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The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Judgment Day, or Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgement by God of all nations. It will take place after the resurrection of the dead and the Second Coming (Revelation 20:12–15). This belief has inspired numerous artistic depictions. There is little agreement among Christian denominations in Christian eschatology as to what happens after death and before the Last Judgment.
- 1 Sources
- 2 Christianity
- 3 Artistic representations
- 4 The Last Judgment and the Day of Atonement
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The doctrine and iconographic depiction of the "Last Judgment" are drawn from many passages from the apocalyptic sections of the Bible. It appears most directly in The Sheep and the Goats section of the Gospel of Matthew where the judgment is entirely based on help given or refused to "the least of these":
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 the left. Then the king will say to those at His right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” ... “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
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; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” ... “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-36, 40-43, 45-46 NRSV)
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Rev 20:11-12)
Adherents of millennialism, mostly Protestant Christians, regard the two passages as describing separate events: the "sheep and goats" judgment will determine the final status of those persons alive at the end of the Tribulation, and the "Great White Throne" judgment will be the final condemnation of the unrighteous dead at the end of all time, after the end of the world and before the beginning of the eternal period described in the final two chapters of Revelation.
Also, Matthew 3:10-12:
Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! ... ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Belief in the last judgment (sometime said universal judgment) is held firmly inside Roman Catholicism. Immediately upon death each soul undergoes the particular judgment, and depending upon the state of the person's soul, goes to heaven, purgatory, or hell. The last judgement will occur after the resurrection of the dead and the reuniting of a person's soul with own physical body.
The Catholic Church teaches that at the time of the last judgment Christ will come in his glory, and all the angels with him, and in his presence the truth of each man's relationship with God will be laid bare, and each person who has ever lived will be judged with perfect justice. Those already in heaven will remain in heaven; those already in hell will remain in hell; and those in purgatory will be released into heaven. The Roman Catholic Church holds no doctrinal position on the fate of those in Limbo. Following the last judgment, the bliss of heaven and the pains of hell will be perfected in that those present will also be capable of physical bliss/pain. After the last judgment the universe itself will be renewed with a new heaven and a new earth.
The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that there are two judgments: the first, or "Particular" Judgment, is that experienced by each individual at the time of his or her death, at which time God will decide where the soul is to spend the time until the Second Coming of Christ (see Hades in Christianity). This judgment is generally believed to occur on the fortieth day after death. The second, "General" or "Final" Judgment will occur after the Second Coming. Although in modern times some have attempted to introduce the concept of Soul sleep into Orthodox thought about life after death, it has never been a part of traditional Orthodox teaching—in fact, it contradicts the Orthodox understanding of the intercession of the Saints.
Eastern Orthodoxy teaches that salvation is bestowed by God as a free gift of Divine grace, which cannot be earned, and by which forgiveness of sins is available to all. However, the deeds done by each person is believed to affect how he will be judged, following the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. How forgiveness is to be balanced against behavior is not well-defined in scripture, judgment in the matter being solely Christ's. Similarly, although Orthodoxy teaches that salvation is obtained only through Christ and his Church, the fate of those outside the Church at the Last Judgment is left to the mercy of God and is not declared.
The theme of the Last Judgment is extremely important in Orthodoxy. Traditionally, an Orthodox church will have a fresco or mosaic of the Last Judgment on the back (western) wall, (see the 12th-century mosaic pictured at the top of this page) so that the faithful, as they leave the services, are reminded that they will be judged by what they do during this earthly life.
The icon of the Last Judgement traditionally depicts Christ Pantokrator, enthroned in glory on a white throne, surrounded by the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), John the Baptist, Apostles, saints and angels. Beneath the throne the scene is divided in half with the "mansions of the righteous" ( ), i.e., those who have been saved to Jesus' right (the viewer's left); and the torments of those who have been damned to his left. Separating the two is the River of fire which proceeds from Jesus' left foot.
The theme of the Last Judgment is found in the funeral and memorial hymnody of the Church, and is a major theme in the services during Great Lent. The second Sunday before the beginning of Great Lent is dedicated to the Last Judgment. It is also found in the hymns of the Octoechos used on Saturdays throughout the year.
Lutherans do not believe in any sort of earthly millennial kingdom of Christ either before or after his second coming on the last day. On the last day, all the dead will be resurrected. Their souls will then be reunited with the same bodies they had before dying. The bodies will then be changed, those of the wicked to a state of everlasting shame and torment, those of the righteous to an everlasting state of celestial glory. After the resurrection of all the dead, and the change of those still living, all nations shall be gathered before Christ, and he will separate the righteous from the wicked. Christ will publicly judge all people by the testimony of their faith, the good works of the righteous in evidence of their faith, and the evil works of the wicked in evidence of their unbelief. He will judge in righteousness in the presence of all and men and angels, and his final judgement will be just damnation to everlasting punishment for the wicked and a gracious gift of life everlasting to the righteous.
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Particularly among those Protestant groups who adhere to a millennialist eschatology, the Last Judgment is said to be carried out before the Great White Throne by Jesus Christ to either eternal life or eternal consciousness in the lake of fire at the end of time. Salvation is granted by grace based on the individual's surrender and commitment to Jesus Christ. A second particular judgment they refer to as the Bema Seat judgement occurs after (or as) salvation is discerned when awards are granted based on works toward heavenly treasures. What happens after death and before the final judgment is hotly contested; some believe all people sleep in Sheol until the resurrection, others believe Christians dwell in Heaven and pagans wander the earth, and others consider the time to pass instantaneously. Nevertheless, the body is not fully redeemed until after Death is destroyed after the Great Tribulation.
Protestant Millennialism falls into roughly two categories: Premillennialist (Christ's second coming precedes the millennium) and Postmillennialist (which sees Christ's second coming as occurring after the millennium).
Dispensational premillennialism generally holds that Israel and the Church are separate. It also widely holds to the pretribulational return of Christ, which believes that Jesus will return before a seven-year Tribulation followed by an additional return of Christ with his saints.
Amillennialism is common among some "mainline" Protestant denominations such as the Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican churches. Many, but not all, partial preterists are amillennialists. Amillennialism declined in Protestant circles with the rise of Postmillennialism and the resurgence of Premillennialism in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it has regained prominence in the West after World War II.
Esoteric and Gnostic tradition
Although the Last Judgment is preached by a great part of Christian mainstream churches; the Esoteric Christian-Gnostic tradition—composed, among others, by the Essenian and Rosicrucians—the Spiritualist movement, which includes Christian Science, and some liberal theologies reject the traditional conception of the Last Judgment as inconsistent with an all-just and loving God, in favor of some form of universal salvation. The Rosicrucians teach that all beings of the human evolution will ultimately be saved in a distant future as they acquire a superior grade of consciousness and altruism by means of successive rebirths. This salvation is seen as being mentioned in Revelation 3:12 (KJV), which states "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God and he shall go no more out". However, this western esoteric tradition states—like those who have had a near-death experience—that after the death of the physical body, at the end of each physical lifetime and after the life review period (which occurs before the silver cord is broken), it occurs a Last Judgment, more akin to a Final Review or End Report over one's life, where the life of the subject is fully evaluated and scrutinized. This judgment is seen as being mentioned in Hebrews 9:27, which states that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment".
In art, the Last Judgment is a common theme in medieval and renaissance religious iconography. Like most early iconographic innovations, its origins stem from Byzantium. In Western Christianity, it is often the subject depicted on the central tympanum of medieval cathedrals and churches, or as the central section of a triptych, flanked by depictions of heaven and hell to the left and right, respectively (heaven being to the viewer's left, but to the Christ figure's right). Often the damned disappear into a Hellmouth, the mouth of a huge monster, an image of Anglo-Saxon origin.
The Last Judgment and the Day of Atonement
Some Bible teachers have considered that the Day of Atonement, a future tenth day of Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar, may well mark the last day of this present age. It would be that "day of reckoning" just before the return of the Messiah.
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- Day of Atonement
- Intermediate state
- General judgment
- God the Father in Western art
- Lawsuits against God
- New World Order (conspiracy)
- Particular judgment
- Plan of Salvation Mormon view
- Yama (Buddhism and Chinese mythology)
- Qiyamah Muslim view
- Second Coming
- Catholic Encyclopedia: General Judgment: "Few truths are more often or more clearly proclaimed in Scripture than that of the general judgment. To it the prophets of the Old Testament refer when they speak of the "Day of the Lord" ( ; ; ), in which the nations will be summoned to judgment by the Fathers. In the New Testament the second Parusia, or coming of Christ as Judge of the world, is an oft-repeated doctrine. The Saviour Himself not only foretells the event but graphically portrays its circumstances ( sqq.; 25:31 sqq.). The Apostles give a most prominent place to this doctrine in their preaching ( ; 17:31) and writings ( ; 14:10; ; ; ; ; ). Besides the name Parusia (parousia), or Advent ( ; ), the Second Coming is also called Epiphany, epiphaneia, or Appearance ( ; ; ; ), and Apocalypse (apokalypsis), or Revelation ( ; ). The time of the Second Coming is spoken of as "that Day" ( ), "the day of the Lord" ( ), "the day of Christ" ( ), "the day of the Son of Man" ( ), "the last day" ( ). The belief in the general judgment has prevailed at all times and in all places within the Church. It is contained as an article of faith in all the ancient creeds: "He ascended into heaven. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead" (Apostles' Creed). The two shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead" (Nicene Creed). "From thence they shall come to judge the living and the dead, at whose coming all men must rise with their bodies and are to render an account of their deeds" (Athanasian Creed). Relying on the authority of Papias, several Fathers of the first four centuries advanced the theory of a thousand years' terrestrial reign of Christ with the saints to precede the end of the World (see article on MILLENNIUM). Though this idea is interwoven with the eschatological teachings of those writers, it in no way detracted from their belief in a universal world-judgment. Patristic testimony to this dogma is clear and unanimous."
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 990
- The Orthodox do not have an understanding of "Purgatory." Rather, they believe that the souls of the departed will await the Final Judgment either in heaven or hell--but that there are different levels of heaven and different levels of hell--and they believe that the prayers of the Church can help to ease the sufferings of the souls, but do not dogmatize as to how exactly this is accomplished.
- John 18:36, Augsburg Confession, Article 17, Of Christ's Return to Judgment.
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- Graebner, Augustus Lawrence (1910). Outlines Of Doctrinal Theology. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 233–8. http://showcase.netins.net/web/bilarson/eschatology.txt. , , ,
- Passage: Luke 13:28 (ESV Bible Online)
- Passage: Matthew 25:30 (ESV Bible Online)
- Passage: Matthew 24:51 (ESV Bible Online)
- Passage: john 3:16 (ESV Bible Online)
- Passage: romans 10:9-13 (ESV Bible Online)
- Passage: eph 2:8-10 (ESV Bible Online)
- Passage: Matthew 6:19-24 (ESV Bible Online)
- Max Heindel, The Rosicrucian Christianity Lectures (The Riddle of Life and Death), 1908, ISBN 0-911274-84-7
- Max Heindel, Death and Life in Purgatory - Life and Activity in Heaven
- Janson, H. W.; Janson, Dora Jane (1977). History of Art (Second Edition ed.). Englewood and New York: Prentis-Hall & Harry N. Abrams. pp. 428. ISBN 0-13-389296-4.
- Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Last Judgment. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
- Catholic Encyclopedia "General Judgment"