Death, Final Judgment, and the Meaning of Life

David Bentley Hart

in The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology

Published in print December 2007 |
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

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The ancient injunction memento mori—whispered by a slave into the ear of a victorious general in his triumphal chariot or by a monk to his own heart in the solitude of his cell—has frequently been translated as “remember that thou art mortal,” which may be faithful to the phrase's special hortatory import; but the literal meaning of the injunction is “remember to die.” However, we cannot easily remember to die because death runs contrary to the whole orientation of human consciousness. In Christian thought sacrifice and judgment, life from death, and the life of the age to come converge in a way that radically transforms them. Indeed, one might even say that, on the cross of Christ, two distinct orders of sacrifice uniquely coincide and that at Easter one order triumphs completely over the other. This article discusses death, final judgment, and the meaning of life. It examines religion and meaning without an afterlife, the reorientation of religious consciousness, and the radical transformation of judgment in light of Easter.

Keywords: Easter; death; final judgment; meaning of life; afterlife; religious consciousness; religion; Christ; sacrifice; memento mori

Article.  7322 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Comparative Religion

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