Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The only element in the second article of the Apostolic Creed that has not yet been fulfilled is our Lord "will come again to judge the living and the dead." The Athanasian Creed says something else: ďAt whose coming men are to be resurrected with their bodies and are to give an account of their own works. Those who did well will go to eternal life: but those who did wrong, to eternal fire."
It is a persistent truth throughout Scripture that God desires the salvation of all men. Furthermore, Saint Paul says in Romans 3:28, "We therefore conclude that man is justified by faith without the works of the law." On the cross our Lord paid the debt for our sins and we are justified by faith alone, not by our own merits.
What, then, does this doctrine of the final judgment mean? For us, this earthly life is the time of grace. Now we can repent of our sins and receive God's forgiveness. We can live free from the fear of God's wrath. But, if men reject salvation, justice requires adverse judgment, and the final day will be the day of verdict.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory; and all nations will be gathered before him; and he will separate them one from another, as he separates Shepherd the sheep from the goats. "
The "Son of man" emphasizes Jesus Christ as true man. "In his glory" emphasizes his divinity, which was hers before the world began. "They will be reunited" is passive. It is a meeting from which no human being will be absent. The just should not be afraid of not being included and the unjust will have no other choice.
Sheep and goats represent the redeemed and damned. There are only two divisions on the last day; without social distinctions, without preference for rank and wealth, without neutral people. In one or the other of the two assemblies, each person in the world will inevitably find himself without escape, in one case; not wanting to escape, in the other. The sheep are the ones that followed the great Shepherd, Jesus; the goats are the ones who were disobedient, the unbelievers, the hypocrites among the Christians, the whole ungodly world. And what is important to understand is the Lord knows the secrets of heart. He he now knows the sheep and the goats. In this the believers have the assurance that the Lord desires his salvation and that his promises are reliable. And we should not be concerned with those who seem to escape the justice of God in this life, because no one can escape the justice of him in the end.
The good works of the blessed were evidence, not cause, of belonging to Christ. His sins are not mentioned, only works done in faith are mentioned. In verses 37-39, the righteous asked "when?" three times with surprise and amazement. But in the damned ask "when?" only once, evidently in the spirit of reprimand, reproach and accusation. In verse 44, the speakers try to blame the Lord. The unregenerate remain spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins. His love was selfish. They did what they did just for the reward of men. They must turn away from Jesus because all their works are considered iniquity.
It does not say, cursed of my Father, because they have brought the curse upon themselves. The eternal fire was not prepared for them, but really only for the devil and his angels. And this fire was not prepared from the beginning of the world, God did not have a council according to which He wanted the condemnation of any man. They have no one to blame but themselves, this just sentence does not hit them because of anyone but themselves. By the same method of appreciation of values that Christ used in the case of the righteous, they have been weighed and found wanting. They have not spent their lives in the activity of good works that flow from the love of Christ. They may have boasted of deeds that are considered great in the eyes of men.
The faithful are again called "the righteous". They are righteous not because of their works, but because they believed what God, in Christ, did for them. Good works are clear evidence of this relationship of believers. The punishment of the wicked is justice because they rejected God.
As for the unjust, their condemnation is sealed: eternal punishment is their destiny, while those justified by their faith in the Redeemer will go to eternal life. The former, through their own fault, have lost the happiness of love and the eternal glory of Christ; the latter, through the love and mercy of Jesus, made their own by faith, will inherit the joy of eternal blessing.
In this hope is the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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