HE WILL RETURN IN GLORY TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, WHOSE KINGDOM
WILL HAVE NO END.
Vigilance is demanded of you-and vigilance is alertness, keeping watch with expectation. Vigilance over yourself, over your thoughts, desires, and deeds-this is the strict ordinance of your faith. Alertness sharpens spiritual vision, so that it can see and discern good and evil, and can know who is coming into your heart and thoughts. By keeping watch, one repulses an enemy and admits a friend. Expectation fortifies love and a clean conscience. To whom does this greatest expectation of yours pertain? To the Beloved, to the Most Beloved, to the One whose love brought you into this world, and whose love will greet you in the other world. Lo, He has promised to come. And human souls tremble at that promise, like love that trembles when it expects its beloved.
This expectation fortifies love and a clean conscience. "Watch therefore, for you do not know the day or the hour when the Son of man will come" (Matt. 25:13). These are His words, words of warning. May you not be like the five foolish virgins, who in their carelessness were caught by surprise and cast out. He is coming-stay awake and keep watch!
He came once; He will come again. The first time He came in humility; the second time He will come in glory. The first time He came as the Redeemer of the world; the second time He will come as the Judge of the world. The difference between His first and second coming is very great. During His first coming He spent thirty-three years on earth. His second coming will last a very short time. "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man," as He himself said about His own second coming (Matt. 24:27). Thus the second coming of the Lord will be unexpected and as quick as lightning. Hence, He gave this warning to all the faithful: "Watch therefore, for you do not know at which hour your Lord will come" (Matt. 24:42). The first time He came as a painstaking sower; the second time He will come as a swift winnower. And just as winnowing is a brief task compared to the many tasks involving crops from the time of sowing to the time of winnowing, so shall His second coming, when compared to the first, be swift and brief. Oh, and how unexpected it will be!
Therefore, vigilance is demanded of you, along with alertness of spirit, watchfulness, and expectation.
And the second coming of the Lord will be glorious, all in a flash of unseen glory. "Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matt. 24:30). In truth His coming will be worthy of the King of kings. Before Him, beneath Him and around Him the radiant hosts of angels will hover. Trumpets will sound from the mouths of trumpet-bearing angels, fire and flame will go before them. "And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His chosen people from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:31).
does the Lord describe His coming again. And His clairvoyant prophet, whom
even the Jews cannot deny, describes it in this way: "His throne was
fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A river of fire came forth and
flowed before him; a thousand thousands served Him, and ten thousand times
ten thousand stood before Him; the judgment began and the books were
opened" (Daniel 7:9-10).
Thus did His great and clairvoyant prophet describe it, whom even the Jews cannot deny. And His holy apostle describes it in this way: "For indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marvelled at in all who have believed in Him" (II Thess. 1:7-10).
The coming of the Judge will be unexpected, and will be in power and glory. And His judgment will be just as He himself foretold and described it (cf. Matt. 25:3 lf.). He will divide all people to the right and to the left as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. To those on the right the righteous Judge will say:
"Come, blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which was prepared for you from the foundation of the world." And to those on the left He will say: "Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." The criterion ofjustice will be simple and clear. He will summon the former to eternal life and blessedness-"For," He says, "I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed Me; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." After these blessed asked Him when they saw Him in need and helped Him, the righteous Judge will answer:
"Truly, I say to you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me."
And the others, who will be standing on His left, the righteous Judge will drive off to eternal torments, into the fire prepared for the devil and the servants of the devil. After these unblessed ask Him when they ever saw Him in need and failed to help Him, the righteous Judge will answer: "Truly, I say to you, when you did not do it for one of these, my little brothers, you did not do it for Me."
Observe, O chosen people, and see how Christ the Lord identifies Himself with those who suffer in the world. He graciously calls them His own little brothers. Would you ever refuse bread to Christ's brothers? Know, that whoever refuses it to them, refuses it to Him. At the Judgment this shall be revealed, and He shall judge with justice.
And when the Judgment comes to an end, there will begin for the righteous an endless and everlasting reign. "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). All other kingdoms will be demolished, and every other dominion and power will dissipate like fog in the face of the sun; only His kingdom will remain, without boundaries or neighboring territories. Even as the prophet, whom even the Jews recognize, foretold and saw in a vision:
"His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:14). And His kingdom will be more lasting than visible heaven and earth themselves; for it is written that heaven and earth will pass away, but His kingdom will remain (Rev. 21:1).
With such a flash of light, with such power and glory and worthiness will the divine-human drama conclude, which began in a cold cave in Bethlehem. Thus will the mustard seed grow and grow tall (Matt. 13:31-32), and will unfurl into the tree of life, which will envelop the whole world, visible and invisible. Therefore, let your souls be glad, O righteous, if you should suffer anything for the name of Jesus or endure humiliation for His justice in this life.
Each day of your sorrow, torment, and humiliation, will bring you ages and ages of joy. For you will be rewarded with angelic citizenship in His kingdom. Whoever is at all like Jesus in suffering, will be like Him in glory as well. Your tears and your wounds, now hidden, will be illumined by a sun which never sets. Your illusory defeats for the sake of His gospel, will be transformed into a triumphant victory, which will not be proclaimed in headlines by men, but rather by God's angels with the blast of trumpets.
It would be better for the unrighteous to tremble and weep now than at the Judgment. But you, Christ-bearers, rejoice that your Messiah is the Judge of the world. For He will judge with justice. Behold, that same Jesus,
whom Herod wished to condemn to death in the manger;
whom Judas betrayed for thirty pieces of silver;
whom the Jewish elders tortured and beat;
whom Pilate pronounced innocent and then crucified;
who died in great agony on Golgotha;
who gloriously resurrected from the tomb on the third day;
who ascended into heaven on the fortieth day
and sits at the right hand of God the Father-this same Jesus will come again in power and glory. He will come as the supreme Judge of the world, to judge all the living and the dead. He will come as the immortal King, to open up the immortal kingdom to the righteous. In that kingdom the righteous will shine like the sun.
This is the faith of the righteous, of those who are meek and humble, yet fearless on the path of justice. This faith cannot be accepted by those whose hearts follow their eyes. This faith is loved by those who know the majesty of God and the justice of eternity. For them it is joy to meditate on the majesty of the immortal God in the midst of the stench of death all around them. And it is a joy for them to walk in the way of justice, being surrounded by injustice. The sublimity of God attracts them, and the beauty of justice captivates them. They walk in the way of justice, but do not rely on their own deeds, but on the grace of God. The more righteous they are, the more they await Christ's judgment with fear. But the unrighteous commit injustice, because they have no fear of the Judgment of Christ.
Blessed are they who await the coming of the Lord in power and glory, and help the little brothers of Christ as though they were helping Christ Himself.
Blessed are they who watch for the Beloved One, the Most-Beloved One, with vigilance, alertness, watchfulness, and expectation. Truly, they will await Him and greet Him like the five wise virgins. And He will lead them into Paradise, and they will reign with Him forever.
Is this not your faith, O Christ-bearers, and the faith of your most righteous forefathers? Let is also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox faith, which has never been put to shame. Truly, this is the faith of the truly chosen people, of those who bear the image of God within themselves. On the Judgment Day of Christ they shall be called blessed.
The Judge - the Judgment - Justice.