World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


The Last Judgment

Hope in a Last Judgment has always been an answer to the problem of theodicy. The dominion of evil in this world will finally be overthrown, and the righteousness of God will be vindicated, when He judges all humankind at the end of days. Evil will be vanquished once and for all, and the glorious realm of God's full sovereignty will appear--the Kingdom of God.

Variations on this theme are represented by the passages in this section. In the passages from the Avesta and the Old Testament, the Last Judgment and the emerging Kingdom of God are said to occur on the earth. On the other hand, in the passages from the Qur'an and the New Testament, the earth will be destroyed and the redeemed will live in heaven. Consequently, the Last Judgment may be interpreted either as a supernatural event at the world's end--typically the stance of Islam and most strains of traditional Christianity--or as a social, political, and religious renovation of this world--a view common to Judaism and some new religions, for example in a passage cited below from a scripture of Sekai-Kyusei-Kyo, a new religion from Japan.

The kingdom of Heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.

Christianity. Matthew 13.47-50

Matthew 13.47-50: Cf. Matthew 16.27, p. 172; Lotus Sutra 16, p. 947.

And then when retribution shall come for their offenses, Then, O Wise One, Thy Kingdom shall be established by Good Thought, For those who, in fulfillment, deliver evil into the hands of Truth!

And then may we be those who make life renovated, O Lord, Immortals of the Wise One, and O Truth, bring your alliance, That to us your minds may gather where wisdom would be in dispute!

Then, indeed, shall occur the collapse of the growth of evil, Then they shall join the promised reward: blessed abode of Good Thought, Of the Wise One, and of Right, they who earn in good reputation!

Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 30.8-10

For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble. The earth is utterly broken, the earth is rent asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunken man, it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. On that day the Lord will punish the hosts of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth. They will be gathered together as prisoners in a pit; they will be shut up in a prison, and after many days they will be punished. Then the moon will be confounded, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before its elders he will manifest his glory.

Judaism and Christianity. Isaiah 24.18-23

When the Trumpet shall sound one blast And the earth with its mountains shall be lifted up and crushed with one crash, Then, on that day, will the Event befall. Heaven will split asunder, for that day it will be frail,

Yasna 30.8-10: 'Good Thought,' 'Truth,' and 'Immortals of the Wise One' are personified attributes of the Wise Lord. See Yasna 43.5, p. 172; 48.4, p. 353; Zamyad Yast 19.11-12, p. 950. On the triumph of truth, cf. Qur'an 17.85, p. 470; Ramkali-ki-Var, M.1, p. 470. Isaiah 24.18-23: Cf. Isaiah 2.12-17, p. 354.

The angels will be on its sides, and eight will uphold the Throne of their Lord that day, above them. On that day you will be exposed; not a secret of yours will be hidden. Then, as for him who is given his record in his right hand, he will say, "Take, read my book! Surely I knew that I should have to meet my reckoning." Then he will be in blissful state In a high Garden Whose clusters are in easy reach. [They will say to him,] "Eat and drink at ease for that you sent on before you in past days." But as for him who is given his record in his left hand, he will say, "Oh, would that I had not been given my book And knew not what my reckoning! Oh, would that it had been death! My wealth has not availed me, My power has gone from me." "Take him and fetter him And then expose him to hellfire. Then insert him in a chain of seventy cubits' length. Lo! he used not to believe in God the Tremendous, And urged not on the feeding of the wretched, Therefore has he no lover here this day, Nor any food save filth Which none but sinners eat."

Islam. Qur'an 69.13-37

Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, "Where is the promise of [Christ's] coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation." They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, through that which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and the earth have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.

Christianity. 2 Peter 3.3-10

Qur'an 69.13-37: Cf. Qur'an 17.13-17, p. 299; 39.68-75, p. 301; 99, p. 845; also Revelation 20.11-12, p. 299. 2 Peter 3.3-10: Peter is urging patience to Christians who misunderstood the promise of Christ's Second Coming, thinking that it should have occurred within a few years after his Ascension. Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5.2-6, pp. 638f.; John 12.46-50, pp. 551f.

Deem not that God is unaware of what the wicked do. He but gives them a respite till a day when eyes shall stare [in terror], as they come hurrying on in fear, their heads upraised, their gaze returning not to them, and their hearts as air. And warn mankind of a day when the doom will come upon them, and those who did wrong will say, "Our Lord! Reprieve us for a little while. We will obey Thy call and will follow the Messengers." [It will be answered,] "Did you not swear before that there would be no end for you? And have you not dwelt in the dwellings of those who wronged themselves of old and has it not become plain to you how We dealt with them, and made examples for you? Verily they have plotted their plot, and their plot is with God, though their plot were one whereby mountains should be moved. So think not that God will fail to keep His promise to His Messengers. Lo! God is Mighty, Able to Requite.

On the day when the earth will be changed to other than the earth, and the heavens likewise, and they will come forth unto God, the One, the Almighty. You will see the guilty on that day linked together in chains, their raiment of pitch, and the Fire covering their faces--that God may repay each soul what it has earned. Lo! God is swift at reckoning.

Islam. Qur'an 14.42-51

Civilization as we know it is only transitory; it will finally pass away as the new age dawns and the true civilization is born. That will mark the end of the "provisional" world we live in today. God wills a reckoning for the old civilization and the establishment of a new one, and the time of His reckoning is at last drawing near.

Until now evil forces have had wide latitude in civilization, but in the transition from the old to the new, they will be weeded out. All people will go through an inexorable process of cleansing. The world will be terribly afflicted in payment for untold sins gathered over millennia. The great affliction is the sign that all societies and nations are being purified, and it will lift humankind to a new level of existence where good prevails.

The transition, which is actually upon us now, is the last stage before the beginning of an earthly paradise. In the upheaval, every sphere of life and every corner of civilization will be transformed. Those who believe in God and repent will witness the coming of the new world, and they will be able to start on the road to salvation. But those still heavily burdened with sin and unable to overcome their malicious ways will end this life in absolute misery and may find no salvation in the next.

Sekai-Kyusei-Kyo. Johrei


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