A belief in a final reckoning after the resurrection of the dead, when God will judge men and reward them for their deeds.
There are copious references to the Last Judgment in both Old and New Testaments: Ecclesiastes 11:9, 12:14; Isaiah 3:13; Matthew 10:15, 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12; Acts 17:31; Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 2:9, 3:7; 1 John 4:17. Many of the early fathers of the church treated the subject of the Last Judgment. According to Polycarp of Smyrna, “Whoever perverts the saying of the Lord for his own desires, and says that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, such a one is the first-born of Satan. Let us, therefore, leave the foolishness and the false teaching of the crowd, and turn back to the word which was delivered to us in the beginning” (“[Second] Letter to the Philippians,” in Jurgens, 1970-1979, Vol. 1, p. 29).
Saint JOHN CHRYSOSTOM stated, “Let us, therefore, take courage at His love of mankind and let us be diligent in showing repentance before that day arrives which will preclude our benefiting from repentance. Now everything depends on us; but then He alone who judges will be master of the sentence” (“Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew,” in Jurgens, 1970-1979, Vol. 2, p. 111).
Saint Augustine equally affirmed that “just as there are two regenerations, of which I have already spoken above, one according to the faith, which is accomplished now and through Baptism; and the other according to the flesh, . . . so too are there two resurrections: a first one, which takes place now and is of souls; . . . and the second resurrection, which takes place not now, but is to be at the end of time, and which is not of souls but of bodies, and which, through the last judgment, will send some to the second death and others to that life in which there is no death” (“The City of God,” in Jurgens, 1970-1979, Vol. 3, p. 103).
In contrast to the Roman Catholic church, the Coptic church preaches one last and general judgment, which will take place after the Second Coming of Christ (Mt. 24:30; Lk. 21:27; 1 Thes. 4:17), and following the general resurrection (Mt. 25: 31-46; 1 Thes. 4:16; Heb. 6:2). It will be a universal judgment, of sinners and pious alike, of the whole man, both body and soul simultaneously. This is attested by the sayings of the early fathers. Thus, Tertullian wrote, “We say, first of all, that it must be believed that the judgment of God is full and perfect, in such a way that it is final and therefore perpetual; and that it is just, since it is not less severe with some than with others; and that, full and perfect, it is worthy of God, since it is in keeping with His patience. It follows, then, that the fullness and perfection of the judgment consists in nothing else than in its representing of the interests of the whole man. Since the whole man is comprised in the union of both substances, he must appear in both; for it is necessary that he who passed through life in his entirety be judged in his entirety” (“The Resurrection of the Dead,” in Jurgens, 1970-1979, Vol. 1, p. 149).
[See also: Hades; Paradise.]
- Cullmann, O. Christ and Time. London, 1951.
- Hafiz Dawud. Al-Disquliyyah aw Ta‘alim al-Rusul, 2nd ed., pp. 123-124. Cairo, 1940.
- Jurgens, W. A., trans. The Faith of the Early Fathers. 3 vols. Collegeville, Minn., 1970-1979.
- Mikha’il Mina. ‘Ilm al-Lahut, Vol. 2, pp. 225-32. Cairo, 1936. Morris, L. The Wages of Sin. London, 1955.
- ___. The Biblical Doctrine of Judgement. London, 1960.