Opening question: What do you think of when you consider the final Judgment?

The image described in our reading from the Book of Revelation is something akin to a Divine Assizes. The Judge is seated and the books of evidence are opened. Humanity stands accused and without defence except those whose names are found in the Book of Life. Those whose names are not to be found written, however, stand condemned.

It is a terrifying image, but it is not the only picture of Judgment in the scriptures.

When I went to the Ukraine, I was convinced that the path to reconciliation lay in the willingness of the Ukrainians to forgive. I was dismayed when at the outset of the conflict President Zylenski stated that the Ukrainian people could never forgive what Russia had done. It seemed to me that without a heartfelt attitude of forgiveness reconciliation and Peace was impossible.

Now that I have been to Ukraine I can see that now is not the time for talking about forgiveness, but it is a time for mourning and it is time for us to mourn with them.

In a conversation with two volunteer Ukrainian chaplains it was very clear that the overwhelming emotion was anger, real anger. They were not desires of revenge, but justice. These men of God feel that unless Russia repents there cannot be any question of forgiveness. Furthermore there cannot be any sense of closure without punishment for what they have done.

I really began to feel their pain and there were many times when the stories I heard brought me to tears. I feel greatly concerned that the chances of those who

have orchestrated the suffering of the people of Ukraine ever being brought to justice is very remote indeed. The allegations of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Bucha and Irpin have been dismissed as fake news and those who have asserted otherwise have been imprisoned. Having been to both places and seen with my own eyes this suffering I am outraged. How is closure even possible when those who have committed or order such wrongs remain unrepentant?

It is for this reason that the hope of Advent brings reason for joy.

Closure denied to us on earth will be possible in the life to come. In addition to the image of a Divine Assizes, the final Judgment heralded by the return of Christ is process driven and not simply executed on a single day. The final Judgment is a process by which the righteous Judge pours out His wrath on all that has stood against Him. All that has enslaved humanity and destroyed and damaged the people and Creation which God so loved will be purged and destroyed.

Judgment is an answer to prayer rather than something to be feared. Do you despair over the

sickness and suffering in the world? Do you wring your hands in grief over the apparent impunity of the corrupt, power- mad tyrants that cause such misery for the weak and defenceless? Judgment is coming and the closure we so deeply need and desire will be realised.

We must take the final judgment seriously and not dismiss it as a taboo subject. Our names are written in the Book of Life the moment we embrace Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but it is clear that our exemption from judgment is dependent on a life lived

faithfully and not just by assenting to a set of doctrines and beliefs.

Let our belief in Judgment lead to fervent prayer for those whose names are not yet written in the Book of Life, but let us wait with joy for that moment of closure which is impossible, but for the grace of God.

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