If there’s something you don’t hear much any more in affluent Western Christianity (Roman and Protestant, liberal and evangelical) it’s the theme of the final judgment of all mankind.
Mainliners and liberals have pretty much jettisoned the whole concept of final judgment and hell. Evangelicals and conservatives–who haven’t jettisoned the doctrine–seem to be more interested in therapeutic seeker services, which do not lend themselves to talking about the subject.
Ours is a too-tame Jesus. Our Jesus is the one who loves everyone. He’s always smiling, and always exhorting us to “Look on the bright side of life” and to spend all our days in comfortable upper middle-class affluence. This is the WASP-ish “gentle Jesus meek and mild.”
But it ain’t the real Jesus. Nor is it a saving Jesus. I’ve been told that the subject Jesus discusses most of all is that of hell. Whether or not that is the case, this same Jesus who gave us the two great commandments, this same Jesus who exhorts all who are weary and heavy-laden to come to him, is also the same Jesus who says:
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: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 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: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31-46)
And so we pray:
Kontakion of the Sunday of the Last Judgment Tone One
When Thou, O God, wilt come to earth with glory, and all things tremble,
and the river of fire floweth before the Judgment Seat
and the books are opened and the hidden things made public,
then deliver me from the unquenchable fire,
and deem me worthy to stand at Thy right hand, O most righteous Judge.
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