Feast of Christ the King, Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.
Following upon the particular judgment (which occurs immediately upon death and determines the eternal destiny of the soul, either ultimately in heaven or in hell), there is need also for a general judgment. “The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life.” (CCC 1039)
If the particular judgment reveals God’s sovereignty of each individual, it is in the general judgment that the Lord “will pronounce the final word on all history. […] The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death.” (CCC 1040)
But, will all be judged on the last day? And will any be judges together with Christ? [we will rely especially on Summa Theologica Supplementum, q.89.]
What we mean by “judgment”
In his Commentary on the Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews, St. Thomas (on the authority of St. Gregory the Great) states the following concerning the last judgment: “There are four orders in the judgment: some will not be judged, but will judge and be saved, namely, the Apostles and apostolic men; others will be judged and be saved, as the moderately good; still others will be judged and be damned, as wicked believers; finally, some will not be judged, but will be damned, as all unbelievers.” [On Hebrews 10:31, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.]
We must understand the various ways in which we may speak of “judgment”. On the one hand, judgment can denote the discussion of merits; on the other, it refers to the payment of rewards. Hence, in a court room, there is first the discussion of facts and the weighing of the evidence which is followed by the pronouncement of judgment. However, this judgment must then be carried out (and this is the second type of judgment).
The judgment of angels
It is clear that there can be no discussion of merits when it comes to the angels. For those angels who are good, there is no need for “the judgment of discussion” – since, these angels have never committed any sin, there is no need to weigh their actions in a balance! They will however increase in accidental happiness in heaven, especially as it is revealed how much good they have done for the just.
Considering those wicked angels who fell, they have no merit, being utterly devoid of supernatural goodness – therefore, the demons will not be judged by the judgment of discussion, but will rather only suffer the judgment insofar as it pertains to the payment of reward – for their accidental punishments will increase.
The judgment of the apostles, and the great saints
Neither will the apostles and apostolic men be subjected to the judgment of discussion – though, they will certainly receive the judgment insofar as this pertains to the payment of rewards (since all will see the glory of the apostles).
As our Savior stated to his apostles, Amen I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28).
From this it is clear that the apostles will not be judged but will pronounce judgment together with our Lord (though, Christ alone is truly the Judge; yet, they participate in his supreme act of judging). For these and the great saints (especially those who have left all to follow Christ, voluntarily taking on a life of poverty) will not be judged with the judgment of discussion, but they will be seated in judgment!
The judgment of the just
However, those others who are just, but who are not so excellent as the apostles and the apostolic men, will be judged both with the judgment of discussion and the judgment by which they receive the reward of their labors. These, since their works contain a mixture of good and evil – though they died in the state of grace – will have their merits weighed as in a scale.
However, there is no question (at least for those who had already faced the particular judgment) as to their salvation. Still, their works must be manifested before all, together with the full results of their works – which effect continues even after their death and the particular judgment.
The judgment of the wicked
The wicked dead, who have already been condemned to hell and suffer the second death, will also be subjected to the judgment. For them also, the good and evil that they did in their lives will be made manifest. God will reveal to all that the sins of the wicked are not beyond the scope of divine providence – and, through the public pronouncement of judgment upon the damned, great glory will be given to the Holy Name.
The judgment of those without faith
Finally, there are those who are not merely wicked (lacking charity), but who further are infidels (lacking faith). Those who had no faith will not even be judged according to the judgment of discussion – for none of their works are even the list pleasing to God as meritorious, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Thus, there will be no weighing of their works, but those who die without faith will (in the final judgment) be condemned immediately and without any discussion – in this respect, they share something in common with the fallen angels (as the apostles and apostolic men are likened unto the good angels).
Amen, Come Lord Jesus!