Man, those words carry a ton of weight. They evoke emotions. They divide religious groups. They create passionate debates. They challenge us theologically. I consider myself evangelical and I struggle with their meaning.
I have a few thoughts that I hope will change our natural inclination to think negatively about eternal judgment::
1. Why do our minds automatically go to the negative side of eternal judgment. I mean, a judgment is just a pronouncement and for those of us "in Christ" our pronouncement is "not guilty." So if you're mind automatically conjures up eternal separation from God, shouldn't it also conjure up the eternal presence of God?
2. Like me, so many of you believe the Bible teaches us to strive for global justice in the world even though we know perfect justice will never actually happen in this life. Which means, perfect justice will not come until God chooses to make all things new again at the second coming of Jesus. Logically, there can be no eternal justice if there were no eternal judgment. Justice demands judgment, its just the way it is.
3. Judgment means there's a judge. We can trust that Jesus is a fair, forgiving and merciful judge. Jesus who died a horrendous death to prove his love for us offers us grace for this life and the next. Will he execute justice? Absolutely! Will he do it with perfect grace? Of course, no one is more qualified! We have to trust that God's grace and mercy will prevail and that He is even more full of it than we give him credit for (full of grace and mercy that is!)
So, I hope that helps you have a more positive idea of eternal judgment, I know writing it helped me.