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.
VII. On the Manner in which Christ will take His Place on the Judgment-seat.
PAY heed, O reader, to what is now coming, and do not imagine that it concerns thee not. Thou wilt most assuredly witness it all one day with thy bodily eyes, and all will be a thousand times more terrible than my pen can depict it.
When Christ, in His chariot of fire, has reached Mount Olivet, He will pause in the air, at such a height that He can be clearly seen by all men, until the Angels have prepared the throne of judgment.
The prophet Daniel thus portrays the scene: "I beheld till thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days sat ; His garment was white as snow and the hair of His head like clean wool; His throne like flames of fire, the wheels of it like a burning fire. A swift stream of fire issued forth from before Him; thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten times a hundred thousand stood before Him: the judgment sat and the books were opened" (Dan. vii. 9, 10).
But Christ will not sit in judgment alone; the twelve Apostles will be with Him, according to the promise He gave them: "Amen I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of His majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. xix. 28).
Who can give any idea of the magnificence of Christ s throne? It beggars all description.
We read that King Solomon caused a wonderfully beautiful throne to be constructed out of ivory, richly adorned with gold and precious stones. This throne was so magnificent that the inspired writer says of it that in no kingdom of the world had any such work been made. If the judgment-seat of King Solomon was composed of such costly material and fashioned so skilfully, what will be the splendour of the judgment-seat of the King of kings, on which He will sit in His majesty to judge the whole world!
Our Lord speaks of this judgment-seat as a throne of great splendour, when He says: "When the Son of man shall come in His majesty, and all the Angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the seat of His majesty" (Matt. xxv. 31).
Some idea of what the appearance of this throne will be may be gathered from the words which have just been quoted from the prophet Daniel, and also this description given by St. John: "There was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. . . . And from the throne proceeded lightnings, and voices, and thunders; and there were seven lamps burning before the throne" (Apoc. iv. 3-5).
Such are the images whereby Holy Scripture portrays the judgment-seat of Christ. Who of all mankind can venture to raise his eyes to this fiery throne? Will it not be more dazzlingly bright than the lightnings and fiery flashes of a tempest?
The Divine Judge will seat Himself upon this throne and His grave countenance will be visible to men and Angels. All created beings will tremble with awestruck reverence. St. John declares this in the Apocalypse: "I saw a great white throne, and One sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and Heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them" (Apoc. xx. 11). In these words the prophet of the New Testament appears to indicate that the Heavens and the earth will not be able to bear to meet the eye of their Judge; that all rational beings, both Angels and men, will quake at the sight of His stern countenance.
That the Angels also will fear and tremble, is asserted by St. Augustine, in the following passage from his writings: "When Our Lord says that the powers of Heaven shall be moved, He alludes to the Angels; for so terrible will the judgment be, that the Angels will not be exempt from fear; they too will tremble and be afraid. For just as when a judge sits in judgment his grave countenance not only strikes terror into the culprits before him, but over-awes the officials standing around, so when all mankind are brought to judgment the celestial ministers will share the universal horror and alarm."
St. John Chrysostom corroborates this statement, when he says: "Every one will then be filled with astonishment, with apprehension, with terror, for even the Angels will be sore afraid."
Many other Fathers of the Church and commentators upon Holy Scripture express a similar opinion.
Now if, according to the opinion of learned and holy men even the Angels will not be without fear in the Day of Judgment, how much greater cause will the Saints have to fear, since they must stand before Christ's tribunal, and give a strict account of all their actions. Yes, it is unmistakably evident, from what St. John says in the Apocalypse, that the blessed Saints are struck with awe and trembling. He describes how Christ appeared to him, and the effect it had upon him. " When I had seen Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not. I am the First and the Last." If the beloved Apostle was so awestruck at the sight of his dear Master and Lord, who had come to console and not to judge him, that he fell at His feet as if dead, and could not summon up courage to rise to his feet until Christ spoke to him in the kindest and most comforting manner, can it be supposed that the Saints will not be terrified on the Day of Judgment, when they behold Christ in His awful majesty and are called upon to give to Him an account of their whole life? And, O poor sinner, how will it then fare with thee, and with all the reprobate, if even the Angels and Saints tremble at the coming of the Judge? Words cannot express the terror and dismay of evil spirits and unrepentant sinners, when they shall behold their Divine Judge on the throne of His majesty, and know that He will rigorously judge and condemn them to Hell for all eternity.
In order to give some idea of the terrible dread and alarm of the fallen Angels and of unhappy sinners, let us hear what Holy Scripture says concerning the appalling exterior of the Judge and the greatness of His anger, in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, where St. John tells us: "I saw the Son of man clothed in a garment down to the feet and girt about the breast with a golden girdle. His head and His hairs were white as white wool and as snow, and His eyes were as a flame of fire, and His feet like unto fine brass, as in a burning furnace. And His voice as the sound of many waters. And from His mouth came out a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was as the sun shineth in His power. Upon His head were many diadems, and He was clothed with a garment sprinkled with blood. He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of God the almighty, and He hath on His garment and His thigh written: King of kings and Lord of lords."
Meditate upon these wondrous words, O Christian, and picture to thyself thy future Judge in vivid colors. How could His majestic appearance be described more forcibly than in the words we have just quoted?
What must be the splendour of that countenance which is said to shine as the sun at its meridian! what must be the brilliance of those eyes which glow with holy fervour like flames of fire! what the force of that voice which has the sound of a volume of waters! what must be the keenness of that tongue which cuts like a two-edged sword! what a glorious head that must be which is adorned with many costly diadems! How terrible that garment must be to look upon which is sprinkled with blood ! And what the dignity of that regal name: The King of kings and Lord of lords! How frightened we all shall be, what fear and woe will overtake us when our Judge looks upon us! And imagine what the feelings of the damned will be, when they behold the Judge of all their wicked deeds; how they will quail and quake beneath His gaze in the hour of His just wrath!
We shall perhaps form a better conception of what the wrath of God is, if we listen to what the prophet Isaias says concerning it: "Behold the name of the Lord cometh from afar, His wrath burneth, and is heavy to bear; His lips are filled with indignation, and His tongue as a devouring fire; His breath as a torrent overflowing even to the midst of the neck, to destroy the nations into nothing" (Is. xxx. 27, 28).
These are of a truth terrible words. Do they not clearly indicate with what great wrath Christ will manifest Himself to the world ? Well may all unhappy sinners be overwhelmed with terror and dismay and anguish; well may they cry to the mountains to fall on them and the hills to cover them.
Now when the Judge is seated upon the throne of His majesty, all who are assembled in the valley of Josaphat, Angels and devils, the redeemed and the lost, will all have to adore Christ, as St. Paul says: "We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. For it is written: As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom. xiv. 10, 11).
How solemn and how sublime a scene will then be enacted, O my God, when all the millions and thousands of millions of Angels, together with the blessed, in visible form will prostrate themselves upon the ground, and the evil spirits with their unhappy victims, and all the damned, will be forced against their will to adore Christ and acknowledge Him as their God and Judge ! These wretched creatures will fall on their knees, and bend their heads down to the earth, not daring to raise their eyes, lest they should encounter the angry glance of their Judge. They will lament and bewail, filled with unutterable consternation and dismay. Gladly would they have the earth open and swallow them up, nay, they would, if it were possible, cast themselves down into a bottomless abyss rather than suffer such humiliation.
Pause and consider, O sinner, what thy feelings would be if thou wert amid the number of these lost souls; thou wouldst be overwhelmed with sorrow and distress.
St. Vincent relates that a young man of dissolute life once dreamed that he was arraigned before the judgment-seat of God, and required to give an account of his ill-spent life. His terror was so great that it turned his hair perfectly white. If the terrors of the Last Judgment experienced only in a dream were sufficient to turn the colour of that young man s hair, what, thinkest thou, will be the effect they will produce on thee and on me, when we are present, not in a dream, but in reality, at the Last Judgment, and with our bodily eyes we behold our Judge in all His holy indignation?
O most just Judge, look down, I beseech Thee, from Thy throne in Heaven upon me, a poor sinner, and for the sake of Thine infinite compassion be merciful to me in the day of final judgment. I know that I shall not be able to stand in that dread day, but by Thy just sentence I shall be condemned to eternal damnation. Yet I know also that if a sinner implores mercy of Thee in the time of grace, it will not be denied him. Therefore I entreat Thee with deep humility and contrition, through Thy bitter Passion, that Thou wouldst pardon my sins and pass a lenient sentence upon me in the Day of Judgment. Amen.