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Allow Me to Explain (23 of 439)

June 9, 2011

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23. Does God want some to go to hell? 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 vs. Proverbs 16:4, John 12:40, Romans 9:18 and 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Well at least it’s getting interesting.

1 Timothy 2:3-4
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Proverbs 16:4
The Lord has made all for Himself,
Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.

John 12:40
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, 
Lest they should see with their eyes, 
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, 
So that I should heal them.”

Romans 9:18
Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Kinda tricky, but look again: those verses don’t contradict at all. The first two answer the question: No. None of the later four verses say anything about what God wants. They describe what He does, but not what He ultimately desires.

But we’ll humor the conversation anyway. The real question, then, is, “If God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell, what’s up with these other four verses?” So let’s look at those. 

Proverbs 16:4
God’s got a plan. People ask why God allows evil in the world, but we don’t want to talk about the day He steps in to stop it. Young’s Literal Translation transcribes this verse,

All things hath Jehovah wrought for Himself, And also the wicked [worketh] for a day of evil.

“… has made …” is paal in Hebrew (Strong’s 6466). Literally, the verb means, “do” or “make,” and is most often translated into some form of the verb, “work.”

God made people, He is the author of life, but He does not make us evil. We make ourselves evil. He patiently endures with us, desiring and willing for us to repent and be saved, but if we refuse He will use us for His glory still: He will demonstrate His perfect judgment and justice on us.

John 12:40
God’s got a plan. I’m sensing a theme.

John quotes Isaiah 6:9-10. In Isaiah 6, the prophet sees God and receives a commission. The nation of Israel, in Isaiah’s time, was deserving of judgment and God needed to bring it. The prophesy was as much – if not more – descriptive as prescriptive. God knew they wouldn’t repent, so He put it on the record in Isaiah and judgment came.

In John, God still has a plan for judgment. Jesus needs to go to the cross. It’s been the redemptive plan since before history began, but if all the nation of Israel believes on Him, they surely won’t crucify Him. We kind of need them to crucify Him. The application is more communal than individual. Clarke’s Commentary agrees:

… refers more to the judgments that should fall upon them as a nation, which God was determined should not be averted, than it does to their eternal state. To suppose that the text meant that God was unwilling that they should turn unto him, lest he should be obliged to save them, is an insupportable blasphemy.

Besides, if we read on, we find that some of the audience in John 12 does believe, so we’re not talking about individual redemption, here.

John 12:42,

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;

Romans 9:18
Verse 18 is a conclusion of the preceding quotes from the Old Testament. Paul references Exodus 33:19 first, and then Exodus 9:16. Then, Paul anticipates The Contradictions Poster when he writes,

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”

Pauls’ answer? “Who do you think you are to question Him?” He goes on to suggest, concurrent to John 12:40, that God reserves those who insist on hardening their hearts, so that He can demonstrate, “the riches of His glory” to those who say Yes to Him.

But verse 18 says it’s God who hardens hearts, I know. God hardens hearts that are already against Him, to use for His purposes. The reference – Exodus 9:16 – is Pharaoh. The People’s New Testament notes,

What must not be forgotten, and what appears distinctly, from the whole narrative in Exodus, is that Pharaoh’s hardening was at first his own act. Five times it is said of him that he himself hardened, or made heavy his heart (Ex 7:13 7:22 8:15 8:32 9:7), before the time when it is at last said that God hardened him (Ex 9:12), and even after that it is said that he hardened himself (Ex 9:34).

He still seems to have a master plan going on.

2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
Same story.

2 Thessalonians 2 is talking about the last days of this age, before Jesus comes back and everything changes. In the narrative, we’re in the thick of it: the Antichrist has risen to power, and people have chosen sides. Verse 10 says,

… they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

There is a “Time’s Up” coming. Scripture says that God’s Spirit will not strive with us forever. There will be a day when He does come back, when He does judge, when Game Over flashes across the proverbial screen and we will each answer for the decisions we’ve made. He is love and He is perfectly merciful, but He’s also perfectly just and when that day comes we’ll all understand – like it or not.

He doesn’t want anyone to reject His love and His mercy, but people will. I heard a preacher once say that sin is a form of intercession, because if we persist God will give us what we ask for.

Short answer: No.

But neither does He want involuntary obedience or affection.

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