1. Immediately after the resurrection the general judgment will take place.
For Christ has often said that after the resurrection all man kind will be assembled before Him to be judged.
The return of Christ as Judge was announced to the apostles by the angels on the occasion of Our Lord’s ascent into heaven (Acts i. 11). Christ Himself spoke about the judgment in the following terms: (1). The form of a cross is to appear in the heavens announcing the coming of Christ: and the sight of it will fill the wicked with confusion (Matt. xxiv. 30). (2). Christ will come in great power and majesty (Matt. xvi. 27; Luke xxi. 27). Hence we cannot conclude that the divine essence will be manifested to all at the judgment, for this no man could see without being rapt in heavenly joy. According to St. Thomas, the lost will have some sort of perception of God’s majesty and essence. Possibly they will see it as manifested through the veil of the sacred humanity of Christ at the Judgment. (3). The holy angels will accompany Our Saviour (Matt. xxv. 31). They helped to the salvation of mankind and now they will receive their meed of honor. (4). All the nations of the earth will be assembled before Christ seated on His throne (Matt. xxv. 32). (5). He will separate the sheep and the goats; the blessed will be placed on His right hand, and the lost on His left (Matt. xxv. 33). When the prophets speak of the judgment being held in the valley of Josaphat (Joel iii. 2), they do not mean that the nations will be gathered into that particular valley lying between Jerusalem and Mount Olivet; they mean simply that mankind will be assembled in the vale of the “judgment of God” (Josaphat in Hebrew means the judgment of God), i.e., in some place appointed by God for this judgment. We speak of the general judgment because angels as well as men will be judged (Jude 6), and of the Last Judgment because it will be held on the Last Day.
2. The general judgment will take place in order that God’s wisdom and justice may be made manifest to all creatures. Christ will be Judge in order that the honor of which He was robbed may be restored to Him before all creation.
On this day God will reveal to men with what wisdom He disposed the career of mankind and of each individual, so that all might attain their end and be happy even on earth. It will then be seen how various kinds of evil, the sufferings and even the sins of men have been turned by God to their advantage. Much which the world now esteems foolishness will then be seen to have been wisdom. This judgment will also demonstrate God’s justice; He will then bring forward what could not have been brought forward at the particular judgment. The deeds, words, writings, of many men have produced their results often only after their death; what blessings, for instance, apostles and missionaries have conferred on whole nations, and what harm has been done by heretics, not only to their contemporaries, but to those coming after them. Christ will be Judge, this office demanding wisdom in an especial degree, and Christ is the eternal wisdom. Moreover He will be Judge because the honor due to Him was refused by so many and by all irreligious and godless men ever since. He was condemned as a malefactor by Pilate and, as the Apostle says, “Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness” (1 Cor. i. 23). Then will His enemies call upon the mountains to fall upon them, and the hills to hide them (Luke xxiii. 30); hence Christ’s words: “For neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath given all judgment to the Son. That all men may honor the Son as they honor the Father” (John v. 22). When Christ was on earth He repudiated all judicial power: “I judge not any man” (John viii. 15). Christ is Judge at the Last Day because He became man: “The Father hath given Him power to do judgment because He is the Son of man” (John v. 27). God’s mercy, too, has ordained that the Judge of mankind should be a man. No wonder St. Thomas of Villanova exclaimed in ecstasy, “Happy am I to have my Saviour for my Judge.”
3. Christ will conduct the judgment in the following manner: He will reveal all, even the most hidden things, will exact an account from all men of the works of mercy they have or ought to have performed, and by a final sentence separate forever the good from the bad.
The general judgment is thus a solemn repetition of the particular judgment; and it might also be called a repetition of the world’s history, for each event will be represented to the eyes of the assembled multitude: “And the books were opened . . . and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books accord ing to their works” (Apoc. xx. 12). The Lord “will bring to light the hidden things of darkness” (1 Cor. iv. 5). He “will search Jerusalem with lamps” (Sophon. i. 12). It is to the general judgment that these words of Our Lord apply: “There is not anything secret that shall not be made manifest, nor hidden that shall not be known and come abroad” (Luke viii. 17). When the sun rises the snows melt and leave bare all that lies beneath them; so shall it be when the Sun of justice mounts the heavens. All sins will be revealed, and the revelation will be worse than hell to the sinner, while to the just there will be glory because they did penance. “The white robe of sanctifying grace,” as St. Gertrude tells us, “will hide the sin, and instead of the stains which were removed by penance there will be ornaments of gold.” All good works will then be revealed (Eccles. xii. 14), and the secrets of men’s hearts shall be known (1 Cor. iv. 5). The martyrs will receive honor for the contempt which they endured, and sinners will exclaim as they look on the just: “These are they whom we had some time in derision and for a parable of reproach. We fools, esteemed their life madness and their end without honor. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God and their lot is among the saints” (Wisd. v. 3-5). Works of mercy will be required of every man (Matt. xxv. 34-36); the Gospel explains to us why the saints and all pious Christians are so eager in the performance of works of mercy. When people asked St. Elizabeth why she was so zealous in good works, she used to answer: “I am preparing for the Day of Judgment.” There will be rio question then of riches or social position, for God is no respecter of persons (Rom. ii. 11); on the contrary: “to whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required” (Luke xii. 48). The judgment will end with the sentence of the Judge, which will divide for ever the good from the bad (Matt. xxv. 46). This separation was foreshadowed in the parable of the cockle: “Gather up first the cockle and bind it in bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into My barn” (Matt. xiii. 30). Many friends and relatives will be separated forever on that day (Matt. xxiv. 40); many who were rich and powerful will be lost, and their dependents, or those who sued as beggars to them, will be saved. “Then, too,” says St. Augustine, “creation will take on a new and glorious form, to correspond to the glorified bodies of the elect.” “We look for new heavens and a new earth according to His promises, in which justice dwelleth” (2 Pet. iii. 13). The existing universe will be destroyed by fire, and this fire will purge those who have yet to do penance for sin; and since there will be no purgatory after the Pay of Judgment the want of duration will be made up by the intensity of the pain; as for the just, they, like the three children in the furnace, will remain untouched by the flames. The thought of the judgment is a wholesome one. St. Methodius had a picture executed for the King of the Bulgarians, representing the dividing of the good from the bad at the Last Day; the king could never expel the image from his mind, and in con sequence became a Christian and promoted Christianity with great zeal in his kingdom. In the Acts we read (Acts xxiv. 25) how Felix trembled when St. Paul spoke of the judgment to come; yet Felix does not seem to have acted up to grace, for he broke off the discourse and gave up St. Paul to the Jews.
2. The Day of Judgment is unknown to us, though certain signs have been revealed which are to herald its approach.
Christ said: “Of that day and hour no one knoweth; no not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone” (Matt. xxiv. 36). The knowledge of it would be of as little use as the knowledge of the hour of our death. St. Augustine recommends us to do now as we should do if tomorrow were to be the Last Day; then we shall have no occasion to dread the coming of the Judge. Christ gave some signs of the approach of the Last Day (Matt. xxiv. 3, etc.), so that Christians might remain steadfast and courageous. The signs are:
1. The Gospel shall be preached to the whole world (Matt. xxiv. 14).
Some two-thirds of the world are still pagans.
2. The greater part of mankind will be without faith (Luke xviii. 8; 2 Thess. ii. 3) and immersed in things of earth (Luke xvii. 26, etc.).
Mankind will be much as they were in the days of Noe (Matt. xxiv. 38).
3. Antichrist will appear.
Antichrist is a man who will give himself out to be Christ, and by the help of the devil will perform many wonders (2 Thess. ii. 9). He will be a terror by the persecution which he will raise (Apoc. xx. 3-9). It is probable that he will choose for his kingdom Jerusalem and those places where Christ lived. Our Lord will kill him on the Last Day (2 Thess. ii. 8). Types and forerunners of Antichrist have existed from time to time (1 John ii. 18), “for the mystery of iniquity already worketh” (2 Thess. ii. 7).
4. Henoch and Elias will return and preach penance.
“Behold I will send you Elias the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Mai. iv. 5); i.e., he will bring round the Jews to the sentiments of their forefathers, the patriarchs; Christ also foretold that Elias should come and restore all things (Matt. xvii. 11). Of Henoch we know that “Henoch pleased God and was translated into paradise that he may give repentance to the nations” (Ecclus. xliv. 16). Henoch and Elias will preach for three years and a half, and recover many souls from Antichrist, who in the end will kill them, and their bodies will be left unburied. After three days and a half God will raise them to life again (Apoc. xi. 3-11).
5. The Jews will be converted.
The conversion of the Jews was foretold by Osee: “The children of Israel shall sit many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without ephod, and without theraphim. And after this the children of Israel shall return and shall seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the last days” (Osee iii. 4-5); blindness was to be the lot of Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in (Rom. xi. 25). Elias is to restore the tribes of Jacob (Ecclus. xlviii. 10).
6. Dreadful signs will appear in the heavens and great tribulations will come upon mankind.
“The sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens shall be moved” (Matt. xxiv. 29); war, pestilence, and famine shall come as at the time of the siege of Jerusalem (Matt. xxiv. 7, etc.). Men shall wither with fear and from expectation of the things that will come upon the earth (Luke xxi. 25).
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