My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE
THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT [Revelation, Chapters 21 and 22]
There are numerous testimonies in Holy Scripture of the actuality and indisputability of the future UNIVERSA JUDGMENT. Of these testimonies, the MOST COMPLETE PICTURE OF THIS Last Judgment by the Savior is given in Matthew 25:31-46 ("When the Son of Man shall come in His glory…"). In accordance with this picture, we may draw conclusions regarding the characteristics of the Judgment. It will be:
"UNIVERSAL," that is, extending to all men living and dead, good and evil, and according to other indications given in the word of God, even to the fallen angels themselves (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6);
"SOLEMN AND OPEN," for the Judge will appear in all His Glory with all His Holy Angels before the fae of the whole world;
"STRICT AND TERRIBLE," performed in all the justice of God–it will be "a day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:3).
"FINAL AND DEFINITIVE," determining for all eternity the fate of each one who is judged. The result of the Judgment will be eternal reward–blessedness for the righteous and torment for the evil who are condemned.
Depicting in the brightest and most joyful features the ETERNAL LIFE OF THE RIGHTEOUS after the Universal Judgment, the word of God speaks with the same positiveness and certainty concerning the eternal torments of evil men. "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire," the Son of Man will say on the day of judgment, "and these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal" (Matthew 25:41, 46). This condition of torment is presented in Holy Scripture depicting as a PLACE of torment, and it is called GEHENNA. (The image of the fiery gehenna is taken from the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, where at one time executions were performed, and likewise, every kind of unclean thing was dumped, as a result of which a fire was constantly burning there to guard against infection.) [see Mark 9:43-44, likewise 45-48]. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth," the Savior repeated many times concerning gehenna (Matthew 8:12 and other places). The images of the "worm that dieth not" and the "fire that is not quenched" are evidently symbolic and indicate the severity of the torments. Saint John Damascene remarks, "Sinners will be given over to the everlasting fire, which will not be a material fire such as we are accustomed to, but a fire such as God might know."
"I know," writes Saint John Chrysostom, "that many are terrified only of gehenna; but I think THAT THE DEPRIVATION OF THAT GLORY (of the Kingdom of God) IS A TORMENT MORE CRUEL THAN GEHENNA" (Homily 23 on Matthew). "This deprivation of good things," he reflects in a different place, " WILL CAUSE SUCH TORMENT, SUCH SORROW, AND OPPRESSION, THAT EVEN IF NO PUNISHMENT AWAITED THOSE WHO SIN HERE, IT IN ITSELF (THIS DEPRIVATION) CAN TORMENT AND DISTURB OUR SOULS MORE POWERFULLY THAN THE TORMENTS OF GEHENNA… Many foolish people desire only to be delivered from gehenna, but I consider much more tormenting than gehenna the punishment of not being in that glory. And I think that he who is deprived of it should weep not so much over the torments of gehenna AS OVER BEING DEPRIVED OF THE GOOD THINGS OF HEAVEN, FOR THIS ALONE IS THE CRUELEST OF ALL PUNISHMENTS" (Homily I, to Theodore).
The Church, basing itself on the word of God, acknowledges the torments of gehenna TO BE ETERNAL AND UNENDING, and therefore it condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council THE FALSE TEACHING of the Origenists that the demons and impious people would be restored to their original condition of innocence (APKATASTASIS in Greek). The condemnation at the Universal Judgment is called in the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Saint John the Theologian the "SECOND DEATH" (Revelation 20:14).
However, it is not for us to define the boundaries between the unutterable mercy of God and His Justice or Righteousness. We know that the Lord "will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of truth" (1 Timothy 2:4); but man is capable, through his own evil will, of REJECTING THE MERCY OF GOD AND THE MEANS OF SALVATION. Saint John Chrysostom, in interpreting the depiction of the Last Judgment, states, "When He (the Lord) spoke about the Kingdom, after saying, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom," He added, which is "PREPARED FOR YOU FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD" ( Matthew 25:34), but when speaking about the fire, He did not speak thus, but He added: which is "PREPARED FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS" (Matthew 25:41). For I have prepared for you a Kingdom, but the fire I have prepared NOT FOR YOU but FOR THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS. But since you have cast your own selves into the fire, therefore ACCUSE YOURSELF FOR THIS" (Homily 70 on Matthew).
We have no right to understand the words of the Lord only conditionally, as a threat or as a certain pedagogical means applied by the Savior. If we understand it this way WE ERR, since the Savior DOES NOT INSTILL IN US ANY SUCH UNDERSTANDING, AND WE SUBJECT OURSELVES TO GOD’S WRATH ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF THE Psalmist: "Why hath the ungodly one provoked God? For he hath said to his hear: He will not make inquiry" (Psalm 9:34).
"…God NEITHER REJOICES NOR GROWS ANGRY, FOR TO REJOICE AND TO BE OFFENDED ARE PASSIONS; NOR IS HE WON OVER BY THE GIFTS FO THOSE WHO HONOR HIM, FOR THAT WOULD MEAN HE IS SWAYED BY PLEASURE… HE IS GOOD, AND HE ONLY BESTOWS BLESSINGS AND NEVER DOES HARM, REMAINING ALWAYS THE SAME. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through RESEMBLING GOD, are UNITED TO Him; but IF WE BECOME EVIL THROUGH NOT RESEMBLING GOD; BUT BY BECOMING ANGRY WITH US IN AN ARBITRARY WAY, BUT IT IS OUR OWN SINS THAT PREVENT GOD FROM SHINING WITHIN US AND EXPOSE US TO THE DEMONS WHO PUNISH US. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him change, but that through our actions and our turning to God we have cured our wickedness and so once more have the enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind" (Philokalia, Vol. I, Text 150).
"… With the end of this age and the transformation of the world into A NEW AND BETTER WORLD, there is revealed the Eternal Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Glory.
Then will come to an end the Kingdom of Grace the existence of the Church ON EARTH, the MILITANT Church; it will enter into this Kingdom of glory and will merge with the HEAVENLY Church, the TRIUMPHANT Church. (Source: Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Father Michael Pomazansky)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God