The Second Coming and Judgment
Longing for the 2nd coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead is a settled part of the Christian Creed. The appearance of the sign of the cross will precede the 2nd coming (Matt24:30). Christ will come on the clouds of heaven and the Archangel, with a great sound of a trumpet, will gather all people for judgment (1Thes4:16). Then all the dead will rise in the flesh (Jhn5:28, 29) who died by different methods (Rev20:11-13) while those who will be alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will all be changed (1Thes4:15-17; 1Cor15:51, 52). Therefore, the resurrection of the body is a must for judgment (Isa26:19; Dan12:2) since man will be judged as one being of body and spirit. In the resurrection, all these bodies will be spiritual not physical (Matt22:30-32) to live eternally either in eternal joy at the kingdom or eternal condemnation at hell… and this will be determent by the general resurrection.
The Coming Judgment
There is a concept among some people that personal judgment will happen immediately after death. In contrary, the biblical teaching emphasize that this judgment, for both the righteous and wicked, will take place after the general resurrection of all men. There is no other strong proof for this fact than the sayings of the Lord Christ Himself, “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.” (Matt13:49, 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.” (Matt25:31-46), “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.” (Jhn12:48). The general judgment belief is also the obvious in the Apostles’ teachings. For example, St. Paul says, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom14:10-12), “It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels” (2Thes1:4-10), “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Tim4:6-8). In St. Paul’s doctrine, the day of punishment is the same day of rewarding; and that the day of rewarding is the same day for him as well as for all the believers. The same doctrine is also obvious in St. Peter’s saying to the priests, “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” (1Pet5:1-4). (c.f. Matt13:24-30; 13:36-43; 25:1-13; 25:14-30; Heb11:39, 40; Rom2:5).
The concept of the private judgment is in conjunction with a place called “Purgatory” for purification of the believers’ spirits by the purifying fire after their death. So torment in purgatory is by fire for propitiation and purification. The staying period in the purgatory is undefined because it varies from one to another according to his own sins. What is called “the excessive virtues of the saints,” meaning the counted good deeds for someone exceeding the count of his sins, could be granted to others to shorten this period. We do not accept this doctrine, first introduced in 1445, which was not known to the early church. Put in consideration that the word “Purgatory” is not mentioned, even once, in the Holy Scriptures. On the other hand, there are many biblical verses contradict this doctrine. Among these proves:
Thus there is no private judgment, purgatory or excessive virtues of the saints.
Denial of Judgment
On the other hand, there are some who think that there will not be judgment at all because, from their point of view, eternal punishment contradicts the divine mercy. Therefore they believe that salvation will be for all!
This idea was used by Satan with Eve in the paradise when he wanted to convince her that they will not die if they ate from the forbidden tree (Gen3:4). May be this idea was also adapted by those who mocked both Noah and Lot, refusing deliverance since they believed that there is no punishment because of sin and no condemnation for the unrepentant sinners; and sorrowfully they were perished (Gen19:14; 2Pet2:5-9). This idea could also drive such people to chose for themselves teachers to tell them what they want to hear, as St. Paul says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2Tim4:3, 4; c.f. 2Pet2:1-3).
The event of judgment is a proven fact as well as the coming of the Judge. The Lord Christ declared this fact many times by His sayings (Matt25:31-46; 16:27; 10:28, 33; 13:39-41; 13:49, 50; Jhn5:28, 29), by His teachings (Matt13:40-43; 25:31-46) and through His parables (Lk16:19-31; Matt13:24-30; Matt22:1-14). For example, He says, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matt16:27) when the angels will separate the righteous from the wicked to go to their eternal status “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt13:41-43). The wicked will be destroyed eternally in their spiritual body in hell “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt10:28). This is why the resurrection of the righteous is called the resurrection of life as they live eternally, while the resurrection of the wicked is called the resurrection of condemnation “Do not marvel at this; for 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” (Jhn5:28, 29).
This fact comes also in the prophecies of the prophets. For example, Daniel the prophet says, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan12:2). Prophet Isaiah describes the judgment day, which will start by the 2nd coming of Christ at the end of the world, by calling it the by “the day of His fierce anger upon the wicked” by saying, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid.
Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth;
they will be amazed at one another; their faces will be like flames. Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. ‘I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger” (Isa13:6-13).
This doctrine is also taught by the Apostles (Act24:24, 25; Jam3:1; Jud1:13). St. Paul, for example, says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2Cor5:10), “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom1:18), “Do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Rom2:3-7). St. Peter refers to the Day of Judgment by saying, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment… These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (2Pet2:9, 17). St. Jude recorded Enoch saying, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jud1:14, 15). In the Book of Revelation, St. John says, “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev20:12-15). The 24 priests said in their praise, “Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev11:18).
It is God’s mercy that justice will be fulfilled in judgment day. It is not logical that all people will be equally rewarded, whether they labored or not, or whether they were tormented or comforted in their lifetime (Matt10:39; Lk16:25), but rather the eternal perdition for the wicked (2Pet3:7; Jud1:14-16; 2Cor5:10). If there is no perdition, we may wonder: why we are bothering ourselves in toil through spiritual struggling to overcome evil in our life?! What is the reason behind the advice of our lord Jesus for us to watch and pray in His speech regarding His second coming? Moreover, what is objective of all the divine commandments since we all will not be punished?! The great apostle St. Paul, who went to the 3rd heaven to see unutterable things, preached at almost every known corner of the world at his time, labored more than the other apostles, and healed the sick and raised the dead and cast out demons, was worried about his eternal future, i.e. to be disqualified, in case he neglect to discipline his body by fasting and ascetic and spiritual exercises by saying, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1Cor9:27). In case we think that all people, both righteous and wicked or believers and unbelievers, will be delivered from the divine justice, how can we explain the fact that some believers were perished because of their wickedness and were not allowed to enter the kingdom like the rejected children of the kingdom (Matt8:12), the foolish virgins (Matt25:1-13), Judas Iscariot (Matt26:24, 25; 1John3:15), Ananias and Sapphire (Act5:1-11), The believers who returned back after they were mentioned by St. Paul as great examples to be imitated (Phil3:18, 19), and those who performed miracles and prophesied in Jesus’ name! (Matt7:21-23; Lk13:24-30). What we are going to say regarding the wicked, who will be terrified because the coming wrath will come upon them, and they’ll try in vain to hide themselves (Rev6:12-17; Lk23:30; Ps137:7-10)?! “For if we sin willfully 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” (Heb10:26, 27).
Facts about the General Resurrection
Christ’s salvation is offered to everyone to be saved from the coming wrath if he believed in Christ the Savior, the incarnate Word of God, was baptized, purifies his heart through continuous repentance, and strive to work out his salvation with fear and trembling (Phil2:12).
“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” (Matt25:31-46)… How will the Shepherd separate the sheep from the goats? Will He examine them depending on a certain book? Or will He decide depending on clear facts? Doesn’t the wool characterize the sheep and the hairy hard skin characterizes the goat? Same for us, if we are purified from our sins, our deeds will be like pure wool and our garment without blemish, and we always be able to say, “I have taken off my robe;
How can I put it on again?” (Song5:3) for, as sheep, we’ll be known from our features. The one, who will be found with hairy hard skin and evil mind like Esau, who lost his privilege of the first-fruit for a meal, he will be among those who standing on the left side. We may winder, “being a believer, how may I flee from eternal fire and to enter the kingdom of heaven?” The Lord Christ, Who says His commands to be practiced, indicated that, “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me” (Matt25:35, 36). If we did practice these activities, we’ll reign with Him; and if we failed to do, we’ll be condemned. Therefore, we have to practice such activities immediately while being steadfast in faith, lest we’ll be standing at the closed door like the foolish virgins, who delayed buying their oil. Don’t be satisfied for just having a lamp, but it should be lightened in order to shine the light of our good deeds before men (Matt5:16).
The Book of Revelation declares that there will be a general resurrection for judging everyone according to his deeds and faith, which is the same teaching of the other Holy Scriptures (rev22:12; 14:13; 20:12, 13; Mk9:41-48; Matt16:27; Rom2:6; 14:12; 2Cor5:10). No one will be able to enter the kingdom but only those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Rev21:27) and the rest will go to eternal damnation. Thus we find a list containing all those who will not be able to enter the kingdom (Rev21:8; 22:15; 1Cor6:9, 10; Eph5:3-5; Gal5:19-21; Jhn3:18, 19; 1Cor3:16, 17; 1Jhn3:15) and their perdition will be with the devil into the lake of fire and brimstone (Rev20:14, 15).
Truly, the eternal reward for everyone will be according to his deeds. As long as the believers are varied in their charitable deeds and its frequency and quality, their fruits are varied from 30 and 60 to 100 (Matt13:8, 23). Therefore, “each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1Cor3:8; Rom2:6); and accordingly, their levels in eternity will also be varied in glory, as the Bible says, “For one star differs from another star in glory” (1Cor15:41; c.f. Dan12:3). Others will be closer to the Lord Christ, like those who were granted to set on His right and left in His kingdom (Matt20:23; Mk10:40). It is obvious that hell also has various levels as we find some of the wicked are in better state than others since there is more harsh punishment for condemned wicked than others (Matt10:15; 11:22-24; Mk12:40; Lk20:47; Jam3:1; Heb10:29). So, there is the one who will be cast into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt25:30), and others will be into the everlasting fire (Matt25:41)… into hell (Lk12:5).
Actually, reaching the kingdom needs continuous spiritual striving (Heb12:4) as St. Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil2:12), “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2Tim2:5). All this tiredness will be removed from in mind as soon as this righteous person reaches there (Matt25:37-39). God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev7:17; 21:4) and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor (1Cor3:8) and will hear the blessed voice of the Lord saying to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt25:21, 23). St. Peter says, “For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Pet1:11). This means that there is a great opportunity before everyone to enter into the everlasting kingdom, but the most important thing is to make use of it.
That day will be terrified and awesome for the unbelievers and the unprepared “… and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev6:12-17; Lk23:30) because “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb10:31). No one can escape the just divine judgment, and no repentance or intercession will be effective on that day “For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?” (Ps6:5). On the other hand, that day will be joyous for the righteous believers, who were longing for it, like St. Paul who said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain... having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil1:21, 23), when the righteous enter into eternal life and the wicked into everlasting contempt (Dan12:2; Rom1:18) “that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2Thes2:12). After judgment, the believers will be paraded to the heavenly Groom, our Lord Jesus Christ, since we all, men and women, together represent His betrothed bride through His precious blood offered for our ransom, as St. Paul says, “For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2Cor11:2). The Lord Christ represented the heavenly kingdom as a wedding in many of His parables (Matt25:1-13; 22:1-14). St. John in his Revelation says, “And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” (Rev19:6-9).