How Does God View Unrepentant Sinners?

I have, for some time, wondered how God views the unrepentant world. Some say that God loves everyone and that Christ died for everyone in the same way. Others say that God in some sense loves the whole world, but when Christ died, he died with view towards the elect and the application of the main benefits (forgiveness, faith, justification, sanctification, etc.) were only upon the elect. For myself, though I agree with the latter position, none-the-less, I often have wondered how God can say such difficult things about the unrepentant world and yet in other places seem to have compassion on them and desire them to repent from their sins. In my recent readings of Jonathan Edwards “The End For Which God Created The World”, this question has been cleared up for me in an indirect way.

Edwards is discussing how God’s delight in redeemed creatures who bear his image is in its end God delighting in himself. This is the main point of what I have read so far of what Edwards is trying to establish, namely, that then end for which God has created everything is for delighting in himself. (It is not my desire to establish the validity of this argument, for many it may seem selfish of God. But I believe Edwards has so thoroughly proven his point that to see it otherwise would be to dishonor God. If you still disagree, please read his own treatise, be advised, it is quite difficult reading)

What led me to my inquiry is what Edwards says, which follows

“Nor do these things argue any dependence in God on the creature for happiness. Though he has real pleasure in the creature’s holiness and happiness, yet this is not properly any pleasure which he receives from the creature. For these things are what he gives the creature. They are wholly and entirely from him. His rejoicing therein is rather a rejoicing in his own acts, and his own glory expressed in those acts, than a joy derived from the creature. God’s joy is dependent on nothing besides his own act, which he exerts with an absolute and independent power. And yet, in some sense, it can be truly said, that God has the more delight and pleasure for the holiness and happiness of his creatures.”

What follows are my thoughts on this matter of how it relates to the unrepentant world and God’s view and actions towards them.

Because God does not depend on the creature for his happiness, he can send his unrepentant, obstinate creatures to Hell forever. Any pleasure that God receives from a creature is on the sole basis of what he has imparted to the creature (See Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 2:8). Therefore, any creature that has turned from God is now completely at His disposal; they offer him no pleasure because they lack the one thing that God delights in: His Glory (see Romans 3:23 – a literal translation of the word translated “fall short” should be “lack”) It is not as though God has no concern for wicked creatures, that is, that he is indifferent to them. Nor is it that God is pleased in the death of the wicked or to send anyone to hell. Though God is pleased when the wicked are stopped from being able to carry out their evil desires, this does not imply their death is pleasurable to him.

This may seem difficult to reconcile with verses like Revelation 14:9-11 where the smoke of the torment of the wicked goes up continually before Jesus and the holy angels and the wicked are said to be tormented in his presence. I am inclined to take this as a satisfaction that Christ and the holy angels will have in the Justice of God being poured out. Instead of the wicked being let free, as they are now on earth, to carry out their evil desires as they see fit, instead they are met with the full execution of God’s justice. In this way can Christ be said to be full of joy in heaven while the wicked are tormented in his very presence. Yes God does not delight in the death of the wicked, but this does not mean God is not delighted when justice is dealt out. If God did not exercise his justice, then he could not be happy, for this would not be consistent with his character. But more than this, if God did not execute his justice in such a manner, he could not be said to be God, for if he did not deal out his justice then he would take sin not for its fullest offense, which is an infinite offense. It would be a denial of who he is and would mean, it its essence, he ceases to be God.

I say all this because it often feels that God is lugubrious (big word, I know, but it communicates exactly what I intend, click on the link to see what it means) in the death and punishment of the wicked. But this is an unholy notion of God’s disposition towards unrepentant sinners. It is difficult to reconcile compassion and eternal damnation because here on earth we experience continual mercy from God concerning our sin. So, when God’s judgment finally comes, it is commonly met with unremitting resentment that he has not continued to exercise his mercy. But this is quite the opposite to what the common response to the exercise of God’s justice should be. Instead of anger at God in executing his justice, we should stand in totally and utter awe at God in his gracious execution of his mercy, which he is not constrained to exercise like he is his justice. Whereas God must exercise his justice when he is not honored correctly, he is not bound to exercise his mercy or grace. The greatest example of this is in the case of the angels, who did not receive mercy when they fell. And now, the holy angels stand in awe of the gospel because of witnessing the outpouring of God’s mercy on such treacherous creatures as we are.

God is not indifferent to the unredeemed world; he is not malicious nor aloof to them. He genuinely does desire that they would repent of their ways and come to him, and he does not delight in their death (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus’ response to the death of the wicked in Luke 13 was not an indifferent reply of, “So what, they got what they deserved”, but instead a harsh yet compassionate reply, “Repent, or you will also perish in your sins.” Jesus shows the seriousness with which God responds to sin, that is, not consoling people concerning the death of the wicked, but instead referring people to the grace and mercy of God that is found through the repentance of sins, so that you will not likewise perish

The unrepentant world is in the sovereign hand of God. They ultimately will serve the purposes of God and will not thwart any plan that he has designed (Romans 11:32-36) Because they offer him no pleasure, they are as chaff that has fallen from the wheat, whose sole use is for burning – hence, eternal fire in hell. But before God executes his final judgment, he will use them in his sovereign purposes, namely, of “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). God allows them to continue so that he may bring in the full number of the elect in, for who Paul says he endures everything (2 Timothy 2:10); and until this is done, the wicked will continue to multiply on the earth and God will continue to extend his mercy to them – not for the sake of the world itself, but for the sake of God’s redemptive plan of salvation for his elect.

Our role then is to continue in this faith (Colossians 1:21-23), and preach the gospel with all our strength and might so that we may bring as many sons to glory with us as we possibly can – only as the Lord grants (2 Timothy 2:25).


2 thoughts on “How Does God View Unrepentant Sinners?

  1. Nate, I am in full agreement with your post here, and I think you have done well to articulate God’s delight in His glory as it is manifested in the extending of mercy and the execution of justice. However, I would find it very helpful for you to elaborate on the nature of God’s love toward unrepentant sinners, and clarify unrepentant as those who haven’t yet repented or those who will never repent.

  2. I was actually thinking about this today and I am hopefully going to post it in a few days. Thanks for the recommendation though.

Write a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s