What is the particular judgment? How is it different from the general judgment? Why do we need two judgments?
The Church believes in both of these judgments because Scripture and tradition speak of them. In the Creed, we affirm our belief in the resurrection of the dead.
Particular judgment for each individual right after death seems logical. Why wait? Christ opened the gates of heaven by his death and resurrection so souls don't have to wait in a sort of limbo like those who died before Christ. This judgment is like a private affair between God and the individual person who is recompensed for faithfulness to God in this life.
Luke 16.19-31 gives us the story of Lazarus, who, while begging at the gates of the rich man, longs for the food scraps given to the dogs but to no avail. Luke tells us that at death, each is judged in a particular judgment and sent to the place merited by one's life.
The rich man, in a torment of fire in Hades, begs to have Lazarus, who is in Abraham's bosom, sent down to alleviate his suffering, at least slightly, with a cool touch of water. He is told that a great gulf exists which prevents anyone going from one side to another.
A confirmation of this immediate judgment and reward is Jesus' response to the good thief on the cross: "This day you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23.43).
However, some scholars today believe "this day" does not mean "today" as within the next 24 hours, but is a formal pronouncement of a future event.
The Gospel of Matthew (5.31-46) gives us a striking panorama of the Last Judgment with the victorious Jesus appearing in all his glory. I envision it as a grand assembly of all of God's creatures who come together to worship and praise God from whom they received life and grace and redemption in Jesus Christ.
Yes, all of creation awaits redemption as Paul tells us in Romans 8.19-23 "the whole of creation has been groaning in labour."
This includes all of creation, not only humans. And all of creation praises God as expressed so well by many of the psalms: Praise the Lord, sun and moon, heavens and earth, fire and hail, snow and frost, mountains and hills, wild animals and cattle, creeping things and birds.
In this appearance, Jesus is called the Son of Man, his favourite title for himself in the Gospels. He is not called by this title by others, except Stephen in Acts 7.56 "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at God's right hand."
This fulfills the prophecy of Daniel's vision of the future Messiah "one like a son of man" coming on the clouds who receives dominion, glory and kingship and the service of all nations and peoples and an everlasting dominion (Daniel 7.12-14).
The Gospel of John corroborates this Last Judgment vision: "God has assigned all judgment to the Son because he is the Son of Man . . . all those in their tombs shall come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to life" (5.27-29).
In his letters, Paul also speaks of the rising of the dead at the end.
All the marvellous works of God's people will be revealed to show the glorious gifts God has bestowed on them through Jesus Christ. Everything hidden will be made known: "will reveal the secret disposition of hearts" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 682).
The catechism continues to tell us that we will understand "the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation. . . . The Last Judgment will reveal that God's justice triumphs and that God's love is stronger than death" (n. 1040). "At the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together." (n. 680).
So both judgments serve their purpose. The particular judgment, at the time of death, deals with each individual's destination while the general judgment is a manifestation of God's glory in Jesus Christ and a confirmation before all of the work of redemption and of the destiny of all humankind.
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