My friend, reflect next upon how much terror and anxiety there will be at the great scene of the Final Judgment! The miraculous trumpets of angels shall then sound a deafening fanfare. Great bolts of blazing lightening will illuminate the earth and the sky with a blinding luminosity. Tumultuous thunder will roar, penetrating into the very depths of each human heart. The earth, the sea, and heavens themselves will all tremble!
Consider the enormity of the wrath of the most just Judge, which will blaze against those who have offended Him through disobedience and disbelief. From this wrath, an abject and paralyzing fear will engulf the minds of all those who are guilty and terrify even the innocent.
And consider the fateful and irreversible division of the assembled multitude which shall then take place. For those who are righteous, humble, and meek will be directed to the right hand of the Throne of Judgment, whereas the proud, envious, uncharitable, and wicked will be sent away to the left. Those on the right will rejoice, knowing that they are destined for eternal bliss, while those on the left will quake and quail, realizing the horrendous fate that awaits them. And none will know with certainty in advance to which side they will be sent—neither pope nor bishop, nor king, nor beggar, nor even convicted criminal. For God alone perceives into the depths of the heart and knows all secret thoughts and actions, and He shows mercy to whom He wills. Thus there will be two standing together [apparently similar in their conduct, beliefs and morals], and one will be taken away and the other left behind.
How shocked and taken aback will be many of those who were proud and elated in this vain and deceptive world! For the Lord God shall exalt above such presumptuous people the poor, the wretched, the rejected, and the lowly. They will see those whom they regarded as vile and treated with contempt and disdain being richly rewarded, and being granted all the dignities and splendor of heaven. The proud and haughty will then declare in their hearts, “These are the ones whom we held in derision and ridicule. We considered their lives as foolishness and believed that their ends would be without honor. But, behold, now they are numbered amongst the children of God!” And then all the righteous will stand up boldly against those who mocked and persecuted them in this present life.
Consider, my friend, the account and explanation which you will be required to render for all your deeds and thoughts when you stand before that awesome tribunal of judgment. The book of your life shall be opened, which will contain a detailed record of all your actions, utterances, and desires and plans, from the moment of your birth until your final breath. And you may be questioned about anything at all.
Imagine the heavenly Jerusalem, situated close by the tribunal of judgment, and illuminated by an ineffable, celestial light. That holy light will shine so brightly that it will expose the very depths of every heart. Within that all-revealing luminosity will be an irrefutable witness to every single thing you have ever done, or said, or thought! There will be no secrets, none at all. And thus sinners will stand condemned both by their own consciences and by the whole universe itself.
This article is taken from a chapter in Meditations On Death: Preparing For Eternity by Thomas à Kempis, which is available from TAN Books.