Jesus and God's judgment
When it comes to the topic of the final judgment, many have formed opinions based on what I feel is an inaccurate reading of Revelation, leading them to conclude (in error) that when God comes to earth at the end of time he comes as an angry, hostile and vengeful God.
But through a careful reading of Revelation, we are introduced to the Lord, the God of covenant grace, who in the person of the God-man Jesus, returns to earth as the one he truly is - the Savior of all mankind.
This Jesus who returns is the same one we met in the Gospels who walked the roads of Galilee as a "friend of sinners"; who died on Calvary's cross to save sinners; and who cared for his doubting disciples after his resurrection, promising to be with them "always, unto the very end of the age" (Mat. 28:20) as they reach out with Jesus' love to all the world.
It is this Jesus, God's Lamb, who in Revelation comes to earth not to destroy, but to save, and his personal presence on earth at the end of time constitutes God's decisive and final judgement on all evil. For in the personal presence of this Lamb of God, all evil melts - it turns on itself and self-destructs. Indeed, the long anticipated final battle between good and evil (Armageddon) is over before it even begins.
In Revelation, it is God’s saving love in the personal presence of the God-man Jesus, that constitutes the basis of God's judgment on all humanity. God's love and final judgment thus go hand-in-hand. T.F. Torrance makes this point in “The Christian Doctrine of God.”
…The love of God…functions unreservedly and equably as love even in the judgment of the sinner. It is his loving of the sinner which resists his sin that is his judgment of the sinner…the total self-giving of the self-affirming God in love is and cannot but be the judgment of his love upon the sinner. He does not hold back his love from the sinner, for he cannot cease to be the God who loves and loves unreservedly and unconditionally. Is that not why St. John in the Apocalypse could speak of the wrath of God as ‘the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:17; 11:18; 16:1; 19:15), for his wrath is the total unrestrained self-giving of God’s love upon the Cross which he does not withhold even from those who reject it, and which is and cannot but be wholly opposed to evil and sin? And that is surely why St. Paul could speak of his ministry of the Gospel as a savor to one of life unto life and to another of death unto death. In God there is no Yes and NO, but only Yes (1Cor. 1:19f; 2:15f). It is upon the Yes of God’s eternal love for us that our salvation rests, but that Yes is also the judgment of those who perish. Why people may want to reject the love of God is quite inexplicable, but whether they believe in Jesus Christ as the incarnate love of God or refuse to believe in him, the love of God remains unchangeably what it was and is and ever will be, the love that is freely, unreservedly and unconditionally given to all mankind (p. 246).N.T. Wright makes a similar point in “Surprised by Hope,” where he comments on John 5:22-30:
…The future judgment is highlighted basically as good news, not bad. Why so? It is good news, first, because the one through whom God’s justice will finally sweep the world is not a hard-hearted, arrogant, or vengeful tyrant but rather the Man of Sorrows, who was acquainted with grief; the Jesus who loved sinners and died for them; the Messiah who took the world’s judgment upon himself on the cross. Of course, this also means that he is uniquely placed to judge the systems and rulers that have carved up the world between them, and the New Testament points this out here and there [e.g. John 16:8-11].…Jesus [in the Spirit]…confronts the world in the present, and will do so personally and visibly in the future. He is the one to whom every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10-11) as well as the one who took the form of a servant and was obedient to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:608). Indeed, as Paul stresses, he is the first because he did the second” (pp. 141-143).