Q&A: Does God Love Everbody #2

Does God Love Everbody #2

Question

If God loves everyone, why does he destroy evil societies? If he doesn't love the ones he destroys, what is the line between being loved and not being loved? Does he love those who have been condemned to hell? Is there any sense in which God loves Satan as part of his creation?

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Answer

The Bible indicates that there are various senses in which God loves everyone. As I mentioned in Does God Love Everyone? (see link below) he has one type of love for all humanity, another type of love for his covenant people, and another kind of love for the elect. Associated with his love for all humanity is a general love for his creation.

But it is important to recognize that this is not all that the Bible says about God's emotions toward these different groups. This is why I prefer to say that "there is a sense" in which God loves this or that person. The fact is that for the non-elect, there is also a sense in which God does not love them — even a sense in which he hates them (Lev. 20:23; 26:30; 1 Sam. 2:30; Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5; 106:40; Prov. 6:16-19; Mal. 1:3 // Rom. 9:13), and teaches us to do the same (Ps. 31:6; 119:113; 139:21-22).

As far as a line between love and hate goes, it may be more helpful to think of love and hate as two related but separate concepts. In the vocabulary of Scripture, the two are not always mutually exclusive. There are some that God both loves and hates (albeit in different senses) at the same time. For instance, he can love wicked people by showing common grace (Matt. 5:45) at the same time that he hates the same people because of their sin. In such a case, his love consists of feelings like patience, forbearance and benevolence. By contrast, his hatred consists of things like anger, indignation and a desire for justice. It is certainly the case that the greater God's love is for certain people, the less he hates them. And it is also the case that the more he hates them the less he loves them. But it is still possible for him both to hate and to love at the same time.

It is also important to remember that many aspects of God's love are only temporary. For example, things like his patience, forbearance and benevolence toward the wicked will eventually end when he judges them and condemns them to hell. At that time, his patience and forbearance will have "run out," so to speak. And his benevolence will be withdrawn.

This can also happen on a lesser scale in the course of an individual's life. For instance, God withdrew his love from King Saul when he turned over the kingdom to David (1 Chron. 17:13). God did not cease to love Saul in all ways; he still showed him patience, mercy, benevolence, and so on in varying degrees. But his anger is displeasure with Saul really did reduce his love for the man.

So, when God destroys the wicked, as he did in Israel's holy wars, it is reasonable to say that God's love has been withdrawn from these people in an important sense. Of course, he still might love some of them in some other senses. For instance, it is possible that there were elect infants among the babies destroyed by Israel's army. I'm not suggesting that this actually was the case, but it is certainly a possibility. But it is more consistent to characterize his overall stance toward them as one of hatred rather than of love.

When God condemns people to hell, I think it is safe to say that his love is entirely withdrawn from them. He no longer harbors any love for them, and feels intense hatred for them, leading him to condemn and punish them.

With regard to Satan, there is a sense in which God's patience toward him might be counted as a form of mercy. When he shows this type of patience toward human beings, Scripture refers to this as love. However, it does not tend to do so with Satan. I am hesitant to suggest that his patience toward Satan should be perceived as a form of love because (1) the Bible doesn't talk about it this way; and (2) it does not really benefit Satan in any way. Yes, there is a general sense in which God loves everything he has created. But when he renders irrevocable judgment on creatures that rebel against him, as he has done with Satan, that love is withdrawn.

Does that help at all?

Ra McLaughlin

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.