Last Judgment: Still Pending

You’ve heard this one before.

At the Vatican, a Cardinal’s secretary bursts into a meeting. “Your Eminence! He’s here! Jesus! He landed in St Peter’s Square! What do we do?!” The Cardinal runs to the Pope’s office, repeats the news and question. The Pope says, “look busy.”

It’s pretty good advice, actually, which brings me to this morning’s Gospel reading: Luke 12:3248 — or Luke 12:3540, which covers the main idea:

8 ‘Gird your loins and light your lamps …
“… You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.’ ”
(Luke 12:35, 40)

Fizzled Predictions Through the Ages

It’s been about five years since Harold Camping and the silly side of American Christianity gave reporters and cartoonists something to work with.

He’d been wrong earlier, about September 6, 1994 being Judgment Day.

Undeterred, he recalculated, collected money, and advertised our Lord’s impending arrival on May 21, 2011. That didn’t happen, neither did the obligatory fire and brimstone, and the world was still around after October 21, 2011.

I figure we’re due for another high-profile End Times Bible Prophecy any time now. Or maybe not. But I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t trot out another ‘Biblical’ prognostication in the next few decades: and have Camping’s success at publicizing it.

Fizzled predictions of that sort are nothing new. Wikipedia has a partial list that runs from the triple header around the year 500 to Tipler’s assertion that the big day will be in 2057. We had another cluster around the year 1000.

My favorite one, in terms of originality, is Swedenborg’s. His “The Heavenly Doctrine,” published in 1758, said that the Last Judgment had already happened: in 1757.

Interestingly, European architects went into overdrive and started designing Gothic cathedrals a couple centuries after the thousand-year apocalypses didn’t happen. I won’t claim that it’s cause-and-effect, but think that their patrons might have realized that we could have a long wait ahead.

The Last Judgment

As described, the Last Judgment will make Shanghai’s Word Expo 2010 look like a cozy little rural gathering:

14 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations 15 will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
(Matthew 25:3132)

Just getting the 7,000,000,000 or so folks alive today together in one place would be spectacular. Add everybody who’s lived and died? Just finding a venue big enough might qualify as a miracle.

The Last Judgment is part of the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell.1

It’s when everyone who died will be resurrected — that’s a topic for another post — our Lord returns, and we see what’s happened: and why. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 10381038)

As for when that happens, that information seems to be given on a ‘need to know’ basis. Our Lord didn’t know, so I sure don’t expect to get inside information. I’ll get back to that.

Folks in Thessalonica, it’s often called Thessaloniki, is named after Thessalonike of Macedon, half-sister of Alexander the Great, and wife of Cassander, king of Macedonia, who had been named after Cassander, brother of Antipater — where was I?

Harold Camping, Swedenborg, the Last Judgment, getting a grip. Right.

The Big Picture and Me

Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians still applies, I think:

1 We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him,
“not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a ‘spirit,’ 2 or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.”
(2 Thessalonians 2:12)

Like I said, our Lord didn’t know when the big day would be — and recommended being ready, no matter when it comes:

21 ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, 22 but the Father alone. …
“… So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
(Matthew 24:36, 44)

“Therefore, stay awake, 5 for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
(Matthew 25:13)

” ‘But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
(Mark 13:3233)

It’s been two millennia now, our Lord still hasn’t returned, and folks are still second-guessing God the Father. If it had been anyone else, we’d have given up long ago; but our Lord isn’t anyone else.

Me? I’m quite content to leave the ‘big picture’ decisions up to God. I’ve got my hands full, ‘working out my salvation,’ as Philippians 2:12 puts it. and that’s yet another topic.

1 Where to start reading about the four last things in Catechism of the Catholic Church:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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