The judgment of God.
It is a doctrine that many use to denounce and reject God. “How could God be both loving and vengeful and a judge?” they ask. In fact, they often will assert that if God is judge and if God carries out wrath, then they are more god-like than God.
Yet Godis judge. Consider what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:
- The endurance of perseverance of the Thessalonian believer’s faith (v. 4) is evidence of God’s sustaining grace and coming wrath (v. 5) — i.e., they could not endure apart from God’s empowerment, and they would not endure (they would surely reject Christ) unless they were convinced of the coming wrath.
- God is just (righteous) in repaying the sin of sinners with His wrath (v. 6).
- God’s judgment will come as no surprise — the unbelievers have been warned of its coming (v. 7).
- God’s judgment will be on those who do not know God and who are disobedient to His gospel (v. 8).
- Those who receive God’s judgment will experience it for eternity (v. 9a).
- The judgment will consist of endless separation from fellowship with God and separation from the goodness of His glory (v. 9b), though still aware of His presence and unable to escape His eternal condemnation of them (Rev. 14:10).
Two particular truths are helpful to remember. First, God is just in His judgment.
“His relation to the creature is violated by sin, and He cannot be an unconcerned spectator of the conduct of His reasonable creatures; and sin is in proportion to the person against whom it is committed. There is such a terrible power in a human will that the creature can form plans and execute purpose which God regards as hateful. He can do something that is opposed to the divine will. He can, however insignificant, insult, offend, and wrong God. Hence punitive justice, which is an adorable perfection’ of the divine nature, and worthy of Him who is infinitely perfect, demands satisfaction for sin. It is as eternal and necessary as anything belonging to His self-existing nature.…He punishes OUT OF LOVE TO HIS OWN JUSTICE, or because the righteous God loveth righteousness (Ps. xi. 7),—in other words, that he punishes out of love to Himself.…He cannot but punish sin, just as we affirm of Him that He cannot lie.” [George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement; his emphasis.]
Second, God delights in judgment, but not in the same way that He delights in salvation:
“…in some sense God approves and even delights in both salvation (Jer. 32:40-41; Zeph. 3:17; Eph. 2:7) and damnation (Deut. 28:63, Ps. l35:6-11). Nevertheless, God does not delight in them both in the same way. He says that executing judgment is agreeable to God ‘on account of it relation to a further end,’ but communicating good to a creature is agreeable to God ‘in itself.” [John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory.]
For the believer, the judgment of God is a comfort: whatever suffering and loss we experience on earth is nothing in comparison to the suffering we escape in avoiding Hell and gaining Heaven. And it is a stimulant to evangelism, so that we might plead with those headed towards Hell to be reconciled to God.
And for the unbeliever, the judgment of God serves as a warning. He has been told what is coming. He may choose to disregard it, but he has been forewarned and will be left without excuse on the day he stands before the Lord.