Crime is rampant in our society and we are pleased to see criminals apprehended and dealt with appropriately.
Our motives in seeing this happen are mixed.
Some of us want criminals taken off the streets, some want revenge, some want justice, some want criminals rehabilitated and restored to society, and some want a cocktail of several of these.
Let's see what happens.
A crime is committed, the alleged offender is apprehended and brought to trial.
Evidence is presented and the judge makes his decision.
If the accused is found to be innocent, he is set free and continues life in the community.
If the accused is found to be guilty, he is taken away and given a suitable punishment.
Now what happens to this guilty offender?
He is first of all taken away - removed from society.
This frees the community from his offensive behaviour and influence, which is beneficial, both for the community and for the criminal.
The community no longer has to suffer the consequences of his actions and the criminal is prevented from getting deeper into a life of crime which will have even more severe consequences.
Secondly, the criminal is punished.
Although many people see this punishment as revenge or justice, so that the offended members of society are avenged for their loss and heartache, it is much more than that.
The punishment is also designed to rid him of his anti-social behaviour and attitudes, so that eventually he can re-enter society as a changed person and make a positive contribution to the life of the community.
I appreciate this doesn't always happen, but surely that's the plan.
Indeed it's the same plan God uses.
Jesus is the Judge and the court convenes at the Great White Throne.
Evidence is presented of the life story of each person.
Those found guilty at this judgement will be taken to be changed of their behaviours and attitudes so they can be reinstated into God's kingdom.
The Bible describes this process like a lake of fire which God uses to purify and change the hearts and behaviours of those who have not had those changes made by the Holy Spirit previously.
Eventually all will be changed, by the Holy Spirit or the lake of fire, and made fit to enter eternity at the end of the ages.
What we attempt to do with our legal systems on earth, God does perfectly in the heavens.
All of us, no matter how wicked or rebellious or immoral, will be rehabilitated and reinstated in the family of God. We will all live in fellowship and harmony with God and with the rest of his family in eternity.
How will the lake of fire do its work?
I have no idea, but I would like to think it will work much like the pig pen worked for the prodigal son in the story Jesus told (as recorded in Luke 15).
The prodigal in his remote and horrid circumstances realised that even his father's employees were far better off than he was, and decided to go home, be reconciled to his father and offer to work for him.
What he knew of his father, his love and his father's household drew him back to his father.
Those found rebellious and unreconciled to God at the Great White Throne judgement will eventually realise that even the least in God's kingdom are far better off than they are and will decide to go home, be reconciled to God and offer to serve him.
God's love, demonstrated so vividly on the cross, will eventually “compel” everyone to be reconciled to God.
All the world's prodigals from all generations and ages will eventually want to be reconciled to the Father and so God's plan for the universe will be achieved.
Jesus will then have completed his mission as “the Saviour of the world” and will have drawn all people to him as he promised he would.