II. What the final judgment is.

In every judgment amongst men we have the accused, the accuser, the judge, the case, the trial, the law according to which a decision is given, the sentence of acquittal or condemnation, and the execution thereof according to the law. Hence a human judgment, in general, is the examination of a case by a regular judge according to just laws, and the passing and execution of the sentence either by acquitting or punishing the guilty.

From this it is easy to give a definition of the final judgment which God will execute through Christ. The judge, in this case, will have no need of accusers or witnesses, inasmuch as he himself will make the works of all manifest, being himself the searcher of hearts. There will then merely be the judge, the guilty, the law, the sentence and its execution. The final judgment is therefore, that judgment which will take place at the end of the world, when Christ the judge will descend in a visible manner from heaven in a cloud in the glory and majesty of his Father and the holy an gels, when all men who have lived from the beginning of the world will be raised, whilst those who will then be living shall be suddenly changed, and when all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, who will pass sentence upon all, and who will then cast the wicked with the devils into ever lasting punishment, but will receive the godly to himself, that they may, with him and the blessed angels, enjoy eternal felicity and glory in heaven. “He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11.) Or, we may define the last judgment in a few words to be the disclosure of all hearts, and the revelation of all those things which have been done by men, and a separation between the righteous and the wicked, which God will execute through Christ, who will pronounce and execute sentence upon all according to the doctrine of the law and gospel, which will result in the perfect deliverance of the church, and the banishment of the wicked and devils into everlasting punishment.

The holy Scriptures corroborate all the different parts of this definition, as is evident from the passages which we shall here adduce. 1. There will be a disclosure and revelation of all the thoughts and actions of men; for the books shall be opened, that the secrets of the heart may be made manifest. (Rev. 20:12.) 2. There will be a separation between the righteous and the wicked; for “the judge shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matt. 25:31, 83.) 3. This separation will be made by God himself; and therefore be most holy and righteous. “Is God unrighteous? For then how shall he judge the world?” (Rom. 3:6.) It will be effected through Christ: because “the Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” “God hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world by that man,” &c. (John 5:22. Acts 17:31.) 4. Sentence will also be pronounced: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To those on his left he shall say, “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:34, 41.) 5. The execution will be eternal. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” 6. The righteous and wicked will be judged according to the law and gospel, which means, that they will be declared righteous or wicked at the tribunal of Christ. The acquittal of the righteous will be principally according to the gospel, but will be confirmed by the law. The condemnation of the wicked, on the other hand, will be chiefly by the law, and confirmed by the gospel. Sentence will be passed upon the wicked according to their own merits; but upon the righteous according to the merits of Christ applied to them by faith, the truth of which will then be made manifest by their works which shall be brought to light. The righteous themselves will then also confess that their reward is not of merit, but of grace in that which they shall be heard to say: “When saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty and gave thee drink?” (Matt. 25:37.) We are by nature all subject to the wrath of God. Yet we shall by him be pronounced blessed, not in deed, in Adam, but in Christ, the blessed seed. It is for this reason that sentence shall be passed upon the righteous according to the gospel.

Obj. But every one shall receive according to his works. Therefore sentence will not be passed according to the gospel; but only according to the law.

Ans. It is true, indeed, that God will render even to the elect according to their works, not, however, because their works are meritorious, but because they are the effects of faith. They shall, therefore, receive according to their works, which are the effects of their faith, that is, they shall be judged according to their faith, which is the same thing as to be judged according to the gospel. The judgment now which Christ will execute will be rather according to the effects of faith, than according to faith; because he will have it manifest to all why he thus judges, in order that the wicked may not impugn his righteousness as though he bestowed eternal life unjustly upon the faithful. He will prove from the fruits of their faith, that it was a true faith which they possessed, and that they are the persons to whom eternal life is due according to the promise. He will, therefore, exhibit to the wicked the works of the righteous, and bring them forward as evidences for the purpose of convincing the ungodly that they have applied unto themselves the merits of Christ. God will also render to the faithful according to their works, that we may take comfort there from in this life, having the assurance that we shall be placed at his right hand.