By Fr. Joseph Francis —
Judgment as completion
The purpose of this complete, fully visible manifestation and presence at “Parousia” is not to begin all over again the work of salvation but to bring it to successful completion. He is coming as Judge. Already this was foreseen in the book of Daniel, chapter 7. 9-14 where the Son of Man is called as the Judge (therefore God) and the reaction of Caiaphas to Jesus declaring that he is that Son of Man, was to declare that he has blasphemed and condemn him to death (Mt 26. 63-67). Obviously this judgment is at the end of time; it is not at the end of one’s life on earth which is called commonly as “particular judgment” where the individual is judged according to his deeds, good or bad. The judgment that the Creed speaks of is when the world as we see will come to an end; there would be a new heaven and a new transformed earth; the Lord would put in his grand appearance “parousia” and the judgment, often called the General judgment will take place of all peoples born on this earth i.e., from the first parents to the very last person born.
Meaning of the expression the “living and the dead”
The expression “living and the dead” refers to all who would be living on earth at the coming of the Lord and all those who had died before . The dead would be raised up and the living would be transformed and the judgment would take place. In general we may say that in the O.T the “Day of the Lord” is projected as a day of salvation for the Good. It is a day of vindication for God when God’s Holiness, Fidelity are upheld. It is also the day of fear and punishment for all the wicked and the oppressors.
What Scripture says about this General judgment?
In the OT: Joel 4.12 (or in some versions 3.12) mentions the place of gathering as the valley of Jehosaphat, called in v.14 as the valley of decision. Some have identified it with the valley of Kidron but there is no solid foundation for this supposition. The name is symbolic and the word itself holds the meaning: Yeho = God + Saphat = judges.
In the NT:
1) Judgment as Separation [The great divide is it happening even now?] The most frequently quoted text in connection with the Last or General Judgment is Mt 25.31-46. It may have risen in the context of the question: well, Christians would be judged according to the Law of Christ, the Law of Charity and according to the measure in which they accepted Jesus Christ and his teachings or rejected them (Mt 7.1-5+12+21-27), what about others?
[In Mathew 25th chapter we find three parables. The first seems to be pointing to the Jews. They had been prepared for centuries but when the Son of Man tarried they slept and did not provide for themselves oil and when he did come only those who were ready went in i.e., only some of the Jews and not all. So watch out! The second parable about the talents seems to be addressed to the Christians who have received the one talent (the parallel account in Luke 19. 11-27mentions only one talent given to several servants and each did something with it to increase it). The one talent in question is the Gospel. The question that will be asked is: “what have you done with the one talent entrusted to you?” They should have used it to bring in more people to the Lord. If you are lazy watch out you will be judged! The third parable therefore seems to be addressed to the case of non-Christian Gentiles.]
They too would be judged according to the Law of charity mentioned above (cf. Mt 25.40) “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are my members of my family” (these members of my family refer not to Christians but anyone who is in need).
It is in this way they accept or reject Christ and his teaching though they may not know him or acknowledge him explicitly due to invincible ignorance. That the parable also refers to separation of the Good from the Lost is seen when compared to the other parables of separation: Mt 13.24-30 (wheat & cockle), 13.47-50 (good fish & bad).
2) Judgment as rejection of Light [In the end what do you choose? An interplay of Light and Darkness]
John excels in the theology of light. Jesus is the Light of the World, Light of Salvation 1.4-5. Nicodemus comes at night from darkness to light 3.1-2 and there is a fine reflection on those who reject light and why they do so 3.17-21. There are invitations to his listeners to walk in his light 8.12; 9.5; 12.35-36+44-48. Paul & /Deutero-Paul, too, have a number of reflections on light II Cor 4.4-6 +6.14; I Thess 5.5; Eph 5.8-14; Col 1.12-13; II Tim 1.10. In Peter we find I Pet 2.9; II Pet 1.19 and in the letters of John we find I Jn 1.5-7; 2.9-11. A further reflection in John could be the book of Revelation where, in the first inaugural vision, John sees Jesus the victorious Lord shining like the sun in full force with seven stars in his hands 1.16. He is standing amidst the seven golden lamps (menorah) or the seven churches (1.12-13) and chapters two & three describe the judgment passed on them.
3) Judgment as God’s victory over evil [Final victory]
I Cor 2.6-8 tell us that the rulers of the world and all worldly wisdom are doomed to perish. In Eph 1.20-23 we read that the Risen Lord has dominion over all powers. I Cor 15.28 we read that God would in the end be “all in all”. In I Thess 1.10 we are told that the Risen Lord rescues us from the wrath that is coming. In II Thess 1.5 the suffering Christians are assured that their victory is sure because the final victory of Jesus has already been assured. In Col 3.4 the Christians are assured of glory. In I Cor 11.31-32 they are reminded that they are judged by the merciful Lord and not by the world.
Above all, the book of Revelation portrays the Risen Lord as the Lamb that was slain but now standing victorious with the sword piercing it. The martyrs have followed such a Lamb of God and they have been washed in its Blood and their robes have become white. In him (the Lamb of God) they will have light, life and eternal joy (Cf. Rev 5.9-14; 7.9-17; 19.1-8; 21.1-22.20).
4) The universality of judgment [All are judged whoever he may be to whichever caste, colour or creed he may belong]
All are to be judged and there are no exceptions. They may be Christians, Jews or Gentiles (Cf. Mt 13.37-43+47-50; 10.15; 25.31-46; Mk 16.15-16; Rm 1.32; 2.12-16; 3.21-30; I Cor 5.12-13; II Cor 5.10). What should we say about the imagination of some that during that Judgment all our deeds will be known by all or proclaimed before all?
There would be nothing to hide and everything will be plain and seen by all (by the way: what has been confessed and pardoned will not be known because they ceased to exist from the moment of absolution) and so where is the need for a detailed judgment? It is not like a court case at all with judges, accused, witnesses, lawyers etc., because all such agencies on earth try only to find out the truth; here there is no need for that since truth will be seen plainly! The separation of the good persons from the lost persons would be very automatic and instantaneous and the justice of God will be plainly recognized by all concerned!
To be continued….