I hear it all the time. "I could never worship a God of wrath." "How can a loving God send people to hell?" "I believe God is all-loving and would never judge anyone."
This perspective is so common in our culture, yet the Bible presents better news. The Scripture is unashamed about it: all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
God's wrath was never a concern for the prophets or apostles or even Jesus, who spoke more about the reality of hell than He spoke about heaven.
In a day where so many long for justice, God's judgment brings hope. Why? The answer may surprise you.
God judges because He loves. A god without judgment is a god who sweeps sexual abuse under the rug. A god without judgment is indifferent to human suffering. What sort of father, heavenly or otherwise, if he saw someone bullying his child, would sit by passively?
Every parent experiences an instinct to protect their child when they are attacked. True love defends and does not defer. Mankind matters to God so He will judge those who mistreat His image bearers.
God's judgment guarantees justice in an unjust world. There is no such thing as an unsolved murder in the eyes of God. From the Bible's perspective, all evil will be dealt with and no crime will go unpunished. This certainly isn't the case in our world today.
Deep down, we all hate injustice. This is one of God's fingerprints upon us as His image bearers.
Judgment Day means that God will not let injustice get the final word! Hell is God's right response to the depravity and oppression in the world. A God of love judges evil in the world.
The reality of God's judgment establishes equality among all peoples. Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). But as we read further, we see that Jesus wasn't condemning all judgment, but rather unjust judgments. He continues, "For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you" (7:2). In fact, Jesus makes a judgment in the following verses when He calls those who judge unjustly "hypocrites" (7:5).
The problem is not judgment but rather unjust judgments. This expectation of fair judgment is rooted right in the character of God.
God is an equal-opportunity judge. Everyone, regardless of their background or earthly reputation, will stand in God's courtroom. But Jesus is both the prosecuting attorney, making sure all crimes are punished fairly, and He is our defense attorney, pleading forgiveness for those who have trusted in Him.
Judgment Day is good news: God will deal with evil. But it is also bad news: where will we find ourselves on that day?
Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the great exchange that takes place for all who have believed the gospel. Through Jesus, man's filthy rags are exchanged for spotless robes of righteousness.
Second Corinthians 5:21 says, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." The sinless Jesus took the just penalty of sin upon Himself in the place of helpless sinners that they might be forgiven! Our debt isn't simply let go: Jesus paid it all! As the hymn "In Christ Alone" puts it, "For on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied."
Those who come to Jesus by repenting of their sin and trusting in Jesus will have their sins forgiven and the perfect life of Jesus will be credited to them. Not only will we be forgiven, but we will also be found righteous on Judgment Day, not because of our works but because of Jesus' works.
How could a loving God judge anyone? The better question may be, how could He not? For many this news is hard to swallow. Yet in the world of injustice, the good news is that justice will win the day.
The Rev. Matt Shown is co-pastor Garden Green Baptist Church.