What is the Afterlife in Roman Catholicism?

February 19, 2018

The RCC believes that at the point of death every individual will be held accountable for his or her acceptance or denial of divine grace (1021).  In which case the person will either enter:

  1. Immediately into hell,
  2. Immediately into heaven, or
  3. Eventually into heaven after a time spent in purgatory


The RCC teaches that there will be a final judgment and accounting for the life on earth.  Below are some paragraphs to support the RCC view of this judgment. 

Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. (1021)

Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, – or immediate and everlasting damnation. At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love. (1022)

The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation (1041)

Every man receives his eternal recompense in his immortal soul from the moment of his death in a particular judgment by Christ, the judge of the living and the dead. (1051)

[T]he day of resurrection, death will be definitively conquered, when these souls will be reunited with their bodies. (1052)

The holy Roman Church firmly believes and confesses that on the Day of Judgment all men will appear in their own bodies before Christ’s tribunal to render an account of their own deeds. (1059)

At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life. (1060)


Heaven is the final resting place for those accepting of divine grace (1023).  The current activity in heaven involves Mary and the saints interceding for people on earth (956, 962).


Heaven is a place where Jesus and Mary are.  It is also a place where the saints are giving of the grace that they have merited to those still on earth (2027).  The problem is that if Mary has earned all merit, why has she not given it out to every person on earth?  This logic shows the flaw in RCC theology of Mary’s sinlessness, the saint’s intercession and the grace merited from the dead given to the living. 

Below are more paragraphs to support the RCC view of heaven. 

The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus. (956)

We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers. (962)

Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they see him as he is, face to face: By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ’s holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .). (1023)

This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. (1024)

To live in heaven is to be with Christ. The elect live in Christ, but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name. For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom. (1025)

In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. (1044)

The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just, sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ. (1047)

We believe that the multitude of those gathered around Jesus and Mary in Paradise forms the Church of heaven, where in eternal blessedness they see God as he is and where they are also, to various degrees, associated with the holy angels in the divine governance exercised by Christ in glory, by interceding for us and helping our weakness by their fraternal concern. (1053)


Hell is the final un-resting place for those rejecting divine grace (1022).  Hell is a literal place that contains conscience people for all eternity for the purpose of punishment (1033).


There is question by what is meant that Christ preached the gospel to the souls in hell.  The RCC teaches that it was necessary to bring the gospel message to complete fulfillment (634).  It seems that the dead had a second chance to believe (635).  However, the dead referred to could be those still in purgatory.  However, then they would not need to hear the gospel.  They would need to just wait and do their time. 

Below are some more paragraphs to support the RCC view of hell. 

The gospel was preached even to the dead. The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment. (634)

Christ went down into the depths of death so that the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (635)

We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: He who does not love remains in death. … To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self- exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called hell. (1033)

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, eternal fire. The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (1035)

God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. (1037)

Hell’s principal punishment consists of eternal separation from God in whom alone man can have the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (1057)


Purgatory is a place of temporal punishment for sins committed on earth that still need payment (1022).  Those still on earth can reduce the time that loved ones spend in purgatory by indulgences offered up on behalf of the dead (958, 1023).

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