Two Sides of the Same Coin: God’s Love and God’s Wrath
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
Have you ever wondered how a loving God can send people to Hell? Does God really hate? Is God not loving? Is it true that God hates the sin and not the sinner? The difficult topic of God’s hatred and wrath can make most people pretty uncomfortable. It leads to uneasy conversations for both believers and nonbelievers. When we discuss this topic, it must be done with the utmost care due to the ramifications of this doctrine. For example, it can lead others to deny this important doctrine, have misconceptions about the character of God and His wrath, or automatically alienate people unnecessarily. It is possible that it could bring images into people’s minds of an evil angry dictator or of an abusive father.The Bible clearly teaches that these are blasphemous misconceptions that must be corrected by biblical preaching on the nature of God’s wrath rather than avoiding or denying the subject all together. While the love of God is usually a lot easier to preach on, we must preach on it with the same utmost care and precision. We must resolutely fight against blasphemous misconceptions of the nature of God’s love. In fact, catering more to the love of God while neglecting His wrath keeps us from properly understanding His righteousness and infinite holiness. When we cater more to the wrath of God, we diminish our understanding of the great love He has for His children. When we preach these aspects of God’s nature, we must do so accurately and biblically.
The Wrath of God
If we are emotionless and tearless when talking about the wrath of God, we lack the appropriate sensitivity and seriousness we ought to have in addressing this vital subject. Likewise, if we present it from a place of self-righteousness and hatred towards sinners, we also need to repent and plead with God to work in our hearts and cure us from such a pharisaical disease. On the other hand, if we avoid presenting the wrath of God, we should also wonder where our hearts are and if we lack the love and obedience needed to share the radically urgent truth of the wrath of God. If a loved one was about to get hit by a bus, wouldn’t we cry out for them to move? If your friends were about to walk on a bridge that you knew was going to immediately collapse, wouldn’t you warn them? How much more urgent must we be about trying to save our friends and neighbors from the terrible wrath of almighty God that will meet every unsaved sinner in Hell? There is a way to discuss the wrath of God that leads to the edification the redeemed and the appropriate warning and informing of the unsaved, and we must determine it.
What does Scripture say about the wrath of God? There are many instances within Scripture that mention God’s “indignation” or displeasure of the wicked (Psalm 7:11). God is holy, perfect, sinless, and righteous. This means that there can be no wickedness in His presence. Psalm 5 says, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot dwell with you. The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all evildoers.” I believe the best passage that describes this wrath of God is found in the flood account in Genesis 6:5-7:
When the Lord saw that human wickedness was widespread on the earth and that every inclination of the mind was nothing but evil all the time, the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was deeply grieved. Then the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I created, off the face of the earth, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky – for I regret that I made them.
This is the wrath of God on display against the wicked. God hates sin and He is just to condemn it; however, this is not the only nature of God.
The Love of God
The amazing love of God does not appear as glorious to undeserving sinners if they do not first understand His unbearable wrath and fury that they deserve due to their sin. God’s benevolent love for His people is gloriously beautiful in contrast to the wrath they deserve! Does this negate the biblical truth that God hates the wicked? No, and while the notion of God’s hatred towards evildoers is foreign to most American evangelicals, it is backed up by Scripture. If this notion sounds incorrect or new to you, I would encourage you to study what Scripture says on it, (Psalms 5:5-6, Psalms 11:5, Proverbs 6:16-19, John 3:36). God’s wrath shows the richness of God’s love in a way that only leads to an overflow of graciousness from our hearts as believers and beckons the non-believer to understand how perfect God is. The greatest display of both God’s love and wrath, is the cross. On the cross, we see the great love that God has for His children through the outpouring of his wrath. This wrath was meant for us due to our sin, but God, in his grace, places the wrath on Christ who was made “to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
There are numerous verses and passages that describe the love of God and the most well-known verse would be John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
God so loved a world full of wicked sinners. He graciously and lovingly gave Christ to be the sacrifice for His wicked enemies who were unable to even draw near to Him. He did this so that we are now able to have fellowship with God and adoption as His children. This is the message of the Gospel. Romans 5:8-9 tells us, “But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners (wicked), Christ died for us. How much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, will we be saved through Christ from God’s wrath.” Jesus bore eternities worth of terrible divine hatred and wrath for a multitude of miserable and undeserving sinners on the cross, so that His Church could be declared absolutely righteous and innocent in the sight of our amazing God.
How Does This Encourage Believers?
I pray we would be overwhelmingly grateful for the steadfast love and mercy that He has shown to us in light of His wrath. I pray that we would be deeply moved to urgently try and reach the lost. My hope is that this article and my final thoughts below encourage you to study the Word of God in a way that draws you into a deeper understanding of who God is and anchors you a little bit more in the nature of God. God will come and make right all the injustices that persist in the world. God does not delight in injustice. He righteously abhors injustice because it perverts the world that He has created to be perfect. There will come a time that God comes to mercilessly and vengefully destroy what is wicked because of His high standards of justice. Our knowledge of His love and wrath should motivate us to evangelize. Due to God’s high standard of justice, He will destroy even the wicked people. This should compel us to evangelize to the lost because God loved us first, before we could ever love Him, and we need to urgently share this love with others. I would encourage you to study the Word of God and ask that God will grant you the wisdom to understand the text and that you will grow deeper in your knowledge of Him. Don’t be afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects. As long as you have studied the content, the Holy Spirit will lead a conversation so that it is glorifying to the Father. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgement.” As Christians, we are able to speak boldly about the Gospel because God has given us a spirit of power.
Photo by Jake Maddox