Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who will judge and who will be judged on the last day?

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!


A Sinner said...

May it be said that the sense in which the Apostles and other "apostolic men" (the great Saints) will judge rather than be judged is inasmuch as they are the Perfect, they reached the state of spiritual perfection, and thus will be held up as the "standard" (with Christ) against which other human beings (saved or damned) whose merits were mixed will be compared?

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Ryan,
I read your commentary explaining why the Poor Souls can't pray a lick for us. I read now your commentary on judgement. I understand why it is opportune at this time of year to expound on those elements of Faith. Can you tell me when you are going to get around to why we ought have any reasons for Hope or Mercy or will that all be covered in a piece on despair?

Anonymous said...

What will the Mother of God do in the Last Judgment? Will She judge with Christ and the Apostles and apostolic men too?

Xristoforos Theotokou

PD: Congratulation for this extraordinary blog. God bless you

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thank you to those who noted the typographical errors in the opening quotation from Scripture ... apologies ... they have been corrected. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Yes, most certainly Our Lady will participate in her Son's act of judgment on the last day -- and she herself will not be judged (by the judgment of discussion).

Thank you for mentioning this point ... I recall also how St. Louis Marie DeMontfort used to stress that, as our Lord first came through his Mother, so it will be at the end of time! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

A little while back I did write two articles on hope - one here and another at -- here are the links

"Hope vs. Presumption" -

"Can we hope that all men be saved?" -

Now, I know that neither of these touch directly on the question you raised ... but they will have to do for now! :)

[finally, just to be clear, in the earlier article on the poor souls, I did not mean to say that they cannot ever possibly pray for us, but only that this is outside the norm and extraordinary]

Peace to you! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@A Sinner,
Yes, they will "judge" as being examples which ought to be imitated ... and in this sense, the great saints "judge" after the manner in which a book of judgment is said to "judge" -- they are like a measure which measures others.

However, they have a further role of announcing the verdict of judgement from Christ upon all peoples. And in this sense they are active judges, in and through Christ.

Peace to you! +

Michelangelo said...

Happy Solemnity of the Feast of Christ the King, Father!

Have you done a post on the layman's guide to God's justice? Don't think I have seen it.

The reason your excellent post on The Judgment brings this to mind is that the Final Judgment is the final step in God's making right the Original Sin.

My simple explanation to myself is as follows: When the Original Sin is committed by A&E, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit know what is to take place, being all-knowing. But being also all-loving, since it is the Father who is sinned against, the Son says to His Father: Father, I love you and I want to take the offense of this sin of Man and its effects upon Myself for love of You and for the salvation of Adam and Eve and all their progeny.

Since you love all the children of men and want them to be with Us forever in Heaven according to Your Will, I request that, according to Your Will, I might suffer all of the sins and all of their effects for love of You, and for the salvation of all men.

Therefore, I will take on flesh to become a Man in order to reveal You to Mankind, and then to suffer in my Intellect and Will and in my Flesh. I desire to do this because I love You, and must do what I can to restore your Perfect Will with regard to Man, who you have graced with the gift of free will.

Am I barking up the right tree, Father? God bless you, we are so blessed that you have graciously consented to follow the call to be a priest and give up everything for Christ the King and His Mystical Body!

Audrey said...

I'm confused with the emphasis of works here- especially under judgment of the "just"- looking at all that Jesus asks us to do, none of us are just in our actions- period. I see you acknowledge that the "just" are less just in action than the apostles, etc but nonetheless- I'm not sure what human/Christian I've met that I could call just. This is why salvation (and thus related to judgment- I'm assuming) is not based on works but "by grace through faith."
Perhaps what I'm missing is that you're differentiating salvation and judgment?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are certainly correct that salvation is first and foremost a gift of grace which stems not from our works but simply from the love of God -- see the most recent post on why God loves Mary, she is an eminent example of the primacy of grace.

However, God is so good that we wills that we should be true participants in the work of salvation -- hence, we "work out our salvation in fear and trembling".
Thus, God works in us and through us to lead us to perform works (by grace) which merit eternal life.

And there is no reason why salvation cannot be from God's love/grace, and from our faith, and from our works done in faith by grace.

I hope it is clearer now.
Thank you for stressing the primacy of grace! +

Joe said...

How much of this is the official teaching of the magisterium? Particularly the part about the weighing of works as on a scale, and that different people receive different rewards even if they are judged to be just?
Also, I thought that we would be judged based on our final state of holiness, not on our good/evil works. Am I wrong here?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

When those Christians, presumed to have read Matt 25, ask questions about judgment based upon virtuous or vile acts, I ask myself what is it about Protestantism that renders them blind to the Gospel?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The part that is official magisterial teaching is that any who die in mortal sin will be condemned to hell and those in the state of grace will attain to heaven (usually through purgatory) - and this occurs at the particular judgment.
[this is what you stress in your comment, and it is correct]

However, we further know, by faith and official magisterial teaching, that our works on earth merit greater and lesser rewards in heaven or hell -- hence, good works in this life merit greater glory in heaven; while sins merit greater punishment in hell.
We are not all equal in heaven -- but some have greater glory than others (and yet, all are perfectly fulfilled and perfectly happy).
[St. Therese used to understand this after the manner of multiple glasses all full of water, yet some glasses are larger than others and therefore hold more water]

Hope this helps! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@I am not Spartacus,
You are certainly correct -- it is absurd that some ignore the judgment of works when Matthew 25 speaks extensively of this!

Peace to you! +

Joe said...

Thank you for your very helpful response, and thank you for this blog, which has been a blessing to me. One more question, though. Can someone be in a state of mortal sin while retaining the virtues of faith? charity? hope? Or do they exit the soul? Does all holiness disappear upon mortal sin?


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Faith remains through mortal sin ... though charity is lost.
However, faith can also be lost through apostasy.

But the faith which lacks charity is "dead faith" .... which does not profit unto salvation.

Hope is also lost through mortal sin.

Peace! +

Modesta said...

Father, Who and what will be judged... And how can we be perpared for the judgement seat...

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