What happens when we die?
“For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two edged sword and penetrating to the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is not a creature unapparent before Him; but all things are naked and laid bare to His eye, with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4, 12-13)
Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching. Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light. Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God's grace as nothing be condemned. Our attitude to our neighbour will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love. On the Last Day Jesus will say: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He "acquired" this right by his cross. The Father has given "all judgment to the Son". Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one's works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.
680 Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church, but all the things of this world are not yet subjected to him. The triumph of Christ's kingdom will not come about without one last assault by the powers of evil.
681 On Judgment Day 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 in the course of history.
682 When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace.
The Catholic Church believes in two final destinies – one for individuals and one for humankind as a whole.
Hebrews 9:27 (King James Version) - 27And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment ... 28So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
If our choice at the time of death is our heavenly Father in heaven, this will be our eternal choice. We cannot change our ultimate destiny which is death. But we can choose where we will live after we die. The positive choice for God is heaven but if we fail to choose then the loss of God is Hell. If we choose God and heaven but our souls are still imperfect after death then they will spend time in purification before entering heaven in purgatory. We can pray or have Masses said for the Holy Souls in purgatory. This is part of the oneness we have with the ‘communion of saints’ in heaven and they have with us on earth. We can ask Saints in heaven to pray for us and intercede for us just as we ask our friends to pray for us here on earth. And how much nearer to heaven are those prayers of the faithful already there.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12
We can only get a glimpse on earth of what heaven will be like in eternity – perfect joy in Christ our Saviour.
God is preparing a new heaven and earth for his people. In the final judgement the dead will be raised and be before God. We do not know the day or the hour but this world and all that perishes is passing away and a new heaven and earth will be formed. "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." Matthew 25:13 "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42