"And that the whole story of Last Judgment ... has been made very beautiful"- The Paraclete

"The most important of the OT apocryphal texts for the question of judgment is the Apocalypse of Daniel (Dan 7-12). Here a throne of"fiery flames...its wheels burning with fire"Was set up for the"Ancient One," whose clothing is"White as snow.”The Ancient one presides over a court of justice: "The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened" (Dan 7.9-10). The Ancient One bestows"dominion and power and kingship"upon"one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven (Dan 7.18)," and"judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom (Dan 7.22).”

The Bible The Torah The Koran

Jeffrey B. Russell
Professor of History
University of California Santa Barbara

Judgment in the theological sense connotes a moral discernment between good or evil actions. By extension, it applies to discernment between good and evil persons, a good person being one whose general character, despite any number of faults, is inclined toward love of God and of fellow creatures, and an evil person being one whose character is inclined rather to self-love at the expense of others. Humans are entitled to judge whether an action is good or evil (Luke 12.57; John 7.24; 1 Cor 6.2-3), but judgment of a person is reserved to God (Matt 7.1; Luke 6.37): Do not judge, and you will not be judged. The parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt 13.24-30) has often been cited as a prooftext against human judgment: we are to let the weeds grow with the wheat and let the Lord distinguish between them at the time of the harvest—that is, at the time of divine judgment.

In his eternal knowledge and wisdom, God is always sifting the hearts of his creatures and judging their characters. But early Christian teaching, rooted in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament, OT), also affirms a Last Judgment at the end of the world. The Last Judgment was defined as God's judgment of the characters of all humans (and other free and intelligent beings such as angels), a judgment based on God's eternal and certain knowledge, and therefore immutable. One's character cannot be changed after the judgment; this fact follows the emphasis of the Hebrew Bible on the absolute importance of this present life on this earth, the only life that we have in which to make our moral choice and form our character.

Belief in a Last Judgment became common, indeed credal, in Christianity because scripture says it; tradition asserts it; reason supports it; and literature and art proclaim it. Though the Last Judgment does not occupy an especially prominent place in the Bible, many OT and NT texts are relevant: Psalm 98.9 says that the Lord will come to judge"The world with righteousness and the peoples with equity; John 12.48 says that on the last day, the Lord will judge those who reject him. The tradition is enshrined in the Nicene Creed formulated at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and still used in most churches: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”Reason applied to scripture confirms the idea: humans have free will to choose to follow the commandment to love God and neighbor (Deut 6.5; Matt 22.37-39). The responsibility lies both on the community (the human race in Adam and Eve, the Bene Israel, the Christian community and on the individual man or woman. Reason also shows that at the end of the world God's eternal judgment of each person will be made manifest; the end recapitulates and finalizes what has gone before in time, and eschatology declares the eternal divine knowledge of souls. Art and literature reflect this theology, the first depiction of the Last Judgment appearing in an early stage of Christian art, in the sixth century.

The Last Judgment was early established as one of the four essential eschatological moments (different from the later tradition of the"Four Last Things: "death, judgment, heaven, and hell) namely the parousia (return of Christ), the resurrection of the body, the Last Judgment, and the end of this world (whether the world is understood as the end of the physical cosmos or as the end of the present world order, kosmos or aiôn). These four eschatological moments are closely linked in early and medieval Christian theology, but this present article concentrates on the judgment, examining the idea in the Bible, patristic period, and Middle Ages. The Last Judgment was generally accepted as a necessary prelude to the reality of the kingdom of God in which all are recognized as their true selves; it is an occasion of terror for the evil and of joy for the loving, for the harvest of the kingdom is the poor, the dispossessed, the humble, the persecuted (Mt 5.3-12), who will be gathered up as rich wheat and baked into loaves that are heartwhole, heavenly, and fine.

In the OT, the"Day of the Lord," though not yet defined as the day when a court of judgment would be held, was a day to be feared by those who had not kept the Covenant. The earlier OT writings seem to assume that at death one is either obliterated or sent to the underground (Sheol) to dwell as a fluttering shadow. Since the afterlife was vague at best, the emphasis remained on this present world; consequently, the punishment envisioned for the unfaithful was devastation and ruin in this life. In the later OT writings emerged the concept of a division between the faithful and the unfaithful in the Lord's kingdom to come. The day of the Lord would usher in his kingdom on earth, in which the righteous would be rewarded while the faithless would be eternally destroyed in the fires of Ge-hinnom (Gehenna; hell). Such a radical, dire, and eternal division demanded a solemn judgment. By the time of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.E.), it was believed that God would resurrect and judge the dead on the Mount of Olives or on the Temple Square (expanded by metonymy to Jerusalem, to the kingdom of Judah, or the whole Land of Israel). Ezekiel declared (37) that the dry bones that the Lord would raise would be clothed in flesh, brought out of their graves and returned to Israel, where they would live in peace and faithfulness to the Covenant.

Even before the idea of a future judgment developed, the OT viewed the Lord as the judge of inner hearts. The metaphor for his eternal knowledge of souls was the book. Since the Book of the Law (Torah) contains the words of the covenant, it is by the book that we shall be judged; the idea was extended to the book in which our characters are written (Exod 32.32-33). The Lord is a righteous judge (Ps 7.11) who will judge all the peoples of the earth (Ps 82.8; 98.9) and Israel itself (Ezek 18.30). He judges not only peoples and nations but individuals, each according to his or her character (Ps 7.8; Ezek 33.20; Eccl 11.9). He judges both the righteous and the wicked, condemning the unfaithful and rewarding the poor and the humble (Eccl 3.17; Isa 11.4). The place where the Lord will judge is not in heaven but on earth (Ps 58.11), in Israel, in Jerusalem, or, as in Joel 3.12," I will sit in the 'valley of Jehosaphat' to judge all the nations.”He will sit upon the throne of judgment (Ps 9.4-7; 122.5) and mete out justice with fire and sword (Isa 66.16).

The apocalyptic Jewish thought of the second century B.C.E. to the first century C.E.—that is, at the end of the time the OT was written and just afterwards—arose during times of great historical tribulation for Israel. Accordingly, its proponents doubted and feared that justice and righteousness could ever be achieved in this world (understood again as kosmos or aiôn, meaning the current state of human society) and therefore hoped and believed that the end-time was imminent. The Lord would come immediately, at any moment, and establish a new cosmos or aion: the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Heaven. At his coming, the Lord would judge and reward the faithful according to their deserts. Apocalyptic thought bound the day of the Lord and the judgment more tightly together than before. On the last day, the Judge would lead the faithful into the new eon, the new world, and forever cast out the faithless.

The most important of the OT apocryphal texts for the question of judgment is the Apocalypse of Daniel (Dan 7-12). Here a throne of"fiery flames...its wheels burning with fire"Was set up for the"Ancient One," whose clothing is"White as snow.”The Ancient one presides over a court of justice: "The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened" (Dan 7.9-10). The Ancient One bestows"dominion and power and kingship"upon"one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven (Dan 7.18)," and"judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom (Dan 7.22).”

Imminence of judgment was one characteristic of apocalyptic thought; another was transcendence. Whatever the end of the world and the new eon and the kingdom of God meant, they meant a complete change, whether by obliteration and new construction or by transformation of the existing world. The nature of the new eon, the kingdom of God, varied considerably among these writers. It might be a world not of this earth, or it might be a completely new order on this earth. It might be the end of time or the beginning of a new sort of time. For all the apocalyptic writers, however, it meant the final, eternal, and complete triumph of justice, in which the good would be rewarded and the evil punished, not just on earth and in time, but in eternity.

Even more clearly than in the OT, apocalyptic writers insisted that at the resurrection both the just and the unjust would be judged. Where Isaiah had prophesied the liberation of the faithful from pain and death without mentioning the punishment of the faithless (14.3), Daniel foresaw a trial of both the righteous and the wicked, with eternal joy for the former," who shall shine like the brightness of the sky," and eternal punishment for the latter (Dan 12.2-10). Enoch concurred: "And to all the righteous He will grant peace. He will preserve the elect, and kindness shall be upon them. They shall all belong to God and they shall prosper and be blessed; and the light of God shall shine upon them" (1 Enoch Book 1, ch. 1.7-9; cf. 1 Enoch 45.3-6).

Apocalyptic, best known for its prophecies of doom, really emphasized the joy and goodness of the judgment as much as its fear. That is why apocalyptic thought flourished: it was a message of hope for the poor and the oppressed:

On that day, they shall lift up in one voice, blessing, glorifying, and extolling in the spirit of faith, in the spirit of wisdom and patience, in the spirit of mercy, in the spirit of justice and peace, and in the spirit of generosity.... All the elect ones who dwell in the garden of life (shall bless you); every spirit of light that is capable of blessing, glorifying, extolling, and sanctifying your blessed name (shall bless you) and all flesh shall glorify and bless your name with an exceedingly limitless power forever and ever (1 Enoch 61.10-13).

The judgment would be a judgment of all the peoples of the world, but the Jewish apocalyptic writers were naturally most concerned with the judgment of Israel itself, where the criterion was clear: loyalty or disloyalty to the Covenant. A peculiar emphasis of Jewish apocalyptic was messianic speculation. Mashiach," the anointed one," was a title of the kings of Israel and Judah since Samuel had anointed Saul. With the repeated defeat and occupation of the Land of Israel by foreign empires, the conviction grew in the last two centuries B.C.E. that a mashiach, Messiah, of supernatural strength and power would soon emerge to liberate Israel. For some, the Messiah would lead the Jews in a military revolution against their oppressors and restore the earthly kingdom; for others, this earthly kingdom was to be transformed, and the Messiah would rule it for ages or even forever; for yet others the Messiah was to usher in a kingdom that completely and eternally transcended the present cosmos. The coming of the Messiah was then linked to the day of the Lord and, accordingly, to the Last Judgment. The Messiah would act as the agent of the Lord, or sit in judgment with the Lord. The functions of the Lord and of the Messiah at the Last Judgment were gradually fused.

In the crucial period of the first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., the dominant OT, Deuteronomic, priestly Judaism of the Second Temple period divided into a number of competing movements, including Zealots, Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Christians. The shattering of the Second Temple consensus was completed with the literal demolition of the Second Temple by the Romans following their crushing of the Jewish rebellion in 70 C.E.

The two most successful of these groups were the Christians and the Pharisees, the latter the founders of the rabbinic, Talmudic tradition that is the mark of orthodox Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism held that God and/or his Messiah would come at the end of the world, raise the dead in Jerusalem, judge the people of the world, and lead the just to paradise (however defined) and the unjust to eternal punishment.

New Testament Christianity, founded in the midst of the apocalyptic period, drew upon the OT, apocalyptic Judaism, and the teachings of the rabbis. Like the OT and the rabbis, it did not emphasize the Last Judgment; in fact, the only Evangelist that gave it much attention is John, both in his Gospel and in the Book of Revelation, although it also appears in Matthew's"Little Apocalypse" (Matt 25.31-46). NT Christianity shared the conviction that the end-time was at hand and that each person would be judged according to his or her works: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt 16.27; cf. Rev 20.13; 11.18). On the last day, God would be our judge (John 12.48), and that last day is imminent: the"hour is coming and now is" (John 5.25; cf. 12.31). The apostle Paul firmly linked the OT day of the Lord with the resurrection of the body, the coming of the Messiah, and the Last Judgment (1 Cor 15).

The greatest difference between the Christians and the other Jewish groups in the first century was of course their belief that the Messiah had already come in the person of Jesus, whom they called Christos, the Greek translation of the Hebrew mashiach," anointed ruler.”By his life and by his voluntary, loving death on the cross, Christ removed the block of sin that had separated humans from God since our original choice, in Adam and Eve, to seek our own will rather than God's love. So the Messiah had come, and he had redeemed the world, but he had not come to judge on the last day, for the last day was patently not here yet. The Messiah, therefore, would come a second time, and it was at his second coming (which was at hand, since he had promised to come even before"This generation"passes away: Matt 24.34; Mark 13.30; Luke 31.32) that he would judge the living and the dead.

The other Jewish groups of the time had already conflated the roles of God and Messiah at the judgment, but the Christians made it specific and overt. Though NT Christianity had not yet defined what it meant to claim that Christ was God—a task left to the church fathers—it clearly assumed that Christ was the Son of God the Father in an absolutely unique way.”The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5.22): judgment had already begun with Jesus in his first coming, and he would return to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4.1; cf. 1 Pet 4.5). The Little Apocalypse of Matthew foretells that when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by ny Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... . Then he will say to those at his left hand: "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels... . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt 25.31-46).

Here are assembled many motifs of the NT Last Judgment. Christ, rather than the Father, will judge, though of course in accordance with his Father's will. He will sit in glory upon a royal throne appropriate to the Anointed King (cf. Rom 14.10; 2 Cor 5.10). The throne appears even more dramatically in John's Revelation: "Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence" (Rev 20.11; cf. Rv 20.4). Christ will judge all people and all nations, and both the just and the unjust (John 5.19-30; Rev 20.11-15; 2 Cor 5.9-10): "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne" (Rev 20.12). He will discern the character of all: "And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books [of life] (Rev. 20.12). According to their character he will welcome the righteous into heaven and send the unrighteous to suffer eternal punishment in fire (2 Pet 3.7).

The Last Judgment is now tied firmly and permanently to the general resurrection of the body. At the last day, Christ will judge both the living and the dead. Those living at the time of the Second Coming will not suffer physical death (1 Thess 4.17) and will be judged in the bodies that they have in this life. Those who have already suffered physical death will be raised in the bodies that they had in life. The resurrected human being will be, as the living human being is, an indivisible union of body and soul. The judgment would produce two effects of the resurrection, which John sometimes refers to as"two resurrections," namely a resurrection to eternal life for the just; and the resurrection to"judgment" (here restricted in meaning to condemnation) for the unjust (Jn 5.29). John also uses a similar equivocity in the term"death," speaking of the first death as the physical death and the"second death"As the death or damnation limited to the unjust. The just, though dead, will rise and live forever, and"over these the second death has no power" (Rev. 20.60); the unjust will die and then die again in eternity.

Angels as well as humans are judged. The Devil, the"ruler of this world," is judged (John 16.11; cf. Rev 20.2-3), and all the evil angels are reserved for the Last Judgment to be cast into hell (2 Pet 2.4; Jude 6). Christ is usually said to judge alone, but several texts indicate that he will be joined by the apostles and the saints: "You who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt 19.28); the idea was extended to all peoples by Paul: "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Cor 6.2).

The perennial question whether God, Christ, is evil because he condemns the unjust to hell was already raised by Paul: Is God"unjust to inflict wrath on us? ... By no means! For then how could God judge the world?” (Rom 3.5-6). The judgment of God is"righteous" (2 Thess 1.5). The essential message is positive, even joyful: those who love will at the judgment love with unhindered joy: "God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more... . see, I am making all things new" (Rev 21.3-5).

The Christian Apocrypha (books written in the first three centuries C.E. that were accepted by some as revealed but not included in the canon of the NT) offer a similar view to that of the canonical NT. Jesus tells the apostles that he is coming again"As the sun bursts forth; thus will I, shining seven times brighter than it in glory, while I am carried on the wings of the clouds in splendor with my cross going before me, come to earth to judge the living and the dead" (Epistola apostolorum ca. 150 C.E., 16-17). The Apocalypse of Peter, the Letter of the Apostles, and the Sibylline Oracles are among the apocryphal texts confirming the NT view of the Last Judgment. (The Sibylline Oracles were so widely respected throughout early and medieval Christianity that the thirteenth-century author of the great hymn," Day of Wrath," cites"The Sibyl"As well as the Psalmist ["David"] as the two great guarantees of the judgment to come.)

The exceptions are the Gnostic Apocrypha, such as"The Gospel of Thomas.”Gnosticism (as opposed to Gnostic thought in general, some of which was Jewish) was a variety of Christianity that faded by the third century C.E.. Gnosticism was incompatible with emerging orthodox Christianity primarily because most Gnostics attempted to explain the existence of evil by claiming that the material world and the body were the evil creation of an evil deity or subdeity ("demiurge") hostile to the Lord, who is the Lord of spirit alone. This immensely powerful opponent of God is the source of all evil. A human being is a spark of divine spirit that Satan has entrapped in loathsome flesh. Our duty is to escape the flesh and return our spirit to God. We can achieve this only by embracing gnôsis, divinely revealed knowledge. Since bodies are disgusting and evil, Christ did not have a body, nor will our own bodies rise again. Christ, in order to communicate with us wretched humans, took on only the appearance of a body. He saves us not by becoming flesh and dying on the cross, but by serving as an angelic, bodiless messenger bringing from God the gnosis that we must escape our prison house of flesh. In such a system, there could be no resurrection of the body, no Last Judgment. Rather, the soul is judged at death, and it is either reimprisoned in another body or, liberated by gnosis, ascends through a series of spheres, becoming ever more spiritual and less material until, having cast all filthy matter aside, it shines forth as pure spirit (pneuma) and reunites with the pure, spiritual Light from which Satan had kidnapped it.

The Christian fathers of the first few centuries C.E., dismissing this Gnostic hatred of the body, affirmed and developed the teachings of the NT, maintaining the union of the eschatological moment: at the end of time Christ would return as the judge of the whole world, including the living and the dead, who would be resurrected in the flesh. The further development of the concept of the Last Judgment would take place within the boundaries of these teachings.

The most important shift between the NT point of view and that of the fathers of the second century was occasioned by the fact that time, rather than coming to a rapid end in the generation of the apostles, was observed to continue. Though the end of the world was still believed to be about to happen at any moment, the longer it delayed, the more vague was its date in the future. Bernard McGinn has argued that there was a shift from"predictive"historical imminence to psychological imminence. Each person continued to expect judgment at any moment, but the historical time of the judgment faded into an indefinite future. Indeed, it is a common principle that the longer an event that is not certain to occur is postponed, the less likely it becomes. Though Christians still affirm imminence psychologically, the delay of the end-time by now commands little historical credence indeed.

This so-called delay of the parousia had the effect of causing a growing tension in the idea of judgment, a tension between the so- called particular judgment and the Last Judgment. So long as it was believed that no significant time would elapse between a person's physical death and the end of time, the tension itself was not significant. But it became clear by the middle of the second century that Christians were dying scores, even a hundred years, before the Last Judgment. The question whether they underwent a personal," particular"judgment while awaiting the Last Judgment gradually became a significant problem, and though it was not a central concern until later, it appeared early in the second century. Those historians who have mistakenly argued that the particular judgment was a creation of the later Middle Ages have been refuted by Anton Gurevic's demonstration that it was found in the early Middle Ages as well. But Gurevic did not go far enough. The ideas of the individual judgment and of the Last Judgment both existed, although in unresolved tension, together from at least the second century.

In the NT itself, the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31) suggests the idea of a particular judgment. Clement of Rome (96-98 C.E.) said that Peter and Paul went directly to"The holy place"At their deaths and that they found there a throng of martyrs and saints"made perfect in charity (1 Clement 5.4-7; 6.1; 50.3). This holy place must be presumed to be heaven itself or at least a blessed antechamber to heaven: in either event, the judgment passed upon these saints would surely not be changed or even modified at the Last Judgment. The anonymous Martyrdom of Polycarp (ca. 170 C.E.) implied the particular judgment with the notion that the martyrs, even if no one else, went directly into God's presence (to heaven) immediately at their death (Mart. Poly. 17.1). This implication left the question what God was doing with other people between their death and their resurrection: whether there was some kind of intermediate state between death and resurrection; or one between death and judgment. It posed the further theological question how the Last Judgment could possibly obtain a different result from the particular judgment, since the dead do not change their characters and God does not change his mind.

The fathers affirmed that the Last Judge would be Christ (Barnabas 7.2; 2 Clement 1.1; Polycarp, Phil 2.1) and expand upon it. Justin Martyr (fl. 150 C.E.) explained that just as Christ came for the first time in humility and died in anguish, he would come for the second time in glory to establish his eternal kingdom. The worthy he makes immortal; the unworthy he sends to eternal hell (Dial. 40.4; 45.4; 49.2; 80.5; 81.4; 1 Apol. 52). He sends them to hell not out of cruelty and vengeance, but rather because they merit it and indeed have chosen it for themselves in their hateful lives. Marcion (d. ca. 160 C.E.) attempted to distinguish between justice and mercy, but Tertullian (fl. ca. 200 C.E.) replied that the two are inseparable: a god that would not love justice and hate iniquity would be no god at all (Adv. Marc. 1.26). It would be no mercy to the oppressed and persecuted to bring their tormentors into the midst of their joy.

Hippolytus (fl. ca. 225 C.E.) posited hades (a Greco-Roman word and concept similar to that of the OT Sheol) as the place where all the dead await resurrection and the Last Judgment. But he also stipulated that in the meanwhile the blessed dead repose in a place that he called"Abraham's bosom" (Against Plato, 1; cf. Lk. 16.22) awaiting the general resurrection. The unjust wait in the shadows for the final judgment, when angels as ministers of justice drag them off to hell, a lightless place beneath the earth. Again the reason that the angels thrust them into hell was not malice, but because the damned have already made the choice that put them there.

Irenaeus (fl. ca. 200 C.E.), the most influential of the early fathers, attacked the Gnostic idea that at death the soul passed directly to heaven (De haer. 5.31). Even the Savior, he pointed out, first descended to the dead before rising again. But the Gnostics, unlike the orthodox Christians, had no problem with the interim period, because the Gnostics totally rejected the resurrection of the body and the need for a Last Judgment. The Gnostics, with their loathing of the body, declared the soul the only genuine part of a human person and therefore had no difficulty with the idea that the blessed entered into their journey as disembodied souls directly at the time of their death.

The fathers followed the OT tradition of the resurrection and worked on unpacking the idea. Athenagoras (fl. 180 C.E.) confronted both the Gnostics and the Platonists in his defense of the judgment of body and soul conjoined. He explained that the demonstrable decomposition on bodies after death made a resurrection necessary, since a human being is composed of both body and soul and no separation of the two can be permanent. If God intended humans to end up as disembodied souls, he would not have created them body and soul to begin with. The end and goal of human lives, including our lives after death, is to live as complete, harmonious, human beings, which requires both body and soul. Human nature could not exist without the resurrection of the body. Judgment, Athenagoras continued, is thus judgment of the whole person, both body and soul; furthermore, since the passions of the body can urge us to sin, it would be unjust or absurd to judge the soul without the body; the opposite is true also: the body, which has labored and suffered, deserves its reward.

Athenagoras (Plea), Lactantius (d. ca. 330, and Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373) introduced a new difficulty based upon their reading of Ps 1.5, Jn 5.28-29, and Ac 24.15. Lactantius (Div. Inst. 7.20) argued that at the End, not all will be judged. Those who fundamentally reject ("They who have not known God") God are not judged, for they have already been judged and condemned. Those who have known God are judged: if their virtues outweigh their vices, they go to heaven; if not they are destroyed or else suffer in eternal fire. Yet in Div. Inst. 7.26, he says that all shall be resurrected and then divided into the good and the evil. Even more inconsistently, Lactantius seems to have two judgments: one at the beginning of the millennium and the other a second and final judgment at the end of the millennium, which of course confirms the first but ushers in the absolute end.

Ephraim divided humanity into three groups: those"Above judgment" (the saints), those"under judgment," and those"beyond judgment" (the damned). All pass through fire, but the first group do not suffer, the second group do not remain suffering but are purified, the damned do not remain at all. Athenagoras refuted the idea that the Last Judgment is the very purpose of Christ's second coming, he argued that since though all human beings who die rise again, not all who rise again are to be judged. The judgment is of the wicked alone, for the righteous do not need to be judged, much less judged again. The cement binding the Last Judgment to the second coming and the resurrection showed a crack here, for if the judgment and the general resurrection are not causally linked, it is not logically necessary that they occur at the same time. But neither Athenagoras or the other fathers pried further into that particular fissure.

The most important tension between the particular and last judgments has to do with time. If the souls of the dead must pass through a period of time between death and the Last Judgment, where do they do this? Where are they now? Have they not been judged at all? But if they have been judged in the particular judgment, then why must they wait for the inevitable confirmation of that in the Last Judgment? But if no time elapses between death and Last Judgment, then the soul is never disembodied. If the particular judgment and the Last Judgment occur outside of time, in an eternal moment, then why does time elapse on earth while bodies decay? Does the Last Judgment occur on the last day of time (or any day in time) or in an eternal moment or past the end of time? Only to the last question did the fathers give a clear and unambiguous answer: on the last day of time, the parousia would occur, the Lord would judge, and all persons would be set eternally in heaven or hell.

The question left by John's distinction between the resurrection of life and the resurrection of condemnation (Jn 5.29) left doubt among the fathers as to who would be judged at the Last Day. To be sure, all are judged, but perhaps not all are judged at the Last Judgment. Hilary of Poitiers, for example, divided the dead into three categories. The impious have been judged already at the particular judgment and do not need to be judged again; the just do not need to be judged at all; only those whose lives were mixed need the final judgment (In Ps. 1.15-18). This view, never significant in the East, was roundly rejected by Augustine (354-430) for the West. The judgment of each person is determined at death, Augustine said—that is, at the particular judgment— but since that judgment is not known to us humans, God"has reserved a day on which his wisdom and justice will be proclaimed together before everyone" (De civ. Dei, Book 20).

Yet another question left unresolved by the NT for the fathers was the defining moment of beatitude. Is it at baptism, when a person is incorporated into the Body of Christ; is it at conversio, the moment when the conscious will to surrender to Christ occurs; is it the particular judgment, when death has made changes of mind impossible; or is it the Last Judgment?

By all accounts, the second coming of Christ forever breaks the power of evil, completing the conquest of the Devil, whose power has already been broken by the Passion. The parousia ushers in the new eon, the new age, the new Jerusalem, the kingdom of God. Whether that reign of God will take place on this earth (however transformed an earth it is), or in heaven, or whether there will be a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth before the Last Judgment and the end of time are questions that form the core of millenarianism (q.v.), a phenomenon that the present article has no room to explore.


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The Great Adi Shakti Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
Some quotes of the Comforter Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi since the 1970's regarding the Last Judgment

“In between Jesus Christ and His destroying Incarnation of Mahavishnu called as Kalki there is a time given to human beings to rectify themselves, for them to enter into the Kingdom of God, which in the Bible is called as Last Judgment.

The population of the Earth is at the maximum these days because all those - practically all those who had aspirations to enter into the Kingdom of God - are born in modern times and are going to be born very soon. This is the most important times because Sahaja Yoga is the Last Judgment. It is fantastic to hear this but that's the fact. it's the Truth!

Though you can understand that Mother's Love makes it very easy for you to get to your Realization and that the whole story of Last Judgment - which looks such a horrifying experience - has been made very beautiful, and very tender, and delicate, and does not disturb you.”

The Paraclete Shri Mataji Kundalini And Kalki Shakti, Bombay, India - September 28, 1979

“But they should also understand that this is the Golden Age of Emancipation, Resurrection and Last Judgment; if we can achieve it, all of us, including them also, will have the blessings of the Divine love which has been promised a long time back.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"Of course there are some absurd things which grew with misinterpretation and interference from unholy people, which are common in these religions. For example, Jews, Christian and Muslims believe that when they die their bodies will come out of their graves and they will all be resurrected at the Time of Resurrection, at the Time of Last Judgment, at the Time of Qiyamah. It is illogical to think what will remain inside those graves after five hundred years. Nobody wants to think and understand that it is not the body but the soul that will come out of these bodies, be born again as human beings and be saved through Qiyamah and Resurrection.”

The Paraclete Shri Mataji

"This is the Last Judgment time, and everyone can judge him or herself through the light of the Spirit.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"The Last Judgment is done by the Kundalini. On the fingertips one can feel oneself and can judge oneself.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"These are the times described in the Holy Bible as the"Last Judgment"And in the Koran as"Qiyamah", the Resurrection Time. Astrologically it is also called the Age of Aquarius, the time of rebirth and of great spiritual development on the Earth.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"And in this great happening of the Last Judgment and the Resurrection Time, one need not, and should not, believe blindfolded in whatever is said about ascent or salvation, but should treat it like a hypothesis, and observe the facts with an open mind like a, scientist.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"In my opinion, every Westerner has, as a matter of urgency, to understand the vital role he has to play in this great Age of Transformation and of the Last Judgment.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"Thus, the establishment of global peace can only come through people who have achieved this state in modern times which is very special and I call it a Blossom Time. In the Bible, it is described as the Last Judgment, also in the Koran it is called as Qiyamah (the Resurrection time).”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"This is the Last Judgment. Either you will go to heaven or you will go to hell. it's already working out like that. So let's see. Where are you? So I have to again and again tell you as your mother, I have to correct you and tell you that remember this is the Last Judgment and please, don't take anymore to the activities which are antichrist.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"Now this is the Last Judgment and those who miss will miss in any case. Christ has said," You will be calling Me Christ, Christ, but I will not recognize you.” "

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"So in this Last Judgment a new race, new race of great people is created. It is your own. It is your own power. Only to know how glorious you are. How great you are. Absolutely free because you get that superior intelligence. In the light of Spirit you know what is constructive for you. You know absolute knowledge.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"So, as it is, you are already marked, you have already been chosen by Christ in his Last Judgment, and you are there. But still one should know that there is also the possibility that you are hypocrites, that you are playing with only words. Could be that we still have to cleanse ourselves, so just put your mind into yourself, and just see for yourself that where have I gone wrong.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"People do not know what time has come. It is the last chance. You won't get any more chance. In Bible it has been described as the Last Judgment. Your Last Judgment is in Sahaja Yoga and how it will be done can be judged by yourself.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"This is the Last Judgment. Let us see what happens. Whatever people come is alright for me. Even if they do not come, it's still alright. Remember, God will not bow before you.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"For us, in between Christ and this destroying incarnation of Mahavishnu called as Kalki, there is a time given to human beings to rectify themselves, for them to enter in the Kingdom of God, which in the Bible is called as the Last Judgment. That you will be judged, all of you will be judged on this earth.”

The Paraclete Shri Mataji

"I have to warn all the Sahaja Yogis who are here because Sahaja Yoga is the Last Judgment; not only that you will be judged, that you are entering into the Kingdom of God, but you become the citizens of God is correct.”

The Paraclete Shri Mataji

"I am here to work for you day and night. You know that I work very hard for you. I spare no efforts, to help you, and do everything that is possible to make you all right; to make you pass this examination of Last Judgment; but you have to cooperate with me, and you have to go headlong about it, and devote most of your time for Sahaja Yoga and for imbibing all that is great and noble.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"This is the greatest of the greatest things which can happen to anyone that you know. Also you know, this is the greatest happening, which was prophesied long time back as the Last Judgment. You know that this is the way, you are going to be judged. So we have to work very hard. We have to work. It is effortlessly given to you, alright. But to maintain it, keep it up to go high, we have to religiously work it out.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"And that your Last Judgment is also now. Only through Kundalini awakening God is going to judge you. How is he going to judge you otherwise? You think of somebody now, a person comes in now. Here is somebody sitting to judge you. How? By how many hair-dressers you have been to? Or how many suits you have stitched for Christmas? Or what presents you have bought or how many cards you have sent? and to how many people you have sent some other things which may not be very palatable. That's not the way.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"This is the most important time because Sahaja Yoga is the Last Judgment. It is fantastic to have this but that's a fact & is the truth. Though you can understand, that Mother's love makes it very easy for you to get through your realization and that the whole story of the Last Judgment looks such as horrifying experience has been made very beautiful and very tender and delicate and does not disturb you. But this is the Last Judgment I tell you, and you all are going to be judged through Sahaja Yoga, whether, you can enter into the kingdom of God or not.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"The Last Judgment has started. We are facing the Last Judgment today. We are not aware of it. And all the satanic forces have come out like the wolves in sheep's clothes. And they are trying to attract you and you do not judge them. You only sit down and judge the Reality. It has started, it is a fact. It has started.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"That Krishna has said once you get your realisation your problems are solved, physical, emotional, mental, all problems are solved and you become absolutely relaxed. That goes without saying. But I'm not here to sort of cure people and go to hospitals. Nothing of the kind. it's just who are the seekers will be blessed because this is the reward of this Last Judgment.”

The Paraclete Shri Mataji

"Christ has said very clearly in the second chapter of Matthew 2nd verse"You'll be calling me Christ! Christ! I won't recognize you.” That's very true. It is not a question of who recognises Him, but He should recognize you because the advent of Christ is going to be absolutely terrible. He is not going to talk to you, convince you or comfort you or give you any council as I am trying my level best, but He will just come for the Last Sorting out because I declare that the Last Judgment has started. The Last Judgment takes place only through Kundalini awakening. There is no other way out. God is going to do it through living process.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"But, logically, you must understand. Where should we reach? What should happen to us? As seekers, what are we expecting? This is a very, very precarious and important time is more to say. The Last Judgment has started. That has started. That's how you are all here and you are seeking. The way it will judge, is the Kundalini has to rise. Your have to become self realized. Then you start feeling your centers on your fingers.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"Sahaja Yoga is for the emancipation of the whole world, at every level. Once we have people of a certain number in Sahaja Yoga, it will start triggering understanding of real righteousness, religiousness and our love for God, and enlightened faith in God. This is how the Resurrection time is going to be worked out. This is the Last Judgment time, and everyone can judge him or herself through the light of the Spirit.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"If we have to change this world, and if we have to save our people from complete destruction, we have to take to wisdom, and that is only possible when the brain is enlightened by Kundalini. This is what is very important today, when we see that this world is on the verge of destruction. Of course, the Creator himself is very anxious to save us and that is why he has in these modern times which are called Kali Yuga, made the all-pervading power activated.

So, now a new age has started which is called the Age of Aquarius,

(Kumbha) meaning the pitcher carrier of spiritual holy water that is the work of Kundalini. The activity of the Kundalini is like the sap of the tree that rises and nourishes all parts of the tree and does not get stuck at one flower (centre). Moreover these are special times. This is the resurrection time. The Last Judgment is done by the Kundalini. On the fingertips one can feel oneself and can judge oneself.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"Of course, this is also the age of science and technology in which human beings have progressed beyond the stage of blind faith. And in this great happening of the Last Judgment and the Resurrection Time, one need not, and should not, believe blindfolded in whatever is said about ascent or salvation, but should treat it like a hypothesis, and observe the facts with an open mind like a, scientist. Of course, if a hypothesis is proved, then any honest, scientifically minded modern person has to accept it.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"Now this is the Last Judgment and those who miss will miss in any case. Christ has said," You will be calling Me Christ, Christ, but I will not recognize you.”So understand you have to become the Spirit as Christ has said," You are to be born again.”You may have faith in me or not - doesn't matter. You must have faith in yourself to begin with.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"But in a way is good because this is Last Judgment. If by marriage, by temptations, by wrong doings, by conditionings if you have to go out, you have to go out.

I must tell you that also there's very little place in the Kingdom of God. Unless and until you prove to be good Sahaja Yogis, there is no place for you, for mediocre there is no place. You have to serious, deep, seeking, dedicated Sahaja Yogis otherwise you have no place.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"So this is the Last Judgment and you will be judged for everything that you do for Sahaja Yoga. One has to be very careful as to how you behave, what is your attitude is and how you should change.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

"Shri Krishna, as I have told you, was the incarnation of diplomacy. So He plays around quite a lot and ultimately He brings forth the untruth and the falsehood. But in doing that He judges people so it's very important that Shri Krishna's powers of His diplomacy were to be manifesting at this time when it is the Last Judgment.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

“Have full confidence, if you want to have your realisation, yo all will get it
Ayez une confiance totale, si vous voulez votre réalisation du Soi, vous l'urez

I cannot force on you, because I respect your freedom
Et je ne peux pas forcer ce processus â l'intérieur de vous, parce que je respecte votre liberté

Immediately we'll know those who are not capable of knowing the Truth
Immédiatement nous verrons ceux qui ne sont pas capables de connaître la Vérité

All such people should leave the hall
Et tous ces gens devraient quitter la salle maintenant

It is not civil to disturb others if they want to have their ascent everybody has this right, legal right
Et il n'est pas poli du tout de déranger tous les gens qui veulent avoir cette ascension spirituelle, les gens qui ont le droit d'voir cette ascension spirituelle

If you want to miss your own ascent, you can go ahead, you can chose, the choice is yours, this is the Last Judgment
Si vous voulez passer â côté de votre ascension spirituelle, c'est votre choix, c'est maintenant le Jugement Dernier

And with this Last Judgment, you have to judge yourself
Et dans ce Jugement Dernier, vous devez vous juger vous-même

In the Koran it is very clearly said at the time of Resurrection, your hands will speak and will give witness against you
Dans le Coran il est dit très clairement que au jour du Jugement Dernier, vos mains parleront et témoigneront contre vous

There is a very big chapter on Resurrection, but the fundamentalists don't want to look at it
Il y a un grand chapître sur la Résurrection dans le Coran, mais les fondamentalistes ne veulent pas le regarder

They believe their religion is the best
Ils pensent que leur religion est la meilleure

But what would it has done to anyone?
Mais quels bienfaits a-t-elle apportés â qui que ce soit?

It is so much misinterpreted... so much misinterpreted
Cela a été tellement mal interprété...

Now the time has come, this is a special time which is the time of Resurrection, this is the Qiyamah
Et maintenant le temps est venu, c'est le temps de la résurrection, c'est le Qiyamah

It is the special time of Last Judgment
C'est le temps très spécial du Jugement Dernier

where you have to judge yourself
O il vous faut vous juger vous-même

The Paraclete Shri Mataji

“This is the most important time because Sahaja Yoga is the Last Judgment. It is fantastic to have this, but that's a fact and is the truth, though you can understand that Mother's Love makes it very easy for you to get through your realisation, and that the whole story of the Last Judgment looks such as horrifying experience, has been made very beautiful and very tender and delicate and does not disturb you.

But this is the Last Judgment, I tell you, and you are all going to be judged through Sahaja Yoga, whether you can enter into the Kingdom of God or not.”

The Paraclete Shri Mataji

"Today, Sahaja Yoga has reached the state of Mahayoga, which is en- masse evolution manifested through it. It is this day's Yuga Dharma. It is the way the Last Judgment is taking place. Announce it to all the seekers of truth, to all the nations of the world, so that nobody misses the blessings of the Divine to achieve their meaning, their absolute, their spirit.”

The Paraclete Shri Mataji

"The main thing that one has to understand is that the time has come for you to get all that is promised in the scriptures, not only in the Bible but all the scriptures of the world. The time has come today that you have to become a Christian, a Brahmin, a Pir, through your Kundalini awakening only. There is no other way. And that your Last Judgment is also now.”

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi

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Each one of them however hides from the ultimate test

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