On the one hand I’m surprised, but on the other hand surely not at the reticence or even antagonism many Americans along with those in the western world have over the teaching of God’s judgment. The way it has been presented many times isn’t even a parody of the way it actually is. Unfortunately we see everything through our worldview lens (as does everyone) which prizes above all things individual freedom and autonomy instead of communal submission and authority. And add to that our western, Augustinian theology in terms of original sin and judgment. But in third world countries which don’t share in our liberal humanist modern tradition and are at least not as steeped in western theology there is indeed no problem here. This is understandable also because of the danger many face because of their faith. Evildoers too often wreak havoc on the innocent and the faith is often illegal and punishable with death.
It doesn’t take that perspective to understand that there is plenty that needs rearranging in the world as it is. Both personal and systemic evil are found everywhere, and although the justice system here is broken down and hardly does well, it is light years ahead of much of what goes on in the name of justice elsewhere in the world. Wars or rumors of wars along with genocides happen it seems oftentimes with little redress, not much in the way of consequences, and not soon enough if ever. And there then begins the drum beat of tit for tat, revenge being the goal indeed seemingly the lifeblood of those who have been wronged, evil on every side. Not that there shouldn’t be some form of justice, imperfect as it is brought on perpetrators.
But what is needed is final and complete justice. Paul referred to that in his sermon on Mars Hill in Athens:
[God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
The promise of God is in terms of God’s grace and kingdom come in Jesus. It is a kingdom not from this world, but indeed for this world. Heaven was created for earth and is destined to become one with earth when Jesus reappears and all things are made new as in new creation at the resurrection.
The best in the world now is not even a pale imitation of what is to come. But the world first must be judged. And that will be in terms of and through King Jesus himself. And then by Jesus’ death and resurrection, salvation will come. Yes, Jesus did suffer judgment on himself, but that will be turned around in judgment on the world which so judged him.
Then God will bring in what will finally be real and complete justice in terms of shalom. Human life and indeed all of creation will flourish. Wars will be no more.
“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Can’t even we appreciate that? Yes, even if it is harder. The world needs a good shaking and the end in Jesus will be quite good indeed.