In the Old Testament, judgment by God was metered out positively, such as Yahweh (God) judging (delivering) King David from his enemies. In the New Testament, God has already judged the world (God 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. The final judgment will be the ultimate victory over evil and Jesus is the one who will 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 immediately respond to God’s laws/will and take care of our neighbor’s needs. Each choice we make is a decision for or against God.
At our death, we appear immediately before God and 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 God or do I self-centeredly turn away from God’s love? As Jesus has revealed to us, God is not vindictive and 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 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 and will plainly see God’s entire saving plan.
Jesus serves 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 continue his work of bringing about social justice, forgiving sins, restoring peace, and establishing the dignity of every soul so that we can stand together as one 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 come to know the Lord and develop a friendship with him. The faithful will recognize Jesus as Lord of all.