THE LAST JUDGMENT
“And He shall come again in glory, to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”
Repeatedly, in the Creed of our Orthodox Faith, we show our faith and strong belief in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God . . . “who shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” We repeatedly confess this in Church expressing our inner belief in words of the Creed. There is another witness to the final judgment that accuses and excuses us, which is our conscience through which God communicates with us. Our conscience reminds us, at times stinging us when we do wrong and other times praising us when we avoid evil and strive to do only good. A good conscience is a blessing which causes our souls to be at rest and peaceful, a contribution to our happiness in this world.
Will there be a judgment, some ask doubtfully and if so, why? The answer is emphatically yes, and the why is testified to by the fact that it is very natural to be judged as we are presently subject to numerous judgments by others in many aspects of our lives. This is because we are free and therefore responsible for our thoughts, words and deeds, and freedom always bears responsibility. Whether attending school, at work, in business, or in any other endeavor we are frequently subject to various sets of rules and laws which we must obey under the threat of punishment or the promise of reward by continued freedom and possible gain. A man steals from his employer and is terminated,or goes to jail and often both. Another man is faithful to his employer and enjoys a peaceful and productive life and perhaps a pension. In every aspect of our lives, because we are free, we undergo judgment, whether walking, driving, sitting, standing, whether in schools, universities, or politics. Wherever there is freedom of decision and action there is necessarily responsibility for actions whether good or bad. Freedom is conditional and can be either suspended or taken away taken away from us in the form of punishment and confinement.
Death is not the end of our existence but is simply the end of our present sojourn on earth. Death is like a door that leads to the next life, which can open to everlasting life or to judgment and condemnation. Those who have placed their faith in Christ, kept the whole law and loved Him with all their minds and hearts will not undergo judgment. Those who have rejected the Lord will be judged for rejecting Christ and for having scorned His sacred Passion. The present future will immediately become the endless present after we die. The Book of Revelation describes the fearful judgment which will take place:
“And I saw a great white throne and Him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God and the books were opened and another book was opened which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books according to their works.” (Rev. 20:11-12)
How will we be judged? By our works and by what is written in the books of our conscience, and can only be erased while in this word by deep and sincere repentance. We can learn about this by grasping ing the words of the Gospels and contains the many facets of judgment, both positive and negative. The merciful are blessed but the unmerciful will be judged. If we love our enemies we will be blessed, but our enemies will be judged. The proud and arrogant will be judged but the humble and meek will find grace for help in time of need. Those who love God with all their minds, their hearts and souls, and keep His commandments will find comfort and peace, while those who did not, will suffer banishment and the second death.
Concerning the last judgment,
St. Symeon the New Theologian says:
“Tell me, teach us about the judgment of God,
about the hour and the day,
when all, naked, we shall be summoned to stand
near the tribunal of my God and Savior,
and where for our actions,
and of our words here on earth, for
of our discussions and of our reflections,
we shall receive the reward, the just reward.
Tell me, who will be filled with confidence yonder,,
and who on the other hand will be covered with shame?
You have infinitely to say on this matter.
After this examine also what concerns creation,
And you will find there another abyss.
See the sky, the sun, and the stars,
Look at the earth, on His command, become
the mother and tomb of us all.
Once arrived there speak of death,
give ear to numerous and necessary reflections,
useful to your friends and to your parents,
to those who are rich just as to those who are renowned.
And while you have something to talk about
until your death on such topics . . .
And that will be of use to you after your death.
With every effort must avoid heedlessness for our judgment or vindication will be the most important event of our lives, and neglect will bring on permanent disaster. Everything, including possessions od every kind, property, wealth, investments made in this world will disappear like a flash, and will be totally forgotten in the next world. Indeed, nothing else will matter when our lives as we have known them will come to a sudden end, and we do not know when. As we brought nothing into this word, so we cannot take anything with us but our own souls and bodies. Did we acquire faith and are we adorned with holy virtues? They will accompany us in the next life. Through negligence and disinterest along with love for this world, did we live and die in unbelief and vices? They will accompany us, for whatever our souls have acquired will be ours forever.