All Judgment Given to the Son

Since the Father “has given all judgment to the Son,” as is said in John 5:22, and since human life even at present is regulated by the just judgment of God—for it is He who judges all flesh, as Abraham declared in Genesis 18:25—we cannot doubt that this judgment, by which men are governed in the world, pertains likewise to the judicial power of Christ. To Him are directed the words of the Father reported in Psalm 109:1: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” He sits at the right hand of God according to His human nature, inasmuch as He receives His judicial power from the Father. And this power He exercises even now before all His enemies are clearly seen to lie prostrate at His feet. He Himself bore witness to this fact shortly after His resurrection, in Matthew 28:18: “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

There is another judgment of God whereby, at the moment of death, everyone receives, as regards his soul, the recompense he has deserved. The just who have been dissolved in death remain with Christ, as Paul desired for himself; but sinners who have died are buried in hell. We may not suppose that this division takes place without God’s judgment, or that this judgment does not pertain to the judicial power of Christ, especially as He Himself tells His disciples in John 14:3: “If I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am, you also may be.” To be taken in this way means nothing else than to be dissolved in death, so that we may be with Christ; for “while we are in the body we are absent from the Lord,” as is said in 2 Corinthians 5:6.

However, since man’s recompense is not confined to goods of the soul, but embraces goods of the body which is again to be resumed by the soul at the resurrection, and since every recompense requires judgment, there has to be another judgment by which men are rewarded for what they have done in the body as well as for what they have done in the soul. This judgment, too, belongs rightfully to Christ, in order that, as He rose and ascended into heaven in glory after dying for us, He may also by His own power cause the bodies of our lowliness to rise again in the likeness of His glorified body, and may transport them up to heaven where He has preceded us by His ascension, thus opening the way before us, as had been foretold by Micah. This resurrection of all men will take place simultaneously at the end of the world, as we have already indicated. Therefore this judgment will be a general and final judgment, and we believe that Christ will come a second time, in glory, to preside at it.

In Psalm 35:7 we read: “Your judgments are a great deep”; and in Romans 11:33 the Apostle exclaims: “How incomprehensible are His judgments!” Each of the judgments mentioned contains something profound and incomprehensible to human knowledge. In the first of God’s judgments, by which the present life of mankind is regulated, the time of the judgment is, indeed, manifest to men, but the reason for the recompenses is concealed, especially as evils for the most part are the lot of the good in this world, while good things come to the wicked. In the other two judgments of God the reason for the requitals will be clearly known, but the time remains hidden, because man does not know the hour of his death, as is noted in Ecclesiastes 9:12: “Man does not know his own end”; and no one can know the end of this world. For we do not foreknow future events, except those whose causes we understand. But the cause of the end of the world is the will of God, which is unknown to us. Therefore the end of the world can be foreseen by no creature, but only by God, according to Matthew 24:36: “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but the Father alone.”

In this connection, some have found an occasion for going astray in the added words, “nor the Son,” which are read in Mark 13:32. They contend that the Son is inferior to the Father, on the score that He is ignorant of matters which the Father knows. The difficulty could be avoided by replying that the Son is ignorant of this event in His assumed human nature, but not in. His divine nature, in which He has one and the same wisdom as the Father or, to speak with greater propriety, He is wisdom itself intellectually conceived. But the Son could hardly be unaware of the divine judgment even in His assumed nature, since His soul, as the Evangelist attests, is full of God’s grace and truth, as was pointed out above. Nor does it seem reasonable that Christ, who has received the power to judge “because He is the Son of man” (John 5:27), should be ignorant in His human nature of the time appointed for Him to judge. The Father would not really have given all judgment to Him, if the judgment of determining the time of His coming were withheld from Him.

Accordingly this text is to be interpreted in the light of the usual style of speech found in the Scriptures, in which God is said to know a thing when He imparts knowledge of that thing, as when He said to Abraham, in Genesis 22:12: “Now I know that you fear God.” The meaning is not that He who knows all things from eternity began to know at that moment, but that He made known Abraham’s devotedness by that declaration. In a similar way the Son is said to be ignorant of the day of judgment, because He did not impart that knowledge to the disciples, but replied to them, Acts 1:7: “It is not for you to know the times or moments which the Father hath put in His own power.” But the Father is not ignorant in this way, since in any case He gave knowledge of the matter to the Son through the eternal generation. Some authors extricate themselves from the difficulty in fewer words, saying that Mark’s expression is to be understood of an adopted son.

However that may be, the Lord wished the time of the future judgment to remain hidden, that men might watch with care so as not to be found unprepared at the hour of judgment. For the same reason He also wished the hour of each one’s death to be unknown. For each man will appear at the judgment in the state in which he departs from this world by death. Therefore the Lord admonishes us in Matthew 24:42: “Watch ye therefore, because you know not what hour your Lord will come.


St. Thomas Aquinas. (1265-1274). Compendium Theologiae: All Judgment Given to the Son, trans. by Cyril Vollert. St. Louis & London: B. Herder Book Co., 1947

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Agere Sequitur Esse