In ordinary human courts, a judge who feels personal fury toward the defendant would likely recuse himself. But in the divine court, wrath and fury are perfectly fitting. “For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8).
Why must God’s perfect justice in dealing with law-breakers be accompanied with a furious anger? Isn’t justice enough? Why “the heat of this great anger” (Deuteronomy 29:24)?
It is conceivable that a just judge could deliver a guilty verdict and fitting sentence without feeling anger at the condemned criminal. In fact, ordinarily the sentence is more likely to be just, if the judge keeps his emotions out of the proceedings, and reckons the sentence solely on the basis of law.
We can imagine that thirty years later the punishment of the condemned criminal would still be happening long after the judge has forgotten the case. That would be fitting, since the feelings of the judge were not the basis of the sentence.
In ordinary criminal law, the anger of the judge has no place in determining the punishment of the criminal. The question before the court is guilt or innocence. Conviction or acquittal. Condemnation or justification. These are based on facts, not feelings. Does the evidence show that, beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant committed the crime? How the judge feels is not legally relevant.
However, this separation between the process of justice and the emotion of the judge does not describe the biblical reality of God’s judgment of sinners. He is just and angry. Fair and furious. This article aims to show why.
God Is Just
To be sure, the Bible is adamant that the ways of God are just. “All his works are right” (Daniel 4:37). “His work is perfect, for all his ways are justice” (Deuteronomy 32:4). “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Romans 9:14).
And his ways are just precisely as the Judge. “You have come . . . to God, the judge of all” (Hebrews 12:22–23). “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). “The Lord . . . is not partial and takes no bribe” (Deuteronomy 10:17). “He will render to each one according to his works. . . . For God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:6, 11).
God Is Just in Passing Over Sin
Indeed, at the very heart of our Christian faith is the death of the Son of God, in the place of sinners, to show that God is just in passing over sin.
God did not sweep the sins of his people under the rug of the universe. He punished them. He condemned them, once and for all. “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). That means we do not bear the condemnation for our sins. Christ did. Christ “was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). And there is no double jeopardy.
The reason God required a divine substitute in passing over our sins was to demonstrate his justice. A just judge cannot acquit the guilty — unless the law can be upheld, and the acquitted can be transformed, and the judge can be vindicated. That is what the death of the Son of God secured.