Why is the proclamation of God’s final judgment important?
Published on: 08-05-2021
For most people, having to appear before a judge is quite frightening. The public exposition, analysis, and evaluation of an incident in our life that would lead to some type of accountability is indeed intimidating. This fear is commonly transferred to the figure of God as the ultimate universal judge. The good news of the gospel is that the Judge is our loving friend. Let me highlight three reasons that will help us to understand the importance of this judgment.
1. God’s Final Judgment Is Biblical
God’s judgment, understood as His concern for and evaluation of the moral and spiritual integrity of His creatures, runs from the beginning to the end of the Bible. It is precisely in Genesis where we find God judging the rebellion of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8-21), pronouncing a verdict against them, but surprisingly offering them a Messianic promise that would restore them to fellowship with Him (verse 15).
The book of Revelation closes the biblical canon with a scene of judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) and the fulfillment of the promise of fellowship with God through the Lamb of God (Rev. 21:1-4; 5:5, 6). This understanding of divine judgment, which offers the possibility of condemnation or salvation and is part of the gospel (Rom. 2:16), characterizes the message of the Scriptures and makes it of utmost importance for the world.
2. Need for a Biblical Understanding of Judgment
It is unfortunate that a distorted comprehension of the final judgment crept into the Christian Church and has contributed to a misleading perception of the character of God. According to this predominant model of the final judgment, unrepentant sinners and Satan and his angels will be eternally burning in hell. This conception is based on the nonbiblical teaching of the immortality of the soul. If the soul is by nature immortal, then it cannot be destroyed and the wicked will burn forever. God will keep them alive, suffering excruciating pain throughout eternal ages! This is not the biblical God! When a person dies, they do not go to heaven or hell, but they sleep anticipating the resurrection from the dead. There will be a pre-advent judgment for those who accepted Christ as Savior, and they will be rewarded at the coming of the Lord (Heb. 9:28; 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12; Rom. 2:5, 6). There will also be a millennial judgment for the wicked (Rev. 20:4, 11, 12; cf. 1 Cor. 6:2, 3), followed by the executive phase of their judgment after their resurrection (Rev. 20:14, 15). Those who in rebellion to Him chose death will die forever—not live in suffering forever (e.g., Ps. 37:20; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9).
3. Judgment as the Revelation of God’s Love
A judgment is a legal process through which truth is uncovered. A cosmic crime was committed when the fallen cherub rebelled against God and charged Him with injustice and selfishness (Eze. 28:14-16; Isa. 14:12-14; Gen. 3:1-5; Job 1:8-11). For truth to be seen, God decided to reveal the infinite nature of His love and justice, His very nature, in a persuasive way. This He did in the life, ministry, and death of His Son, who declared, “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). In a sense, the cross is the moment when cosmic truth is manifested in all its splendor and power. On the cross, God disclosed before His cosmic court of law the most persuasive evidence of His unfathomable love toward sinful human beings (Rom. 5:8). In the final judgment those persuaded by the power of God’s sacrificial love for them to choose life through Christ will enjoy eternal life (cf. John 5:24). It will also be during the final judgment that the wicked will be taken to God’s court of law to look at the cross as the evidence of God’s infinite love. The experience will be most painful for them as they realize that they rejected the offer of life coming from a most loving God (cf. Rev. 14:10). Then the wicked and Satan will bow down and together with the rest of the cosmos acknowledge that God is indeed righteous and love (Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 5:11-14).