The Second Coming of Christ
by Virginia Manzo, MD
"For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary and was made man" (Nicene Creed).
As prophesied in the O1d Testament, a Messiah will come to save us from sin.
When God took human nature and was born in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago, it marked his first coming. He lived on earth for 33 years, went about his mission which culminated in his passion and death on the Cross and fulfilled the history of salvation.
Forty days after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven. Since the ascension of the Risen King, our next view of him would be on his second coming. What is the second coming? At the end of time, Christ will come "to judge the living and the dead." This means that on the Last Day, our Lord Jesus Christ will come again for the General or Final (also known as Universal) Judgment in all his power and majesty. "And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather the elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt 24:31)
When will the Second Coming of Christ occur? Nobody knows for sure. It could be tomorrow, next year, a million years from now. What we are sure about is that it will come because Sacred Scripture says so. Will there be signs to warn us that the second coming is imminent? In the 24th chapter of St. Matthew's gospel, there are portents or omens to precede the end of the world such as wars, pestilence and famine.The sun and the moon will grow dark and the stars will fall. An anti-Christ will reign.Then we will "see the son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven in great power and majesty." (Matt 24:30)
What happens at the Second Coming? Our faith teaches that at the second coming, the bodies of all who ever have lived will be raised from the dead and will be reunited with their respective souls. In other words, the dust or ashes of the dead bodies will come together to gather into their original physical form as they were during their earthly life and reunite with their immortal souls. The difference, however, of these resurrected bodies is that they would not be subjected to physical limitations because now they are in a sense "spiritualized." The bodies of the just will rise glorious and immortal with qualities of impassibility, subtlety, agility and clarity. The bodies of the damned will also rise but they will be hideous and repulsive.
Since it is the whole person, body and soul, that had loved or rejected God, then it is but just that the whole person, body and soul, be rewarded with eternal union with God or punished with eternal separation from Him. The bodies of the just will rise to share forever in the glory of their souls. The bodies of the damned will also rise to share in the eternal punishment of their souls. This is why the Church has always taught great reverence to our bodies. In life, the body is the temple of God, the shrine of the Blessed Trinity. In death we give reverence to the bodies of the faithful departed because they will rise again one day.The Church earnestly recommends the pious custom of burying the dead; however, she does not forbid cremation provided it does not demonstrate the denial of faith in the resurrection of the dead.
But why is there need for the General Judgment? We shall have already undergone our particular judgment which happens immediately after death: our souls would already be either in heaven or hell. Is there a possibility that the verdict handed down to us at the particular judgment be changed? No, the particular judgment will not be altered, revised or amended. The particular judgment done in private between the soul and Jesus Christ which would have sent the soul either to heaven, purgatory or hell will just be a public repetition at the general judgment. The purpose of the general judgment is to give glory to God and to show His retributive justice.
At the final judgment, all men since Adam will be there. And they will see and understand with complete clarity what they have not understood before. Questions people would ask during their lifetime, "Why did God let this happen?” or "Why did God not do this or that?" will now be answered and understood with clarity. At the same time, all the good deeds and all the evil actions of each one, his thoughts, his imaginings, and desires will be exposed before everyone. True justice will prevail. Those who have been perceived as good persons and surrounded by praise and esteem in this earthly life but actually were evil in their hearts will now be seen in their true colors. On the other hand, those who were persecuted, despised, humiliated and suffered for the love of Christ will be shown to one and all that they are glorified and enjoying union with God. We will see the true value of each and everyone.Jesus Christ "will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart." (1 Cor 4:5)
Then comes the final or general judgment, when Jesus Christ will occupy the throne of justice as Judge. He will separate the "sheep from the goats". The sheep will stay at his right to be given their reward of heaven - "whatever you did to the least of my brethren you did it unto me". And the goats at the left will be damned to eternal punishment where they belong - "whatever you did not do to the least of my brethren, you did not do unto me".
What happens next? It will be the end of the world with all its sins and disorder. Christ will "create a new heaven and a new earth'' bringing it to perfection and filling it with eternal glory. He will make a radiant dwelling place of God, the way he has created it at the beginning. Whether we will experience this new world nobody knows.
Meanwhile, as we wait for our particular judgment and eventually the general judgment at the second coming, we live our life on earth, keeping in mind that this world is the testing ground for our love for God. Our present life is a time of probation because we are being tried for our loyalty to God. Where is our path leading to? At death, will our particular judgment be heaven or hell? The second coming of Christ will reaffirm publicly before one and all whether we were rewarded with eternal joy and glory or punished in eternal fire.
It would be worthwhile to meditate frequently on the particular judgment our life is leading to. We should prepare for death by living good lives, doing good, and avoiding sin so that we will be ready for that final encounter with God, both at death and at His second coming at the end of the world.
Originally published in Totus Tuus Maria Magazine, July-September 2007
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