It begins as a day like any other. Alarm clocks go off, the sun comes up and people get out of bed. They drink their coffee, eat their breakfast and pursue their daily routines. It is a day like any day until... Suddenly – an unusual sound is heard. It is the sound of a great trumpet, but like no trumpet ever heard before! The note is pure and powerful, rising above the televisions and radios that are playing in the homes, above all the noise of the streets, even the great machines of the powerhouses and factories; and, most remarkably, people all over the world hear it at once! It is a solemn, dreadful, moving sound, and it does not go away. It continues and grows until it is the only sound heard and the only thought in men's minds! There is something unearthly about it. In their hearts, a fear grows with it, the fear of guilty conscience, the memory of past sins. People unaccountably start to remember the shameful deeds they have committed in darkness, and dared to tell no one. They are seized with the desire to run and hide, but there is nowhere to hide from that sound, or from the torment within.
Then there is a great outcry, “Look! Look at the sky!” Something is coming! It looks like a brilliant cloud, but it is moving too fast. It begins to resemble a vast flock of white birds. “No, it's not birds” says one. “No! It can't be! It can't be that!” men are heard to say. But it is that, the unspeakable, the unthinkable – Jesus Christ is coming, at the head of an army of millions and millions of angels.
Now the sky is filled with them, mighty winged warriors with dreadful dauntless faces, terrible to behold. On the earth, stark, paralyzing terror takes hold.
The trumpet suddenly ceases, but this brings no relief. For then a great voice cries out from heaven, clear and deep and resonant; a human voice, but somehow just as terrible as the trumpet. “All ye saints, come up hither. Thy King cometh!”
As the King's entourage draws near, the earth begins to tremble – slightly at first, then more violently. It rumbles and groans, as its foundations begin to crumble. All the graves break open, and a most wonderful sight is seen: men, women and children flying upward in beautiful white raiment, with joyful countenances, rising to meet their King and Savior. Others come – not from the graves, but – living men transformed all of a sudden into holy, rapturous beings unlike anything men have seen! They can be seen now gathering about Him, like another great cloud, and the angels recede from Him somewhat to give the greater place and honor to His redeemed ones.
But now a great wailing begins on earth, as people finally realize that this is really the end of the world, and they all unprepared! They gnaw their tongues and blaspheme. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth. And then they begin to notice something else. Slowly, as if dragged against their will, men – or what once were men – are crawling out of the graves. These are not like the others. They are bent over as if under a great weight. They look like corpses still, and in their eyes is the look of terror and dread. They stink of death, and in their faces is the malignity of devils. Woe unto them! Their souls have lain in prison, tormented but unrepentant, some for years, some for ages, and have only been raised from the dead now that they might suffer for all time in the same bodies in which they sinned!
Now their eyes fasten upon the sky, where they see many of the great white figures with shining faces break off from the rest and bend their wing towards earth. They are coming to bind the damned and bring them to judgment. What cursing and execrations! What pitiful moans and wails arise! But all in vain! There is no escape. The swift angels arrest their prey with ease and bind them hand and foot. And not only them, for many of the living will share the same fate.
Soon all humanity has been divided into two groups, the miserable prisoners and the free sons of God. They are brought into court before the greatest of Kings, who sits on a throne set in the heavens, with all the world in attendance before Him, the Sons of God on His right hand, and the prisoners on His left.
When all are in their places, and silence has been imposed, the Judge rises from His seat. He looks about at the multitude, then at the earth which hangs in the air beneath them. “Behold!” He cries. And as He does so, the earth swings upward in an arc around the heavenly assembly, so that instead of being under them, it is before them. “The place where all the crimes of your race were committed! The world once glorious, now corrupted beyond remedy. This is the end! Be no more!” He raises His hand, and the earth bursts into flame. All the immeasurable wealth, all the hopes and dreams, all the proudest achievements of vain man are overwhelmed in the Divine inferno and swiftly reduced to ashes.
He speaks again, “Ye sons of Adam, I, your lawful King, have been appointed by my Father to judge the world in righteousness. Long have I desired this day; for I delight to do the will of my Father. And it is His will that all evil should come to an end today. I have triumphed over the wicked one, and it is given to me to execute judgment upon him and his, and all their works. It is also His will, that His faithful servants should this day receive their full reward. By the authority vested in me as Mediator and Judge of all men, I declare that this tribunal of the Most High God is now in session!”
Then the Judge is seated, and the trial begins. The books are opened. The secrets of men's hearts are now to be discovered, their true characters revealed. The Divine-human Judge knows all, sees all. His austere expression, His face at once lovely and full of awful grandeur, hushes all to silence.
The first book is opened, the Book of Life. And all the names are read, one by one. And with the reading of each name there is joy for some and grief for others – joy for those whose names are read, and for those who loved them while they lived; and grief to those who were their persecutors. Finally, the last name is read, and the Book of Life is closed. The Judge says to all of them, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
Then His eyes, which are as a flame of fire, turn upon those on His left hand. The other books are now opened, containing all their names, and the records of each man's works. Everyone knows now that no excuse will suffice. It's all been written down. In their hearts they know that lies are of no use here. Every mouth is stopped, and all the sinners in the world become guilty before God. The charges are brought, but there is no defense! Then the wicked hear their dread sentence,”Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!” and are driven away into outer darkness forever.
Suddenly, the saints hear a sound, like the voice of many waters. They turn to the source of the sound. It is coming from their former abode! Instead of the blackness of ash and smoking ruin, the air is clear again. Green patches can be seen, growing rapidly. Blue ribbons – streams? and – can it be? – pools of water appear! Hills rise to mountainous height and plains sink into basins as the whole is shaped by an invisible hand. The work is brought swiftly to completion, for God does not need six days to re-create the world. Birds once more are heard and seen to fly in the blue heaven, and living creatures of all kinds fill the earth and sea. The LORD, now finished with His work of judgment, gives a great laugh of profound joy, and cries ”Behold, I make all things new!” Suddenly, the saints find themselves descending in the company of their Lord and all His angels to a beautiful paradise, where they shall live forever in holy peace and blessedness. Thus the world ends; and yet begins again!
Howard Douglas King