I have in my laundry room a large drywall patch, about fifteen by eight inches, that has not been painted. And although the light is very good in my laundry room, the patch is in a corner so that even looking directly at it, one does not easily see it. However, if you shine a bright light directly in that corner, the patch appears as a glaring imperfection in the wall.
This next Sunday is the Sunday of the Last Judgment. Usually we think of judgment as the determination of guilt or innocence. Generally, we see judgment only in the context of a legal system. But God’s final judgment of mankind will not be a determination of mankind’s guilt or innocence relative to divine law—that has already been determined and dealt with at the Cross of Christ. God’s final judgment will be a revelation: a revelation of what is really there.
It is hard to see what is really there, in this world of shadows, half truths and pretending. We heard in the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee that obvious markers of sin and righteousness are often misleading. One who appears very righteous may not be, and one who appears a sinner may be justified through his or her humility. In this world, separating the righteous from the sinner is like trying to find the patch on my laundry room wall, there just isn’t enough light to see what is really going on.
However, when Christ comes in glory with His holy angels, then the light will shine brightly. Christ Himself is the light and the criterion. Those who have humbled themselves as Christ humbled Himself will shine brightly; those who through repentance have taken up the Cross of self denial will be obvious; those who crushed the idols of self-centeredness and self love will be seen wearing the unstained garments of their baptism. On the other hand, those who “with cords of deceit” have hidden malice and pride and self-centeredness in their hearts will also be manifest. There will be no need to declare guilt: the light will merely shine, and whatever does not reflect the Light of the Glory of God will be darkness.
This is the Last Judgment. It is a fearful thing: the light will reveal what we really are, who in this life we have really become, what we have really done with the Grace that has been given us. It is good to fear this judgment—if that fear leads us to repentance. God loves us and has done all that is possible to save us. God has given us time to repent. But time comes to an end. And in the end, pretending will no longer be possible, for the Light will be shining too brightly for that. Today is the day of repentance. Now is the acceptable time. Tomorrow the Light will be shining brightly.