Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spirituality: God's Judgment (3 of 4)

We are in the last days of our Christian year that ends with the Feast of Christ the King on November 25th so it is right that we think about the Last Things (eschatology.) We believe that this temporal world is transitory, but that there is the promise of eternal life with our Creator God. Therefore, as Christians, we live in a “now and not yet” reality. We are citizens of two worlds and must pay respects to both planes of existence. But if there is a next world, what makes us think that we will get there? We do not want to arrogantly presume we will be admitted into the eternal kingdom. First we have to pass the Judgment that is offered to us on our last day of personal existence.

In the Old Testament, judgment by God has always been metered out in a positive sense, such as Yahweh (God) judged (delivered) King David from his enemies. In the New Testament, God has already judged the world (he redeemed it and found it good) and yet God’s kingdom is not fully established so we await the judgment at the end time. One’s personal ‘day of judgment’ refers to a person’s fundamental, permanent decision to accept Jesus Christ or to reject him. Therefore, if we want to accept him at our moment of death, we ought to use our time now to get to know him and let him know us. Finally, there will be a final judgment when there is the ultimate victory over evil. We profess in our creed that Jesus shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

Our Individual Judgment

Scripture tells us that one part of the judgment happens now. If we fundamentally choose Jesus, we are to live immediately in response to God’s laws and will, which means we take care of our neighbor’s needs. Each choice we make is a decision for or against God.

We will appear immediately before God after death. Our earthly trial will be over. One of three things can happen:

a. We die in God’s friendship, have no need of further purification, and enter into heaven.
b. We die in God’s friendship, still need purification, and enter heaven when our purgatory is complete.
c. We die in the state of mortal sin – completely cut off from God’s grace. We enter hell.

We will see ourselves as we truly are. We will see our life as God sees it. Do I make a loving response to the God I have come to know during my earthly life or do I focus on my self and turn away from God’s love?

As Jesus has revealed to us, God is not vindictive.  God is fundamentally rendering his positive judgment for us, not against us.

The Judgment at the End of Time

A general judgment will be made when Christ, the Son of Man, comes in his glory to gather all the nations to himself and to separate the sheep from the goats. The heavenly community will be established at this time and everyone will be able to plainly see God’s entire saving plan.

Jesus, as we know, will serve as judge. And what do we know of Jesus? He was good, practiced restorative justice, was merciful and compassionate, and granted us his peace. The question that will be asked us comes from Matthew 25: “Did we love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves?

So what is the Second Coming of Christ?

When Christ ascended into the heaven, he entrusted the task of spreading the kingdom that he established on earth to us – the people of God. With his Spirit to help us, we are to continue his work of social justice, forgiving sins, bringing about peace, and establishing the dignity of every person so that we can stand together as one human community.

Though the kingdom is already present, we still have to work against the forces that oppose God’s kingdom. We have to be “with others” before we can be “for others.” The work of establishing the kingdom is ongoing and we look forward to the day when the work of Christ will be complete and he will return, gather all of creation together, and consecrate it in offering to the Creator Father.

When will this happen?

Who knows? Only God knows. Christians look forward to this day when we will joyously encounter the Lord again. This is one reason why it is prudent for us to spend time in our lives to come to know the Lord and develop a friendship with him. Everyone who has ever lived with recognize Jesus as Lord of all.

Next up: A brief word on the resurrection of the body, heaven, purgatory and hell.