When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
No human imagination avails to grasp the conception of the judgment of a world - the great white throne, the voice of the archangel, the generations of all time gathering from all quarters. There is one feature of the judgment which is here and elsewhere made prominent - that Christ himself is to be Judge. The Father hath given him authority to execute judgment also, "because he is the Son of man." Jesus Christ is that Person through whom God has seen fit to transact with men from the first, and it will be so to the end. It is in the Person of Christ that God has been accepted or rejected of men; and it is fit that in this Person also men be accepted or rejected of God. We shall be judged by One who can read our soul with his own human knowledge of men and their ways. There are only two points in this great subject which will now be taken up:
(1) the duration of the doom pronounced;
(2) the grounds on which it proceeds.
I. Round these words of our Lord a sea of controversy has continually raged. In every generation there are numbers who explicitly declare that they cannot believe in the everlasting punishment of any of their fellow creatures. And although many do so from mere thoughtlessness, in others it arises from the feeling that it would be inconsistent with their own expectation of happiness, and with their best ideas of God. Men of feeble imagination, to whom the doctrine is little more than a form of words, have little temptation to rebel against it. But there are others to whom it makes life an intolerable misery; and rather than resign all mental comfort and happiness, they resign their belief in eternal punishment. But belief is not to be determined by our wish, but by Scripture and reason. If we turn to our Lord's teaching, and try to make out whether he taught universal restoration, the distinct conclusion seems to be that he did not. His words here are a fair sample of his teaching on this point, and apparently he meant by them to convey the impression which every simple-minded, unbiassed reader receives from them, that the duration of the punishment of the lost equalled the duration of the blessedness of the saved. The word translated "everlasting" in the one clause and "eternal" in the other is the same in both clauses. And though this is scarcely the place to discuss the meaning of a Greek word, so much has been said of the proper translation of the word being "age long," that it is necessary to guard against the accepting of such an account as sufficient. Even in its first original sense there is prominent the idea of enduring to the end, of permanence. So that in the course of time it became the commonest term to express that which lasts, in opposition to that which passes away. It occurs everywhere in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the purpose of which Epistle is to bring out the enduring, permanent, absolute, final, eternal nature of the Christian religion in opposition to the temporary, transient nature of the Old Testament dispensation. Plato falls into almost the very language of Paul, and says of the heavens and the earth that these visible things are temporal, but the unseen is eternal, abides; and in saying this he uses the word used here. But no doubt besides its application to what is absolutely eternal, as to God himself, the word may legitimately be applied to epochs long but not eternal. But unquestionably it conveys the idea that what is spoken of will last so long as its subject lasts unless something is said to the contrary. The bliss promised and the punishment threatened would be understood to last so tong as the subject of them lasts unless an explicit intimation were given that it would not be so. But so far from this, the New Testament everywhere implies that the state of things introduced by Christ and his work is a final and permanent stare, suitably described by the word that is applied to God himself when he is called Eternal. It is to be noted also that the Jews of our Lord's time certainly believed in a final judgment and irreversible doom; and it is not to be believed that our Lord should have used the very figures and language used by them if he had had any new doctrine to publish regarding the future.
II. The grounds on which the final separation proceeds must commend themselves to the most blunted conscience. The friends of mankind are to share the destiny of the great Friend of our race, the haters of mankind are to partake with the great enemy. At first sight the duties taken account of seem the easiest. But the spirit of Christ is that which induced him to pity us and come down for our help, and it is this spirit of love which is fundamental. The man who is like him in this will one day be like him in all else. "Love is of God," and will still be recognized by God as belonging to him. It is worthy of observation that those who were rewarded for these deeds of charity were not aware that in doing them they had been serving Christ. His explanation of this to them reminds us of the device of Eastern princes of wandering through their dominions in disguise, that they may learn the feeling of their subjects. So does Christ even now dwell incognito among his own, in the habit of the poor and sick and oppressed; and, asking help from one and another, he finds who they are who have listened to his commandment that we should love one another, and who they are who are fulfilling his work of mercy upon earth. And this identification of himself with all that is base and wretched has its basis in the substantial facts of his earthly life. His life was spent for the relief of men, but it was merely part of the fulfilment of an eternal purpose. He is no less desirous of relieving the miseries of this present age than he was of relieving those who were around him upon earth. And as we would think gratefully and lovingly of one who in our absence cared for some brother or parent, wife or child, who stood in need of help, so does Christ think highly of him who considers and cares for any weak brother of his for whom he died, and whom when he comes he will claim for his own. Are you prepared for this judgment? We are not asked what we have felt, or thought, or believed, but what we have done. It is conduct which shows if you are of the spirit of Christ, capable of enjoying what he counts a blessed life. His aim was the only right aim, the only aim which in the judgment will be taken account of. Every one who tries this finds it is radical, that it involves regeneration, that he cannot adopt it as his real aim in life without giving himself up to God.. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: