The Final Judgment—It’s Good News
The modern conception of judgment is basically about retribution: Break the law, go to court, and the judge will either fine you or you go to jail!
We read verses in the Bible about judgment, and we assume that it works the same way. But it doesn’t. What does the New Testament say about the final judgement?
John, the apostle, contrasts two views on judgment. One is right, and one is wrong!
In this way, God’s love is perfected in us, so that we may have boldness on the Day of Judgment, (1 John 4:17–18 MEV)
John speaks of a love-based view of the final judgement…. But he can also speak about a false fear-based view of the final judgment.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. Whoever fears is not perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Those who have a fear-based view of the final judgment think about it in terms of punishment! The love-based view manifests in boldness as he said in verse 17! John is telling us that those who have a mature understanding of God’s love, “in this way God’s love is perfect it in us,” think about the final judgment in terms of absolute confidence and boldness. How does love result in boldness for the day of judgement and not fear?
The answer to this question is clearly spelled out in the Bible. We need to understand what the purpose of the final judgment is about as far as God is concerned. On what basis does a love-based view of the final judgement result in boldness for that day and not fear? Who is the Judge in this judgment, and what standard will be used?
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man Jesus (Acts 17:31)
1. There will be a future judgment
2. Jesus is the judge
And Jesus employs justice when he judges. But what is justice as far as God is concerned?
Isaiah 30:18New International Version (NIV)
18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. (Isaiah 30:18)
What? Jesus judges with justice and justice is about God showing grace and compassion! So, the final judgment is about God in Christ, showing the world grace and compassion. This is why we can have boldness and confidence for that final day. Our way of showing justice is by punishing the sinner, those who break the law.
Why Doesn’t God’s Kind of Justice Punish?
Isn’t justice about righting wrongs? Yes, it is. But here is the thing: the way we right wrongs and the way God does are not the same. We right wrongs by punishing behavior; God rights wrongs by healing the cause of the bad behaviour.
The root word for justice/just in the Old Testament is sadaq. At its core, this word means “to fix what is broken.”
35 ‘You shall do no wrong in judgment, in the measurement of weight, or capacity.
36 You shall have just balances, just weights (Leviticus 19:35–36 NASB)
This passage is important: it contains the words judgment and just! These verses provide us with a context to understand how divine judgement works.
God is telling the Israelites how they are to conduct their business in the marketplace. When they go to sell their products, they are to make no wrong judgement when weighing items on their scales. Their scales must be just! Yes, just! This is the Hebrew root for justice. In this context, the word just means to have scales that are working in proper order. To judge means to put things into proper order. To judge with justice means to right wrongs by fixing scales that are broken—not in proper working order.
God’s kind of judgment and justice fixes that which is broken. The scales don’t get punished and broken—they are already broken—they need to get fixed from the inside out. This is how Biblical justice and judgment work. And this is the exact reason why Isaiah said that God is a God of justice—and that He manifests this justice by grace and compassion. It fixes that which is broken from the inside out. This is how God rights wrongs.
Jesus says the exact same thing about the nature of God’s justice. Jesus had just healed a crowd of people, and Matthew tells us that God was very pleased with this act because, by healing, Jesus manifested the justice of God.
17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah, the prophet:
18 “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen;
My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased;
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 “He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 “A battered reed He will not break off,
And a smoldering wick He will not put out,
Until He leads justice to victory.
21 “And in His name, the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:17–21 NASB)
Wow! God is pleased because His justice results in healing people… Fixing those who are broken from the inside out. The end result? All the Gentiles put hope in God. All!
Did you notice the justice in this passage has nothing at all to do with God breaking people or snuffing them out?
God’s kind of justice fixes the broken!! Yay!
Can you see why judgment is good news? Can you see why we can have boldness for the day of judgement? Can you see how judgement is based on love?
The judgement is God’s final act of healing.