On Judgment in the Hereafter

The theological effects of the concept

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The concept of judgment in the hereafter for the sins of one's life in the flesh on earth was carried over into Hebrew theology from Egypt. The word judgment appears only once in the entire Book of Hebrew Psalms, and that particular psalm was written by an Egyptian.

What an impact that little carry-forward has had on theology down through the centuries! Most of Christianity, at least, holds to the idea of judgment based on the mortal life. Christ's messages of forgiveness and mercy did not manage to much mollify the idea that, upon death, one is judged on the basis of the earth life and then one immediately either takes one's place amongst the angels or writhes in eternal agony. The only open question has been whether judgment takes place immediately upon death or at the grand resurrection at the end of time.

There are exceptions — or, at least, one that I know of: the Catholic concept of Purgatory. Purgatory is an idea that was never very highly developed, so I understand, and they don't like to talk about it much. (Maybe the Jesuits do.) I don't think it was ever very clear whether Purgatory was supposed to be a place where one had the chance to make up for the mortal life, or whether it was merely a holding cell.

I suspect Purgatory came into being, conceptually, due to revulsion from the immoral idea that this mortal life was necessarily always the entire determinant. Once sincere and moral and deeper-thinking theologians turned their theologic to the question of judgment — no doubt in concert with more enlightened standards for social and legal judgment — it must have become evident that this one brief mortal life is usually insufficient to give a soul a fully-informed free-willed choice of acceptance or rejection of divine salvation. But the Christian theologian, bound by this ancient and Egyptian-born heritage of judgment-upon-death was never quite able to fully appreciate what a Purgatory could mean, and so the concept has been played with but never grew to its full potential.

The Easterners had their various philosophies of reincarnation and transmigration to perform the same escape — to alleviate this burden of karmic balance for the acts of a material life and provide greater opportunity for achieving Nirvana — but reincarnation implies moral dilemmas just as odious as the Westerner's judgment upon death.

As far as I know, not until the Urantia Papers revelations did humankind have a truly clear, morally consistent concept of the soul's full development and potential alignment with the divine. Some of the revelation's concepts existed, of course, in one form or another. Although there has been a lot of confusion about the idea of the Spirit vis-à-vis the Soul, I don't think it was original with the revelation that the soul might have an origin in the interplay between the human mind and the divine spirit; nor that this soul's origin was not spontaneous at (or before) birth, but occurred with the moral choosing. The idea of growth in the spirit, the soul's progress toward perfection, was also hardly new. The revelation did add the oddly-termed but conceptually vital "morontia level" to the mix, that idea that there is a middle-ground between the spiritual and the material, comprised of both. But even that may even be unoriginal. As per its own definition of revelation, the Urantia Papers provided not so much new in concept as a weeding and arranging of these ideas, thereby clarifying the origins, meanings, and respective roles of Spirit and Soul in human life and destiny.

Another aspect of Western religions, partly absorbed from the Persian and Zoroastrian [UP95 §6 ¶6 p1050]1, is the bifurcation of reality, God and Devil on nigh-equal footing, Heaven above and Hell below, with the mortal realm their meeting ground, and humans being drawn to one or another. Judgment Day and this cosmic divergence of Heaven and Hell work tidily together, but without addressing the morality that the mortal life is not always sufficient to fairly work out the Final Question and make the Ultimate Choice. I have had it explained to me that the original Jewish concept of "hell," and the one which Jesus would have adopted, was not a literal place. Jesus in the Gospels used the term Gehenna, which was literally the ever-smoldering trash heap outside of Jerusalem, and so figuratively extinction rather than torment. The idea that if one did not survive did not mean that the Creator Father would put his offspring into a place of eternal torture. More simply, those who do not ally with the Spirit die the death of matter. Dust to dust and spirit to spirit as it were. Which is, essentially, what revelation teaches.

The Urantia Papers do away with the idea of a literal locale of Hell quite sternly. But they also in a real way do away with Heaven. The locations which comprise the Master Universe may or may not be in our time-space universe, but there is a continuity, a progression, from mortal world, to Nebadon, to Orvonton, to Havona, to Paradise. That which the pre-scientific man thought of as "Heaven above" hardly works in the space age, any more than "Hell below" works in a geologically enlightened age, but we can now understand that God's Universe, created and eternal, is One, and we are included. You can say there is no Heaven, or that we're already in Heaven, either way. (Albeit Urantia may be in so many ways one of the bleaker corners of Heaven!)

The disposal of Hell and the inclusion of Urantia in Heaven, as it were, makes it much easier to appreciate the so-called Mansion Worlds, where we are resurrected in morontia form. This is the reality of which Purgatory was but a taste. For those who progressed sufficiently to initialize a soul in the material life, but who did not progress sufficiently to "achieve Nirvana," to choose divine perfection, to "fuse with the Adjuster" in the mortal life, there is a continuation. The Mansion Worlds do not impose a past-life karma upon a newborn but provide a continuation of the progressive mortal experience. Indeed, in that non-spiritual memories must be jogged into recollection like reading a story of someone else's life (however recognized as one's own), a certain amount of "past karma" is removed from one's slate. Although the Urantia Papers emphasize that nothing is gained from death and resurrection other than the experience of surviving death, that must be a profoundly spiritual experience for most folks in and of itself.

Judgment is possible in two ways. The primitive may never make it to the level of soul acquisition, and thus die the death of an animal. And those who do inspire a soul into existence may fail to achieve full alliance of that soul with the spirit. Failure or fusion may happen in the mortal life or may happen in the after-life, depending on one's choices. Seems to me that most folks, especially in this age, desperately require a Mansion World experience before being able to make a fully-informed choice of immortality or death. Few even understand that the question is being asked, but are good enough folks to deserve another chance. And that's what the Purgatory of the Mansion Worlds is all about.

There is a right way and a wrong way, and the wrong way, no matter how it may seem to a man, is absolutely wrong, and that way lies death. Above all, it must be clear that the real Judgment is not arbitrary, partial, or fickle, but perfect. Moreover, it is one's own choice, not the decision of some imperious magistrate. Although there are those, the Ancients of Days as I recall, who ultimately pull the plug on a personality, that is only after a spiritual equivalent of being brain dead. [UP112 §3 ¶2 p1230]2

The prerequisites of Judgment are simple and profound: one must make an "undoubted, self-conscious, and final choice," [UP112 §5 ¶9 p1233]3. Judgment is one's own CHOICE. [UP112 §5 &para5 p1233]4 Furthermore, one must (practically) agree to one's extinguishment. [UP54 §3 ¶2 p615]5 I daresay an undoubted, self-conscious, and final choice requires a fuller understanding than most get in the mortal life of this age of this world. (The Mansion Worlds of Nebadon must have a wealth of Urantians.) It's almost impossible for me to understand someone choosing other than the way of the universal and divine family of love, light, and life, but if the opposite weren't possible, it wouldn't be a choice.

I've skipped many fine points, of course, such as the difference between immediate or millennial resurrection, or that "survival decisions must...be formulated" in the material life [UP112 §7 ¶6 p1238]. But I trust I've captured the gist of what Judgment really is in a consistent and moral theology. Further readings are suggested by the context of the substantiating quotes below. Recommended papers are 108-112, regarding Thought Adjusters and personality survival, and paper 54, "Problems of the Lucifer Rebellion," although of course for the complete context, read the Foreword and Papers 1 through 196.

Have a nice eternity!

[Urantia Paper (UP#), Section (§#), Paragraph (¶#), page (p#)]

1. "The Jewish traditions of heaven and hell and the doctrine of devils as recorded in the Hebrew scriptures, while founded on the lingering traditions of Lucifer and Caligastia, were principally derived from the Zoroastrians…." — The Salem Doctrines in Iran [UP95 §6 ¶6 p1050]

2. "Spiritual death… is final in its significance irrespective of the temporary continuation of the living energies of the physical and mind mechanisms. From the cosmic standpoint, the mortal is already dead…." — The Phenomenon of Death [UP112 §3 ¶2 p1230]

3. "…all will creatures are to experience one true opportunity to make one undoubted, self-conscious, and final choice. The sovereign Judges of the universes will not deprive any being of personality status who has not finally and fully made the eternal choice; the soul of man must and will be given full and ample opportunity to reveal its true intent and real purpose." — Survival of the Human Self [UP112 §5 ¶9 p1233]

4. "Upon the integrity of the human volition depends the eternal destiny of the future finality…." — Survival of the Human Self UP112 §5 ¶5 p1233]

5. "Although conscious and wholehearted identification with evil (sin) is the equivalent of nonexistence (annihilation), there must always intervene between the time of such personal identification with sin and the execution of the penalty — the automatic result of such a willful embrace of evil — a period of time of sufficient length to allow for such an adjudication of such an individual's universe status as will prove entirely satisfactory to all related universe personalities, and which will be so fair and just as to win the approval of the sinner himself.

"But if this universe rebel against the reality of truth and goodness refuses to approve the verdict, and if the guilty one knows in his heart the justice of his condemnation but refuses to make such confession, then must the execution of sentence be delayed in accordance with the discretion of the Ancients of Days. And the Ancients of Days refuse to annihilate any being until all moral values and all spiritual realities are extinct, both in the evildoer and in all related supporters and possible sympathizers."
— The Time Lag of Justice [UP54 §3 ¶2-3 p615]