In the Creed we recite and profess each time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, the Fathers of the Church give vivid expression to the inspired faith of the Body of Christ when they incorporated in its seventh article, "And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom shall have no end." That is, both those still living on the last day, and those already dead. The second coming of Christ for the purpose of exercising his office as supreme Judge of mankind was announced by two angels who appeared at the Ascension and assured the witnessing disciples and the Blessed Mother that, "...this Jesus who has been taken up from you will return, just as you saw him go up into the heavens" Acts of the Apostles 1: 11.
In theological literature and language, this second coming of Christ is known as the paraousia, from the Greek word meaning advent or coming. Immediately after the Resurrection of all the dead, the Last Judgment will take place. Christ teaches us, "The Son of Man is come with all his angels in the glory of the Father, and then he will render to everyone according to his deeds" Matthew 16: 27. Before He was condemned to death our Lord foretold in the Sanhedrin that all would see his "...coming upon the clouds of heaven...." Matthew 26: 64. When the prophet says that God will gather all nations of the world into the valley of Josaphat and there judge them, "I will gather all nations and bring them down to the valley of Josaphat; and I will execute judgment upon them there...," our merciful and loving heavenly Father is continuing, in his office as Judge of man's behavior from the beginning of time.
At the very start of salvation history, He gives evidence of his attribute of genuine caring and solicitude when He told Adam, "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die" Genesis 2; 16, 17. Because He was not taken seriously by our forefather and mother, Adam and Eve, our heavenly Father once again was compelled by created man to extercise assessment and corrective judgment.
"Because you have done this, you shall be banned ...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers ...I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children ... Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree which I had forbidden you to eat, cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life ... By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat until you return to the ground from which you were taken; for you are dirt and to dirt shall you return" The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden ... When he expelled man, he settled him east of the garden of Eden and he stationed the cherubim with fiery revolving sword to guard the way to the tree of life" Genesis 3: 14 - 17, 19, 23, 24.
It becomes plain that our God will gather all the people of the earth into one place which in his divine decree He has appointed as the most fitting for the Last and Final Judgment in contradistinction to the particular judgment which takes place immediately following death because at the Last and final Judgment all men who have ever lived will be examined and judged. Even those baptized children who have died before attaining to the age of reason will be present at this monumental spectacle, not to be judged, but simply to witness to the judge's magnanimous unparalleled glory. It will take place on the last day of the world and
will be the final time Christ examines and judges the generality of mankind which is an awesome event.
The last Judgment will take place in order that God's wisdom and judgment may be made manifest to all the world and its inhabitants. Everyone will be able to examine at first hand the deeds of all others who have ever existed from the beginning of time. This judgment will redound to the greater glory of God, for as it unrolls, each one will clearly understand how wisely and how lovingly the Creator has personally and individually guided the destinies of mankind and of each individual person. Christ will judge all men in order that the honor of which He was deprived during his earthly incarnate life and since the beginning of time to the present day may be rendered to him before all creatures. St. Paul says, "The lives of all of us are to be revealed before the tribunal of Christ so that each may receive his recompense, good or bad according to his life in the body" 2 Corinthians 5: 10.
On the last and final day, Christ will act as Judge because during his earthly life and since then He has been dishonored by his enemies and throughout the centuries He has been scorned by godless and irreligious men. By an unjust sentence He was condemned by Pilate to die as a common criminal and thief, but in the end His justice shall prevail. The honor and glory of which He was deprived and which is his due must in justice be restored to him; it will be restored at the time of the last and final Judgment. For this reason Christ declares, "The Father himself judges no one, but has assigned all judgment to the Son, so that all men may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father" John 5: 22, 23. During his earthly life, our Lord never exercised his judicial power. For this very reason He was able to say, "You pass judgment according to appearances, but I pass judgment on no man" John 8: 15. Another reason why Christ will come to judge the living and the dead may be found in the fact that He became man to save all men, to raise them to his own dignity. Mankind risen from the dead and again visible in the flesh would be judged by a risen, glorious visible, powerful and triumphant Judge. Christ asserted, "The Father has given over to him power to pass judgment because he is the Son of Man" John 5: 27.
At the last and final Judgment, the existence of God becomes strikingly clear and plain. The doubts of the fool vanish. The soul that questioned God's existence, that wondered if it were actually true, now understands that God wielded effective dominion over his free-will creatures and that He could never consent to impunity without being an unjust ruler. So we must make no mistake about it. Christ will appear at the conclusion of the world in his office as Supreme Judge and his judgments will be supremely righteous.
As lightening sounds and thunder roars, the sinner will recall the idle foolishment he uttered when he transgressed the laws of the bountiful Father: "And they say, `How does God know?' And, `Is there knowledge in the most high?"' Psalms 73: 11. Totally wrong was he who reasoned thus. Horror will trace its finger upon the furrows of his brow and shadow the countenance of him who has embodied as his philosophy of life: `The Lord sees not; the God of Jacob perceives not" Psalms 94: 7.
In studying Scripture, it is significant to note that Christ abandons all his countless gentle attributes as if to emphasize the seriousness of the office of Judge which He will then exercise for the benefit of mankind. His voice will reverberate and redound in the universe louder than the thunder of an abysmal storm.
"I am Jesus Christ, no longer the pitiful Crucified Christ whom people, including my intimates were free to discuss, to insult, to bandy about my name or disdainfully ignore like a god of straw or mere marble; no more am I the Jesus of the tabernacle, silent, reserved, hidden beneath the humble and meager appearances of bread and wine. Year after year you bandied me about, treating me with such discourtesy and irreverence and thoughtlessness such as no equal of yours would ever tolerate and referred to me with profanation and sacrilege. I am Jesus Christ, Supreme Judge, come to judge the intimacy of your life in the world. No longer am I the merciful and kindly Galilean who healed your sick, who cured the blind, who raised the dead. No longer will I speak and the lame walk, the paralytics rise. I am Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal God, final Judge. Through my bishops and priests I pleaded, I asked, I entreated. Never did I complain, not a sob except over Jerusalem. Know that such forbearance and patience belongs to the past, for I have rent my sacramental vesture, wrenched the nails from my hands and feet. Look upon me now! The unassuming one, the good one, the generous one is become the exacting one, the righteous one, the demanding one. What did you do with all the talents you were endowed with? No longer do I offer forgiveness because I come among you to judge your entire life in all its finest detail!
The time to soften the magnanimous heart of the Eternal Judge is here and now! Presently does man have abundant opportunity to dispose Christ to mercifully relate to his soul. The
Orthodox believer, in this life, here and now, ought to be the inexorable judge of his own cause; he should sound the depths of his own soul, bring his own inequities to light, acknowledge them for what they are, lament over them as they deserve, stirring profound repentance, practice charity and repentance, accusing himself before the Judge's earthly judge, the confessor priest of Christ whose vocation is solely to forgive, so that on that dreadful day, the Eternal Judge may say: "Come, you have my Father's blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world" Matthew 25: 34!