Is the Final Judgment an expression of God’s wrath?
It is true that mainstream Christianity has changed through the ages. However, one fundamental belief remains largely seared in the minds of the faithful: The Last Judgment of God upon humanity. Cathedrals built in the Middle Ages often depicted sculptures of Last Judgment scenes on their walls and tympana. Central to the image, Christ is represented judging the righteous on His right, and the wicked on His left. The picture here presented shows details from the Cathedral of Saint Lazare, in Autun, France. The giant claws of Satan are grabbing someone by the neck. The expression on the face of the condemned suggests an almost audible primal scream of pain.
Sadly, this image represents an angry God who looses patience. He decides to end evil by rewarding the righteous and destroying the wicked.
As we have already discussed, the wrath of God is not a fit of anger. Properly translated the word should suggest His passion for love and mercy founded on freedom that will never be compromised. The idea of God’s Final Judgment is largely inspired by pagan beliefs whereby the gods reward good people and punish those who disobey.
The words “wrath” and “judgment” applied to the only true God are influenced by the human understanding of these words. Indeed, we humans constantly imagine God in our own image, and His government in the image of our judicial systems. Instead we should consider the perfectly loving image of God that we might be restored back into His image. With a false image of God it is impossible to restore in humans the true image of our loving Creator God.
The Greek word krisis is generally translated “judgment.” In reality, the early Christians probably understood that the primary meaning of the word is “a separating” (see StudyLight.org entry for Strong’s #2920). The Final Judgment should never have been depicted as a divine sentence against the wicked, but as a natural separation that will ultimately take place in human history. From the Greek word we have the English word “crisis.” Indeed, a crisis of Biblical proportion is upon us, and it will separate the loving from those who hold-on to self-preservation.
Scripture makes mention of this separation throughout. Ultimately a group of followers of Christ will trample the head of the Serpent (see Genesis 3:15). The crushed head of the Serpent is a metaphor to depict the mindset of Satan, which is the self-serving mindset of evil. By contrast, the mindset of Jesus, which is “the faith of Jesus” (see Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16 and 3:22; Revelation 14:12 in the KJGV), is the guiding principle of life that involves one’s attitude of unconditional love towards others. Many translations have modified the expression “faith OF Jesus” to “faith IN Jesus.” Indeed, it is not believing in Jesus that transforms humans into the image of God, it is accepting to espouse the belief system OF Jesus that changes the way we think and behave. The persuasion of Jesus that love is the secret of eternal life should also become the guiding light of our mindset, and thus, the faith of Jesus by which we must learn to live.
Accepting Christ is not merely accepting the fact that He died and was resurrected, but that in all humility He died to show all created beings of the universe the true and perfect meaning of love. His love was so intense that only death could interrupt His love for others – and even His death was an act of love, because it teaches humans that true love can only be interrupted by death. Jesus could have exterminated His aggressors, but He showed us instead that even self-defense is not an excuse to kill other human beings. It is not the death of Jesus that saves us, though without His death we would have never understood the message of His death that saves: namely, that true love stops at nothing short of death.
It could be said that Christianity has not yet spread that message of unconditional love to the world. The day is coming when not only many Christians will recognize the value and wisdom related to the message of God’s love, but all people willing to think logically will recognize the wisdom of this Divine principle of eternal life. Indeed, for God, as it should be for us, love is more important than life.
With the message of Christ clearly understood, a dramatic crisis will produce the predicted “separation” in our world. It will not be a divinely appointed tribunal involving a judgment scene. Many will appreciate the value of unconditional love, recognizing that the eternal continuation of life is impossible without it. Others will choose to remain devoted to their traditions of self-preservation in the face of enemies whom they will fail to love with the kind of love Jesus expressed towards His persecutors.
The so called “wrath” of God is His determination to allow both evil and love to reach their pinnacle of expression. No one will be in a position to misunderstand the differences between the two groups. The difference will become so flagrant from a purely logical point of view, that without realizing it many will follow Christ by adopting “the faith OF Jesus,” which is the unshakable determination to live love at any cost to one’s own life.
Many will realize that it is better to die loving even if there were no reward, than to live a self-centered life that involves rendering evil for evil. Such a lifestyle can only perpetuate and intensify the level of evil on our planet. A humanity bound to operate on the principle of self-preservation is also bound to reach the pinnacle of self-destruction. The separation between good and evil will take place, but it will not be a judgement-call made by a God who has lost patience, because God is unconditionally loving, as we should become also.