In the 1970s, when J.I. Packer wrote Knowing God, the concept of divine judgment was falling out of vogue. That's even more true today. At the very least the biblical truth that God will fully and finally judge humanity is often soft-pedaled among self-proclaimed Bible-believing Christians. It might come as a shock that Jesus is the primary New Testament authority on the certainty of final judgment, heaven, and hell. He talked about these things repeatedly. Not only that he proclaims himself the agent of God's judgment.
Rightly does the Anglican burial service address Jesus in a single breath as "holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal." For Jesus constantly affirmed that in the day when all appear before God's throne to receive the abiding and eternal consequences of the life they have lived, he himself will be the Father's agent in judgment, and his word of acceptance or rejection will be decisive. . . . God's own appointment has made Jesus Christ inescapable. He stands at the end of life's road for everyone without exception. [italics emphasis mine]
Those last lines express a truth awesome to contemplate. Do we really believe it? Packer goes on to elucidate another awesome truth -- those who to Jesus for refuge have fled will have nothing to fear on that day when Jesus appears as judge.
Paul refers to the fact that we must all appear before Christ's judgment seat as "the terror of the Lord" (2 Cor 5:11 KJV), and well he might. Jesus the Lord, like his Father, is holy and pure; we are neither. We live under his eye, he knows our secrets, and on judgment day the whole of our past life will be played back, as it were, before him, and brought under review. If we know ourselves at all, we know we are not fit to face him. What then are we to do? The New Testament answer is: Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior. As Judge, he is the law, but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as Judge then—and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him (for "he that seeketh findeth"), and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).
Packer has a knack for explaining and defending the difficult -- but essential -- truths about God in simple, direct language. In a follow-up post I'll share some snippets from Packer on that oft-ignored and oft-misunderstood attribute of God -- his wrath.
Quotes from Knowing God, pp. 144-5 & 146-7