Where we go

Dopo la morte


According to the Christian faith there are two possible destinations:
Paradise: Eternal place of joy for those who have accepted Jesus Christ and lived a life according to his teachings. As a reward souls will be in communion with God in a state of perfect happiness.

Hell: Place of eternal suffering and remorse for not having accepted the way of redemption offered by Jesus through the Gospels, and having lived a life in sin without ever having asked forgiveness or some form of reconciliation with Jesus, Master and Our Lord.

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Where will we go after death

Many wonder where we will go after death. Here is what Luke recounts: «There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted lavishly every day. A beggar, named Lazarus, lay at his door, covered in sores, eager to feed himself on what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came to lick his sores" (Lk 16:19-21). In his account, Luke highlights the difference between these two men in their conduct during their earthly life: the rich man had many servants who took care of him, while only the dogs had compassion for the other.

Continuing to read, Luke describes what happened next: «One day the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. Then the rich man also died and was buried” (Lk 16:12). The rich man, despite all that he possessed, could not buy even one more day to give to his existence. In the following verses, through the eyes of Jesus, what is usually defined as a parable is described, but in reality it is a true story: it is what happened to the rich man and the beggar after their death and which, by analogy, responds to the question that was posed at the beginning of this reflection.

Before the ascension of Jesus Christ, the place where the souls of men and women went after death was in "Sheol", called in the New Testament "Hades": a common abode which constitutes the region of the dead in sin, a land of shadows inhabited by those who perish without believing, a hidden place of torment for the wicked or of comfort in Abraham's bosom for the righteous where, referring to Luke's narration, Lazarus also found himself carried by the Angels. The rich man, however, went to the place of torment and is mentioned by Luke to represent all those who have failed or have not put their trust in God, as well as those who will die without Christ.

The rich man, remaining in that hell amidst torments, "raised his eyes and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus beside him. Then shouting he said: "Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and wet my tongue, because this flame tortures me". But Abraham answered: “Son, remember that you received your goods during your life and Lazarus likewise his evils; now instead he is consoled and you are in the midst of torments. Moreover, a great abyss has been established between us and you: those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can they cross from there to us”» (Lk 16:23-26). In the story we are told that this abyss, which divides the two protagonists, cannot be bridged under any circumstances.

The rich man was not lost because he was rich, but because he did not believe and led a dissolute life; even Lazarus did not deserve the place of comfort because he was poor, but because of his faith. Now, after their respective earthly deaths, the rich man and Lazarus have reversed their positions: the proud man, the one who in life had denied the poor man a crumb from his table, has become a beggar and asks for at least a drop of water, because with that single drop of water on his tongue he can find a little happiness again, in that place of misery and suffering.

Hades could therefore be defined as an intermediate hell, awaiting the judgment at the end of time, of the great white throne: «The sea returned the dead it guarded and death and the underworld returned the dead they guarded and each one came judged according to his works. Then death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire" (Rev 20:13-14). This second death is the eternal abode where all unbelievers, with their resurrected bodies, will suffer eternal condemnation in fire.

Jesus repeatedly speaks of "gehenna", of the "unquenchable fire" which is reserved for those who refuse to believe and convert until the end of their lives. With stern words, he announces that: "The Son of man will send his angels, who will gather [...] all the workers of iniquity and throw them into the fiery furnace" (Mt 13:41-42), and he pronounces the definitive condemnation: "Away, away from me, cursed, into eternal fire!".
(Mt 25:41)

When Jesus ascended after his death, he went to "hell", Hades and finally put the entire captivity in prison, but took all the people who were in the intermediate paradise and took them with him, to Paradise or the Kingdom of Heaven, with God, with all the saints of the Old Testament, with all those who died believing in God.

The Kingdom of heaven is the place where Jesus is. It is He himself who proclaims it: «Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, and believe in me too! In my Father's house are many mansions; if not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When I have gone and prepared a place for you, I will come back and welcome you to myself, so that where I am, you may also be; and where I am going, you know the way".
(Jn 14:1-4)

And so it was that he also reassured the thief on the cross, when he said to him: "Today you will be with me in paradise".
(Lk 23:43).

Where we will go after death is a destination that the Lord has placed in our hands, however making his determination very simple: he has given us all the tools to get to know him and spend eternity with him; and whatever we think of doing in this sense, it would be better to decide to do it now, immediately: this precise moment could be a decisive moment for our salvation!

St. Augustine, "Death is nothing..."

Death is nothing. I just switched to the other side: it's like I'm hiding in the next room. I'm still me, and you're still you. What we were before for each other we still are. Call me by the name you've always given me, which is familiar to you; talk to me in the same affectionate way you've always used. Don't change your tone, don't look solemn or sad. Keep laughing at what made us laugh, at those little things we liked so much when we were together.

Pray, smile, think of me! Let my name always be the familiar word from before: pronounce it without the slightest trace of shadow or sadness. Our life retains all the meaning it's ever had: it's the same as before, there's a continuity that won't break.

Why should I be out of your thoughts and out of your mind, just because I'm out of your sight? I'm not far, I'm on the other side, just around the corner. Reassure yourself, everything is fine. You will find my heart again, you will find its purified tenderness. Dry your tears and don't cry, if you love me: your smile is my peace.