By Spencer D Gear
Surely the God of love would not be so loathsome that he would demonstrate hate towards anyone?
Yet we have these statements about God:
‘And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”’ (Isaiah 6:3 NIV).
‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love’ (1 John 4:8 NIV, emphasis added).
‘But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts’ (Isaiah 5:16 NIV).
But there is another side to God’s actions:
‘There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him’ (Proverbs 6:16 NIV, emphasis added).
‘Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”’ (Rom 9:13 NIV).
‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Romans 1:18 NIV).
‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46 NIV).
How is it that the God, whose essence is holiness, love and righteousness/justice, can hate, be angry, and send people to eternal punishment? Norman Geisler provides this helpful insight:
God is not only merciful to the repentant, but He is also wrathful upon the unrepentant. These actions are not incompatible, since they are exercised on different objects.
The definition of God’s wrath
A number of Hebrew words are translated as ‘wrath.’ Charown (Ex. 15:7) means ‘burning anger,’ ‘fury.’ Aph (Ex. 22:24) means ‘ire,’ ‘wrath.’ Ebrah (Num. 11:33) depicts outbursts of passion, anger, or rage. Chemah (Ps. 59:13) literally means ‘heat’ and, figuratively, ‘anger.’ Qetreph (2 Chron. 19:2) speaks of a rage.
The New Testament word for ‘wrath’ is orge. It carries the meaning of ‘strong desire,’ ‘violent passion,’ and ‘ire’ (see Eph. 2:3; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rev. 6:16). As applied to God, wrath means His anger at and hatred of sin, His righteous indignation at all evil, and His jealous execution of judgment on unrighteousness. However, wrath, while rooted in God’s essential nature as just, is not an attribute, but an act that flows from His unchanging righteousness (Geisler2003:396-397).
The answer is fundamental: The God whose essential essence is holiness, love and righteousness, cannot tolerate sin in his presence. To those who repent, God demonstrates his mercy. But for those who are unrepentant, they can expect God’s wrath as a manifestation of his hatred of sin.
God’s wrath is a manifestation of his essence of holiness and righteousness/justice. ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you’ (Psalm 89:14 NIV).
God’s wrath against evil has its foundation in His essence/nature of unchanging righteousness. So the wrath or hatred of God against sin is not God’s essential nature but flows from God’s immutable (unchanging) righteousness.
C S Lewis put it well:
‘God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we must need a nd the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger -according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way’ (Mere Christianity, chapter 5, ‘We have cause to be uneasy‘).
What a sad day it will be for those who reject the One who makes imputed righteousness possible through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice!
Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.
 This is citing Malachi 1:2-3.
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.