In Part 1, I wrote about examples from the Old Testament which at the very least call into question whether God loves everyone. Now let’s look at some passages from the New Testament that do the same.
In Matthew 23, the Lord Jesus Himself spoke very strong words of condemnation against the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. Verse 15 is particularly striking: “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.” A caveat: we know that this did not apply to every one of them; Nicodemus (see John 3) appears to be a notable exception.
In 2 Peter Chapter 2 and Jude verses 3-16, the Lord tells us what will happen to false teachers and godless men, respectively. I recommend that you read these passages in their entirety, but here is what 2 Peter 2:14 says: “With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed–an accursed brood!” Here is what Jude says in verse 13: “They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”
I find it difficult, if not impossible, to read verses like these and believe that God loves everyone. However, I think it’s important to address two verses that might seem to indicate the opposite. John 3:16, for example, is one of the best-known verses in all of Scripture: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” This indicates that the Lord loves the human race collectively, particularly if you read the next four verses of that chapter, where Jesus speaks of evil people who are condemned already. 2 Peter 3:9 is another verse which I have heard and read many times in support of the idea that God loves everyone, but let’s look at both verses 8 and 9 for the context: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” That last sentence, in particular, is commonly understood to mean that God wants every single member of the human race to repent, but is that really what it means? Notice the word “you;” who does it refer to? Look again at verse 8, and the answer is clear: “dear friends.” Who are the dear friends? Look at the first verse of the book of 2 Peter, where Peter states who he is addressing his letter to: “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.” In other words, the Lord doesn’t want any of His people to perish, but instead wants all of them to come to repentance. And indeed, all of them will.
It’s probably obvious by now what my answer to the question posed in the title of this post is. So, if God doesn’t love everyone, who does He love? His people; in other words, all believers from the beginning of creation until Jesus returns. I have no doubt that some will ask, “So what? Why is this important? Aren’t you just stirring up controversy for no good reason?” If you believe that God loves everyone, let’s take this belief to its logical conclusion: either God stops loving unbelievers at some point, or He never stops, even after they’re in hell. The ultimate extension of this logic is that everyone, eventually, will end up in heaven, and that hell will be empty. Does this sound familiar? In Part 1 of this post, I mentioned the book Love Wins by Rob Bell. He is a universalist, meaning that yes, he believes that everyone will be saved eventually. That is not only wrong; it is eternally dangerous because ultimately, it doesn’t matter, then, whether you repent and trust Jesus for your salvation in this life or not. You will still end up in heaven at some point in eternity, even if you don’t start there.
I’m not saying that everyone who believes that God loves everyone thinks this way. However, Rob Bell does, and we see the result. Let’s make sure that we understand the potential eternal danger of such a belief as we are telling others about the Lord.
(For a more complete, nuanced view of God’s three types of love as described by some theologians, see https://keithpetersenblog.com/2020/07/29/three-types-of-divine-love/.)