Many in Christianity look to the immediate future as a time of judgment from God. A constant series of current events stimulate a corresponding series of dire predictions of judgment. In the traditional understanding of the Bible, Christ is long overdue to return to the earth to judge sinners and reward the righteous, the righteous always being us and sinners being those other guys. In the opinion of many, Christians should actually hope and pray for this return, so we can finally enjoy the full benefits of Christ’s work. Of course, while we enjoy these marvelous benefits, many will experience only the unbridled wrath of a righteous God. In fact, even here in
What drives this fundamentalist Christian fixation with Christ’s return and judgment? Why are so many enthralled by the prospect of an event that is associated with so many horrible scenes in scripture? Can it be that Christians feel so ineffective in creating positive change in our society through the dissemination of the Gospel that we fall back on the terror of a wrathful God as the ultimately successful reforming agent? Do we and should we really look forward to seeing others who may differ with us face eternal judgment. Is that the real message of Christ, one of judgment, vengeance, and the reward of the few? These are real questions that explain why the church’s message often falls on deaf ears here and even more so in other cultures.
At least a partial answer to these questions about judgment lies in a careful re-evaluation of the traditional understanding of Christ’s return. When Jesus said, “Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me”, was he really talking about returning 2000 years later in our day and age? Many popular religious authors, television preachers, and seminary professors would have us believe that Jesus’ words were meant for 21st Century Americans. But is that true? Why must this judgment be a today event when Jesus said it was a yesterday event?
If I open my Bible and look at the God of love in whose image every individual is created, what will I find? Will I find that despite his great love for mankind, that many if not most individuals will not benefit from God’s love but rather will suffer eternal damnation? If that is the case, seemingly judgment will triumph over love and mercy in the end as opposed to what the Book of James proclaimed in chapter 2 and verse 13. God’s love will have failed in its intended purpose. How can that be? Is God’s nature so conflicted as to defy our comprehension or is our orthodox theology so convoluted as to confuse God Himself. I perceive the latter.
What happens to our theology and the impact of our message to the world if we realize that judgment is not in our future? How would mankind react to the God of Love undiluted by the God of future judgment? Would the Gospel message seem more coherent to the average hearer? Would the unadulterated message of God’s love finally begin to make a real and lasting change in our world? It is time to find out.