THE FOUR LAST THINGS ---- DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN
FATHER MARTIN VON COCHEM, O.S.F.C.
Father Martin von Cochem was born at Cochem, on the Moselle,
in the year 1625, and died at Waghausel in 1712.
“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
HOLY REDEEMER LIBRARY
Nihil Obstat: Thomas L Kinkead, Censor Liborium
Imprimatur: Michael Augustine --- Archbishop of New York (New York October 5, 1899)
Copyright, 1899, by Benziger Brothers
PART II. THE LAST JUDGMENT.
VI. On the Advent of the Judge.
WHAT we have hitherto heard, O Christian reader, is indeed most fearful and terrible, but it is nothing in comparison with what we are now about to consider. For the coming of the Judge will be so awful, so dreadful, that all that is in Heaven or upon earth will tremble and quake. The power and majesty wherewith He will come is beyond the power of words to describe. In order that we may know something concerning it, and be able to form some conception of it, Christ has Himself foretold His coming in these words: "When the Son of man shall come in His majesty, and all the Angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His majesty, and all nations shall be gathered together before Him" (Matt. xxv. 31,32). And again: They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty" (xxiv. 30). Thus we see Our Lord twice asserts that He will come in the clouds of Heaven, attended by all His Angels, in great might and majesty.
Who can depict the greatness of that power, the splendour of that majesty, the countless number of those Angelic hosts! Listen to what the Psalmist says on the subject: "A fire shall go before Him and shall burn His enemies round about. His lightnings have shone forth to the world, the earth saw and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The Heavens declared His justice and all people saw His glory" (Ps. xcvi. 3-6). And in another psalm we read: "Out of Sion the loveliness of His beauty shall shine forth. . . . A fire shall burn before Him, and a mighty tempest shall be round about Him" (xlix. 2). The prophet Isaias also predicts the advent of the Judge in the following terms: “Behold, the Lord will come with fire, and His chariots are like a whirlwind, to render His wrath in indignation and His rebuke with flames of fire" (Is. Ixvi. 15). Moreover, Christ Himself declares: "As lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Matt. xxiv. 27).
If such be the manner in which the Judge shall come, if flames of fire proceed from His countenance, if He descends from Heaven in a fiery chariot, armed with wrath against sinners, who but must tremble at His coming ! We shall in fact, all falter and be afraid. Besides the terrors of the Judge Himself, the sight of the innumerable company of Angels that will descend with Him, will inspire us with awe and great alarm. For on that day not one Angel will remain in Heaven; they will all be present as witnesses of the judgment.
Now, theologians maintain that in the lowest choir of Angels the number of Angels is ten times greater than that of all the human beings that have ever existed upon earth. In the second choir there are ten times as many as in the first, in the third ten times as many as in the second, and so on, so that the number of these Angelic beings appears endless. All these Angels, who are pure spirits and therefore invisible to bodily sight, will then appear visible, exceedingly bright and glorious, so that the damned also may see the magnificence of Christ s advent.
St. John in his Apocalypse speaks thus of the hosts of Angels that will attend upon the Judge at His coming: "I saw Heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called faithful and true, and with justice doth He judge and fight. And His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many diadems; . . . and He was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood, and His name is called: The word of God." And the armies that are in Heaven followed Him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth proceedeth a sharp two-edged sword, that with it He may strike the nations. And He shall rule them with a rod of iron ; and He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of God the almighty. And He hath on His garment and on His thigh written : King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Apoc. xix. 11-16).
How we all shall tremble, O my God, when we behold these hosts of celestial spirits with their kingly leader! The prophet Daniel once saw an Angel, and he was so terror-struck at his appearance, that he fell to the ground like one dead. If such an effect was produced on him by the sight of a single Angel, whose errand was one of comfort and consolation, what will become of us, when so many hundreds of thousands of heavenly princes draw nigh to us with wrathful countenances? St. Ephrem, speaking of this says: "The Angels will stand there with a menacing mien, their eyes flashing with the sacred fire of just indignation, roused by the iniquities of mankind."
Now if the sight of the Angels alone, who will come to judgment with the Divine Judge, is so terrible, what will be the fear and dread inspired by the Judge Himself, when He comes in all the wrath of offended justice! As in Heaven there is no greater delight than the contemplation of God, so at the Last Judgment there will be no greater pain than to look upon the angry Judge. Before entering upon an explanation of this, let us see with what majesty Christ will come to judgment.
The advent of Christ will be so terrible that neither man nor Angel is capable of describing it aright. For all that is most calculated to appal the sinner will be here seen, and nothing will be wanting that can enhance the majesty of Christ. When a monarch makes his entry into a town, what pomp and splendour is displayed there ! Strains of lively music mingle with the more solemn peal of bells, salutes are fired, the whole population is astir, every one straining his eyes to see the monarch; first come his servants, then his counsellors, then the nobles of the land; lastly he comes himself, surrounded by a vast multitude of people.
Yet what is all this magnificence the world can offer when compared with the majesty which will attend the coming of the King of kings! Compare a poor ragged beggar-boy with a sovereign prince who enters riding in a chariot of gold, and we have a feeble and insufficient image of the difference that exists between the pomp and splendour of this world and the glory wherewith Christ will come to judgment.
Yet His advent will not merely be grand and glorious beyond measure, it will likewise be awful in its nature. If the graves opened at the blast of the Angel’s trumpet, and the sound of that trumpet re-echoed throughout the whole world, what a panic of fear will seize upon mankind when the Angels who precede Christ's triumphal call cause the sound of their trumpets to be heard!
" What," asks St. Augustine, "will become of us on that dreadful day, the Day of Judgment, when the Lord shall descend with His Angels with the sound of trumpets, and the whole earth shall tremble with fear?"
When God came down of old upon Mount Sinai, we read in Holy Scripture: "Now the third day was come and the morning appeared; and behold thunders began to be heard, and lightning to flash, and a very thick cloud to cover the mount, and the noise of the trumpet sounded exceeding loud, and the people that was in the camp feared." And when all the people heard the thunder and the sound of the trumpet, and saw the lightning and the smoke arising from out of the mount, they were terrified, and withdrew to a distance, saying to Moses: "Speak thou to us and we will do all things that the Lord hath commanded, but let not the Lord speak to us lest we die" (Exod. xx. 19).
If all this happened when God came down from Heaven to give His law to the Hebrew nation, and adopt them as His children, what, thinkest thou, O Christian, will be the case when He comes to require an account of the manner in which His commandments have been kept? If the children of Israel were so terrified at the giving of the law that they thought they should die of fear, what cause shall not we mortals, we Christians especially, have to tremble, since we have so often wilfully transgressed the commandments of God!
O God, almighty Judge of all men, Thou wilt descend from Heaven at the Last Day with great power and majesty, to act in Thy character of Judge, and the thought of Thy coming causes me to quake with fear. Inspire me now, I beseech Thee, with salutary fear, so that I may avoid sin, and may not merit to be crushed by Thy just anger. Amen.