From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead
The article of the Creed on our Lord Jesus Christ finishes by proclaiming our faith in His return in power and glory to judge the living and the dead. In the Nicene Creed, which is the definitive statement of faith in the Catholic Church, this is expanded to say He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.
Christians believe that Jesus did not leave us for good. He promised to return for us so that "where I am, there you will be also." This is known to us as our Blessed Hope. When we use the word, "hope", we do not mean it in the sense that it is often used of not being sure that something will happen, but we hope it will. Rather, we use the word to reflect a rock-solid belief that it will happen. So it is that everything we do is staked on this hope.
But along with such a wonderful hope is also the sobering statement that our Lord is specifically coming back for the purpose of judging the living and the dead. For those who live close to Him, this is actually a comforting thought. For though we know of our weaknesses and failings, we are confident that His grace is greater than our sin. In the end we believe we will be saved through Him if we hold fast to the faith that was given to us. But for those who have rejected Him, and wandered far from Him, this is a fearful statement indeed.
We are told in the Sacred Scriptures that we will be judged by our works and our words. "The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation," (Jn. 5:28,29). "For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned," (Mt. 12:36,37).
This makes sense. Our works and our words show what is truly in our hearts. They tell whether faith exists or not. Good works and good words flow from a good heart. Bad works and bad words flow from an evil heart. The tree is known by its fruit. So God will be seen to be fair and righteous and each of us will be given what we truly deserve.
Having said that, the fact of the matter is that every one of us truly deserves God's wrath. We have sinned and should receive the just punishment, which is death. But God, who is rich in love and mercy, has rescued us, as we have discussed in the previous articles, through the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord. So that whoever will turn from his sins and believe in Jesus Christ with all his heart will be saved from death and granted freely eternal life.
How do you know if you are ready? There is a simple test. Do you love His appearing? That is, are you looking forward to this Day with anticipation because you trust in the Lord's word and long to see your Beloved face to face? If so, then you have every reason to have a sure and steadfast hope of salvation. But if not- if the thought of this Day fills you with dread, and you long to put it off, or seek to escape, then it is a sure indication that all is not right with you. There is a need for you to find a place alone with God and tell Him of your fears. Allow Him to search your heart. Confess your sins, and put your trust in His saving love and power.
To be honest, I see a mixture of these attitudes in me. When I was younger I wanted to be sure to get married, have a family, and launch a career before Jesus returned. I suppose that's normal. But it indicates that I still had too much of a love for this present world in me. I still wrestle with wanting to accomplish certain things before I see my Lord. But He is faithfully chipping away at those things so that all I have is a yearning for Him and His kingdom. With that in mind, I gain more anticipation for this day, and with the saints of old I find myself calling out, "Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Amen."