Exposition

The second coming of Christ, the end of the world and the last judgment, although they differ somewhat from each other, are nevertheless, all comprehended in this Article. We shall treat of them in common, in as much as they are closely linked together; yet in such a manner as to give special attention to the final judgment; because it would be of little account for us to think and speak of the second coming of Christ, if we did not, at the same time, consider the end for which he will come.

The subjects which specially claim our attention in connection with the final judgment, are the following:
Whether there be a future judgment:
What it is:
Who the judge will be:
Whence and whither he will come:
The manner in which he will come,:
The subjects of this judgment:
What the character of the sentence, and the execution of this judgment will be:
The objects of this judgment:
When it will take place:
The reasons why we should expect it:
The reasons why God has left the time of it uncertain:
Why it is deferred: and,
Whether it may be desired and looked for.

I. Will there be a future judgment?

This question is necessary. The Scriptures have also foretold that there shall come, in the last days, scoffers who will regard this article as nothing more than a fable: “Saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation,” &c. (2 Pet. 3:4.) It is true, indeed, that philosophy cannot fully and clearly establish the doctrine of the final judgment: nor does it, on the other hand, contain anything that would conflict with it. The whole certainty of this doctrine depends upon the teachings of the Church and the oracles of God. And, although the philosopher, having a faint glimmering of light, might perhaps say, and reason might also decide in the same way, that it ought to be well with the good and ill with the wicked, and that it is not probable that man was created merely to be subjected to the evils and miseries of this life; yet man, having lost the knowledge of the righteousness, goodness and truth of God, could not, when left to himself, conclude with any great certainty whether there will be any future judgment, or when it will be; much less the circumstance with which it will be attended. Hence we are forced to rest the truth of this doctrine chiefly upon the testimony of the Scriptures. The arguments which philosophy adduces are, indeed, forcible in themselves; but they cannot be explained or drawn out with any clearness, unless they are taken in connection with theology, so that their force is only felt by those who enjoy the advantages of a supernatural revelation. The proofs which theology, or the doctrine of the gospel, furnishes are such as these:

1. The declarations of Scripture, from the Old and New Testaments, touching this subject clearly and explicitly teach the doctrine of a future judgment. The testimony of Daniel is here in point: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the .Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” And a few verses before he says: “The Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set and the books were opened. The beast was slain, and the body destroyed and given to the burning flame.” (Dan. 7:13, 14, 9, 10.) So also the prophecy of Enoch, quoted by the Apostle Jude, bears similar testimony: “Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14:15.) The discourses of Christ are equally explicit upon this point, especially the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew. The same may also be said of the writings of the Apostles. “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance in that he raised him from the dead.” “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” “It is appointed unto men once to die; but after this the judgment.” “I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away: 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.” (Acts 17:31. 1 Thes. 4:16. Heb. 9:37. Rev. 20:11, 12.) Nor docs the certainty of a future judgment merely appear from these and similar explicit declarations of God s word; but it is also evident from other portions of Scripture, from which we may deduce these proper, and just conclusions:

2. From the decree of God, by which he ordained, and determined with himself, from everlasting to raise the dead. This purpose can never be altered as God is unchangeable. A copy, or transcripts of this decree, may be found in the thirty-seventh chap, of Ez., whilst Enoch, Elijah and Christ, are examples of it.

3. From the omnipotence of God, by which he is able to accomplish things which are impossible in the judgment of reason. Christ uses this argument in refuting the Sadducees. “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matt. 22:29.)

4. From the justice of God, which demands that it be well with the good, and ill with the wicked, and that perfectly. But this does not come to pass in this life. There must, therefore, be another life in which God will render full justice to every one. It is in this way that Paul comforts himself and all the godly under the trials to which we are exposed. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” “Son, remember that thou, in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” (2 Thes. 1:6. Luke 16:25.)

5. From the end for which God created the human race. The purpose of God is never thwarted; he always obtains his end. He created man for this purpose, that he might be the temple in which he would dwell, and that he might communicate joy and blessedness to man. But this does not take place here in this life, neither can it here take place; and as God would not create so excellent a creature as man for perpetual misery, we may infer with certainty that there will be a change. God is never disappointed in his purpose, nor will he permit the temple of the Holy Ghost to be given over to perpetual corruption. This happiness, too, is a part of the image of God in which man was created; and as it was destroyed by the devil. God, who is greater than the devil, will restore it. Therefore it is not only probable, according to the reasoning of philosophers, but it is also most certain that man was not created to suffer these evils but for a better end, which although it is not obtained in this life on account of various hindrances, will, nevertheless, certainly be attained in the end. The resurrection and happiness of our bodies is also confirmed by this argument; according to what Paul says: “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you.” (1 Cor. 6:19.)

6. From the glory of God. God created man that he might forever praise and glorify him, which cannot take place without the resurrection and the judgment. All other arguments may be referred to these.