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.
X. On the Length of Time that the Final Judgment will Last.
HOW long will the duration of the Last Judgment be? No definite answer can be given to this question, for it is a matter which no one knows; yet it may be conjectured that it will occupy a considerable period. Some indeed say that it will be over quickly, because God could judge all mankind in a single instant. Yet this opinion does not seem to be held by the Fathers of the Church, nor is it supported by Holy Scripture, in which we find a day of judgment invariably spoken of.
St. Paul, for instance, says: "God hath appointed a day wherein He will judge the world in equity" (Acts xvii. 31). And we read in the prophecies of Isaias: "Behold the day of the Lord shall come, a cruel day and full of indignation and of wrath and fury" (Is. xiii. 9). In these and many other passages of Holy Writ the Last Day is spoken of as a day, not an instantaneous judgment. The prophet Joel indicates that the day will be a long one, when he says: "The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can stand it?" (Joel ii. 1 1.) And of this same day St. John, the prophet of the New Dispensation, also says: "The great day of their wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand it?" (Apoc. vi. 17.)
In many other passages of Holy Scripture we find similar expressions; the Day of Judgment being called a great day, which probably means a long day. St. Jerome held this opinion, for he says: "The day of the Lord will be a great day because of the eternity following upon it." St. Augustine, when speaking of the duration of the final judgment, expresses himself thus: "Over how many days the judgment will extend we have no means of ascertaining; yet we know that a considerable period is often designated in Holy Scripture as a day." St. Thomas Aquinas agrees with St. Augustine on this point; he brings forward several arguments to prove that the final judgment will be of long duration.
And wherefore should God shorten that day? There is abundant reason why He should rather prolong it. For it is the day of Christ’s greatest triumph; the day whereon the Saints attain their greatest glory and the damned are put to the greatest shame.
It is the day of Christ s greatest triumph, because He will not only be adored by all the Angels and Saints, but also by the wicked spirits and lost souls, and acknowledged by all to be their Judge. On that day all His enemies will be beneath His feet ; on that day all His foes will be forced to confess their offences against Him, the Divine Arbiter. They will then and there be compelled to own His divinity, His infinite charity, the countless benefits He has bestowed on them, in return for which they persecuted Him, blasphemed Him, put Him to a cruel death. Secondly, the blessed Saints will on that day attain their greatest glory, because they will be held in honour and esteem by all mankind, as well as by God and by the Angels. For Christ will then make manifest to all present how faithfully they served Him, with what self-sacrificing zeal they laboured for the conversion of sinners. He will then make manifest the secret penances they performed, the fierce temptations they resisted. He will then make manifest the pitiless persecutions they endured from the children of this world, and how all manner of evil was spoken against them unjustly. Thus Christ will crown them with the honour that is their due, and all their adversaries will be confounded.
Thirdly, on that day the reprobate will be put to the greatest ignominy and anguish. For the Judge will reveal all the shameful, the abominable character of their misdeeds: He will reveal in the sight of Angels and Saints, of the devils and the damned, the infamous deeds they performed under cover of darkness. Yes, He will pour out the full chalice of His indignation upon those wretched beings, who under the mask of their hypocrisy dared to desecrate His very sanctuary. He will cause those who have been corrupters of innocence to be seized and placed among the evil spirits, whose diabolical, thrice accursed work they carried on earth.
On that day the Divine Judge will give all the impenitent sinners to drink deeply of the cup of shame and ignominy, as St. Basil tells us, when he says: "The confusion that will overtake the godless sinner in the Day of Judgment will be more cruel torture to him than if he were cast into a flaming fire." This is in fact the reason why God has appointed the final judgment, that sinners may not only be punished by the pain which will be their portion, but that they may also be put to public shame. St. Thomas Aquinas says: "The sinner does not only deserve pain, he deserves disgrace and ignominy, for this is a punishment to which human beings only can be subjected. The lower animals can be chastised and put to death, but they cannot know what it is to suffer shame and contempt." This accounts for the fact that any one who has a single spark of self-respect would rather suffer the heaviest punishment in secret, than be exposed to public disgrace.
On all these grounds it will be surmised that the final judgment will stretch over a considerable period of time, and hence we have all the more reason to tremble at the prospect of it, and earnestly pray God that on that great day He will not overwhelm us with shame and confusion, but will grant us a share in His joy and glory.