Jesus’ judgement-related parables do not make comfortable reading for a 21st century audience. There was a time when the fear and threat of divine judgement was the staple diet of western Christianity, but in recent decades churches have tended to shy away from the theme.
What makes us feel uncomfortable is the mental image of God as a high court judge, condemning and sentencing the guilty. However, that is not the image that Jesus was trying to convey. They didn’t have that kind of judge in his day. A judge’s task was to settle disputes and resolve muddle.
One of Jesus’ parables presents a fishing net, full of all kinds of fish. The part that God’s kingdom plays is to sort out the catch, putting the good fish into baskets and getting rid of the bycatch. In another parable he talks in terms of wheat and weeds, but the message is the same. When the right time comes, God will sort it all out. The good grain will be preserved, and the weeds disposed of.
Jesus’ message is - as always - down to earth. What is kept is everything that is fitting, real and genuine. What is thrown out is anything which is tedious, painful or grievous. (This is the true meaning of the words usually translated as ‘righteous’ and ‘evil’)
Putting aside the unhelpful image of a vengeful judge, it would be better to see God as a loving and concerned parent, tidying up their child’s messy room. When the time is right, God will tidy up this world. He will put all the useful stuff in its rightful place, and will deal appropriately with all the rubbish, the dirty washing and the mouldy sandwiches.