The LORD judges the peoples;
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
(Psalm 7:8 ESV)
God is a benevolent Judge, who responds to sin according to laws based upon His eternal nature and character in both harsh and compassionate ways. God is omnipresent. He cannot abide even one sin in His presence in eternity.
Adam sinned when he ate the forbidden fruit. God warned Adam what would happen when he sinned. “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (die, die)” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). God said Adam would die die. Not only would Adam die physically, though not immediately, he would die spiritually. Spiritual death is being denied that which sustains spiritual life. Spiritual life is the presence and sustenance that is God. God did not immediately execute the death sentence against Adam, who continued living in the physical world. Adam lived 930 years and then physically died. God continued to have a relationship with Adam. But Adam’s sin brought both physical and spiritual death to all people. Not everyone who dies physically will die spiritually.
God compassionately prepared a means for those who sin even one sin to be restored to a righteous relationship with Him. From eternity God decided to send His Son to take upon Himself the sin of the people.
To judge means to contend or plead, to act as a legal magistrate by rendering a verdict and executing a sentence. Judge also means to govern. Justice and righteousness are fundamental to God’s eternal nature. God cannot be unjust or unrighteous. Nor can He render unjust or unrighteous decisions or acts in a way contrary to His eternal nature. We struggle with God’s actions and words because they do not seem fair. We equate fairness with justice. We cannot imagine God hating anyone He created in His image. This is because we do not understand the words “love” and “hate” as used by God.
As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:13-16 ESV; cited from Malachi 1:2-3)
In Hebrew the word loved means to have human appetite for another, such as a friend or one with whom there is an intimate sexual relationship. This includes God’s love for a person, nation, and all people. The Greek the word is agapao, which is Godly love, which means to be well pleased and to love dearly. Hated is used in contrast to the word loved. God hated, which in Hebrew means to find odious, those persons who continue to rebel against Him after being commanded to return and obey Him. In Greek the word means to detest. God loves those who love Him and hates those who hate Him. Those who hate Him are released from His presence in eternity, driven away from God with whom they want nothing to do.
This does not mean God is controlled by either the love or hatred of those He has created. God acts with love toward those who love and obey Him. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10 ESV). Conversely, God will act with hatred toward those who hate Him. In both cases God choses to act in a manner consistent with His holy, righteous and eternal character. God will judge people based upon the intentions of their hearts and their actions, which is the outward evidence of their hearts.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)
Does judging someone according to the eternal laws of God based upon the evidence of their lives make God unjust? He created people in His image. That image is not contaminated with sin even though the vessel containing His image is corrupt. People are at war within themselves, irresistibly drawn toward Him because of His image in them. Yet, people are tugged and pulled away from God by sin, which is also in them. God makes a way in His compassion and mercy for those created in His image to come to Him through the covering of their sin by the blood of Christ. Those who reject God’s call, disobeying His command to repent, sin. One sin. There is a sin which is unforgivable. It is the rejection of the command to obey God given to each person by the Holy Spirit. “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32 ESV).
God loves those who follow Christ and they will live in His presence for eternity. Those who hate Christ, God will expel from His presence for eternity. God is righteous in His judgment.