Is there Forgiveness after Death?


I have seen conflicting opinions and would like yours. When we die what is the connection between sin and where we end up? Do we have an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and repent? Can we be saved after we die or when the final judgement comes around? What are the pertinent Scriptures?


The learning curve is in this world, not in the next. Sin is more than mistakes or accidents. There is real culpability. Venial sins do not destroy the divine life within us. However, mortal sin severs our friendship with God. While there is mortal life, the opportunity for repentance and faith remain. However, once we die there is no second chance and/or reincarnation. At the moment of death we experience a particular judgment. The soul will then know heaven or hell or purgatory. At the final judgment, there will be no more purgatory, just heaven or hell.  At the end of the world all things will know the consummation of Christ.

Matthew 5:22,25-26 – “But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. . . . Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”

Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’”

Matthew 18:32-35 – “His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

Matthew 25:45-46 – “He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ l And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Romans 2:5-8 – By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.

2 Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

First, we cannot save ourselves, only God can save us. However, we must be disposed or open to the Lord’s mercy and saving grace. We must first repent so as to believe.  We must forgive if we want to be forgiven.

Second, Jesus is the redeemer and thus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the bridge to heaven. There is no salvation apart from Christ. Because the Church constitutes our Lord’s mystical body, union with Jesus also mandates communion with his Church. Jesus sits upon the right side of the Father as the judge of all. He is our mediator and Lord.

Third, we know a spiritual regeneration in faith and baptism where we become members of the Church, inheritors of the kingdom of Christ, adopted sons and daughters of the heavenly Father, kin to Christ and children of Mary our Queen Mother in the royal household of God.

Fourth, a saving faith must be realized in loving obedience. Such a faith cannot be sustained if separated either from fidelity to the commandments or from a living and active charity. Otherwise it is a lie or if initially genuine, it can sour and die. While maintained we live in the sure and certain “hope” of our salvation.

Fifth at the moment of death our orientation is made permanent, either toward the Lord or away from him.  Justified souls are in love with both God and neighbor. They desire reunion with loved ones where together they will give glory and praise to almighty God. The damned failed to love as they should and bring the damnation of hell upon themselves. The souls of the damned are spiritually dead and can know nothing of the joys of heaven. Where there should have been love there was either hatred or apathy. I suspect the tiniest divine spark that sustains them in existence constitutes the painful fire of hell.  

Sixth, while there is no repentance after death, there is a transitory purgation for many who love the Lord but not as completely as they should. Venial sins and the temporal punishment of sin must be satisfied. The fires of divine love purify such souls as gold in a furnace. The debt is paid in Christ but they still owe the proverbial last penny. Unlike Lutheranism with its notion of juridical imputation, Catholicism believes that the saints are truly made perfect for heaven. Our Lord does not mask or disguise our identity or standing but rather changes it by the operation of grace. While we remain creatures, we are divinized in a sense by our likeness to Christ.  

Seventh, the Easter mystery of Christ’s resurrection and appearances is a testimony of our Lord’s victory. Love is stronger than death. Jesus conquers the grave and gives us a share in his new life. We look to the glorified Christ and to the assumed Virgin Mary as signs of our own restoration body and soul.  Our bodies will not remain corpses and we will not be ghosts forever.  We will be remade and given imperishable bodies. 

About Father Joe

Father Joe Jenkins I am the pastor of Holy Family Church and a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
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