What are the four last things?
Giotto, “The Last Judgement”, 1306
1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
The last things are death, judgment, heaven and hell.
Death is the separation of man’s mortal body and immortal soul. It comes to all men as a result of original sin. It is a temporary state, for at the end of the world, all men shall rise again to be judged by Christ. Thus the whole man, body and soul, will be rewarded for the good or evil that he has done, body and soul, in this life.
At the moment of death, each human person is judged by God based on his conduct in this life, and goes immediately to his reward or punishment. Moreover, at the end of the world, Jesus Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. At that time, God’s whole plan for the world shall be revealed, and his mercy and justice demonstrated.
Heaven is the eternal state of perfect happiness resulting from the face to face vision of God, which is the reward of those who have served Him in this life.
Hell is the eternal state of torment and despair which awaits those who, in this life, have freely rejected God and the happiness which He offers.
Before the end of the world, there will be an intermediate state called purgatory. There, those who are bound for heaven, but whose love for God is still marred by some imperfection, undergo a temporary period of purifying suffering. When this purification is complete, they are fit to enter God’s presence and are admitted to the joys of heaven.