I recently taught a lesson at the Pensacola County Jail and Santa Rosa Correctional Institution on the love of God. God’s love tends to “trip up” both believers and unbeliever’s alike. Here is a question I am often asked, ” How can a loving God send a sinner to Hell?” The simple answer is that the love of God has nothing to do with a sinner going to hell, but the law of God does. Let me explain.
Does God love sinful man? Yes, of course. When did His love for man begin? Does God love sinners only at Calvary as some say? No, God’s love for man began long before Calvary.
Jesus Himself said (before Calvary) in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son…” Going further back in time, Isaiah prophecies in Isaiah 9:6 ” For unto us a son is born, unto us son is given: …” Even further back in time we read in Genesis 3:15 that God promised a seed that will “bruise” the head of the serpent. Ultimately, the Bible shows that God’s love for man “commendeth” at Calvary (Romans 5:8) was in God’s plan “from the foundation of the world.”(Revelation 13:8)
So how does one reconcile the “love of God” and the “wrath of God” towards man? Jesus said in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Can God love man and have wrath toward him at the same time? The answer is found in Genesis 22.
The first time the word “love” is used in the scripture is in Genesis 22. In this chapter, Abraham is commanded to offer up his son Issac as a burnt sacrifice . Genesis 22 is an illustration of the substitutionary atonement for sinners: Abraham is God, Isaac is the sinner, and the ram is Christ. The burden of sin is represented by the wood. The fiery altar prepared for Isaac is a picture of the sinner dying and going to hell.
Note that in this story Abraham loves his son yet wields a knife ready to kill him. Why? Because of the commandment (in type the law). So, illustrated perfectly, we have the “sinner” (Isaac) under the wrath of God (Abraham) and the love of God (Abraham) at the same time.
The only way for Isaac to get out from under “the wrath” of Abraham is for the BOTH of them to use the ram as a substitute. Therefore it is the ram that dies, and in figure, goes to hell and it is Isaac that goes free! So too, every sinner is under the wrath of God AND the love of God until he receives Jesus Christ “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8) as his “personal substitute/ savior”! Here is the illustration: How can one who is burdened with sin escape hell? Accept the substitute and put it in your place!.
So, here is the conclusion, it is not a loving God that sends the sinner to hell, but the sin of the sinner condemned by the law. My students in prison understand this well. An impartial judge sends people to jail because of the law, not whether or not he likes them!
Below is my outline that I hand out to my students:
Herein Is Love!
1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Herein is love …
– God loves us not because we love Him
– God loves because He is love (1 John 4:8)
– God showed his love by sending his Son to die for our sins
Herein is love, not that we loved God,
– Deuteronomy 6:4-6
– Exodus 20:3
– Jeremiah 17:9
– James 2:10
– James 4:17
– Romans 3:23
but that he loved us,
– Romans 5:8
– Romans 6:23
– John 3:16-17
– 1 John 4:19
and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
– Galatians 4:4-5
– Colossians 1:14
– Hebrews 9:12-14
– 1 John 3:1-2
– Hebrews 9:12-14