A few more laughs, a few more tears, a few more sighs and we will all find ourselves in that one great assembly, standing shoulder to shoulder in the collective mass of humanity before the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Judge of all the earth.
On account of the recent focus on injustice today, I have been meditating often on the final judgment. Scripture teaches that there will be a last day when the infinitely just and holy God will exercise perfect justice–showing a full manifestation of His mercy to those for whom Christ has satisfied divine justice (Eph. 2:7) and pouring out His wrath on unbelieving men and angels (Matt. 7:21–23; 25:41; 1 Cor. 6:3). On that day, the triune God will make every wrong right and will vindicate those who, though righteous in Christ, suffered at the hands of evil men. The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes the essence of the final judgment, when it states,
“God has appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgement is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil” (WCF 33.1).
Our reflection on the final judgment is meant to lead us as sinners to see our need for Christ and the redemption He accomplished in His first coming into the world. It is faith in Christ that differentiates between those who will stand in the judgment and those who will not. As Herman Bavinck helpfully put it,
“The main issue in the final judgment is that of faith or unbelief. For faith in Christ is the work of God par excellence (John 6:29; 1 John 3:23). Those who believe do not come into judgment (John 5:24); those who do not believe are already condemned and remain under God’s wrath (John 3:18, 36).”
Nothing will quiet the mind and heart of the believer when meditating on that day, other than being assured of all that Christ has already accomplished by His sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection from the dead. Nevertheless, it is of great benefit for us to think about the sobering reality of the final judgment–both for our own pursuit of holiness and for a motivation to carry the gospel to the nations (2 Cor. 5:10–11).
Perhaps no one has painted in such vivid detail the picture of the last day than the nineteenth century Presbyterian minister, John L. Girardeau. In his sermon, “”The Last Judgment,” Girardeau envisioned all people, from all nations, throughout all time summoned before the divine tribunal on the Last Day: