Thread ID: 10 At 4/1/2008 6:19:35 PM Alistair wrote:

When Christ comes the second time, it's over. It's the end of the world.


Mike Augros Answers

Our faith confesses that the Son of God came into the world once already, entering into our world, into history, into human nature, and even that he entered into human nature in much the same condition in which it has come down to us from Adam. In that first coming into our world, the Son of God came quietly, in poor obscurity, and he came not to judge us (Cf. Jn 3:17, 5:26), but to teach us the truth and to win for us the grace by which to obtain for ourselves a share of his eternal life with him.

Our faith also confesses that upon being raised from the dead, the human nature of the Son of God was fully restored to life, but to a new, glorified life, so that he was no longer in the same mortal condition of that nature in which we yet remain. In his new and glorified condition, he ascended into heaven, the proper home for a man in that perfect and divine state, to enliven our hope that it is indeed the will of God that the human race should not remain in death, but that it should eventually enter into a condition of immortality, and live forever with God.

Our faith further confesses that Christ will, with his glorified state made manifest to all, return to our world in order to judge it, and that this will happen at the end of this world’s history. Hence that day is called “the last day” or “the day of the last judgment” or “the final judgment.”

Why is it the will of God that the resurrection and judgment of all men should wait until the end of the world? And why should there be a general judgment of all men, when each soul is (as our faith teaches) judged privately and irreversibly immediately after death?

Were there to be no more than a private judgment of each person, then each person would know only what pertained to himself, and the hidden injustices and hidden merits of men would remain hidden to the majority of mankind, and hence the justice and mercy of God in regard to these things would remain unknown. One of the great causes of suffering in this world is the ongoing injustice which never gets put right. The purpose of the general judgment, then, is to manifest that no injustice, however slight, escapes the divine justice, and no meritorious deed, however hidden and unknown, goes unnoticed or unrewarded by God.

And the manifestation of all human deeds, and of the divine justice and mercy in regard to them, must obviously wait for the births, lives, and deaths of all human beings to be completed. How many human lives must be completed in order for history to come to an end? The number is known only to God, since the purpose of that number is to fill as many places in his Kingdom which it is his good pleasure to share with the members of our race.

The general resurrection, too, must therefore wait until the end of history. Were the dead to rise again immediately into a condition of glory, or else into a condition of eternal damnation, and we saw this, we would no longer be free to believe in or reject God’s word that he would raise us from the dead, when it is his will that we merit our resurrection in part by believing his word that we will come to life again if we obey him—just as the original sin of the mother of our race was to disbelieve that she would die if she disobeyed him.

In our creeds we confess, in keeping with the words of Christ himself, that “he will come to judge the living and the dead.” These words can be the occasion of some confusion if we understand “living” and “dead” to refer to the life and death of the body. We might imagine that Christ will come into the world when some men remain alive in it, and that he will then judge those who are still alive, and judge those who have already died, too.

That cannot be the right understanding, however. Those who are still alive can still repent of their sins or else fall into sin, and therefore they are not fit to be judged, not having yet entered into an unchangeable condition. Therefore Christ will judge the world only once all men have died, and the propagation of the human race is at an end.

In what sense, then, will he judge “the living” and “the dead”?

“Living” and “dead” refer, in our creed, to those who are forever alive in the life of grace and who are to live eternal life with God, and to those who are forever dead to the life of grace and have forever excluded themselves from life with God. This way of dividing those to be judged is therefore essential: the statement does not mean he will be judging all men, some of whom happen to be alive and others of whom happen to be dead, but that he will judge and separate those who are alive from those who are dead, those who are saved from those who are condemned.