The Bible, of course, if it is considered at all by people in general, is, in their opinion, divided into the Old Testament which tells of a fierce tribal god, seeking to harshly condemn the slightest misdemeanor and stone unfortunate people to death. And the New Testament that tells the story of a good man Jesus Christ who lived ahead of his time, and like so many reformers throughout history, came to a sticky end.
With regard to the Old Testament, if people would put their prejudices aside and read it through carefully, taking into account the cultures and lifestyles of those far off days, they would come to the conclusion that God, rather than delighting in punishment, was exceptionally tolerant; responding to every provocation, and there were many, with forgiveness and restoration.
The Bible makes it very clear that God is Holy, and so utterly good and perfect as to be completely beyond our conception, and that, by his very nature, he cannot tolerate anything imperfect to come into his presence. This is our Maker and the God with whom we have to do! He is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, the origin and Creator of all things
The Bible says - “Let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12: 28 & 29. And again - “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” – Hebrews 10: 31
Moses, a very good and righteous man, very daringly asked to see God’s glory and I quote the incident at length from the Bible – “And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name. Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no – one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” Exodus 33: 17 to 23.
Most of us prefer what is ‘good’ rather than what is ‘bad’, but, believe me, the ‘goodness’ of God is way beyond our conception, because even the best of us are evil, in comparison with Almighty God, and so, because of his great love he has to protects us from himself, as he did with Moses.
Nevertheless, God in his great love and mercy invites you, as you read this very article, to put your trust in his Son Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for your sins and so be saved and rejoice in the love of God for eternity.
Then, of course, there is the question of hell. If it is spoken of at all there is an immediate hostile reaction, “How could a God of love consign any one to such a place.” But let me assure you that God can and God will!
And further the apostle Peter tells that - “He (God) is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” – 2 Peter 3: 9.
However, the Bible clearly speaks of hell. Even though it is virtually never referred to in the Old Testament, and in the epistles very little, and often only indirectly, the one exception being the book of Revelation. It is in the gospels that we are told clearly about hell, and warned against it; and it is Jesus himself who speaks of it.
These are his own words - Anyone who says to his brother ‘Raca’ (an Aramaic term of contempt) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool” will be in danger of the fire of hell – Mathew 5: 22
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell – Mathew 10: 28. Jesus, further on, refers again to the hand and the eye.
He says – Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands and two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell – Jesus spoke sternly and warned the religious Pharisees and teachers of the law of his day – Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are – Mathew 23: 15. “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? – Matthew 23: 33
He spoke too of Gehenna, a valley near Jerusalem, where the rubbish of the city was tipped and the dead bodies of criminals were thrown, and big and loathsome worms and maggots crawled about; and he likened it to hell – “Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”– Mark 9: 48
Jesus warns us of Judgment and hell because he loves us and he died for us on the cross of Calvary because it is not the will of God that any human being should be condemned to hell. But God’s love is a true love and not the world’s version, which often really means mere indulgence and any true and loving correction is looked upon as oppression . How many ill adjusted adults are the result of parents shrugging their shoulders at their children’s misdemeanors, because to correct them would be lacking in love, and, in any case, would require too much patience and perseverance. And if, as young adults, they finally go completely out of control they are often disowned.
God is not at all like that! He will certainly not coerce, but he will never cease to warn; as did the prophets of old and the apostles of the New Testament. And throughout the history of the church those who have been faithful have continued to warn, only to be marked down as ‘Hell fire preachers’ and ‘Prophets of doom’.
Why? Because they love to inspire fear, and be as miserable and joyless as they are accounted be (falsely) by the world at large? No: the true reason is that they are constrained by the love of Christ and long for all to share their joy and the certainty of God’s salvation.
Christians often feel like Paul, especially in these days when Christianity is facing more persecution world – wide than at any time since apostolic days; but they wish to be obedient to Christ’s commandment – Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age – Matthew 28: 19 & 20
As an evangelical pastor I invite you rethink the whole question of the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and, putting aside all previous prejudices, read one of the four gospels, can I suggest Matthew or Mark, but, nevertheless, you choose, and I believe that the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart.
Pastor Gordon "Guillermo" Burgess
Facebook: Alicante Church of the Good Shepherd