Rejoicing in the Wrath: Why We Look Forward to the Judgment Day
Why must God deal with us personally in judgment? Because our sin angers him personally. It is directed to God and must be dealt with on that basis.
The concept of judgment is good for society. We should not keep judgment as part of our gospel presentation merely for pragmatic reasons. We believe in judgment first and foremost because we find the concept clearly taught in the Bible. Nevertheless, judgment is good news for society. In Life After Death: The Evidence, Dinesh D'Souza makes a powerful case for an afterlife—including the possibility of judgment—and he appeals to the idea that societies function better when there is the expectation of divine judgment after death.
Take a Communist regime like that of Ceausescu's Romania. My wife grew up in this environment, and she witnessed firsthand the injustices that took place there. Ceausescu was an avowed atheist. Because he had no fear of what might occur after death, he could live in luxury while systematically starving his people. Without any fear of standing before his Maker, Ceausescu was able to justify any selfish craving that he had.
We all sin and deserve to be judged. When we downplay or deny the notion of judgment, we don't have to come face to face with our own sins. That's why we are good at spotting evil in the world while remaining blind to the evil in our own hearts. The best way to hold onto the traditional belief in Christ as Judge is to humble ourselves by admitting our own sin and that we too deserve eternal condemnation.
When we stand before the God of the Bible, we are frightened by the perfect righteousness we see. Yet, we are also astounded by the grace of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. It's not divine judgment that is so surprising; it's divine favor!
Hope for Rebels
In his radio and television interviews, Larry King would often ask Christian preachers whether they believed Jesus was the only way to God; he also asked them about the murderer who trusts Christ: Does he get off the hook? Can a murderer enter heaven?
Indeed, the idea that a criminal could go free is astounding, but God has acted in a way that upholds justice and lavishes grace at the same time.
There is hope for rebels who desire justice and yet don't want to suffer. We see justice and mercy most clearly in the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ vindicates God's name. God is the Just One and the One who justifies. Christ's resurrection is the vindication of his innocence. God the Father overruled the verdicts of the earthly courts and declared his Son to be innocent. With Jesus Christ as our substitute we are vindicated—"declared innocent" because we are united to Christ the Righteous One.
God the Judge has promised to completely wipe out the evil of the world. And yet, he loves us. In his grace, he is the righteous judge and the gracious redeemer. His judgment against evil is poured out upon his only Son on the cross. Justice and mercy are not at war with one another. They meet at the cross. And we can find both judgment and mercy as good news once we recognize our guilt in light of God's holiness, and then bask in forgiveness in light of God's grace.
Trevin Wax is the author most recently of Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope (Moody), from which this article is adapted.