When you read the Revelation to John and scratch your head (as every reader does to one degree or another), there is one truth that helps make sense of the whole book: it was written to encourage persecuted Christians that there was coming a Day of Judgment on their enemies. For instance…
They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”…Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Revelation 6:10-17 (ESV)
Now, it is avant-garde today to reject the idea of a judge, and people are saying today that the idea of a judging God is primitive. Moreover, many claim to be liberated by the idea that there is no God and thus no judge of the world. Ergo, they can do whatever they like morally. They sum up their thinking with this little chestnut: “What’s right for you may not be right for me. Each one must choose what is right and wrong for himself.” Tim Keller says that when intellectual New Yorkers would greet him after a service with this thinking, his question to them would go like this:
“Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?” They would invariably say, “Yes, of course.” Then I would ask, “Doesn’t that mean that you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is ‘there’ that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks?” Almost always, the response to that question was a silence, either a thoughtful or a grumpy one.
Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (p. 45). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Keller also speaks to the idea of “no judge” through a quote from playwright Arthur Miller, and an atheist character named Quentin in his play, After the Fall. Here is Quentin beginning to realize what it really means to believe that there is no judge in the world:
Quentin says: For many years I looked at life like a case at law. It was a series of proofs. When you’re young you prove how brave you are, or smart; then, what a good lover; then, a good father; finally, how wise, or powerful or [whatever.] But underlying it all, I see now, there was a presumption. That one moved… on an upward path toward some elevation, where… God knows what… I would be justified, or even condemned. A verdict anyway. I think now that my disaster really began when I looked up one day… and the bench was empty. No judge in sight. And all that remained was the endless argument with oneself, this pointless litigation of existence before an empty bench…. Which, of course, is another way of saying— despair. 20
Keller: “What is he saying? We all live as if it is better to seek peace instead of war, to tell the truth instead of lying, to care and nurture rather than to destroy. We believe that these choices are not pointless, that it matters which way we choose to live. Yet if the Cosmic Bench is truly empty, then “who sez” that one choice is better than the others? We can argue about it, but it’s just pointless arguing, endless litigation.
“If the Bench is truly empty, then the whole span of human civilization, even if it lasts a few million years, will be just an infinitesimally brief spark in relation to the oceans of dead time that preceded it and will follow it. There will be no one around to remember any of it. Whether we are loving or cruel in the end would make no difference at all.
“Once we realize this situation there are two options. One is that we can simply refuse to think out the implications of all this. We can hold on to our intellectual belief in an empty Bench and yet live as if our choices are meaningful and as if there is a difference between love and cruelty. Why would we do that? A cynic might say that this is a way of “having one’s cake and eating it, too.” That is, you get the benefit of having a God without the cost of following him. But there is no integrity in that.
“The other option is to recognize that you do know there is a God. You could accept the fact that you live as if beauty and love have meaning, as if there is meaning in life, as if human beings have inherent dignity— all because you know God exists. It is dishonest to live as if he is there and yet fail to acknowledge the one who has given you all these gifts. Keller, Timothy,The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism