The New Testament God – All Love and Compassion?

by Jim on 20 October 2011

Yesterday we started to attack this old myth that the "God of the Old Testament" is perpetually grumpy and angry, and that Jesus in the New Testament is all love and compassion.

We read a few sample verses about the love, compassion, kindness, and faithfulness of God in the OT.

Now we’re going in the opposite direction – is there any wrath in the NT?  Yes – in fact, it could be argued that the wrath in the OT pales next to this…

(Again, remember that these all have a context of their own.  The point is not that there is no love in the NT – even in the passages below – but that there is love and wrath in both the OT and NT.)

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41-42)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:29-33)

But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48-51)

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-3)

‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ (Luke 19:26-27)

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

(So far, these are all the words of Jesus Himself.  Often He used parables to explain God’s dealings with people, and many of the above quotes come from His parables.)

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1Thessalonians 5:2-3)

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might… (2Thessalonians 1:5-9)

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2Peter 3:7)

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:15-17)

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name." (Revelation 14:9-11)

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God."  So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. (Revelation 16:1-2)

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!  The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war … He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God … From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.  He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (Revelation 19:11-15)

Notice, by the way, that many of these passages are either quotes from Jesus, or they’re talking about Jesus.

Now, we can discuss what these passages mean and how they fit into the rest of Scripture.  And you might like it, or you might not.  But please, can we set aside this silly notion that the OT is all anger and wrath, and the NT is all love and compassion?  God’s attributes are complex and interwoven throughout Scripture.

And He’s the same God that He always has been, whatever we may think.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

fiona November 4, 2012 at 11:45 am

Hello there from england- I hope you are all well over there!
I was reading revelation 14 yesterday and it bothered me that it said people would be tormented ‘in the presence of the Holy angels and the Lamb’ because i always thought it was the devil who did the punishing and that God didnt WANT to punish us…. can you help me with this ?

Are you working as missionaries out there ?
Thankyou for your time,
Fiona x

Jim November 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Hi Fiona,

That’s an excellent question. Thanks for asking!

Revelation 14 says that whoever worships the beast and its image will experience God’s wrath forever – in the presence of the Lamb and the Holy angels (Revelation 14:9-11). We know from Revelation 20:10 that the devil himself will also be thrown into the lake of fire. And Revelation 20:15 tells us that anyone whose name is not in the Book of Life will also be thrown into the lake of fire.

The devil doesn’t punish us for our sin – he wants us to sin! As we can see in Revelation, the devil is punished along with anyone who does not have their name in the Book of Life.

It is God that we offend when we sin. He is perfectly holy, and He hates sin. That’s why Revelation talks about the wrath of God. Romans 1:18 says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

Because of our sin, God could rightly condemn us all. Instead, He makes an offer – if we repent of our sin and put our faith in Jesus to save us, we can be forgiven.

The Holy Trinity had a plan – that Jesus would voluntarily come to live a perfect life, and then bear the punishment for the sin of His people. That way, God could still be holy and just by punishing sin, and at the same time show His love and mercy. Justice and Mercy meet in Jesus, at the cross. (Romans 3:21-26)

So yes, God is just to punish the wicked. And at the same time, He is loving and merciful to offer them (us!) a way to be saved from that just punishment. Through faith we can be safely “hidden” in Christ.

Revelation 21:3-4: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

—————-

And in answer to your last question, yes, we are missionaries here. 🙂 We had the pleasure of visiting England last year. We would love to come again!

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