St. Thomas Aquinas on whether all will die before the Final Judgement?
St.Thomas Aquinas had an extraordinary traditional way of understanding Sacred Scriptures and often depended on classical exterior sources like St. Augustine, St. Irenaeus and many of the Church Fathers for guidance.
In his commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4 Aquinas said:
When the Lord does come, first those who are found alive will die and then, immediately together with those who had died before, they will rise up and be taken up [rapientur] into the clouds to meet Christ, as Paul clearly says. - What is the Catholic view of the rapture?
This is basically the traditional response the Church gives to St. Paul’s teaching:
15 For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first.
16 Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.
17 Wherefore, comfort ye one another with these words. - 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (DRA)
We can see that St. Paul does not clearly state that will live or die at that moment. Thus interpretation comes into question here. The believes all will die and in a blink of an eye will be resurrected when the Divine Judge arrives.
God never even spared the Mother of Jesus.
Now let us take the question of the Assumption of Mary.
The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory". This doctrine was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950, in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus by exercising papal infallibility. While the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church believe in the Dormition of the Mother of God (Dormition of the Theotokos or "the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God"), whether Mary as the New Eve had a physical death has not been dogmatically defined. In Munificentissimus Deus (item 39) Pope Pius XII pointed to the Book of Genesis (3:15) as scriptural support for the dogma in terms of Mary's victory over sin and death through her intimate association with "the new Adam" (Christ) as also reflected in 1 Corinthians 15:54: "then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory".
In 1950 Pope Pius XII invoked papal infallibility to define the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus:
We proclaim and define it to be a dogma revealed by God that the immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.
Munificentissimus Deus emphasised Mary's unity with her divine son and as his mother, she is the mother of his church which is his body; she is the "new Eve" (the term is used three times), paralleling Christ as the new Adam; and by her assumption she has attained the final bodily resurrection promised to all Christians, and the Church has reached its ultimate salvation. These three plus the Perpetual Virginity of Mary make up the four Marian dogmas of the Catholic church.
The dogma of the Assumption followed from the 1854 definition of Mary's Immaculate Conception (her freedom from original sin) and both developed from the recognition of her status as the Mother of God, meaning that she, like Jesus, was without sin, preserved from corruption, resurrected, received into heaven, and a recipient of corporeal glory. - Assumption of Mary
The papal definition of the Assumption of Mary does not touch the question of whether Mary physically died or not. It is traditionally held that the Virgin Mary actually died as she desired to imitate her Son in all things including death.
As for the Prophets Enoch and Elijah they did not go to Heaven in the sense that they are enjoying the Beatific Vision.
Again Catholic teachings and tradition teach that they are in the Atmosphere, Earthly Paradise or the Garden of Eden only. They have yet to die! They are believed to be the Two Witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
DEAD OR ALIVE?
Before speaking about the task that will be entrusted to them by God, we must first examine what happened to Enoch and Elijah when they were here among us. Is there any evidence that these men are still alive? Our first clue comes from Sacred Scripture. In the Book of Genesis, a genealogy is given in Chapter 5 that extends from Adam to Noah. In verses 23-24 we are told the following:
And all the years of Enoch were three hundred and sixty five years. And he walked with God and was seen no more: because God took him.
What is most significant about this passage are the words, "God took him". Throughout this genealogy, the summary of the life of each of the other Patriarchs concludes with the phrase, "and he died". For Enoch, however, the writer seems to indicate that something different happened.
Next, in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, we are given a second tantalizing piece of information. In Chapter 44, verse 16 we read,
Enoch pleased God, and was translated into paradise, that he may give repentance to the nations.
We are told for the first time in this verse that Enoch is to be given a special mission, but is he to carry out this mission from Heaven or is the paradise spoken of a terrestrial one? St. Paul gives us some solid information in the Book of Hebrews when he states clearly that Enoch has not died:
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death: and he was not found because God had translated him. For before his translation he had testimony that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11: 5)
The fact that Enoch has not yet died will be important in determining where he is. But before we do so, we should consider the disposition of our second Witness - - the Prophet of Carmel, Elijah the Thesbite.
In the Fourth Book of Kings (or 2 Kings as the Protestant versions divide the four historical books into 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings) Elijah and his disciple Elisha are walking along the Jordan River. The author of the book then says,
And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold a fiery chariot, and fiery horses parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into Heaven. (4 Kings 2: 11)
In the Book of Ecclesiasticus we are given more details:
"Who (Elijah) was taken up in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot of fiery horses. Who is registered in the judgments of times to appease the wrath of the Lord, to reconcile the heart of the father to the son and to restore the tribes of Jacob." (Ecclesiasticus 48: 9-10)
At this point we have a bit of a mystery. We have been told by the authors of Sacred Scripture that Enoch was "translated into paradise" and that Elijah was "taken up by a whirlwind into Heaven". However, St. Paul declares that Enoch is not dead and no mention is made of Elijah's death either. Can these men be in Heaven with the Saints?
Scripture and patristics scholars Fr. Charles Garside, M.A. (1924) and Desmond A. Birch (1996) both comment that since Enoch and Elijah have not died - - and death is necessary to enter into Heaven because of Original Sin - - the two Old Testament figures cannot be in Heaven. 1 (Trial, Tribulation, & Triumph: Before, During, and After Antichrist; Desmond A. Birch; Queenship Publishing Co.; 1996; Page 465). To determine where Enoch and Elijah are, we must now turn to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church who seem to be in agreement that these men are in an earthly paradise prepared for them by God.
St. Irenaeus (140 - 202 AD) was a student of St. Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of the Apostle John. Because of this, it is reasonable and prudent to believe that what St. Irenaeus tells us is of Apostolic origin. On the whereabouts of Enoch and Elijah, Irenaeus says the following:
"The disciples of the Apostles say that they (Enoch and Elijah) whose living bodies were taken up from the earth, have been placed in an earthly paradise, where they will remain until the end of the world." 2 (Ibid, Page 466. Adversus Haereses, Liber 4, Cap. 30).
In speaking of Elijah, Pope St. Gregory the Great (540 - 604 AD) writes:
"Elijah has not evaded death, but put it off. He was raised into this (aerial) Heaven, in order that he might suddenly be conveyed to some secret region of the earth, where he might live in great repose of the spirit and the flesh, until he shall return at the end of the world to pay the debt of death." 3 (The Prophet of Carmel; Fr. Charles B. Garside, M.A.; Carmelite Monastery of Wheeling; 1924; Page 263. Lib. ii, Hom. xxix, in Evang. sec. 5).
Finally, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274 AD) confirms what St. Gregory has said and refines it:
"Ejijah was raised into the aerial, not the empyrean heaven, which is the abode of the Saints, and in like manner Enoch was carried away to a terrestrial paradise, where he and Elijah, it is believed, will live together until the coming of the Antichrist." 4 (Ibid, Page 263. Summae, iii, Q. xlix, art. 5).
St. Thomas goes on to say that he believes this paradise to be the Eden of our first parents. This reference to Eden is important because one of the questions raised by critics is how Enoch and Elijah have survived in their mortal bodies for such a long period of time. In answer to this, Fr. Garside states that both St. Augustine and St. Thomas are of the opinion that they have been preserved from death by eating from the Tree of Life. 5 (Ibid, Page 259. Augustine: De Pecc. Mer. c. iii; Aquinas: Comm. in Apocal. xi, 8, s. 1, f.)