Eschatology 101: What Happens When We Die?

Eschatology is the theological study of the last things: death, judgment, and eternity. It’s a complex matter, but as always, Patrick Madrid does a wonderful job of breaking it down into something that we all can understand.


Patrick responded to a caller who had questions about what happens when we die. He began by explaining what death is for humans, as beings made of body and soul. “When the body can no longer respond to the life-giving energies of the soul, whether because it’s damaged or some other reason, and … when the body can no longer respond, then the soul and the body separate and that’s where death occurs.”

Upon death, we undergo what is called particular judgment. “That’s where you have your exit interview and that’s where you are informed where you will spend eternity—in heaven or hell. Now, for those who love Jesus and are trusting in him and are ready to go, they already know the answer they are going to get. St. Paul talks about that. He says, ‘I’ve run the race, I’ve fought the good fight and I’m ready to receive my reward.’”

While it may not be a surprise where you end up, this is the point where you get a definitive answer.

Body and Soul

After particular judgment, we enter into aveternity. “It’s not time as we know it, but it’s also not pure eternity, timelessness as God knows it,” explained Patrick. Between our death and the end of the world, our souls are separated from our bodies.

“On the day that Jesus returns to judge the nations … it’s then that we receive our bodies back and we become reunited once again as a whole human being, complete in every respect,” said Patrick. For those of us in heaven, our bodies are glorified and perfected. For those in hell, they will also be reunited with their body, to experience eternity both spiritually and bodily.

Final Judgment

At the end of the world, everyone will experience final judgment. The living will undergo a change from mortality to immortality and the bodies of those who died before the final judgment will rise again. Every soul that ever lived will live forever, either in the glory of heaven or the pains of hell.

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.