These questions point us to how God wants us to see justice, judgment, and mercy. Of course, justice and judgment are important to God. Still, mercy is important, if not most important. But how is mercy, perhaps, more important than justice or judgment? Well, of the control we have on events, we have control of mercy. In contrast, justice and judgment are prohibited and left to God. For instance, Scripture says, “judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5). This statement stresses that we are not to judge; correct and precise judgment will happen when Jesus Christ returns. Such judgment is impossible through us.
But how is God’s forbearance good? If God forbears, he must refrain from something. Is judgment what God refrains from, if the sinner does not die immediately? Yes, God refrains from judgment. But what is judgment? This question is answered by a couple negative questions from Jesus. Negative questions, here, means questions asked that have a negative answer. For instance, Jesus asks, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cries to him day and night? Will he delay long over them (Luke 18:7)? “But,” as the apostle Peter adds, “by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Thus, judgment is justice for evil and righteous people.
So why does this great fall happen at the end? Why can people build a house on lawlessness until they finish building? The apostle Peter answers this question by first recognizing that a storm is coming. This storm, as Paul hinted, will be a firestorm. Peter says, “The present sky, universe, and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed” (2 Peter 3:7). Peter stresses that life as we know it will explode in a great fire. This destruction is far more destructive than a hurricane. In fact, this storm is going to be a cosmic firestorm!