A reader sent us the following message:
“[Someone] told me that God loves everyone, no matter what, but I can’t believe that. Now, if God loves everyone, why did He kill everyone in the Flood except for Noah and his family? If God loves everyone, why did He destroy all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire from heaven? If God loves everyone, why does He send people to the Lake of Fire (Eternal Death)? If God loves everyone, then all people would have to be written in the book of life, including Satanists [and] witches. That God loves everyone seems to me to be a widespread myth in Christianity. Romans 9:13 says God hated Esau. And Psalm 5:5 says God hates all workers of iniquity.”
These are important questions. In this new series, we will discuss those and other questions regarding God’s love, and answer whether God loves every human being and whether the Bible speaks of God’s “unconditional” love.
We want to begin with God’s statement that He loved Jacob and hated Esau. We read Paul’s words in Romans 9:9-13:
“For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.’ And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’”
As we will explain, this passage addresses God’s mercy (compare verses 15-16, 18) and the time of our calling (compare again verse 11 and verses 23-26). God calls only very few today to salvation, referring to them as the “firstfruits” (James 1:18; Revelation 14:4); and His calling has nothing to do with our works, but is strictly based on His mercy and grace (compare also Romans 11:32; 1 Peter 2:9-10; see as well Romans 11:5-6). But the timing of God’s election regarding the few does not show a lack of love of God for all of mankind, because, as we will see, everyone will be called to salvation, in his or her due time.
Everyone will get his or her chance to respond to God, but everyone in his or her own order (compare 1 Corinthians 15:23). God has not preordained anyone to eternal death — those who are not called yet are not judged yet — they will be judged later, when their time of calling has come. God most certainly does not hate anyone, “before having done any good or evil” (Romans 9:11).
In Romans 9:13, God explains that He CALLED Jacob, and that He did NOT CALL Esau at that time. We need to understand that God had decided to call or choose for salvation certain ones “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:3-4). We don’t know exactly, and God does not reveal, on what basis He chooses and elects those whom He had preordained, but we know that He does make such an election, as the Bible tells us so.
In calling Jacob, God loved him in a special way, by opening his understanding to His truth, and by ultimately granting him His Holy Spirit. God did not call Esau AT THAT TIME. He WILL call Esau and all of his descendants later — during the Second Resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment period, as we will explain.
By comparison, God “loved” Jacob more than Esau. God’s “love” needs to be understood in light of God’s calling at that time. In not calling someone to repentance and to the understanding of His truth, God “loves” such a person “less” by comparison — at that moment in time — but not forever. God knows that such a person, still cut off from Him, will engage in sinful ways, bringing about automatic penalties.
God’s statement that He loved Jacob and HATED Esau must be understood as saying that God loved Esau LESS BY COMPARISON. We might also note that the Bible itself sometimes describes “hate” as “love less by comparison.”
In Luke 14:26 we read that Christ tells us, “If anyone comes to Me and does not HATE his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” In the parallel passage, in Matthew 10:37, the word “hate” is described as “love less by comparison.” We read, “He who loves his father or mother MORE than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter MORE than Me is not worthy of Me.” In other words, we must love them LESS, by comparison, than Jesus Christ. We are to love the Father and the Son with all our heart and our strength and our mind (compare Matthew 22:37). God must always come first in our lives. At the same time, we are to LOVE — not hate — our neighbor AS ourselves (compare Matthew 22:39). We are not to hate our neighbor, including our own family, nor are we to hate ourselves (but we must hate it when we do something wrong). We are to love them and us LESS than God, though, by comparison.
Another biblical example, where the meaning of “hate” must be understood as “loving less by comparison,” can be seen in Genesis 29:30-31, which states:
“Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years. When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.”
The Margin of the New King James Bible states that the word for “unloved” is literally “hate.” Compare also Deuteronomy 21:15-17 in the Authorized Version.
When God said that He “hated” Esau, by loving him less than Jacob, He was talking about His decision to call Jacob, but not Esau, to salvation at that time. The time for Esau’s and his descendants’ salvation is still coming.
The fact that God WILL call ALL for salvation proves that God loves ALL. But this does not mean that God loves evil doing. When God calls us, He wants us to forsake unrighteousness and love His Way of Life. God HATES it when we sin. Likewise, God hates it when He sees unconverted people sinning, and at times, He might intervene to stop them from doing so, as He did in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah and also at the time of Noah. But as we will see, this does not negate His love for those whom He destroyed, because He will raise them up in a “Second Resurrection” to offer them salvation at that time.
It is important, however, to consider as to WHY God decided at times to intervene and destroy evil people and rotten societies, even though generally speaking, it is Satan and his demons, and not God, who rule this world (compare Luke 4:5-8; John 14:30; Ephesians 2:1-2; 6:12). In the case of Noah’s Flood, please note how the people were described at that time. Genesis 6:5-13 explains:
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’… The earth… was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.’”
The people were so corrupt and violent that God was sorry that He had made them. He felt it was better to destroy them and make a new beginning with righteous Noah, rather than let evil men continue to live with their wickedness and defile perhaps even Noah and his wife and family.
We even read in Genesis 6:1-2 about another abomination at that time:
“Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.”
This passage does in no way address the erroneous concept that righteous or fallen angels cohabited with women. Such conduct would have been impossible at the time of the Flood, nor would it be possible today. This whole idea is in fact a demonic and blasphemous abomination. The sons of God in Genesis 6 were not angels or demons, but male descendants of Seth (the third-born son of Adam and Eve), who sinned when marrying unrighteous female descendants of Cain (Cain was Adam and Eve’s unrighteous first-born son who had murdered his righteous brother Abel). For extensive proof, please read Part 5 of our free booklet, “Heavens and Earth… Before and After the First Man!”
Clearly, Satan and his demons were behind these events, in that they influenced the descendants of Seth to marry the unrighteous descendants of Cain. This ungodly behavior by Seth’s descendants, apparently even with the use of violent conduct (“they TOOK wives for themselves of all whom THEY CHOSE”), was another reason why God decided to make an end to that evil generation. Seth’s “righteous” descendants had become “unrighteous” themselves by marrying unrighteous descendants of evil and wicked Cain. Sinful rotten conduct had been adopted by just about everyone. But God knew of course that He would resurrect all of those whom He would destroy in the Flood to physical life again in the “Second Resurrection.”
But even during these terrible times, God granted people the opportunity to repent. While Noah built the ark and before God brought “in the flood on the world of the ungodly,” Noah warned the people of impending destruction, being called a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5).
In addition, we are told in 1 Peter 3:19–20 that Christ “went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (Authorized Version). Some claim that Christ went to “hell” to preach to the spirits of the “departed ones” or to imprisoned demons while He was in the grave for three days and three nights. This is utter nonsense. Rather, the correct understanding of this passage is that Jesus Christ preached to the spirits in prison—the demons—at the time of Noah, when God suffered long or “when the longsuffering of God waited patiently” (Margin of New King James Bible) and when He was about to protect Noah from destruction. Christ used this example to show that the demons who had sinned “some time”—before the creation of man—were still awaiting their judgment.
Turning to the destruction of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, their evil way had to be ended right there and then in the eyes of God, as even righteous Lot had already been defiled to an extent, and his wife and his sons-in-law had no desire to flee from that evil environment. We read God’s words about Sodom’s depravity in Genesis 18:20-21: “And the LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’”
As it turned out, not even ten righteous people could be found in Sodom. We read in Genesis 19:4-9:
“Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.’ So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, ‘Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly!… And they said, ‘Stand back!’ Then they said, ‘This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.”
The angels who lodged in Lot’s house helped him, and God’s judgment is revealed in Genesis 19:13-15: “‘For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.’… When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, ‘Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.’”
Homosexual practice, combined with violent behavior, was clearly part of the reason why God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, “making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6; compare also Jude 7), but more was involved. We read in Ezekiel 16:48-50:
“‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.’”
But as in the case of the people who died in Noah’s Flood, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will also be brought back to life in the Second Resurrection or the Great White Throne Judgment period when they will be offered, as we will explain, an opportunity to receive salvation. Christ said in Matthew 10:15 that in comparison to the cities who rejected Christ’s apostles at the time of Jesus’ first coming, “it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” [Compare also Luke 10:12.] He also said in Matthew 11:23-24: “… if the mighty works which were done in [Capernaum] had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
The fact that God will resurrect the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to offer them salvation shows that He does not hate them, but that He loves them, even though He clearly hated their terrible ungodly conduct.
Sometimes, Scriptures may suggest that God does not only hate the sin, but also the sinner. For instance, we read in Psalm 5:4-6:
“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”
Psalm 11:5-6 states: “… the wicked and the one who loves violence His [the LORD’s] soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind Shall be the portion of their cup.”
Furthermore, Psalm 7:11 states: “God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.”
But correctly understood, God is angry with and hates the wicked behavior of the sinner. We read in Psalm 45:7 about Jesus Christ: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness…” When biblical passages say that God hates the workers of iniquity and the wicked persons, then the sin or wickedness is “personified.” Such usage of words is not uncommon in the Bible (compare Romans 7:8, 11, 17). But as we have seen, God loves the sinner (but not his sinful way, nor does He love what he is doing) and because of His love for him, He is willing to give him the opportunity to repent and submit to and love Him.
This becomes very clear when we discuss the doctrine of the Second Resurrection.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link