Rejoicing in the Wrath: Why We Look Forward to the Judgment Day
Judgment demonstrates the holy love of God. God is not a bipolar deity, one side wrathful and angry, the other loving and merciful. Love is his essential attribute, but this love is not like the sentimental love we think of today. God's love is holy. It is jealous. The wrath of God is based in his love. The idea of biblical judgment not only assures us of future justice; it also gives us a clearer picture of the love of God.
When we do away with the notion of God as Judge, we are left with a one-dimensional God—a sappy, sanitized deity whom we can easily manage. He nods and winks at our behavior, much like a kind elderly man who is not seriously invested in our lives. But the evil of our world is much too serious for us to view God as a pandering papa.
The Bible's picture of God is much more satisfying. He is angry because he is love. He looks at the world and sees the trafficking of innocent children, the destructive use of drugs, the genocidal atrocities in Africa, the terrorist attacks that keep people in perpetual fear, and he—out of love for the creation that reflects him as Creator—is rightfully and gloriously angry.
The god who is truly scary is not the wrathful God of the Bible, but the god who closes his eyes to the evil of this world, shrugs his shoulders, and ignores it in the name of "love." What kind of love is this? A god who is never angered at sin and who lets evil go by unpunished is not worthy of worship. The problem isn't that the judgmentless god is too loving; it's that he is not loving enough.
Eternal judgment makes sense only if we understand that we live in a good world created by a loving God. When we sense the inherent goodness of the world God created, we are then able to see—with God's eyes—the destruction and heartache that sin has unleashed in the world. We see why creation is groaning for redemption and judgment—not the destroying fire of God, but the purging fire that will lay bare everything in this world that defaces it and leave room for God's presence to fill it once again.
Our sin angers God personally. God hates sin because of what it does to us. He hates sin because of what it does to his good creation. He rages against sin because of his great love for his children. But it's not enough to say that God will judge sin and restore creation for our benefit. This is a step in the right direction, but it leaves out a crucial component of sin and judgment. God is wrathful toward sin not only because of what it does to us, but also because of what it does to him. It dishonors his name.
When we depersonalize God's judgment, treating divine punishment as a dispassionate response to generalized wrongdoing, we wind up with a lopsided view of sin. Sin is not merely bad for us. All the sins we commit against one another are ultimately committed against God.
When Joseph is tempted by Potiphar's wife (Gen. 39:6-12), he refuses to go to bed with her because it would be a great sin against Potiphar and against God. Joseph realizes that sinning against his master—in effect stabbing him in the back—would also be plunging a dagger into the heart of God. He realizes that sin, even sin against other humans, is directed toward God.