The Last Judgment refers to an event that, according to religious tradition, will occur after the world has ended and God pronounces his final verdict on the human race. For Christians, the Last Judgment is the stage in which all people are judged according to their behavior when they were still alive. The righteous will receive their reward and will spend an eternity in fellowship with God; however, the evil will spend an eternity in hell, acknowledging they had the opportunity for heaven but chose otherwise.
Some Christians believe that there will be only one judgment, because one’s soul is asleep or unconscious between its demise and the Last Judgment (a view held by the religious reformer Martin Luther and others). Most Christians believe, however, that souls are not asleep and that they receive their punishment or reward after death. This first judgment is called the particular judgment, and it is different from the Last Judgment, where individuals are sentenced for their belief or lack thereof. This acceptance regarding one’s final judgment is considered dogma by Roman Catholic believers, but the Church feels that the Last Judgment is not an actual trial, because the individuals already deceased are either residing in heaven or hell or working off their sins in purgatory—all resulting from their particular judgment at the moment of their death. Protestant believers in millennialism regard the two judgments as describing separate events, one at the moment of death and one after the end of the world.
According to this belief, the Last Judgment will take place after the deceased have been resurrected and undergone a complete reunion of the body and soul, where their evil acts are judged and their eternal sentence will be known to all before their fate before the resurrection is continued. At that specific moment, the joys of heaven and the sorrows of hell will be evident, because everyone present will be able to feel both pleasure and pain. This scenario appears most directly in “the sheep and the goats” section in the Book of Matthew. This belief regarding the afterlife can also be found in the books of Daniel, Isaiah, and Revelation.
Christianity is not the only religion that deals with the end-times. In Islam, there is Yawm al-Qiyamah (the day of the resurrection). At a time preordained by Allah but unknown to humanity (at a time when people least expect it), Allah will consent for the Qiyâmah to commence. The archangel Israfel, named “the caller” in the Qur’an, will puff mightily into his horn, and out will come a “blast of truth.” This specific occasion can also be seen in Jewish eschatology, where it is called “the day of the blowing of the shofar,” found in Ezekiel 33:6. The Qur’an states that the Qiyâmah will last 50,000 years. Some Islamic scholars believe that this period refers to the vastness of man’s spiritual advancement (one day is equal to 50,000 years), or that the day may signify the final triumph of Truth in the world, from the time when revelation was first granted to man.
In the Qiyâmah as envisioned, Alameen (humanity, the jinn, and all other living beings) are gathered upon a vast, white plain under a blistering sun. Each is completely unclothed, uncircumcised, and standing so close together that some are submerged in their own sweat. The depth of one’s submergence in sweat depends upon how good or pious one was. Those that practiced good adab (following good etiquette) by following the Five Pillars of Islam daily are considered nadirah (shining and radiant). However, the expressions of the disbelievers are called basirah (miserable and grimacing). Although they are all nude, anxiety and fear are so great that no one thinks to look at another’s nakedness. The creatures wait to be brought before Allah for their judgment, but they are terrified. The prophets plea to Allah with the phrase “sallim, sallim,” translated as, “Spare your followers, Oh God.” Those that followed Muhammad while he was alive, but then left Islam after his demise, are apostates and are engulfed in fire. The angels are afraid, as state several hadiths (actions and utterances the prophet made while on earth), because Allah is livid with anger, more so than before or after.
In the Hindu religion, pralay is the specific time when the earth will be completely annihilated. Garuda Purana is one of the puranas (means “belonging to ancient time” and is a genre in Sanskrit literature) that are part of the Hindu body of texts known as the smriti. This sacred text discusses in vivid detail precisely what to expect after someone dies, specifying the different torments one can expect for the evil committed while alive, including being scorched in hot, boiling oil and given to bloodsuckers as prey. Some Western theologians see this scenario as being comparable to the Christian idea of Judgment Day.
Garuda Purana are directions given by Lord Maha Vishnu to Sri Garuda (also known as the king of birds—a vahana of Lord Vishnu). This specific purana looks at a wide range of subjects, including cosmology, various remedies for sickness, language syntax, and information regarding jewelry. The Garuda Purana is deemed the most respected Vedic book discussing the Nine Pearls (the nine sacred gemstones), and the second half of the tome deals with life after death. The Hindus residing in northern India customarily read this purana as they cremate the bodies of their loved ones.
Cary Stacy Smith and Li-Ching Hung
See also Apocalypse; Bible and Time; Christianity;
Eschatology; God and Time; Gospels; Immortality, Personal; Luther, Martin; Michelangelo Buonarroti; Nirvana; Parousia; Qur’an; Religions and Time; Revelation, Book of; Time, Sacred
Braaten, C. E. (2003). The last things: Biblical and theological perspectives on eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Schwarz, H. (2001). Eschatology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Smith, J. I. (2006). The Islamic understanding of death and resurrection. London: Oxford University Press.
Upton, C. (2005). Legends of the end: Prophecies of the end times, antichrist, apocalypse, and messiah. Ghent and New York: Sophia Perennis et Universalis.