Book Review
Christ's Sudden & Certain Appearance to Judgment

Christ's Sudden & Certain Appearance to Judgment

by Thomas Vincent (1634-1678)

AFTER Easter, 2012, I proposed in my Sunday school class to do a special study on the subject of how Jesus' resurrection is related to our own future resurrection. That expanded into a short study of what I now call "personal eschatology," that is, our own eternal futures.

Eschatology is a subject fraught with speculation and controversy. Because of that I had always made effort to avoid forming any opinion about it, and even wished to avoid thinking about it at all. There seemed to be too much strange-sounding thought out there on the subject.

But now I had a reason to think about it, and a method. I wished to examine most of the New Testament texts on the subject of the resurrection and related matters, concentrating on what seemed to be clear teaching, and avoiding areas of speculation. I also consulted commentaries on some of these passages, and some theologies and the Westminster Confession and Catechisms for confirmation of my conclusions, which I was happy to find.

My main conclusions were these. At some unpredictable time in the future three things will happen in succession, but nearly at the same time. They are 1) Jesus will come again to earth. 2) The bodies of all people who ever lived, both the redeemed and those not, will be resurrected and reunited with their souls. 3) All people, body and souls together, will be then judged by God and sent, body and soul, to either sin-free eternal bliss with God, like the Garden of Eden, or to eternal punishment.

From basic scripture teaching on salvation, it is clear that this judgment will be done on the basis of the Gospel. "Whoever believeth in [the Son] shall not perish, but have eternal life." It is also clear that the Gospel demands as part of this belief that believers continue to live a life of obedience and devotion to Christ.

I was impressed at how clear the teaching of these main conclusions was, admitting little controversy. Questions remain, but God doesn't want us to think we know everything.

While this was strictly an amateur study, it seemed so clear, and so little understood generally admist all the fog of the eschatological speculation of today, that I considered writing a book summarizing my findings. I never got round to it, and I have doubts about my qualifications. So when I found Christ's Sudden & Certain Appearance to Judgment on sale through a trusted bookseller, I had to read it. It seems like this is pretty much the book I was thinking of writing, done much better, and nearly 350 years earlier.

In their large volume, Meet the Puritans, 2006, Beeke and Pederson say about this book, "Vincent's arguments are lucid, his thinking clear, and his message ominous. He earnestly begs sinners to come to Christ in love before He comes upon them in judgment." (pg. 601)  The whole text has been retyped for this SDG reissue of 1996. The book is not hard to read.

The author and his readers had lived through events which placed judgment in the front of their minds. He refers to "the many thousands that fell by the plague in the year 1665," and "the many thousand houses which should fall by the fire in the year 1666."

Chapters 1-3 are about the coming second appearance of Christ. Chapters 4-5 are about the judgment of the righteous. Chapters 6-7 are about the judgment of the wicked. Chapters 8 and 9 are about the sentences of the wicked and of the righteous, respectively. Chapters 10 and 11 go back to the first topic, Christ's coming appearance, arguing the certainty of it and the quickness of it. chapter 12 is the application of the whole topic. In it paragraph after paragraph begin, "Awake, sinners, awake!" The climax of this chapter may be:

There are two things I would exhort sinners unto, that they may escape the wrath of God which, on that day, will be revealed and inflicted upon all the wicked of the earth. First, flee from sin. Second, flee unto Christ. (p. 257)

Chapters 13 and 14 are final words for sinners and for the righteous.

The doctrine of Christ's certain and sudden appearance to judgment is a most dreadful doctrine to sinners which are in sin. But it is a most comfortable doctrine to believers who are in Christ. ... You may try [i.e. judge] yourselves whether you are true believers by your desires [for] Christ's appearance. ... He will appear unto all, but only to them that look for Him will He appear unto salvation. Believers look for Christ's appearance with an eye of faith, hope, and desire. (p. 275-277)

This 17th century teaching is not novel, unlike the predominant theory of eschatology so popular today.

You will find that, given good attention, this is a fascinating, exciting, beautiful, relevant, and literally wonder-full book! You will find the future of "the righteous", that is, the believers, those whose sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ, to be glorious and more wonder-full than we can imagine. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (I Cor. 2:9). On the other hand you will find the future of those who have rejected Christ more awe-ful and terror-able than we can conceive: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matt 25:41,46)

What can be more important than this? The book will be in the library, and also in the bookstall if you'd like your own copy.