“Purgatory” is the name we give to guilt that is still to be expiated and to the suffering-to-the-end of what has been left unexpiated on earth – in the certainty, however, that one will ultimately be admitted to the joy of heaven, yet, at the same time, in the infinite sadness of still being deprived of the presence of the Beloved. During this time of postponement of the ultimate banquet and before one’s final perfection has been achieved, “heaven’ means, on the one hand, being drawn at last into the fullness of divine joy, which infinitely fulfills and supports and which, since it cannot possibly be lost, is in its pure fullness, the definitive perfection of man.
Hence it is also the certainty of complete justice, love, and remission not only for our own suffering but also, in the visible Love that is absolute power and can therefore tolerate no injustice, of all the suffering and all the questions that continue to exist on this earth. All this has been overcome in anticipation by this Love, by the God who suffered for us. In this sense, “heaven” already exists.
But, on the other hand, we must not overlook the openness of this fulfilled Love to the reality and the suffering of history, which really continues. Even though suffering has already been vanquished in anticipation by this visible Love, even though the outcome is certain and all worries have been removed, all questions answered, nevertheless the totality of salvation has not yet been achieved so long as it is certain only by anticipation in God and so long as…there remains even one person who still suffers…Every individual exists in himself and outside himself; everyone exists simultaneously in other persons. What happens in one person affects the whole human race; what happens in the whole human race affects every human being.
The body of Christ means, then, that all men form one organism and consequently that the fate of the whole is the fate of each one. Granted, the judgment of each person’s life is settled at the time of death – at the end of his earthly sojourn – and, in this sense, each person is judged and his fate is sealed at death. But his final place in the whole cannot be determined until the whole organism is complete, until all history has been suffered and concluded. Hence the assembling of the whole life will be an event that affects each individual and is, therefore, the definitive general judgment that will judge each as part of the whole and will assign to each his proper place, which he can attain only as part of the whole.
From: Eschatologie – Tod und emiges Leben, pp.156-57