Greek Orthodox icon of the Last Judgement

Saint John of Kronstadt on the Last Judgment

Below we offer two ser­mons on the Sun­day of the Last Judg­ment by the great 20th c. pas­tor and author of My Life in Christ from the book, Sea­son of Repen­tance: Lenten Hom­i­lies of Saint John of Kro­n­stadt (Holy Trin­i­ty Pub­li­ca­tions: Jor­danville, NY, 2015).

A Christian Ending is a Reward for true Christians

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who will come in glo­ry to judge the liv­ing and the dead. (7th arti­cle of the Sym­bol of Faith)

Who says these words? Every Chris­t­ian does. Well, if every Chris­t­ian says these words, then, with­out a doubt, so do I, and each and every one of you. There­fore, broth­ers and sis­ters, do you sin­cere­ly believe that Jesus Christ, the Right­eous Judge of all those born on this earth, will come to judge the liv­ing and the dead, who will all be res­ur­rect­ed and receive either eter­nal blessed­ness or eter­nal damna­tion? Are you ready to meet the Judge of all and to give an answer at the ter­ri­ble judg­ment seat of Christ for your every word and deed? Do you have any good deeds? Why do I keep ask­ing? From the lives and deeds of Chris­tians it is evi­dent that they have long for­got­ten about the Right­eous Judge, about the ter­ri­ble judg­ment, about eter­nal life, and that with each pass­ing day they rush toward eter­nal perdi­tion, which they can­not even imag­ine. They hur­ry to receive their con­so­la­tion here on earth, in order to be deprived of it in eter­ni­ty, in heav­en. They are more con­cerned with how to kill pre­cious time, how to spend time in a pleas­ant way; but no one is con­cerned with how to spend time for the ben­e­fit of the soul, no one is con­cerned about prepar­ing their out­side work. Mak­ing it fit for them­selves in the field (Prov 24:27).

Those who desire eter­nal joys par­take lit­tle of earth­ly ones (St Gen­na­dius, “On the Chris­t­ian Faith and Life”), says St Gen­na­dius, Patri­arch of Con­stan­tino­ple, and yet our earth­ly joys are almost unin­ter­rupt­ed. Many of us live as if we don’t have to die and give an account of our lives. What does this mean? Doesn’t this hap­pen because such peo­ple think that all they have to do is to repent just before they die and they will receive a full par­don? Of course, God does not turn away those who come to him even at the eleventh hour, that is, if they turn to him with all their hearts. How­ev­er, if your heart was far away from God for the longest part of your life, do you think that you will be able to move it toward God, to arouse in you a feel­ing of repen­tance before you die? Oh, broth­ers! It will be exact­ly then that your heart will be set against you, for your perdi­tion. Many times have I seen how dif­fi­cult it is for some to lis­ten to an exhor­ta­tion to repen­tance, and how those who nev­er thought about cor­rect­ing them­selves, and were not able to repent dur­ing their lives, how they are lost dur­ing con­fes­sion before their depar­ture from this life. No, broth­ers! A Chris­t­ian end­ing is a reward for true Chris­tians. Repent as much as you can dur­ing your life­time, and then you will meet a peace­ful death with sin­cere repen­tance.

There­fore, pre­pare your­selves for the judg­ment, for the ter­ri­ble judg­ment, for the right­eous judg­ment, for the one and final judg­ment, after which there will be either eter­nal blessed­ness or unend­ing tor­ment. Do not be sur­prised that I speak so emphat­i­cal­ly. Truth is roy­al, it has the right to speak thus­ly. More­over, we have the utmost need to speak emphat­i­cal­ly about the prep­tion for the judg­ment. When we are clear­ly con­front­ed with the eter­nal perdi­tion of souls due to care­less­ness and neg­li­gence, then we must act deci­sive­ly, and then even more deci­sive­ly than at oth­er times when we must speak the truth. When peo­ple see that a man faces a clear risk of death by fire, or by drown­ing in water, then in such cas­es do they not act with all deter­mi­na­tion? Yes, because in the case of inde­ci­sion on the part of those who want to save the man who is per­ish­ing, he could die at any moment. In the same way we must, with great deter­mi­na­tion and fear of the com­ing judg­ment, save many from the fire: because we our­selves are not far from the eter­nal fire, and per­haps many peo­ple are but one step away from it. Broth­er! Think, maybe this night your soul will be required of you (Luke 12:20), and you will be in hell, in tor­ments … all in flames. Thus, be pre­pared for the judg­ment, start prepar­ing today. Work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day: the night is com­ing when no one can work (John 9:4). We have worked for van­i­ty long enough. It is time to look upon our poor soul with test­ing eyes.

Go to Church, weep over your sins, await togeth­er with Her, with great fear, the day of judg­ment. The Church con­tin­u­al­ly thinks about the judg­ment: morn­ing, day, and night; every day, ear­ly and late, the Church reminds Her chil­dren of this great day, which will decide the fate of the entire human race; and yet Her chil­dren are busy with thoughts of how pleas­ant it is for them to turn their heads for a few min­utes, to cheer their hearts with the joys of earth­ly pas­sions. The Lord, the Truth, the Life thun­ders with His voice about how His Judg­ment will be accom­plished with­out fail, and com­mands us to watch and pray always in spir­it (Mark 13:33; Luke 21:36), in order that we may avoid the ter­ri­ble fate of the con­demned; the Apos­tles assure us that the Judge is stand­ing at the door (Jas 5:9) … and we act as if we don’t even want to hear any of this. Oth­ers think and even say: what a ter­ri­ble judg­ment! The Lord is mer­ci­ful, He will have com­pas­sion; we are sin­ners more due to our weak­ness­es, not because we are evil or cal­lous…. And they do not think about how only the mer­ci­ful shall obtain mer­cy (Matt 5:7). For judg­ment is with­out mer­cy to the one who has shown no mer­cy (Jas 2:13). Where are your deeds of mer­cy, when it is evi­dent that you care only about yourselves?

Brethren! God for­bid that any of us go to where the rich man, who made mer­ry every day, went. If we find our­selves there, then it will be too late to ask for drops of water to sooth our tongue; it will be too late to send any­one to our rel­a­tives, in order that they might not end there also (Luke 16:19–31).

Watch there­fore, for you know nei­ther the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is com­ing (Matt 25:13). Amen.

On our Conscience

Beloved in the Lord, my broth­ers and sis­ters! Today we have read in the Gospel of Matthew the words of our Lord Jesus Christ regard­ing His sec­ond, glo­ri­ous, and ter­ri­ble com­ing to earth; we read about how He will sit on the throne of His glo­ry in order to judge the world, and how all nations shall be gath­ered before Him, every­one, those whose lives have passed, those who now live, and those who have yet to be born. And He will septe them one from anoth­er, as a shep­herd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inher­it the king­dom pre­pared for you from the foun­da­tion of the world: for I was hun­gry and you gave Me food: I was thirsty and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger and you took Me in: I was naked and you clothed Me: I was sick and you vis­it­ed Me: I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the right­eous will answer Him, say­ing, ‘Lord, when did we see You hun­gry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assured­ly, I say to you, inas­much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the ever­last­ing fire pre­pared for the dev­il and his angels: for I was hun­gry and you gave Me no food: I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink: I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not vis­it Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, say­ing, ‘Lord, when did we see You hun­gry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not min­is­ter to You?’ Then He will answer them, say­ing, ‘Assured­ly, I say to you, inas­much as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into ever­last­ing pun­ish­ment, but the right­eous into life eter­nal (Matt 25:32–46).

This is how the Lord con­clud­ed His words on the final, ter­ri­ble judg­ment of mankind! How sweet and joy­ful these words sound to the right­eous and how bit­ter and stern, and for­ev­er unchang­ing they sound to hard-heart­ed sin­ners! Thus, the mer­ci­ful shall obtain mer­cy (Matt 5:7). Those who have stored the oil of good deeds will be able to enter the bridal cham­ber, for judg­ment is with­out mer­cy to the one who has shown no mer­cy (Jas 2:13). Now, broth­ers and sis­ters, it is ben­e­fi­cial for us to ask our­selves and to pon­der: to which side shall we belong? To the right, or to the left; with the sheep, or with the goats; with the blessed, or with the cursed? You will say: who can know such a thing, besides the Lord, Who saves the upright in heart (Ps 7:10), and Who pos­sess­es the most truth­ful scales of jus­tice? To the Lord alone belongs the per­fect knowl­edge regard­ing every man, only He knows who among us will stand on the right side, and who will stand on the left side; He alone knows which right­eous per­son shall stand here in his right­eous­ness, and which one won’t, which sin­ner returns sin­cere­ly and repents, and from a goat is turned into a sheep, and which one ulti­mate­ly becomes hard­ened in sin.

But to us, brethren, is giv­en at least to know what is our state now: who are we, sheep or goats? Our con­science, that incor­rupt­ible judge and wit­ness of our thoughts, words, and deeds, shows us whether we are hum­ble and gen­tle sheep of the ratio­nal fold, whether we are will­ing to share our goods with those in need, or whether we are proud, ego­tis­ti­cal, evil, venge­ful, unmer­ci­ful sin­ners, who, like goats, are filled with the stench of our impu­ri­ties. This we can know about our­selves right here and now, in the con­tin­u­a­tion of our earth­ly lives, and there­fore we can judge on which side we might stand at the ter­ri­ble judg­ment; that is, we might stand on the left side if we remain unre­pen­tant, uncor­rect­ed sin­ners, filled with our pride and mal­ice, with sin­ful impu­ri­ties in our hearts and bod­ies; yet we may hope that through faith, repen­tance, and good deeds, we might stand on the right side; the choice of which side to stand on depends on us. Time was giv­en to each of us by the mer­ci­ful Sav­iour to come to our sens­es, repent, cor­rect our­selves, stock up with an excess of oil of mer­cy and every virtue, in order not to be ashamed at the judg­ment. Thus, let us take care to become lambs of meek­ness and gen­tle­ness, love and com­pas­sion, patience and long-suf­fer­ing, humil­i­ty and obe­di­ence, tem­per­ance and puri­ty, and let us flee all the oppo­sites of these virtues. The afore­said virtues attain for us in this life the bless­ings of the Heav­en­ly Father, and in the future life they estab­lish us on the right side.

There­fore I repeat, it is up to us to become wor­thy to stand on the right side at the dread­ful judg­ment, and to flee the left side; to lis­ten to the all-blessed voice of the Sav­iour, Who calls us into the King­dom of Heav­en, and to flee the ter­ri­ble voice that casts us into the eter­nal fire.

We write here, as it were, our deeds, eter­nal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion or eter­nal con­dem­na­tion for our­selves at the ter­ri­ble judg­ment; and in this way we say that the future judg­ment is writ­ten: to exe­cute on them, it is said, the writ­ten judg­ment (Ps 149:9). The books of our con­sciences either jus­ti­fy us or con­demn us, and all that is left to us is to lis­ten to the just, eter­nal sen­tence of the Judge of all. Let us has­ten, through sin­cere repen­tance and char­i­ty, to oblit­er­ate from our con­sciences all of our sins, vol­un­tary and invol­un­tary, and to write in our con­sciences every good deed. Their works fol­low them (Rev 14:13), says the Scrip­ture. Amen.


Cover of the book "Season of Repentance"

You may pur­chase your own copy of
Sea­son of Repentance: 
Lenten Hom­i­lies of Saint John of Kronstadt 

from Holy Trin­i­ty Bookstore.

Buy now

Receive a gift box every Decem­ber containing 

items pub­lished or pro­duced at Holy Trin­i­ty Monastery

with your month­ly pledge of support: