The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
God Is Not Willing
There is a lot to say about the severity of the Lord. When Adam and Eve disobeyed Him by eating the forbidden fruit, He cast them out of paradise. During the days of Noah, He sent a worldwide flood that killed untold thousands if not millions of people. In the final days of the Hebrews bondage, the nation of Egypt suffered greatly by the hand of the Lord as he brought pestilence and death upon the nation. During the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites, thousands of people died by the judgement of God. The conquest of Canaan was marked by the annihilation of the many groups of people that possessed the land. Through the history of the Jews from the kingdom united to the dark days of rebellion, God’s wrath was poured out like a hot iron. The early church witnessed the severity of the Lord when Ananias and Sapphira were struck down and then later Herod the king. There is a powerful case to be made for the wrathful hand of the Lord upon man.
The Bible establishes the jealous character of the Lord God. There is no question about this. Many people reject the nature of God’s wrath accepting only that He is a God of love and goodness. They deny there is an eternal punishment believing a loving Creator could not bring such harsh punishment upon them. The failure of man has been to rationalize the nature of God by human terms instead of divine justice. For every story cited in scripture of the wrath of God is the knowledge that He was not willing to carry out the judgment of His wrath. It was not His purpose to create man just so that He could destroy him. Everything God does is right – everything. There is nothing that He has done that is not according to truth, righteousness and holiness. Destroying the world in the days of Noah saving only eight was the pure righteous character of God. The critics of God fail miserably to see the longsuffering of His judgment allowed man more than enough time to change his mind and repent. Man refused – God punished.
God’s eternal nature is He will keep His promises. His word is truth and when men reject His word, the Lord allows time for man to see the error of his way and change his heart. Eve knew the penalty for disobedience. She had been amply warned of the consequence of disobedience. She ignored it and ate of the forbidden fruit. It did not come as a surprise when the punishment came. Unlike the nature of man, God will keep His promises to punish those who do not obey Him. What is amazing about the Lord is His longsuffering. It is incredible the length He allows man to continue before bringing judgment. There has never been a time when the punishment of God did not fit the crime and the final judgment was not measured by grace and mercy. Why were only eight souls saved in the days of Noah? Everyone save eight turned away from God’s grace and mercy contained in His longsuffering.
The beauty of the God we serve is He has no desire to punish man. It was not His will to destroy the creation He formed from dust. There is a place prepared for eternal destruction but it was not prepared for man – it was created for Satan. Because of the rebellion of man, hell will be filled with all those who disobey the Lord God. He will keep His promise; His longsuffering will end; it will not be His desire to punish man; but the Lord God will cast those who disobey Him into eternal fire. The greatest sadness of this story is that God is not willing that any should perish and gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him would not perish. And man marches boldly to perdition because he has refused the grace, mercy and longsuffering of a loving God. How sad. How tragic. God loves us so much.
The work of divine justice always presupposes the work of mercy; and is founded thereon. (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, 214, 1272)