When Christ returns to earth, all human souls will be joined to immortal bodies to face a public tribunal of every human deed from the beginning of history to its end.
The following is from "Good Catholic - The Four Last Things:Journey of a Soul" - A study of God's revealed truth on the journey of a soul from death to eternity. It is excellent!
In the Apostle’s Creed we profess our belief that Jesus will come back to earth “to judge the living and the dead.” This judgment will be the culmination of all human history.
This event is referred to repeatedly throughout Scripture with different names such as “the day of the Lord” (Is. 2:12), “that day” (Matt. 7:22), and “the day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5). Theologians call it the “final judgment” or the “general judgment” to distinguish it from the “particular judgment” that each soul faces at the moment of death.
It is called “final” because it is the ultimate reckoning of every human deed. It is called “general” because it will include all souls living at the time of Christ’s return, as well as all souls who have ever existed from the beginning of the world to that day:
“All are to be judged – those who are, who were, and who will be” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
These are Christ’s own words about the final judgment:
“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another… Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
The measuring line Our Lord will use to separate the good from the wicked will be our charity towards our fellow man.
“For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil…but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good” (Romans 2:6-11).
When Christ separates the good from the wicked on the last day, it will be final. Good will never again be mixed with evil as God has permitted since the Fall of Man (Matthew 13:24-30). The wicked will be confined to hell for eternity, and the just will be protected from evil forever.
CHRIST WILL JUDGE AS KING ON HIS HEAVENLY THRONE
How will Jesus appear at His judgment? Scripture indicates that He will physically descend from Heaven. When He does, all of mankind will be summoned before Him in their resurrected bodies.
St. John the Evangelist received a vision of Christ seated on His heavenly throne, ready to judge the earth:
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…I saw one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; his eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined as in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of many waters…and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining with full force. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. …” (Rev. 1:10-19; 4:1-6).
Our Lord described the fearsome sight of the final judgment to St. Catherine of Siena:
“…there will be no one in that Day who will not tremble. To the miserable ones who are damned, His aspect will cause such torment and terror that the tongue cannot describe it. To the just it will cause fear of reverence with great joy…”
THE REASON FOR THE GENERAL JUDGMENT
If each soul will be judged at the moment of their death in the “particular judgment,” why is this second judgment necessary?
No one lives in the world solely as individuals; we are members of families, societies, and nations. Our deeds or negligence have ripple effects that touch other lives in ways that we are largely ignorant of in this life – and for which we are due either punishment or reward. This ripple effect will continue after we die; our actions may continue to have effects for generations to come. We all contribute to another’s good or another’s sin.
For example: in families, the virtues or sins of ancestors can cascade and affect future generations. Likewise, our actions in society (especially the actions of people who have positions of responsibility or leadership) impact others.
“…the good or bad influence of example, affecting as it does the conduct of many, is to terminate only with the end of the world. Justice demands that in order to form a proper estimate of all these good or bad actions and words a thorough investigat