Particular and Final Judgment
Each man will be judged according to the merits of his life to determine where and how he will spend eternity. The Church teaches that there are two kinds of judgments — particular and final.
God makes a particular judgment of each individual immediately after death, when there is a reckoning of his deeds and intentions. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which appears in the Gospel of Luke, is all about particular judgment. When he was alive, Lazarus would sit outside the rich man's gate and beg for scraps of food that fell from his table. But after both men died, Lazarus went to Heaven as a reward for his humility. The rich man went to Hell, where he begged Lazarus to dip his finger in water and give him a cooling drop. Each man got what he deserved.
Each soul's destination is determined at the moment of the person's death. Those who are in a state of grace and not in need of purification go to Heaven; those souls who have faith but who are in need of purification go to Purgatory. Unrepentant sinners who have committed grave acts of moral evil go to Hell.
On the day of Final (or Last) Judgment, all souls, “both the just and the unjust,” will rise from the dead, reunited with their bodies. When Christ “comes in his glory … he will separate them one from another.” The evil will “go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:31–32, 46).
St. Augustine wrote in one of his sermons that at the Last Judgment, each person's relationship with God would become transparent. The consequences of what they did in their earthly lives would be revealed, down to the smallest detail. “Would that you had known that my little ones were in need when I placed them on earth for you, and appointed them your stewards to bring your good works into my treasury. But you have placed nothing in their hands; therefore you have found nothing in my presence.”
When will the Last Judgment occur?
The Church teaches that only God knows when the Last Judgment will be, when Christ will return in glory. At that time, Christ will pronounce the final word on all history.
The Last Judgment will bring revelation and understanding to the minds of men. They will comprehend the meaning of Creation and the work of salvation and will understand the wonderful mystery of God's providence. The Last Judgment is also a vindication of faith in God. It will show how God's justice triumphs over any earthly injustice and that God's love is stronger than death.
The concept of the Last Judgment is meant to inspire a healthy respect for God and his justice and to bring men to conversion while they still have time. It is also meant to inspire the hope of God's coming.