This isn’t a portrayal of Jesus we like to ascribe to Him very often because, frankly, it is terrifying. Tim Keller has concisely and eloquently said, “If we play down ‘bad’ or harsh doctrines within the historic Christian faith, we will find, to our shock, that we have gutted all our pleasant and comfortable beliefs, too.” And this is certainly true with how we envision Jesus. Jesus is fully God and as such He is the same God of the Old Testament. Yes Jesus is fully loving as clearly demonstrated in His very condescension to man, His whole life lived, His death, and His resurrection for sinners! Yet He is also fully just and is the very One who will judge the world. This seems to easily slip past us very often. There is simply no way to escape this picture in the Scriptures. And it’s either true or it’s not.
If we don’t understand His holiness, righteousness, justice, and his office as judge over all the world who will execute wrath upon His enemies, we will not fully appreciate the amazing, glorious nature of His mercy toward us. His justice is the backdrop upon which His love shines so brightly, in that we who believe in Him receive only mercy when we should justly and rightly receive only wrath for our sinning against Him. His love is great, not because we were worth saving, but because we were not worth saving, but deserved only wrath, and He took the place of any who would believe in Him on the cross. He saved wretches, not bright shining jewels.
All that to say that the King we serve and worship at church, at home, in all of life, is fully compassionate beyond words and at the same time fully just and full of wrath; One who will execute judgment upon the world when He returns. Those who believe and rest in Him for eternal life will be pardoned of His wrath and experience the riches of His grace to sinners. Those who continue to reject and ignore Him and His Gospel message will receive everlasting punishment. This much is clear in the Scriptures. Either you believe this or not. Praise God He offers pardon through the mercy of the cross in advance of His coming in order to accomplish what is unfolded in these verses! Our King is glorious and what a wonder it is that this great, all-powerful God became one of us in order to save those who believe in Him!
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” – Matthew 7:21-23
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:31-46
“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.” Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.” – Revelation 14:14-20
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” – Revelation 19:11-16
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” – Revelation 20:11-15