Eastern Orthodox Icons of the Last Judgment

Eastern Orthodox Icons of the Last Judgment

The Christian doctrine of the Last Judgment that will take place at Christ’s Second Coming is well known to all believers. The frightening religious images with the scenes of the Last Judgment can be seen in many Christian frescoes, murals, and also Eastern Orthodox icons. The latter have certain peculiarities that we are going to discuss in this blog post.

The plot of the Last Judgment icon

Eastern Orthodox icons depicting the Last Judgment give an idea of what the end of the world will look like. According to religious texts, it will happen at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ who will carry out the final judgment on mankind. During the judgment, all the dead will be resurrected and, along with the living, will receive their sentence – eternal life in paradise or eternal torment in hell. This concept of God’s plan for man’s destiny is present in the Gospel texts, specifically the Gospel of Matthew.

The images of the Last Judgment for all mankind were created to remind people of the salvation that God grants to all who have done good deeds and have not defiled their souls with darkness and sinful living. However, it is believed that through the grace of God and sincere repentance, the forgiveness of sins at the Last Judgment is available to all people.

Eastern Orthodox icons of the Last Judgment and their description

The motif of the Last Judgment in Orthodoxy dates back to the 11th-12th century when the first frescoes depicting the scenes from the coming Judgment Day were created. The icons of this iconographic type were especially popular in Russia in the 15th century.

Traditionally, the image of Jesus Christ as the Judge is depicted in the center of the icon. He sits on a throne, with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist standing next to Him and asking for the forgiveness of human souls. Adam and Eve depicted at Christ’s feet represent the righteous and redeemed humanity. The Lord of Sabaoth and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove are often shown in the upper part of the composition.

In the lower tier of the icon, one can see a dual scene: the hell with a terrible beast in the red abyss and sinners enduring terrible suffering is depicted on its one side, and the paradise with the Mother of God, angels, and righteous souls of men is shown on another.

Eastern Orthodox icons of the Last Judgment are terrifying, but they are not meant to frighten Christians. They are aimed at reminding people of the righteous path and salvation of each human soul.