According to this site, adapted from the United States Catechism for Adults,

"Our Church teaches that immediately after death, our soul separates from our earthly body and we stand before God for judgement. We then enter heaven, Purgatory or hell."

but then

"At the end of time, our Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead. All souls will be rejoined with their bodies, and those in Purgatory will be joined to the blessed in heaven."

From an individual's perspective, what is the difference between the first, immediate judgment (for those who have died before the 'end of time') and final judgment? Is it solely that the souls in purgatory are 'judged' ready for heaven?


1 Answer 1


This answer is based on a Catholic Answers website article by Catholic Apologist Tim Staples: Why Are There Two Judgments.

From an individual's perspective, according to CCC 1022, upon death the immortal soul immediately enter into one of possible 3 states (as particular judgment):

  • the blessedness of heaven immediately [for the saints]
  • the blessedness of heaven through a purification [purgatory]
  • immediate and everlasting damnation

It is important to understand purgatory and hell properly, not principally locations, but states of being, since the soul is not yet joined to its body.

They are pure spirits. So we can’t really speak of hell being a “place” right now, at least, not as we understand “places.” However, after the resurrection, because those in hell will have bodies we could certainly speak of them having a “location” or “place” of sorts.

Hell is, as CCC 1033 says "[the] state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed." CCC 1472 says:

These two punishments (speaking of purgatory and hell) must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.

If the soul has been judged, what's the purpose for final judgment? The article cites 3 reasons what the soul can expect at Final Judgment:

  1. The final judgment will reveal in full the justice and glory of God for all to see. This is not accomplished in each man’s private and particular judgment. (see CCC 1040)
  2. The full implications of the good and evil that we do in our lifetime will not be fully realized at the time of our particular judgment
  3. Since we sin and perform virtuous acts as a body/soul composite, it is fitting that we be judged as a body/soul composite as well. This too does not occur at our particular judgment, at the final judgment.
  • Would it be fair to say the specifics of the 'final judgement' are determined by the 'particular judgment', according to the Catholic Church? Feb 10, 2021 at 23:25
  • Also, if someone is alive at the second coming, is there a 'particular judgment' that precedes the 'final judgment'? Feb 10, 2021 at 23:27
  • "... determined ..." : Determined for the individual's fate, yes, but the specifics related to the individual in his/her "social" dimensions will be disclosed only at the 'final judgment', which includes: 1) social ramification of his/her actions during his lifetime, 2) the meaning of his sufferings / sacrifices that God allowed in his lifetime after he/she sees how God used it for the greater good; 3) God's vindication on his behalf when God punishes the perpetrators of the injustices that he experienced, etc. Feb 11, 2021 at 2:08
  • ".... precedes ...": This has to do with a related event(s) called the Rapture (in Protestant circle), I need to research more for the Catholic terminology and Catholic doctrine on what the living will suffer / enjoy prior to the final judgment. In Protestantism there are multiple incompatible theories. I think it's better to ask a different question for this one. Feb 11, 2021 at 2:13

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