The second coming of Christ the Judge will surely happen, but at an unexpected day and hour. He will judge the whole world “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). His second coming will fulfill everything that was mentioned about it by Christ the Lord, the prophets and saintly apostles.
The Biblical Picture
Our Lord Christ will come with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30; Luke 21:27; Matthew 16:27). It is the same glory He had since He sat on the throne of His glory at the right hand of the Father after His ascension. It is the unimaginable and indescribable great glory of His Divinity. He will come on the clouds in the heaven (Matthew 24:30; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:9, 11), with the shout and the trumpet of the archangel (1 Thessalonians 4:16 ; Matthew 24:30 ; Daniel 12:1 ; 1 Corinthians 15:52), accompanied by the holy angels (Matthew 16:27; 25:31) and all His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13). Every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). His coming will be for judgment, so He will sit on the throne of His glory to judge everyone according to his deeds (Matthew 25:31-46; 16:27; Daniel 12:2). The dead will rise (John 5:28, 29; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:52,53; 6:14; Revelation 20:12,13), and those who are alive and remain shall be caught up in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:15,17) and our bodies will be transformed to be conformed to His glorious body (Philippians 3:20, 21).
All the dead, who died by any means (Revelation 20:11-13), will rise (John 5:28,29); and those who will be alive, shall be transformed (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). After the general resurrection, all people will meet the Lord on the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17) and we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10, 12) to be judged according to the faith acting through love (John 3:18-21; Matthew 25:31-46).
That day is called by various titles in the Bible; each one has its significance, but all indicate the fact that Christ is coming to judge all mankind, both the living and the dead:
1. The day of “His coming” (Matthew 24:3,27,37,39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1,8; James 5:7,8; 2 Peter 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28). It is the same title used by Malachi the prophet (Malachi 3:1,2).
2. “The day” or “That day” (1 Corinthians 3:13; Hebrews10:25; Matthew 7:22; 24:36; Mark 13:32; Luke 21:34; 2 Timothy 1:12,18; 4:8). Since this day is famous, unique, and characterized more than the other days, it is enough to call it “The day” without any other description.
3. “The last day” (John 6:39,40,44,45; 11:24; 12:48). It indicates that life on earth will end as soon as He comes.
4. “The day of judgment” (Matthew 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:36,41,42; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17). It refers to that day being for judgment since Christ the Judge of all comes on it (Romans 2:16).
5. “The day of wrath and revealing of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5; Revelation 6:16,17). It indicates that the wrath of God the just will be declared against the wicked on that day. It is also called “The wrath” (Romans 5:9) or “The wrath to come” (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
6. “The age to come” (Mark 10:28-30; 20:34). It indicates that this day will be the end of this age and the beginning of the coming age.
7. “The day of Resurrection” (Matthew 22:30; Philippians 3:11). It means that the resurrection of the bodies for judgment will happen on this day (Hebrews 6:2).
8. “The day of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:24). It refers to the fact that He owns this day and has the authority to fulfill His desire during it since it is “His day”.
9. “The day of revealing the Son of Man” (Luke 17:30) signifies that this day reveals the glory of the Son of Man.
10. “The world to come” (Matthew 12:32). It indicates that the coming world, being spiritual and eternal, differs from this one.
11. “The day of the Lord” / “The day of the Lord Jesus” (Act 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10,12). It indicates that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. The prophecies also used the same title (Isaiah 13:6; Joel 1:15; 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Obadiah 1:15; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Malachi 4:5).
12. “The day of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6,10; 2:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:2). It indicates that it is the day when the Divinity of Christ is revealed to all, and that the coming Lord is Christ.
13. “The Great day” (Jude 1:6) / “The great dreadful day” (Malachi 4:5). It refers to the great event of that fearful day.
14. “The last time” (1 Peter 1:5). It refers to the end of the age to start eternity.
15. “The revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7,13; 4:13). It signifies the revelation of the glory of His divinity.
16. “Glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13). It refers to the revelation of His great glory.
Judgment for Spirits only or Spirits and Bodies?
The resurrection of the bodies is essential for judgment, since judgment will be for the whole human being. It is for both his body and spirit. It is not logical that the spirit alone will be rewarded or punished, without the body which was the tool to fulfill the desires of the spirit (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; Luke 14:13, 14; Matthew 21:41, 42; Acts 23:6; 24:15). St. Paul wrote a whole chapter proving the resurrection of the bodies depending on the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15). The resurrected bodies will be spiritual like the angels of God in heaven (Matthew 22:30-33); and they will live forever, either in eternal joy at the Kingdom, or eternal torment in hell. This will be determined during the general judgment.
The Book of Revelation mentioned two resurrections (Revelation 20:1-10). What is the first and second resurrection? Or in other words, what is the first and second death?
The first resurrection refers to the spiritual rising from the spiritual death, since we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) because sin separates us from God as a source of life (John 1:4; 11:25). By believing in Christ and through our repentance, we are able to rise from this spiritual death (Ephesians 2:6). Our Lord Christ expressed this concept by saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:25), and “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25, 26).
The second resurrection refers to the resurrection of the bodies at the end of ages for the general judgment. Christ the Lord said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28, 29). Accordingly, the first death is death by sin, and the second one is the death of the body, which will rise again for judgment.
Judgment Immediately after Death?
Some believe in private judgment immediately after death. The Orthodox teaching rejects this idea. The Orthodox depend on the Biblical teaching that the perfect recompense for both the righteous and wicked will be only after the general judgment for all men (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43; 25:1-13; 25:14-30; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10; Hebrews 11:39,40; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Romans 2:5; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The most convincing argument on this matter is the Lord Christ, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49,50). “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-46). “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the Last day” (John 12:48).
Souls Purified in Purgatory?
Another non-Biblical teaching proclaims the presence of “Purgatory.” Purgatory is a place for purifying the souls of the believers after death through purging fire. The torment in purgatory is done by “gray fire” for atonement and purification. The amount of time spent in purgatory varies from person to person depending on their sins.
This doctrine is rejected by both the Orthodox and Protestant Churches. It is a recent opinion which was not known during the early Christian Church. The Catholic Church approved it as a doctrine of faith in 1445 A.D. It is very easy to discredit this teaching:
· In the story of the rich man and Lazarus; there were only two waiting places until the general judgment, a place for the righteous and a place for the wicked (Luke 16:19-31).
· Why did the right thief not have to go to purgatory, but instead was able to go directly to paradise (Luke 23:42)? The repentance of this criminal declares that true repentance transfers the repentant immediately to paradise, regardless of his previous wickedness.
· The idea of purgatory disrespects the salvation fulfilled by Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, and contradicts the power of His blood to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
· It reduces the value and power of the sacrament of repentance and confession to the point that it replaces that sacrament. However, our Lord Christ links our safety and salvation to repentance (Luke 13:3, 5).
· What is the reason for the incarnation, then, if it is enough for every one of us to be cleansed of his/her sins in purgatory, without any reason for Christ to suffer His sufferings for our sake?
· With the existence of purgatory, death should be terrifying for all. Yet, the saints desire it, longing for it (Philippians 1:23).
· Finally, it is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
No Judgment at All?
On the other hand, we may find others who believe that there will be no judgment. From their point of view, eternal punishment contradicts the mercy of God; and accordingly, they believe in the salvation of all!
The event of judgment is a proven fact, just as the coming of the Judge is a proven fact. Our Lord Jesus emphasized this many times through His words (Matthew 5:31-46; 16:27; 10:28, 33; 13:39-41; 13:39-41; 13:49:50; John 5:28, 29), His teachings (Matthew 13:40-43; 25:31-46), and His parables (Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 13:24-30; 22:1-14). This was prophesied by the prophets (Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 13:6-13), taught by the apostles (Acts 24:24, 25; Romans 1:18; 2:3-7; James 3:1; 2 Peter 2:9, 17; Jude 1:13) and mentioned in the book of Revelation (Revelation 11:18; 20:10-15).
It is the compassion of God that justice will be served on judgment day. It is unjust that all people will be rewarded whether they labored or not, or whether they comforted or tormented during their lifetime on earth (Matthew 10:39; Luke 16:35). Rather, there will be eternal punishment for the wicked (2 Peter 3:7; Jude 1:14-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Suppose there will be no punishment, why should we labor and tire ourselves in spiritual struggling to resist evil in our lifetime? Why did Christ command us to watch and pray when he discussed His second coming? What is the necessity of all the commandments if we will not be punished?
The mercy of God keeps us alive (Romans 9:29), giving us the opportunity for repentance to change our ways (2 Peter 3:9) before leaving this world, to avoid rejection and eternal punishment (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10) which He warned us through different ways and sayings.
If we imagine that everyone, righteous and wicked, believers and unbelievers, will be saved from the divine punishment, what should we say about those believers who perished because of their wicked deeds, and were not rewarded by entering the kingdom like the rejected sons of the kingdom (Matthew 8:12), the foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:24,25; 1 John 3:15), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), or those who renounce the faith, who were mentioned one day by St. Paul as role models (Philippians 3:18, 19), and the miracle doers and the prophesiers in the name of Christ (Matthew 5:22, 23; Luke 13:24-30)? And what would we say about the wicked people who are terrified and try to hide in vain from the coming wrath (Revelation 6:12-17; Luke 23:30; Psalms 137:7-10)? “For if we sin willingly after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrew 10:26, 27).
The Book of Revelation declares that there will be a general judgment, judging everyone on his deeds, which matches the other inspired writings (Revelation 22:12; 14:13; 20:12, 13; Mark 9:41-48; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10); and that no one will be able to enter the kingdom except those whose names are found written in the book of life (Revelation 21:27); while the remnant will go to eternal punishment. For this reason, we find a list for the rejected from the kingdom (Revelation 21:8; 22:15; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Ephesians 5:3-5; Galatians 5:19-21; John 3:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; 1John 3:15). Those, whose names are not found written in the book of life, will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone together with Satan (Revelation 20:14, 15).