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14 Characteristics Related to God as Judge
Characteristics of God
Who comes to mind when you think of the word “judge”? Do you lean toward historical Supreme Court judges such as Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Or maybe you lean toward judges on TV or social media such as Judge Judy or Frank Caprio. Or maybe the judge you think of is fictional, from your favorite TV show, movie, or book.
Who stands before these judges? Usually, it is someone who has broken the law in some way (or they are accused of breaking the law). Similarly, the Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, we must all stand before God one day and be judged.
God is depicted as a judge in both the Old and New Testament. The Bible has so much to say about God as judge that in my research for each characteristic, I ended up with 50 PAGES of Bible verses pertaining to these characteristics. It was a bit overwhelming. In this overview of God as judge, I’ll present just a couple of verses for each characteristic. Each characteristic will be studied in more depth at a later time.
Characteristics of God as Judge That Relate to All
When looking at the characteristics of God as judge, they seem to fall into three categories: characteristics that relate to everyone, characteristics that relate to those who reject God, and characteristics that relate to those who repent of their sins. We’ll look first at the characteristics that relate to everyone that God judges.
God is Judge. God’s role as judge is primarily to give the law and then to judge whether people followed the law. God then either pardons their sins or punishes them according to their deeds.
Isaiah 33:22 – For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
God is Holy. God’s holiness is one of the primary reasons that he is worshipped in heaven. To be holy means to be set apart from defilement. His holiness is one of the many characteristics that sets God apart from us. God is separate from all that is evil. Because of his holiness, he cannot look upon anyone who has sinned. Habakkuk 1:13a says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”
1 Samuel 2:2 – There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
1 Peter 1:14-16 – As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
God is Righteous. Righteous means that someone is morally right. In all circumstances as judge, God will make the morally right decision about the fate of the person being judged.
Psalm 96:13 – Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.
1 John 2:1-2 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
God is Perfect. Perfect means that something is without flaw—in this case, without sin. In all eternity, God has not sinned, nor will he ever sin. Similarly, when Jesus was on earth as a man, he lived a perfect, sinless life.
Psalm 18:30 – As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.
Matthew 5:48 – Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God is Just. When you go before a judge, you hope that judge is just—that he will uphold and follow the law. As judge, God is always just. He always gives the verdict and consequence that the person deserves.
Psalm 9:7-8 – The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.
Acts 17:31 – For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
Characteristics of God as Judge Reserved for Those Who Reject Him
Some characteristics of God as judge relate specifically to those to reject him. These characteristics are reserved for those who go their own way, continue to live in sin, and do not accept Jesus as their Savior.
God Displays Wrath Against Sin. Because of God’s holiness, he cannot tolerate sin. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God’s wrath is poured out on those who reject him.
Isaiah 13:9 – See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.
John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
God is Jealous. God’s jealousy comes out especially when his people start to worship and follow after other gods. God will not tolerate those who reject him.
Exodus 20:4-6 – You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Deuteronomy 6:13-15 – Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.
God is a Consuming Fire. God’s righteous anger against sin and his jealousy when people worship other gods results in God being described as a consuming fire. It will devour you if you continue to live in sin.
Deuteronomy 4:23-24 – Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Psalm 21:8-9 – Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies; your right hand will seize your foes. When you appear for battle, you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and his fire will consume them.
God is Slow to Anger. Even though God displays wrath against sin, he is also slow to anger, and he gives people many chances to turn from their sin. His anger also will not last forever once that anger is satisfied.
Exodus 34:6 – And he [the Lord] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
Jeremiah 3:12 – Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “’Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever.’”
God is Patient. Along with God being slow to anger, he is patient. He waits as long as possible before judging to give people an opportunity to repent.
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 – Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
Characteristics of God as Judge Reserved for Those Who Repent
Some characteristics of God as judge relate specifically to those who call on his name and repent of their sins.
God is Compassionate. In my study, I found two types of compassion: compassion for those who repent and turn from their sins, and compassion for those who are afflicted. In this study, I will focus on the first type of compassion. I will discuss the second type of compassion in the God is Relational study.
Micah 7:18-19 – Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
2 Chronicles 30:9 – If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.
God is Merciful. I tend to think of mercy as not getting something bad that you deserve. For example, because we are sinners, we deserve death. However, if we believe in Jesus, God grants us mercy and does not punish us with death.
Isaiah 55:6-7 – Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Titus 3:4-5a – But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
God is Gracious. I tend to think of grace as getting something good that you don’t deserve. For example, if we are saved, not only do we not get the punishment for sin we deserve, we get the gift of eternal life. Grace and mercy work hand in hand.
Ephesians 1:6-8a – To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.
Romans 5:15 – But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
God is Forgiving. Along with mercy and grace, repentance is met with forgiveness. God promises to forgive the sins of anyone who confesses their sins, repents, and turns their life to follow after God. When God forgives, he remembers our sins no more. It’s not that he CAN’T remember—it’s that he chooses to forget.
Isaiah 43:25 – I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
God’s Description of Himself as Judge
In my study of God’s characteristics related to his role as judge, I kept coming across this same phrase: The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. I thought it sure was a “coincidence” that this one verse kept popping up in every search. Then I realized that this same phrasing is used in EIGHT different verses! The first one comes in Exodus 34:6, words directly from God himself. Because of the sheer number of times this same phrasing is used in different verses, I thought it was worth a special mention.
Exodus 34:6 – And he [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
Numbers 14:18 – The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.
Nehemiah 9:17 – But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.
Psalm 86:15 – But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Psalm 103:8 – The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
Psalm 145:8 – The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
Joel 2:13 – Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Jonah 4:2 – He [Jonah] prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
If you don’t remember anything else about God as judge, remember these verses!
All of the characteristics of God as judge work together for one purpose—to distinguish between those who have been saved by calling on the name of Jesus and those who have rejected Jesus as Savior. Because God is holy and righteous and perfect, he cannot be in the presence of sin. For those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, God shows compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness because their sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. For those who have rejected him, God displays his wrath and jealousy with a consuming fire, but he also is slow to anger and patient to give these people time to repent. In both judgments, God shows that he is just.
The verses listed here are just a small taste of what the Bible says to support these characteristics of God. If you’d like to study more about God’s role as judge over the next month, I’d encourage you to download and print the premium resource that goes along with this study. It is a “Bible Bingo” with 25 Scripture passages that provide further evidence for the characteristics of God we discussed above.
Are there any other characteristics of God that support his role as judge? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!