be absurd to think that this complex and beautiful universe could have come into existence billions of years ago as the result of some explosion caused by… nothing. From the order and beauty of creation we can know that there exists an intelligent and good Creator, an eternal and infinite Spirit, all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful, distinct from our created world yet present and active in it at every moment.[1] Because He knows and loves, God is not just an impersonal cosmic force, but a personal God: not something but someone. And so from our own human experience we are able to come to know that this personal God exists. But in order that we may enter into real intimacy with him, God wished to reveal himself to man and give him the possibility to respond to Him by faith.[2] God has come to meet man*: He has spoken to us and revealed his plan of loving kindness for mankind, which the following pages will set out to briefly explain. 

In the Beginning…

Garden of Eden God is love, and out of the fullness of his love, he chose to create a world in which He could share his truth, goodness, and beauty. God created the invisible and visible world*. First, He created an invisible, spiritual world which is the world of the angels: intelligent, personal beings who are God’s servants and messengers.[3] He also created the visible world that we see around us, whose complexity and beauty reflect the wisdom, beauty, goodness and love of its Creator. The crown of God’s creation is man and woman* – us! – whom God created in his own image and likeness and called to share in his own life of love.

At the dawn of creation, God made a covenant with the first human couple and parents of the whole human race, Adam and Eve.[4] God, revealing himself as a loving Father*, adopted them as his son and daughter who would form His human family and would eternally share in His glory and love. The Bible tells us that God placed them in the Garden of Eden where they lived in perfect happiness. In their original state, as long as they remained in intimacy with God, they did not have to suffer and die. They also enjoyed a perfect inner harmony within themselves, with each other, and with all of creation. They knew the truth and purpose of their lives, which was to love God and each other; they knew the moral laws of creation and the way in which they had to live; and they shared in God’s life in a state of supernatural friendship with Him.[5]

Sin Enters the World

Fall Yet this perfect state of peace and happiness did not last long. Some of the angels, led by Satan, radically rejected God and his reign and became evil: they are real, personal, spiritual beings who have been exerting a disastrous influence on the world ever since.[6] Under the form of a serpent, Satan tempted Adam and Eve and led them to disobey God’s commandment and sin* against Him*. In abusing their freedom, they preferred themselves to God, wanting to be “like God,” but “without God.” As a result, they lost God’s supernatural life and became subject to suffering and death. They lost the harmony within themselves and with creation that they had previously enjoyed and, becoming inclined to sin, they lost the way in which they were to live. Finally, they became afraid of God and lost sight of the truth by which they should live.[7] Cast out of paradise, Adam and Eve transmitted their wounded human nature deprived of God’s life to all mankind, and so we are now all subject to ignorance, suffering and death, and inclined to sin.[8] Our own experience confirms that we fall short of the life of freedom and love that God designed for us to live. The result of sin is not only broken commandments and a broken relationship with God, but also broken homes, broken hearts and broken lives. 

God’s Covenants Restore the Human Family to Himself

Yet even after man sinned, God did not abandon him but promised a future victory over evil and man’s restoration from his fall.[9] How would God restore the human race to himself? He chose to reveal himself gradually to mankind through a series of covenants – formal, binding agreements and kinship bonds between God and man which are an exchange of mutual promises where each side must live up to their obligations.

God’s Covenants with Man

Mediator:
Adam
Noah
Abraham
Moses
David
Jesus
Role:
Husband
Father
Chieftain
Judge
King
Royal High Priest
Form:
Marriage
Household
Tribe
Nation
Kingdom
Catholic Church
Sign:
Sabbath
Rainbow
Circumcision
Passover
Throne
Eucharist

God’s first covenant with mankind, as we have seen, was with Adam, whom God called to the covenant of marriage with Eve with the command to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). The sign of this first covenant between God and man was the Sabbath (Gen 2:1-3), which pointed to the end for which he made us: to rest in our Father’s blessing, holiness and love, now and for all eternity.

Noah's Ark After the sin of Adam and Eve, the earth quickly became very corrupted. Because of the great wickedness of men, God decided to destroy all humankind through a great flood and re-found the human family through one righteous man, Noah*, and his family. God’s renewed covenant with the human race grew to a household, and it was marked with the sign of the rainbow and with the same commandment to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1) as God had given to Adam and Eve.

Abraham The third major covenant that God made with mankind was with Abraham*, whom God called out of his native land to come to the land of Canaan, with the promise to make of his descendants a great nation, to make his “name” great, and to bless through him all families of the earth (Gen 12:1-3). With this covenant, which now included a whole tribe, God began to gather a people to himself, the chosen people of Israel. It was sealed with the sign of circumcision and tested when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only-begotten son Isaac.

Moses Abraham’s descendants eventually left Canaan for Egypt, where they grew to become a great nation but later became enslaved by Pharaoh. God used Moses* to deliver them out of slavery through the ten plagues which He inflicted upon Egypt. The sign of this new covenant was the Passover, where the Israelites were protected from the angel of death by sprinkling the blood of a young lamb on their doorposts. With the covenant at Mount Sinai, God made of Israel his chosen people and a holy nation called to be his witnesses to the whole world. He also gave them the Torah, his revealed law by which they should live in righteousness and justice.

David God was faithful to his promise to Abraham and eventually brought Israel to the land that He promised them*. After many troubled years, David* became king of Israel, and God formed with him His next covenant. God promised David to build a worldwide kingdom that would rule in justice over all nations. David’s son Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem where not only Israelites but also people of all nations could come and worship the God of Israel.

How did God rule and lead his people in the time of the Davidic kingdom? First, He spoke to them through prophets who communicated his word of truth to them. Second, the people approached him through the mediation of priests who offered blood sacrifices in atonement for the sins of the people, and so mediated God’s forgiveness and God’s life. Third, God ruled through the king, David, who by being himself subject to the word of the prophets and to the sacrificial mediation of the priests, led his people to live in the way of righteousness and justice.

Because of Israel’s sins and idolatry, however, the kingdom went into decline. It was divided into a northern and southern kingdom* (Israel and Judah), and because of the wickedness of most of their rulers, both kingdoms were eventually conquered and the people exiled* – the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 BCE, and the southern kingdom by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, who also destroyed the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

Prophet After 70 years, the Jews returned to Jerusalem* and rebuilt the Temple. But the kingdom was not restored, and for the next centuries great Messianic expectations* arose in Israel: the Jews hoped that the Messiah would come restore the Davidic kingdom and deliver Israel from all her enemies. The Hebrew Scriptures had much to say about this coming deliverer: they foretold that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10), would be a prophet like Moses (Deut 18:18) and a descendant of David (Jer 23:5-6). He would be called “Son of God” (Ps 2, Isa 9:6) and would be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14) in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). He would work in Galilee (Isa 9:1-2) and perform miracles (Isa 35:5-6); he would enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zech 9:9) but be rejected by his own people (Ps 118:22-23). He would be beaten, spat upon, and pierced (Is 50:6, Zech 12:10) and sacrificed for the sins of his people (Isa 53). The prophet Daniel even foretold with great precision that this Messiah would come at the time of the Roman Empire and would be “cut off” some time before the destruction of the temple (Dan 2, 9:24-27). 

The Messiah and Son of God

Around the year 7 BCE, the angel Gabriel appeared to a young Jewish virgin in Nazareth named Miriam (Mary) and announced her that she would bear a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, who would be called Yeshua (Jesus)* , who would reign on the throne of David and be Savior of mankind. By saying “yes” to God’s plan, Mary allowed the Messiah to be born of her to accomplish the redemption of the world.[10] Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem of Judah, according to Micah’s prophecy, and he quietly grew up in Nazareth in obedience and submission to his earthly parents.[11]

Jesus At approximately the age of 30, Jesus began preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins, proclaiming that the kingdom of God had come.[12] In his life, words and deeds*, Jesus showed his people what it meant to be part of the kingdom of God: He healed the sick, forgave sins, cast out demons and delivered people from the powers of evil, in fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah.[13] He revealed the love of God the Father and taught us how to live as His children: by loving one another and forgiving each other, by living in humility and trust in our heavenly Father who will provide for our every need.[14] Jesus also taught us about the reality of eternal life: that we are not meant to die but called to live forever with God in heaven. Jesus even raised people from the dead to show how he came to destroy the works of Satan and win the final victory over sin and death.[15] He said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[16] By these words he indicated that he had come to fully restore what we had lost in Adam, by assuming the three roles by which God ruled His people at the time of the Davidic kingdom: As king he shows us the way in which we are to live - by humbly serving each other. As prophet, he tells us the truth of our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. And as priest, he calls us to share in his own supernatural and eternal life.

Yet the victory over sin and death would not be won by Jesus’ life and deeds, but rather by his own death. His powerful ministry and authoritative teaching caused serious conflicts with the Jewish religious authorities who soon sought to kill him. Jesus’ rejection, crucifixion and death was not an unexpected failure in his ministry, but rather the central event of the history of salvation that God had planned since the foundation of the world.[17] Jesus was fully aware that he had come to freely give his life as an atoning sacrifice to God the Father for the sins of mankind, to undo Adam’s disobedience by reconciling us with God and restoring in us His divine life.[18] Jesus is called the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Just as the Passover lamb had initiated Israel’s Exodus out of Egyptian slavery, Jesus self-offering as Paschal sacrifice initiated a New Exodus for all mankind, the deliverance from the slavery of sin and death.

Passion.jpg And so at his last Passover meal, Jesus instituted a new covenant with the house of Israel, as it had been foretold by the prophet Jeremiah.[19] He gave a radically new meaning to the Passover at this Last Supper by instituting the Eucharist, which would become the memorial of his sacrificial death and the sign of the New Covenant he established.[20] Jesus fully accomplished our redemption through the Paschal Mystery* - his passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. After eating the Passover with his disciples, he was betrayed by one of them, delivered to the Roman authorities, and condemned to death by crucifixion. And so the Savior and Son of God shed his blood, suffered an agonizing death on the cross, and was buried out of love for us in order to accomplish our redemption.

Resurrection Yet Jesus did not remain in the grave! On the third day, Jesus’ victory over sin and death became manifest when God raised him from the dead. By his resurrection, the Messiah opened the way back to heaven and won for us eternal life. For forty days, Jesus physically appeared to his astonished disciples and to hundreds of witnesses, teaching them how everything that had happened was according to the words of Moses and the prophets.[21] After these forty days, he ascended to heaven and returned to God the Father, but not before promising that he would remain with them always through the presence of the Holy Spirit.[22]

The Birth of the Church

While he was on earth, Jesus did not work alone but chose 12 apostles to share in his own authority and mission of preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons.[23] He told them: “He who hears you hears me; he who rejects you rejects me” (Lk 10:16). Before Jesus left the earth and returned to God the Father, he commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.[24]

Pentecost Ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, on the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), the Holy Spirit descended onto the disciples in the form of tongues of fire. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to preach to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem that the Messiah had come, had died and had risen to grant the forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who would repent, believe and be baptized. 3,000 people were added to them that day and the Church* was born. On the first feast of Shavuot at Sinai, God had given to Israel the Torah, written on tablets of stone. Now on this new feast of Shavuot He gave to Israel the New Law written on their hearts: the gift of the Holy Spirit and indwelling presence of God in the hearts of those who believed and were baptized.[25]

The Revelation of the Incarnation and Trinity

trinity3.jpg As Jesus lived among his people, teaching them about the kingdom of God and manifesting it through his forgiving sins and healing the sick, people inevitably asked: who is that man? Gradually, his disciples and followers – and opponents – realized that Jesus claimed that He was God*.[26] He confirmed the truth of this claim by his resurrection from the dead, which led to the apostle Thomas’ confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”[27] Later, at Pentecost, the disciples experienced yet another manifestation of God, now dwelling within them through the Holy Spirit. How were these first Jewish believers to make sense of this new revelation of the inner mystery of the one God of Israel? God the Father had revealed Himself long ago to their forefathers on Mount Sinai. But now they had encountered the same God “with a human face,” walking alongside them as the man Jesus of Nazareth. Thirdly, they now experienced again the same God dwelling within them as the Holy Spirit! This gradually led the early Church to understand that the one God of Israel had now revealed Himself to be an eternal communion of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, whose inner life is love. With the coming of the New Covenant, God now called his human family to share in His own divine life of love.[28] God the Father had made the plan for us to participate in His Trinitarian life by sending us the Son. The Son made the plan effective and gave us access to it by sending the Holy Spirit. And now the Holy Spirit effects the plan and makes it work through the Church, which dispenses to us God’s way, truth and life.  This eternal tri-une nature of God, newly disclosed by the New Covenant, is what the Church later called the Blessed Trinity*.

Jews and Gentiles (Temporarily) Reconciled

Peter & Cornelius Initially the nascent Church was entirely composed of Jews. It was clear to the first Jewish-Christians that Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, had not come to establish a new religion detached from their Jewish heritage, but rather had come to fulfill everything that had been announced by Moses and the prophets.[29] Soon, however, the Lord revealed that the Church was also to include Gentiles. Jesus had come to break down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles and reconcile them together. Gentiles could now be joined to the household of faith and commonwealth of Israel without having to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.[30] At the same time, Jewish-Christians were not compelled to abandon the faith and traditions of their ancestors: Jesus had not come to abolish the Torah; He had come to fulfill it, and so Jewish-Christians were free to continue to live as observant Jews, as long as they understood that they were saved not by their observance of the Torah but by the Messiah's work of redemption.[31] Sadly, this ideal of reconciliation and charitable coexistence between Jew and Gentile was lost in the first centuries of the Church. But in recent years there has been a renewed understanding of how Jews and Gentiles are called to unity within the one Church, while still maintaining their own distinct identity, role and traditions. 

What is the Church?

What is this Church that the Messiah of Israel came to establish?

Church5.jpg The Church is, first, God’s People and God’s family, which He calls together from all the ends of the earth to reconcile to Himself.[32] It is also the seed and beginning of the Kingdom of God that will become fully manifest at the end of times.[33] The Church is both a human and a divine institution, both visible and spiritual: it is a structured and hierarchical organization through which God communicates truth and grace to all men. It is also the mystery of men’s union with God, the visible plan of God’s love for humanity, the mystical Body and bride of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit.[34]

Today, many different groups and communities claim to represent the “true” or “original” Christianity that is most faithful to Jesus’ teachings. However, only one universal Christian Church has existed since the time of Jesus: the Catholic Church, which is today the largest Church in the world. The Catholic Church’s uniqueness is seen in four marks that make her truly unique: She is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

The Church is One

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Eph 4:4-6).

Jesus established one Church, not a collection of denominations. And so His Church teaches one set of doctrines, the same as those taught by the apostles. In a world ridden with divisions and wars, the Catholic Church has passed unchanged through all the changes of history, proposing the same unity of faith, worship, and moral life in every age, country, and civilization.

How could the Church have preserved such a miraculous unity through 2,000 years of history? The Church is one because of…

  • her source: in the Trinitarian unity of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
  • her founder: Jesus the Messiah, who has come to restore the unity of all in one people and one body;
  • her “soul”: the Holy Spirit, who brings about the wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together in Messiah;
  • her visible bonds of communion: a) the profession of one faith received from the apostles, b) the common celebration of divine worship, especially of the seven sacraments; c) the united leadership and government of the Church guaranteed by the apostolic succession and college of bishops in union with pope.[35]

The Church is Holy

Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27)

When we look at some periods in the history of the Church, it might seem strange to call her “holy.” The Church is made of sinners, and certainly, the holiness of the Church does not mean that each of her members was or is always holy. Jesus said there would be both good and bad members in the Church, and not all the members would go to heaven.[36] Yet He also told us: “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”[37] God calls every human being to attain holiness and perfection, for only in holiness can we find true freedom and happiness.

How, then, is the Church holy? She is holy in her union with the Messiah who, perfectly holy, loved the Church, joined himself to her as his Bride to sanctify her, and gave her the gift of the Holy Spirit. United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying. By his grace Jesus makes the Church holy, as he is holy.[38]

We can see the Church’s holiness:

  • in her teaching, which has never swerved from the highest moral standard;
  • in her seven sacraments, the principal means of sanctification which give us the power to grow in holiness, and especially the Eucharist, the Lord’s own body and blood, soul and divinity, which He gives to us under the appearance of bread and wine;
  • in her saints, who loved and served man heroically because they first loved and served God heroically, and showed us through their joyful lives, sometimes facing the greatest trials, that holiness is truly attainable.

The fact that there are bad Catholics, therefore, does not take away from the holiness of the Church, since the Church, “clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”[39]

The Church is Catholic (Universal)

“You have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9)

Jesus’ Church is called catholic (“universal”) because it is his gift to all people. She has been sent out by the Messiah on a mission to the whole of the human race in every time and place, and has succeeded in uniting hundreds of millions of people differing in race, culture, education and interests, all the while retaining the richness of great diversity among the different peoples and cultures.

All men are called to belong to the new people of God so that they may be saved from sin and form one family united in Messiah.[40] And so the Church is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages so that all of God’s scattered children may be gathered as one and may find salvation in God’s family.[41] The Church has been called the “Catholic Church” at least as early as the year 107 by the Church Father Ignatius of Antioch.

The Church is Apostolic

The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Tim 2:2)

Jesus built the Church on the foundation of the apostles, who directly heard his teachings and were witnesses of his deeds, miracles, and especially of his resurrection.[42] In them, Jesus continues his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”[43] The apostolic office did not end with the death of the apostles but continues until the end of time through their successors, the bishops of the Church, who have since the first century faithfully handed on what the apostles taught in an unbroken line of apostolic succession.[44]

Jesus gave Peter special authority among the apostles and signified this by changing his name from Simon to Peter (“Kephas”), which means “rock.” He said Peter was to be the rock on which he would build his Church. The Messiah gave Peter the “keys of the kingdom” and promised that his decisions would be binding in heaven. [45] Jesus, the Good Shepherd, also called Peter to be the chief shepherd of his Church and gave him the task of strengthening the other apostles in their faith, ensuring that the faith of the Church would never go astray. Peter led the Church in proclaiming the gospel and making decisions.[46] Like the office of apostles, the role of chief shepherd of the Church did not end with the death of Peter, but continued with his successors. The Pope*, the successor of Peter as bishop of Rome, is the source and foundation of the unity of the Body of Messiah.[47] Though he is a weak human being like the rest of us, he is guided by the Lord’s special guarantee to Peter that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail” against the Church. The Church has remained one, holy, catholic and apostolic not through man’s effort, but because God preserves the Church he established. 

Finding the Way, the Truth and the Life Today

The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth. (Jn 16:13)

“…the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

How does God speak to us today? At the time of the Exodus, God guided the Israelites with a pillar of fire to light their way across the dark wilderness.[48] Today He guides us through the Catholic Church, the “pillar and foundation of truth” which Jesus promised to guide into all truth.[49]

Sacraments Before He left the earth, Jesus passed on to the Church the three roles of king, prophet, and priest, which he assumed, and which continue to convey to us the way, the truth and the life which Adam and Eve had lost:

  • The words of Sacred Scripture communicate to us God’s truth (prophetic role).
  • The Church’s liturgy and sacraments most faithfully express the Church’s sacred Tradition and convey to us God’s life (priestly role).
  • The Pope and the college of bishops, as successors of Peter and the apostles, guide us in interpreting the Scriptures and in showing us the way how to live (kingly role).

Receiving God’s Life on the Journey towards Heaven

In the Exodus, Moses led the Israelites from the slavery of sin through the Sinai desert into the Promised Land. Now, with the “New Exodus,” Jesus delivers us from the slavery of sin and leads us through the ‘desert’ of this life to our eternal Promised Land – heaven. He has provided the seven sacraments* to heal, feed and strengthen us on this journey so that we may safely reach our heavenly destination. The sacraments are not just symbols, but signs that actually convey God’s grace and love to us.

  1. When the Israelites left Egypt, they crossed the waters of the Red Sea, leaving their enemies behind. When we leave the slavery of sin, we go through the waters of Baptism* and are reborn with Christ to new life.
  2. Israel received the Law at Sinai, which made them a people united for the service of God. The sacrament of Confirmation* perfects our baptismal grace and gives us the Holy Spirit to incorporate us more firmly into Christ and strengthen our bond with the Church.
  3. God provided bread to the Israelites to sustain them during their wanderings in the desert. Now Jesus provides us with spiritual bread that nourishes us on our journey towards heaven - the Eucharist*, which is his own body and blood.
  4. During the Exodus, the people received forgiveness for their sins through the sacrifice of animals and mediation of priests. Jesus, as paschal sacrifice and high priest who brought the forgiveness of sins to mankind, entrusted the power of absolution to the apostles and their successors, and today the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is received through them in the sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession)* .
  5. During the Exodus, God promised the Israelites that He would heal them from their illnesses: “I am the Lord who heals you.”[50] Jesus healed every sickness and every disease during his earthly ministry. Today, by the Anointing of the Sick* the Church commends those who are ill to the Lord, that he may raise them up and save them.
  6. God’s covenant with Israel was seen as an exclusive and faithful married love. Christian Matrimony* is a sign of the union between Christ and the Church, where a man and a woman establish between themselves a life-long partnership for their good and for the procreation and education of offspring.
  7. God made Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But He also set apart the tribe of Levi and the Aaronic priests for liturgical service. At the Last Supper, Jesus made his apostles priests of the New Covenant. Their successors, the bishops, perpetuate this new priesthood in the sacrament of Holy Orders*.

The Communion of Saints and Miriam, our Mother

Virgin & Child As we journey on our earthly pilgrimage towards our heavenly destiny, God has not left alone. Not only did Jesus promise to always remain with us through His Holy Spirit,[51] we are also accompanied by a great cloud of witnesses – “the spirits of just men made perfect” – the saints* who have preceded us in this life and who continue to pray for us from heaven.[52] Among the saints, Jesus most especially gave us His mother Miriam (Mary)*, whom God saved from all sin and made uniquely blessed among all women, as our own mother who loves us and cares for us,.[53]

Our Eternal Destiny

HeavenGod has made us for heaven – the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings and the state of supreme definitive happiness where we will be with God forever. Heaven is our destiny. Yet the journey to heaven is a difficult one. We must accept God’s offer of salvation in Jesus, and faithfully cooperate with his grace so that we may be purged from all sin and made perfectly holy before we can enter heaven. It is not enough to have faith in Jesus*; we must also obey his commandments*. And only “he who endures until the end shall be saved.”[54]

At death, each will undergo a particular judgment* and will be rewarded according to his works of faith.[55] Those who die in God’s grace and friendship, but are still imperfectly purified, are assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.[56]

But serious sins can exclude us from heaven. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s love in Jesus means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This is hell, the definitive self-exclusion from God and from the blessed.[57] Yet God does not wish that anyone go to hell. Therefore it is all the more urgent for us to accept His great offer of salvation in Jesus the Messiah and his Church.

The End of Times

Second Coming At the end of times, Jesus will come again* to judge the world. Our bodies will be resurrected and the kingdom of God will come in its fullness. God will create a new heavens and a new earth, and redeemed humanity will return to the tree of life which was lost in the Garden of Eden.[58] God’s children, having come to the perfection of love, will enjoy a state of happiness much greater than in the first paradise, living and dwelling in God himself and sharing in His love forever. 

 

Footnotes

[1] Rom 1:19-20, CCC 32
[2] CCC 35
[3] CCC 328-336
[4] CCC 360
[5] Gen 2, CCC 374-378
[6] CCC 391-395
[7] Gen 3, CCC 396-401
[8] CCC 402-406
[9] Gen 3:15, CCC 410-412
[10] Luke 1:26:38
[11] Mat 2:1, 23
[12] Mat 4:17
[13] Isa 61:1
[14] Mat 5-7
[15] John 11
[16] John 14:6
[17] 1 Pet 1:20
[18] Mat 16:21
[19] Jer 31:31
[20] Luke 22:19-20
[21] Luke 24:25-35, Acts 1:3
[22] John 14:16-18, Mat 28:20
[23] Mt 10:5, CCC 858
[24] Mt 28:19-20
[25] Ezek 36:26-27
[26] Mt 16:16, Jn 10:33
[27] Jn 20:28
[28] 2 Pet 1:4
[29] Lk 24:27
[30] Eph 2:11-13, Acts 15
[31] Mt 5:17-20, Acts 21:20-24, Gal 2:16
[32] CCC 751-52
[33] CCC 764
[34] CCC 771-76, 790-91, 796-97
[35] CCC 813-15
[36] Jn 6:70, Mt 7:21-23, Mt 13:24-30, 37-43, 47-50
[37] Mt 5:48
[38] CCC 823-24
[39] LG 8, CCC 827
[40] CCC 804
[41] CCC 831
[42] Eph 2:20, CCC 860
[43] Jn 20:21, CCC 858
[44] Acts 1:15-26, CCC 860-61
[45] Jn 1:42, Mt 16:18
[46] Jn 21:15-17, Lk 22:31-32, Acts 2:1-41, 15:7-12.
[47] CCC 882
[48] Ex 13:21
[49] Jn 16:12-13
[50] Ex 15:26
[51] Mt 28:20, Jn 14:16-18
[52] Heb 12:1,23, Rev 5:8
[53] Luke 1:28,42
[54] Luke 6:46, Mt 7:21-23, 24:13
[55] Mt 16:27, 25:31-46
[56] CCC 1030
[57] CCC 1033
[58] Rev 21-22