Icon by Brian "Nikolai" Tsai
This is the image of Christ the Pantocrator meaning almighty or all powerful. Around the image we read: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, who is and who is coming. (Rv 4:8) "The primary transference of the title "Pantokrator" to refer to Christ rather than the Creator was a result of the Christological shift that occurred during the fourth century, reflected through iconography; Christ Pantocrator and has come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity." (Wikipedia Encyclopedia: Christ Pantocrator)
Christ came into the world to establish the Kingdom of God and when asked by Pilate if he was a king, Christ answered that he was a king but that his kingdom was not of this world. As king, Christ has authority and the power of judgment. Looking at the scripture we read seemingly opposing statements of Christ as Judge.
"I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world." (Jn 12:47) Christ's primary mission on earth was to save mankind. He showed this by his forbearance and patience. One day on his way to Jerusalem Christ passed by a Samaritan town who did not welcome him because they were hostile toward Jerusalem. The disciples James and John would have destroyed the town as they said, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" ( Lk 9;55) but Jesus rebuked them. St. Thomas Aquinas points out that perfect judgment cannot be passed upon any man before the end of his life because he can be changed from evil to good or from good to evil, from good to better or from evil to worse. (Summa Theological, Part III, Q. 59, No. 5)
In another passage of St. John we read, "Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son" (Jn 5:22) The Son has the authority and power of judgment because the Father does all things through his Word. All judgments of God are also mediated through his human nature as the "Son of Man" or the "New Adam". By becoming man he became a mediator between God and man. By his death/resurrection He overcame death, opened the way to the Father for humanity giving him the right to judge all mankind through his humanity as it is written "For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living." (Rm 14:9) St. Paul confirms this as he wrote, "On the day ... God will judge people's hidden works through Christ Jesus." (Rm 2:16)
Now every man is judged by Christ as he dies and passes into metahistory. We are told by some people with near death experience that their life history flashes before the eyes of the mind revealing all they have ever experienced, done or left undone. "As Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange elaborates, based on St. Thomas: 'Memory and conscience penetrate [the soul's] entire moral and spiritual life, even to the minutiest details. ...The soul meets the Lord Jesus in a very personal encounter. It is aware of His presence, but not yet capable of directly seeing His Divine glory (otherwise it would be at that moment beatified). Any divine light coming from the Lord would be mediated through His Sacred Humanity, as the apostles experienced at the Transfiguration.' " Jesus makes clear that nothing will escape his judgment, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Mt. 12:36-37) Obviously the individual soul is judged and sentenced immediately either to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory.
The final day of judgment will come but not before the general resurrection when we will regain our transformed material body. St. Paul gives us a poetic revelation of this as follows:
I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,
in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. ...
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
The state of each one's soul will be reflected in the body either refulgent with glory or heavy with dankness pain.
That this is a cosmic event is evident in the following: "They [angels] said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven." And in Revelation we read, "Behold, he is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him." (Rv 1:7) Christ will appear in his glorified body which human eyes will behold. But how will this come about? How will Christ be present to the vast cosmic vista of intelligent creatures in the universe? His resurrection transfigured his body in such a way that he can be present anywhere he wishes to be, not just as a hologram but in his totality. Do we not believe that Christ is present body, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, although we cannot see him now with our limited vision?
The resurrection must also coincide with the final transfiguration of the universe. St. Thomas Aquinas in accordance with the cosmic vision of his day says that the movements of the planets would cease, all the elements would be clothed with a certain brightness and plants and animals would be no more because all these realities were designed to sustain man's body which is now transfigured. On the other hand since he taught that the stars were incorruptible, they would shine more brightly.
In today's world view, we see that all things are corruptible or subject to change. We also know that matter subject to human intelligence can be transferred with different characteristics and much longer durability. We also knows that matter and energy are two aspects of the same reality. So, God can easily transform the universe along with human bodies into a new universe far superior to the one we experience today.
How and when will God bring about this transformation? The prevalent biblical image of the destruction of the universe is by "fire" which was also found outside biblical revelation may be just the image used to express this, but nothing definite can be said on how God will accomplish the final transformation of matter. As to when we do not know as Christ tells us, "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mk 13:32) But, how could the Son not know? "It is certain (says Archbishop Tillotson) that Christ, as God, could not be ignorant of any thing; but the divine wisdom which dwelt in our Saviour, did communicate itself to his human soul, according to the divine pleasure, so that his human nature might sometimes not know some things; therefore Christ is said to grow in wisdom (Luke ii. 52), which he could not be said to do, if the human nature of Christ did necessarily know all things by virtue of its union with the divinity."