The Final Judgment and the Second Coming
by Archbishop Dmitri
“And when [Jesus] had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11) Thus, at His Ascension, Christ’s return to earth, His second coming, is already announced.
The Lord Himself declared several times that He would come again: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels…” (Mt. 16:27a) “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.” (Mt. 25:31; cf. 26:64) The second coming will be unlike the first coming into the world, in that it will be a glorious coming of a king, but it is important that the Lord still refers to Himself in that day as the Son of Man.
The purpose of His coming then as King will be to judge both the living and the dead. “And He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.” (The Creed) “And then He shall reward every man according to His works.” (Mt. 16:27b) “And before Him shall be gathered all nations … then shall the King say unto them on His right hand. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom …and unto them on the left, hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire …and these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Mt. 25:32-46)
St. Paul also says: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (II Cor. 5:10)
After that judgment, when the condition of all those who have lived on earth will be definitively fixed, the work of the Redemption, which the Lord undertook and carried out through His triple ministry, as Prophet, Priest and King, will be finished.
When the Lord shall come “on clouds of heaven, and all His holy angels with Him,” it will not be to add anything to the work of the Redemption. The point is the He that had gone away into a far country, the King, as in the parable, after having entrusted the administration of His goods to His servants, comes back and requires of them an accounting of their work.
After that last kingly act of judgment, “then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For [God] hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith all things are put under His feet, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (I Cor. 15: 24-28)
Thus the royal or kingly ministry of Christ continues after His glorification and after the Ascension. It is being accomplished in history after the completion of the priestly ministry.
“After He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, [He] sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting [waiting] till His enemies be made His footstool.” (Hb. 10:12,13) There is still a certain course of history to be accomplished before all things are put under Him. “But now we see not yet all things put under Him. But we see Jesus …for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour.” (Hb. 2:8,9a)
In the passage from First Corinthians cited [above], there is no question of a “subordination” of the Son to the Father. The Son will have finished the work which the Father gave Him to do. This “delivering up” of His Kingdom is the logical, fitting final act on the part of the One who had been sent by the Father.
These words of St. Paul provide a summary of what is taking place historically and of what will take place in the end (eschatologically). First, the Kingdom of Christ is present in the Church in history. It is at war with the world, and its head, the God-Man Christ, will finally defeat all rule, authority and power. In short, He will defeat every enemy.
The last of these enemies is death. And Christ must reign until He destroys death. Then will He present His Kingdom, which will consist of all those of His servants who will have been judged worthy. Then the Kingdom of Christ will be identical with the Kingdom of Heaven (or of God), when the barrier between God and the fallen, antagonistic world will have been broken down by Christ. Then “God will be all and in all.”
From The Doctrine Of Christ, A LAYMAN’S HANDBOOK By Archbishop Dmitri