God the Judge

"But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed." (Romans 2:5 ESV)

In the fourteenth chapter of Knowing God, J. I. Packer writes, 

The problem of the psalmist who saw inoffensive people being victimized, and the ungodly "not in trouble as other men" but prospering and at peace (Ps 73), is echoed again and again in human experience. But the character of God is the guarantee that all wrongs will be righted someday; when "the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed" (Rom 2:5) arrives, retribution will be exact, and no problems of cosmic unfairness will remain to haunt us. God is the Judge, so justice will be done.

Why, then, do we fight shy of the thought of God as a Judge? Why do we feel the thought to be unworthy of him? The truth is that part of God's moral perfection is his perfection in judgment. Would a God who did not care about the difference between right and wrong be a good and admirable Being? Would a God who put no distinction between the beasts of history, the Hitlers and Stalins (if we dare use names), and his own saints, be morally praiseworthy and perfect? Moral indifference would be an imperfection in God, not a perfection. But not to judge the world would be to show moral indifference. The final proof that God is a perfect moral Being, not indifferent to questions of right and wrong, is the fact that he has committed himself to judge the world.

It is clear that the reality of divine judgment must have a direct effect on our view of life. If we know that retributive judgment faces us at the end of the road, we shall not live as otherwise we would. But it must be emphasized that the doctrine of divine judgment, and particularly of the final judgment, is not to be thought of primarily as a bogey with which to frighten men into an outward form of conventional "righteousness." It has its frightening implications for godless men, it is true; but its main thrust is as a revelation of the moral character of God, and an imparting of moral significance to human life...

If we know ourselves at all, we know that we are not fit to face him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is: Call on the coming Judge as your present Savior. As Judge, he is the law, but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as Judge then -- and without hope. Seek him now and you will find him (for "he that seeketh findeth"), and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that meeting with joy, knowing that there is no "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1). 

-- J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 143-44, 146-47.

Image credit: photo above by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash.  


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