“Hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” -Matthew 26:64
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” -Luke 21:25-28
It is a de fide (of the faith) teaching that our Lord having come once in humility as a little baby in the womb of his mother the ever Blessed Virgin Mary that he will indeed come again in glory to judge the living and the dead as we proclaim every Sunday and major Feast day in the Nicene Creed at Holy Mass.
Καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς
inde venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos ac mortuos
And He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead
Commenting on this line from the creed the Catechism of the Council of Trent, that wonderful and clear work edited by Saint Charles Borromeo and promulgated by Pope Saint Pius V says:
“The Sacred Scriptures inform us that there are two comings of the Son of God: the one when He assumed human flesh for our salvation in the womb of a virgin; the other when He shall come at the end of the world to judge all mankind. This latter coming is called in Scripture the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord, says the Apostle, shall come, as a thief in the night; and our Lord Himself says: Of that day and hour no one knoweth.”
These mentions of the second coming and subsequent final judgment can be found all throughout the New Testament, and most prominently in the following passages: Matthew 24:27 and following; 25:31 and folling. In Acts 10:42 and 17:31 and in Romans 2:5-16; 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; James 5:7. One can also find the word parousia (advent) in 1 Corinthians 15:23 and 2 Thessalonians 2:19. The Second Coming is also referred to as the epiphaneia (appearance) in 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1; Titus 2:13, and then as apokalypsis (Revelation) in 2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Peter 4:13. Other references are made under the name of “that Day” (2 Timothy 4:8), “the day of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:2), “the day of Christ” (Philemon 1:6), “the day of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:30), and “the last day” (John 6:39-40).
Let us now take a look at the signs that are to precede the second coming and general judgment.
Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor.
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
An extract from:
by John McHugh
Article transcribed for NewAdvent.org by Donald J. Boon
Signs that are to precede the general judgment
The Scriptures mention certain events which are to take place before the final judgment. These predictions were not intended to serve as indications of the exact time of the judgment, for that day and hour are known only to the Father, and will come when least expected. They were meant to foreshadow the last judgment and to keep the end of the world present to the minds of Christians, without, however, exciting useless curiosity and vain fears. Theologians usually enumerate the following nine events as signs of the last judgment:
General preaching of the Christian religion
Concerning this sign the Saviour says: “And this gospel of the kingdom, shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come” (Matthew 24:14). This sign was understood by Chrysostom and Theophilus as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, but, according to the majority of interpreters, Christ is here speaking of the end of the world.
Conversion of the Jews
According to the interpretation of the Fathers, the conversion of the Jews towards the end of the world is foretold by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (11:25-26): “For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery, . . . that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles should come in. And so all Israel should be saved as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”.
Return of Enoch and Elijah
The belief that these two men, who have never tasted death, are reserved for the last times to be precursors of the Second Advent was practically unanimous among the Fathers, which belief they base on several texts of Scripture. (Concerning Elijah see Malachi 4:5-6; Sirach 48:10; Matthew 17:11; concerning Enoch see Sirach 44:16)
A great apostasy
As to this event St. Paul admonishes the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 2:3) that they must not be terrified, as if the day of the Lord were at hand, for there must first come a revolt (he apostasia).The Fathers and interpreters understand by this revolt a great reduction in the number of the faithful through the abandonment of the Christian religion by many nations. Some commentators cite as confirmatory of this belief the words of Christ: “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
The reign of Antichrist
In the passage above mentioned (2 Thessalonians 2:3 sqq.) St. Paul indicates as another sign of the day of the Lord, the revelation of the man of sin, the son of perdition. “The man of sin” here described is generally identified with the Antichrist, who, says St. John (1 John 2:18), is to come in the last days. Although much obscurity and difference of opinion prevails on this subject, it is generally admitted from the foregoing and other texts that before the Second Coming there will arise a powerful adversary of Christ, who will seduce the nations by his wonders, and persecute the Church.
Extraordinary perturbations of nature
The Scriptures clearly indicate that the judgment will be preceded by unwonted and terrifying disturbances of the physical universe (Matthew 24:29; Luke 21:25-26). The wars, pestilences, famines, and earthquakes foretold in Matthew 24:6 sq. are also understood by some writers as among the calamities of the last times.
The universal conflagration
In the Apostolic writings we are told that the end of the world will be brought about through a general conflagration, which, however, will not annihilate the present creation, but will change its form and appearance (2 Peter 3:10-13; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Apocalypse 3:3, and 16:15). Natural science shows the possibility of such a catastrophe being produced in the ordinary course of events, but theologians generally tend to believe that its origin will be entirely miraculous.
The Trumpet of Resurrection
Several texts in the New Testament make mention of a voice or trumpet which will awaken the dead to resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; John 5:28). According to St. Thomas (Supplement 86:2) there is reference in these passages either to the voice or to the apparition of Christ, which will cause the resurrection of the dead.
“The sign of the Son of Man appearing in the heavens”
In Matthew 24:30, this is indicated as the sign immediately preceding the appearance of Christ to judge the world. By this sign the Fathers of the Church generally understand the appearance in the sky of the Cross on which the Saviour died or else of a wonderful cross of light.
And finally let us look at the nature of the Last Judgment or General Judgment that will follow immediately upon the second coming of Christ.
Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Sermon I – First Sunday of Advent – On the General Judgment
“And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty.” -Matthew 24:30
At present God is not known, and, therefore, he is as much despised by sinners, as if he could not avenge, whenever he pleases, the injuries offered to him. The wicked”looketh upon the Almighty as if he could do nothing” (Job xxii. 17,) But the Lord has fixed a day, called in the Scriptures “the day of the Lord,” on which the Eternal Judge will make known his power and majesty. ”The Lord,” says the Psalmist, “shall be known when he executeth judgment.” (Ps. ix. 17.) On this text St. Bernard writes: ”The Lord, who is now unknown while he seeks mercy, shall be known when he executes justice.” (Lib. de xii. Rad.) The prophet Sophonias calls the day of the Lord”a day of wrath a day of tribulation and distress a day of calamity and misery.” (i. 15.) Let us now consider, in the first point, the different appearance of the just and the unjust; in the second, the scrutiny of consciences; and in the third, the sentence pronounced on the elect and on the reprobate. First Point On the different appearance of the just and of sinners in the valley of Josaphat.
1. This day shall commence with fire from Heaven, which will burn the earth, all men then living, and all things upon the earth. ”And the earth and the works which are in it shall be burnt up.” (2 Pet. iii. 10.) All shall become one heap of ashes.
2. After the death of all men, “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again.” (1 Cor. xv. 52.) St Jerome used to say: “As often as I consider the day of judgment, I tremble. Whether I eat or drink, or whatever else I do, that terrible trumpet appears to sound in my ears, arise ye dead, and come to judgment” (in Matt, c. v.); and St. Augustine declared, that nothing banished from him earthly thoughts so effectually as the fear of judgment.
3. At the sound of that trumpet the souls of the blessed shall descend from Heaven to be united to the bodies with which they served God on Earth; and the unhappy souls of the damned shall come up from Hell to take possession again of those bodies with which they have offended God. Oh! how different the appearance of the former, compared with that of the latter! The damned shall appear deformed and black, like so many firebrands of Hell; but the just shall shine as the sun (Matt xiii 43) Oh! how great shall then be the happiness of those who have fortified their bodies by works of penance! We may estimate their felicity from the words addressed by St. Peter of Alcantara, after death, to St. Teresa: “O happy penance! which merited for me such glory”
4. After the resurrection, they shall be summoned by the angels to appear in the valley of Josaphat. “Nations, nations, in the valley for destruction for the day of the Lord is near‟‟ (Joel iii 14)” Then the angels shall come and separate the reprobate from the elect, placing the latter on the right, and the former on the left. ”The angels shall go out, and shall separate the wicked from the Just. ”(Matt. xiii 49). Oh! How great will then be the confusion which the unhappy damned shall suffer!. “What think you, ” says the author of the Imperfect Work, “must be the confusion of the impious, when, being separated from the just, they shall be abandoned”(Hom liv.). “This punishment alone” says St. Chrysostom, “would be sufficient to constitute a hell for the wicked”. ”Et si nihil ulterius paterentur, ista sola verecundia sufficerit eis ad poenam,” (in Matt, c. xxiv.) The brother shall he separated from the brother, the husband from his wife, the son from the father, etc.
5. But, behold! the heavens are opened the angels come to assist at the general judgment, carrying, as St. Thomas says, the sign of the cross and of the other instruments of the passion of the Redeemer. ”Veniente Domino ad judicium signum crucis, et alia passionis indicia demonstrabunt.” (Opusc. ii. 244.) The same may be inferred from the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew: ”And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” (xxiv. 30.) Sinners shall weep at the sign of the cross; for, as St. Chrysostom says, the nails will complain of them the wounds and the cross of Jesus Christ will speak against them. ”Clavi de te conquerentur, cicatrices contra et loquentur, crux Christi contra te perorabit.” (Hom, xx., in Matt.)
6. Most holy Mary, the queen of saints and angels, shall come to assist at the last judgment; and lastly, the Eternal Judge shall appear in the clouds, full of splendour and majesty. “And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with much power and majesty.” (Matt. xxiv. 30.) Oh! how great shall be the agony of the reprobate at the sight of the Judge! “At their presence” says the Prophet Joel, “the people shall be in grievous pains.” (Joel ii. 6.) According to St. Jerome, the presence of Jesus Christ will give the reprobate more pain than Hell itself. “It would,” he says, ”be easier for the damned to bear the torments of Hell than the presence of the Lord.” Hence, on that day, the wicked shall, according to St. John, call on the mountains to fall on them and to hide them from the sight of the judge. “And they shall say to the mountains and the rocks: Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” (Apoc. vi. 16.) Second Point. The scrutiny of conscience.
7. “The judgment sat, and the books were opened. ”(Dan. vii. 10.) The books of conscience are opened, and the judgment commences. The Apostle says, that the Lord”will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” (1 Cor. iv. 5.) And, by the mouth of his prophet, Jesus Christ has said: ”I will search Jerusalem with lamps.” (Soph. i. 12.) The light of the lamp reveals all that is hidden.
8. ”A judgment,” says St. Chrysostom, ”terrible to sinners, but desirable and sweet to the just.” (Hom. iii. de Dav.) The last judgment shall fill sinners with terror, but will be a source of joy and sweetness to the elect; for God will then give praise to each one according to his works. (1 Cor. iv. 5.) The Apostle tells us that on that day the just will be raised above the clouds to be united to the angels, and to increase the number of those who pay homage to the Lord. ”We shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air.” (I Thess. iv. 16.)
9. Worldlings now regard as fools the saints who led mortified and humble lives; but then they shall confess their own folly, and say: “We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.” (Wis. v. 4, 5.) In this world, the rich and the noble are called happy; but true happiness consists in a life of sanctity. Rejoice, ye souls who live in tribulation;”our sorrow shall be turned into joy.” (John xvi. 20.) In the valley of Josaphat you shall be seated on thrones of glory.
10. But the reprobate, like goats destined for the slaughter, shall be placed on the left, to await their last condemnation. ”Judicii tempus,” says St. Chrysostom, ”misericordiam non recipit.” On the day of judgment there is no hope of mercy for poor sinners. “Magna,” says St. Augustine, “jam est poena peccati, metum et memoriam divini perdidisse judicii.” (Serm. xx. de Temp.) The greatest punishment of sin in those who live in enmity with God, is to lose the fear and remembrance of the divine judgment. Continue, continue, says the Apostle, to live obstinately in sin; but in proportion to your obstinacy, you shall have accumulated for the day of judgment a treasure of the wrath of God “But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart , thou treasurest up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath” (Rom ii. 5)
11. Then sinners will not be able to hide themselves but, with insufferable pain, they shall be compelled to appear in judgment. “To lie hid” says St. Anselm, “will be impossible to appear will be intolerable.” The devils will perform their office of accusers, and as St. Augustine says, will say to the Judge: “Most just God, declare him to be mine, who was unwilling to be yours.” The witnesses against the wicked shall be first, their own conscience. “Their conscience bearing witness to them,” (Rom. ii. 15); secondly, the very walls of the house in which they sinned shall cry out against them”The stone shall cry out of the wall,” (Hab. ii 11); thirdly, the Judge himself will say “I am the judge and the witness, saith the Lord.” (Jer. xxix 23 ) Hence, according to St. Augustine, “He who is now the witness of .your life, shall be the judge of your cause.” (Lib. x. de Chord., c. ii.) To Christians particularly he will say: “Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida; for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes”(Matt. xi. 21.) Christians, he will say, if the graces which I have bestowed on you had been given to the Turks or to the Pagans, they would have done penance for their sins; but you have ceased to sin only with your death. He shall then manifest to all men their most hidden crimes. “I will discover thy shame to thy face. ” (Nahum iii. 5.) He will expose to view all their secret impurities, injustices, and cruelties. ”I will set all thy abominations against thee”(Ezech. vii. 3.) Each of the damned shall carry his sins written on his forehead.
12. What excuses can save the wicked on that day? Ah! they can offer no excuses. ”All iniquity shall stop her mouth.” (Ps. cvi. 42.) Their very sins shall close the mouth of the reprobate, so that they will not have courage to excuse themselves. They shall pronounce their own condemnation. Third Point. Sentence of the elect, and of the reprobate.
13. St. Bernard says, that the sentence of the elect, and their destiny to eternal glory, shall be first declared, that the pains of the reprobate may be increased by the sight of what they lost. ”Prius pronunciabitur sententia electis ut acrius (reprobi) doleant videntes quid amiserunt.” (Ser. viii., in Ps. xc.) Jesus Christ, then, shall first turn to the elect, and with a serene countenance shall say: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ”(Matt. xxv. 34.) He will then bless all the tears shed through sorrow for their sins, and all their good works, their prayers, mortifications, and communions; above all, he will bless for them the pains of his passion and the blood shed for their salvation. And, after these benedictions, the elect, singing alleluias, shall enter Paradise to praise and love God eternity.
14. The Judge shall then turn to the reprobate, and shall pronounce the sentence of their condemnation in these words . ”Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. xxv. 41 ) They shall then be forever accursed, separated from God, and sent to burn for ever in the fire of hell. “And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just into life everlasting. ” (Matt. xxv. 46.)
15. After this sentence, the wicked shall, according to St. Ephrem, be compelled to take leave for ever of their relatives, of Paradise, of the saints, and of Mary the divine Mother. “Farewell, ye just! Farewell, O cross I Farewell, Paradise! Farewell, fathers and brothers: we shall never see you again! Farewell, O Mary, mother of God!”(St. Eph. de variis serm. inf.) Then a great pit shall open in the middle of the valley: the unhappy damned shall be cast into it, and shall see those doors shut which shall never again be opened. O accursed sin! to what a miserable end will you one day conduct so many souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. O unhappy souls! for whom is prepared such a melancholy end. But, brethren, have confidence. Jesus Christ is now a Father, and not judge. He is ready to pardon all who repent. Let us then instantly ask pardon from him.