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we must observe it is not said that they will be wholly consumed and annihilated, but dissolved or burned, and consequently transformed into a different appearance, as God shall direct.
But while these stupendous operations of fire are subverting nature, and changing the whole face of the universe, the Son of man descends from the highest heaven to come and judge mankind. For, “the Father doth not judge any man; but hath given all judgment to the Son. John v. 22.
Apoc. xx. 11. “And I saw," says St. John, “a great white throne, and one sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away and there was no place found for them.
V. 12. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne, and the books were opened : and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
The son of God appears in the firmament seated on a great and bright white throne, and at his presence the earth and heaven flee away, or disappear, that is, the earth, the atmosphere, and all belonging to the sky, are not only enwrapped in flames; but entirely pass away and vanish out of sight, so that their place is not found nor can be distinguished. Nothing is now visible of the works of the creation. The sole object that fills the expanse of heaven, is the resplendent majesty of the Son of God sitting on his throne. The dead then, both great and small, of all ranks and degrees, appear before him, namely, the last generation of the human race, who have just expired in the general destruction of the world. This prodigious multitude of souls are summoned to undergo the particular judgment which is fixed for all mankind at the hour of their death. “ It is appointed unto men once to die, after this, the judgment.” Ep. to the Hebr. ix. 27. This particular judgment must be here meant by St. John, and not the general judgment which is described in the next verse, as our prophet never repeats the same thing. The books are opened, and will remain open during the general judgment that is quickly to follow. In these books are recorded the actions of every individual man, according to which sentence will be passed upon him. The Son of God, from his own infinite knowledge, is equally acquainted with the works of every man, as if they were registered in a book ; but this figurative expression shows the rigour and exactness of his
scrutiny, which will not let the least fault or good work escape his notice. Another book is likewise opened, viz. the book of life, in which are written the names of all the predestined or elect.
This numerous company of souls being therefore judged by those things which were written in the books according to their works, Christ sends forth his messenger, an archangel, who by his order blows the last trumpet; the sound of which echoes to all the extremities of the earth. At this sound, in an instant, all the dead rise up from their graves, never more to die. “In a moment,” says St. Paul,“ in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet yet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible.” i Cor. xv. 52. The general resurrection is likewise thus briefly described to us by St. John: 'Apoc. xx. 13. “And the sea gave up the dead that were in it; and death and hell gave up their dead that were in them.” The sea is first here said to deliver up its dead. By the sea, in our prophet's language, we must understand the whole extent of the terraqueous globe, in as much as it contains the dead bodies of the saints, who may be said to have waded through the tempestuous sea of this world, or through a long course of tribulations, persecutions, and hardships, which sanctified their lives. Their bodies therefore rise up the first, and this is confirmed by St. Paul: “ The dead who are in Christ, shall rise first.” 1 Thes. iv. 15. Heaven presents their souls, and by the happy union of soul and body, the saints stand vested with complete immortality. Then death and hell give up their dead; death here signifying the graves of the wicked, as containing the mortal part of those whose souls lie in the death of damnation. These bodies likewise rise to life, and are joined to their souls which hell vomits up, and thus they become inseparable companions of the same eternal fate which they will soon be doomed to undergo. Every individual of mankind being thus raised to life, from Adam to the last of the human race, they will all see the Almighty Son of God coming down through the upper regions of the sky, seated on bright clouds as upon a throne, surrounded with the splendour of his divine Majesty, attended by the angels, and his cross, the instrument of the world's redemption, carried before him: “And then," says Christ himself, “shall appear the sign of the Son of man in hea. ven: and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven
with much power and majesty.” Matt. xxiv. 30. And our prophet in the Apocalypse also says of him: “Behold he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth shall bewail themselves because of him," i. 7. The appear. ance then of the Son of God coming in his majesty to judgment will strike the wicked with dread and consternation.
The different tribes of them will mourn and bewail their miserable condition: the Jews, that pierced him or put him to death, and those who had refused to acknowledge him for their Saviour and Messiah: the infidels, who would not be converted, and who had persecuted him in his servants; in fine, the rest of the wicked, who had made no use of the redemption he had purchased for them, but on the contrary had heinously injured him by their repeated crimes and impiety. But on the other hand, what a consolation, what an auspicious moment, will it be for the just, to see their Redeemer coming to reward them, and to make their happiness complete, for all eternity! They will fly to meet him, as their Father and Saviour, with inexpressible alacrity and joy; as we learn from St. Paul: “ The Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.” 1 Thes. iv. 15, 16.
All the individuals of the human race appear now existing at once and together, a wonderful spectacle that never was seen before, nor will be seen after. For this great company will soon be divided into two bodies that must separate, never more to be joined. They are called up and cited to appear at the bar of the throne and judgment-seat of the Son of God. There “they are judged every one according to their works.” Apoc. xx. 13. To the just are adjudged eternal rewards for their labours: and this may be styled, the second resurrection, as the prior admission of their souls to beatitude, on the death of their bodies, 'was called by St. John, “the first resurrection.” Apoc. xx. 5. The saints having thus received their happy sentence, are admitted to attend Christ and to sit with him in judgment over the wicked, according to what he had promised: “Amen, I say unto 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.” Matt. xix. 28. Then follows the sentence upon the wicked, by which they are doomed to the unqnenchable flames of hell for ever, or, as St. John expresses it,
Chap. xx. 14. “And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death.”
Hell and death, before, denoted the places where the souls and bodies of the reprobate lay, but here, by an easy transition, they are employed to signify these souls and bodies themselves, which are cast into the infernal pool of fire: and this damnation of both together, at the last judgment, is here denominated, the second death; while that of the soul only, which had preceded at the time of her separation from the body, may receive the name of first death.—Thus much from the Apocalypse.
But the general arraignment of all mankind before the tribunal of Christ at the last day, and the special judgment he will pass upon them, are more clearly and explicitly exhibited us by Christ himself in his following words: “When the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty; and all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: • Come ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink, &c.—Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me you cursed into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink,' &c.—And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting,” Matt. xxv. 31, &c. And again, our Saviour speaking on the same subject in another place, says: “As tares are gathered up and burnt with fire, so shall it be at the end of the world. The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity: and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the just shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.” Matt. xiii, &c. In fine, the general judgment finishes by
Chap. xx. 15.“ And whosoever,” says our prophet, “ was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire." All those who have not “ by good works made sure their calling and election,” 2 Pet. i. 10, and so have not gotten their names registered in the book of life, are condemned to hell fire for all eternity.
The general judgment is an event so tremendous and so interesting to mankind, that our Saviour frequently inculcated it in his discourses, as we see in the gospel : and St. John in the Apocalypse, besides the natural description of it above cited, gives us a second allegorical one, with new circumstances, under two elegant expressive figures of harvest and vintage. Thus paints the admirable and exact pencil of our incoinparable prophet:
Chap. xiv. 14." And I saw, and behold a white cloud: and upon the cloud one sitting like to the Son of man, having on his head a crown of gold, and in his hand a sharp sickle.
V. 15. “And another angel came out from the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat upon the cloud : Thrust in thy sickle, and reap, because the hour is come to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.
V. 16. “ And he that sat on the cloud, thrust his sickle into the earth, and the earth was reaped.
V. 17. “ And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.
V. 18. “ And another angel came out from the altar, who had power over fire: and he cried with a loud voice to him that had the sharp sickle, saying: Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vineyard of the earth • because the grapes thereof are ripe.
V. 19. “ And the angel thrust in his sharp sickle into the earth, and gathered the vineyard of the earth, and cast into the great press of the wrath of God.
V. 20. “ And the press was trudden without the city, and blood came out of the press, up to the horses' bridles for a thousand six hundred furlongs."
The Son of man, v. 14, or Christ, is seen by St. John sitting on a white cloud, as we saw him before, bearing on his head a crown of gold for a mark of his sovereign power and dominion over the world, and in his hand a sharp sickle, an instrument for cutting down corn.* Then an angel comes out from the temple in heaven, v. 15, from the Almighty who
* In Great Britain and Ireland all kinds of grain are called by the general term Corn.-AM. ED.