Although both Peter and Paul portray God as loving and merciful, “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and desiring “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) other passages seem to contradict this tender image of the Almighty. John 12:40 says, for example, that God “has blinded [some people’s] eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” And Paul reaffirms this in Romans 9:18 when he says, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” Paul also declares in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 that “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” And Proverbs 16:4 says that “The Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”
“For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”
To some, the portrayal of God in these passages seems completely contradictory; for how could a loving and merciful God purpose and desire that anyone go to Hell? First of all, as God Himself affirms through His prophet Ezekiel, He takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked and wants them to turn to Him (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11) because He is a God of mercy and love. Unfortunately, many abuse and misuse God’s love and mercy as a license to sin forgetting that He is also a God of righteousness and justice. He is the “Lawgiver” (Isaiah 33:22) and “Judge of all the Earth” (Genesis 18:25; cf. Psalm 94:2, Hebrews 12:23) and thus must (and in a sense wants) to carry out the sentence though He takes no delight in doing so. Just as a righteous judge does not enjoy sentencing a serial murderer to death, he wants it because “it is the right penalty, accomplishes justice (especially for the families of the victims), and protects the innocent from any further violence. The judge does not approve of the murderer’s actions, and he may not enjoy the sentencing, but he does plan to sentence the guilty man because it is the right thing to do.”
According to the Bible, we are all guilty. We have all “fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and thus are all doomed for destruction because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Fortunately, however, God is not only a righteous and just Lawgiver and Judge but also our loving and merciful Saviour and Deliverer. Indeed, He Himself stepped into history in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life, and, by way of the cross, paid in full the “wages of sin” for every human being. In this way, He is able to offer the free gift of salvation for all. When we accept that gift, Christ’s righteousness is imputed onto our unrighteousness and our record becomes freed and clear in the eyes of the righteous Judge.
Clearly, God is a lover of souls and doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell. However, in His sovereignty, He knows that many in their hard heartedness will willfully and stubbornly refuse His generous gift (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12) and thus can righty declare that, “The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”
Ryan Hembree | June 12, 2020 – 12:41 PM EST