Death, judgement, heaven and hell are not things many of us consider with any frequency. But they should in fact be very close to our minds and hearts, for hidden within each of these realities is the Person of Christ.
Eschatology is sometimes referred to as “the last things”. It is a fine nickname, as far as it goes, but it can be quite misleading. For starters, these ‘last’ things are not supposed to come last at all. Instead, the reality of our own death and judgment should inform the way we live in the present moment. In other words, we should live our lives with the end in mind. Our teleology (our end, or our final purpose) supplies a certain orientation for how we are to live right now. “Although the end is last in the order of execution, yet it is first in the order of the agent’s intention”[i]. The last thing, then, becomes first.
Yet this knowledge of our ultimate end will not suffice. In our fallen humanity, we need grace in order to live according to what we know. And here, too, the term ‘last’ is lacking. For God has not left us alone and unguided in our attempts to make the last things first. In reality, we have been offered a foretaste of heaven on this side of eternity. This we find in the liturgy of Christ’s Church.