How can God’s unconditional love for all be seen to be in harmony with His hatred?
(The following is an excerpt from the book, The Triumph of Mercy)
The Church of the Dark Ages, with the exception of a few dissenters, lost sight of the Scriptural revelation of God as a God of Love. The fear of a vindictive, hateful god ruled the day. The masses were fed a steady diet of sermons picturing God as an angry vengeful god who must be placated by sacrifices and offerings to the Church. Graphic paintings and dramatizations of Dante’s hell served the Church well to fill the coffers and maintain the masses in fearful subjection.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, as a young man was tormented the by fear of a hateful vindictive God and the torments of hell. While riding horseback he was almost struck by lightning, and understanding it to be a manifestation of the wrath of God, he swore he would become a monk. However, in spite of all his sacrifices and disciplined life, he always felt unworthy and fearful of God and an eternal flaming hell.
His transforming revelation came while, as a monk, he was doing penances, going up the steps to a cathedral on his knees. As he was engaged in the exercise of this penance, the truth of Romans 1:17 was enlightened to his understanding: “The just shall live by faith.” He, at that moment, discovered the truth of justification by grace through faith in the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This revelation would set in motion what we know today as the Reformation Movement.
However, in spite of the fact that he had discovered God’s love and forgiveness, he still, in many ways remained fettered by the Augustinian Dark Ages concept of God. Although he had experienced the transforming power of the love of God in his own life; because of his remaining roots in the traditional doctrines of the Church, he still maintained that God hated the majority of mankind. We can observe this in his writings:
“The love and hate of God towards men are immutable and eternal, existing, not merely before there was any merit or work of ‘free-will,’ but before the world was made; [so] all things take place in us of necessity, according as He has from eternity loved or not loved.... Faith and unbelief come to us by no work of our own, but through the love and hatred of God” 
According to Luther, and even some Christians to this very day, God, from eternity and unto all eternity has hatred towards the majority of mankind. And what’s worse, they say that He will never get over it – it is immutable. He will forever hate. Sadly, many Christians are uncompromising in their insistence that God is eternal hate and eternal wrath. They choose to compromise and contradict the love of God in order to protect their image of a hateful, angry God. However, as we have already seen, it is God’s love that never ceases and not His hatred and wrath:
“Love never ends…” (1Cor 13:8 ESV)
“For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made.” (Isa 57:16)
“For the Lord will not cast off forever. 32 Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. 33 For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” (Lam 3:31-33)
God is love. Love never ceases. Love does not willingly cause grief, as hatred does. It is compassionate and only afflicts for the purpose of correction – for removing the evil which is the object of His holy paternal hatred. The Lord will not cast off forever, as would be the case if His hatred were eternal and directed against the individual and not against the sin.
God is love and therefore does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Because He is love He will not always be angry but will bring about reconciliation for all. Note that the children of men and the souls which I have made, refers to all mankind and not just the elect. The Calvinists would say that He will eternally torment the children of men whom He has created, not only willingly, but for His own pleasure. The Westminster Confession of Faith states:
“Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only… The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice (emphasis mine).” 
According to them, God who is love, chose to redeem the elect only. This contradiction of divine character defies imagination. That is why they call it “the unsearchable counsel of His own will.” For the rest (90%), God was pleased to withhold mercy, reserving them for eternal torture for His own pleasure, and that is said to result in “the praise of His glorious justice.”? This outdoes all the pagan gods such as Zeus, Dagon or Molech. At least they didn’t claim that their gods were love.
I believe, based upon the overall testimony of Scripture, that God is love and therefore does not willingly afflict the children of men. I also firmly believe that we can say, based upon the Scriptures, that God loves the sinner while hating the sin. However, there are those who insist that God does indeed hate the sinner and they also have texts which seem to back up their affirmation. There are three main passages which refer to God’s hatred towards certain individuals. They are the following:
“The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.” (Ps 11:5)
“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” (Prov 6:16-19)
“As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom 9:13, cf. Mal 1:2-3)
How are we to understand these statements in the light of God’s nature as revealed throughout the Scriptures? Here we see clearly declared God’s hatred towards sinners. Hatred, in its strongest sense would be antonymous with love. The two are mutually exclusive. Does God really hate the sinner as we understand hatred? No. We can clearly see in numerous passages that God also loves the sinner. That is what redemption is all about. Paul makes it clear that God loves us even when we are sinners:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8)
For God so loved the world that He gave His Son so that through Him we might have life eternal. To say that God hated us, as we understand hatred, would make it impossible for Him to love us and send His only begotten Son to reconcile us to Himself.
Furthermore, Jesus tells us that we are like our Father in heaven when we love our enemies, instead of hating them:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt 5:43-45)
How are we to reconcile these three passages declaring that God hates the sinner with the abundance of Scriptures that clearly declare God’s love for all? There are two considerations which harmonize these two seemingly antonymous statements: 1) The meaning of the word hate in the original text and 2) The temporary nature of His hatred.
The Hebrew word for hatred in the Old Testament passages is sané. Vines Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words, notes that there are two different senses in which the word is employed:
“Sané represents an emotion ranging from intense ‘hatred’ to the much weaker ‘set against’ and is used of persons and things (including ideas, words, inanimate objects).” 
God’s hatred towards sinners is obviously in the milder sense of being “set against” an individual because of his sin and rebelliousness. Understanding it in this sense, we can readily identify with this emotion even towards our own children when they defy us or misbehave.
With this understanding in mind, let us personalize this hatred, expressing it towards our own children when they are disobedient. Applying the seven things the Lord hates in Proverbs 6 we could say: “I set myself against my child and do not tolerate it when he misbehaves. I will not tolerate it when he looks at me with defiance, when he lies, when he bullies his little brothers and sisters or causes them to fight among themselves, etc.”
If they were children of a stranger, we would actually be less likely to personally intervene in such a way, since they are not our responsibility. Understanding the Hebrew word sané in this sense, we see that it is actually an intervention of love towards another and not pure hatred, which would of itself exclude love. It is the act of setting oneself against someone, opposing them in order to correct their behavior. This is God’s purpose in all of His corrective punishments – He opposes us, setting Himself against us in order to separate us from evil:
“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." (Heb 12:6)
In response to the statement: “God loves the sinner while hating the sin,” traditionalists would say that one cannot separate the sin from the sinner. However. that is precisely what God does in discipline:
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 18 ‘Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; they are all bronze, tin, iron, and lead, in the midst of a furnace; they have become dross from silver. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have all become dross, therefore behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 As men gather silver, bronze, iron, lead, and tin into the midst of a furnace, to blow fire on it, to melt it; so I will gather you in My anger and in My fury, and I will leave you there and melt you. 21 Yes, I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you shall be melted in its midst. 22 As silver is melted in the midst of a furnace, so shall you be melted in its midst; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have poured out My fury on you…. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,’ says the Lord God.” (Ezek 22:17-23,31)
Here we see that God’s hatred and even His wrath against His beloved Israel is in the form of the purifying fires of affliction. God sets Himself against His people and throws them into the fire as silver, bronze or lead. But the furnace of fire is in order to separate the dross or scum from their lives. The end result is that they come forth from the furnace pure and separate from sin. Just as is the case with a loving father disciplining his son, His hatred is actually His love acting against the sin in their lives. The end result is the peaceable fruit of righteousness, as we can see further along in Ezekiel 36:
“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36:24-26)
The end result of God’s opposition towards Israel is that they become cleansed of all their filthiness and are given a new heart. The same could be said concerning his affliction of any of the children of men whom He has created. He does not willingly afflict nor grieve them. What He does, He does only for their own benefit. Therefore, we can see that God’s hatred, correctly defined, refers to God’s dealing with His wayward, rebellious children, and is in no way incompatible with love.
We have also seen from God’s dealings with Israel that it is indeed possible to separate the sinner from the sin. That is the precise purpose for the furnace of fire. Hell is not a place designed for meaningless torment, for God’s pleasure and the praise of His glorious justice, as the traditionalists claim, but is rather a purifying furnace. In His time, His corrective opposition will have done its work in each individual, and the lake of fire, having served its purpose, will cease to exist along with the last enemy, the second death.
This brings us to the second consideration, which reveals that God’s hatred, rightly understood, is not incompatible with His loving nature.
The Temporal Nature of God’s Hatred
It is God’s love that never ceases. We have seen that His anger, wrath and even His abandonment, are temporal and for our correction. He will not cast off forever (Lam 3:31-33). All death – even the second death – the last enemy, will finally be done away with, having served its purpose.
The hatred of God will also cease when sin is finally and eternally separated from the last sinner – when every knee will have bowed, and all will have become subject to Him. There is no such thing as an eternal dualism in the plan of God for the ages. He will not always be angry, eternally lashing 90% of His creatures in an eternal torture chamber, which He was pleased to create for the praise of the glory of His justice. That is an invention of Greek mythology and a hangover from the Dark Ages that has been read into Christian theology, having been inspired by demons.
We can see from Scriptures that God will overcome those He hates by the power of His infinite love. Rather than eternally tormenting His enemies, He reconciles them to himself by the blood of His cross:
“Say to God, ‘how awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power your enemies shall submit themselves to You. 4 All the earth shall worship You and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name’.” (Ps 66:3-4) 
“and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” (Col 1:20)
“Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1Cor 15:28)
Therefore, when all, having been reconciled to God through His own blood shed upon the cross, become subjected to Christ, Christ will then subject Himself to the Father and from that point on God shall eternally be all in all. All His anger, hatred and wrath, which were His holy loving nature acting against sin, will no longer have an environment in which to manifest. We, however, will retain the knowledge of His hatred of evil – something that Adam and Eve had no comprehension of.
Also, His grace, mercy, compassion and longsuffering will cease to manifest, since the only environment in which they could become evident was in the context of man’s fall and his sinful condition. Our comprehension of good and evil with its awful consequences, followed by God’s grace and mercy, made freely available by His sacrifice of love on the cross, will be retained in our hearts as an invaluable and eternal treasure of the experiential knowledge of God’s love – something Adam and Eve in their primitive state of innocence had no way of imagining.
Entering into the eternal state, when God shall be all in all, we will finally understand the manifold wisdom of God in creation. We will understand why He created Satan, why he set before man the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, knowing beforehand that they would fall. We will also see before us the Lamb of God, slain from before the foundation of the world for the reconciliation of all creation; the calling out of an elect people to be a first fruits of His new creation in Christ - the preordained Last Adam. We will also see how we, the Church, the assembly of the elect, were chosen as ambassadors of reconciliation for the rest of creation. We will finally see the last knee bow in humble loving submission to Christ, at which time Christ will deliver all to the Father and then, for all eternity, God will be all in all.
All found their origin in Him (Col 1:16 lit. “in Him”), they exist by Him, and they will finally return to Him and He will then be all in all. “For of (ek) Him and through (dia) Him and to (eis) Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:36).
The Relative Nature of Godly Hatred
We further see that the hatred we are told by Jesus we must have in order to be His disciples, is not absolute in the sense that we as sinners often manifest hatred towards God and our fellow man. The people Jesus commands us to hate are the very ones we are elsewhere commanded to love:
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
We are commanded to love and honor our parents (Matt 19:19; Eph 6:2). We are to love our wives even as Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25). We are to exercise brotherly love, loving our neighbors as ourselves (Rom 12:10). If we were to understand hate in its absolute sense, as do our traditional brethren, then we would be confronted with a blatant contradiction.
However, Matthew’s account interprets what Jesus meant when He told us we must hate others in order to be His disciples:
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matt 10:37)
Matthew’s rendering of Jesus’ words should make it very clear what He meant by hate. When we love someone with all our hearts, our lives revolve around that person, and all we want to do is please him. It is good and right that we should love our parents, our mates, our children and brothers. It is even right that we should love ourselves in the way that God loves us. However, our first love is to be reserved for God as we also see commanded by Jesus:
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Here we see that our love for our fellow man is commanded, but it must be subordinate to our first love – our love for God. Therefore, when someone we love would have us do something against the One we love the most, we must set ourselves against that individual, even though we love them as well, in order to do the will of God - our first love. Here again we see the word hate used in the sense of “setting oneself against” the individual who would impose his will upon us in opposition to the will of God.
We also see the same idea expressed concerning God’s hatred towards Esau:
“As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom 9:13, cf. Mal 1:2-3)
Paul explains that God’s hatred was not based upon something Esau had done during his lifetime, but rather was solely based upon His sovereign election (Rom 9:11). He chose Jacob over Esau before they had even been born in order that they both might fulfill a specific purpose. Just as He hardened Pharaoh in order to fulfill a specific temporal purpose in His plan for Israel, God chose Jacob over Esau.
However, election is not to the eternal exclusion of the non-elect, but rather they are chosen to be light for the reconciliation of the rest of creation. Paul, in response to those who would question the Lord’s justice in choosing some and passing over others, says that God, in the outworking of His own purposes, has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens (Rom 9:18). However, we see that, in the overall plan of God for the ages, He has determined to finally have mercy on all without exception:
“For God has committed them  all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all…. 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:32,36) 
We can also see that the hatred that the Lord showed to Esau, preferring Isaac, is not different in nature from the hatred Jesus said we must have towards those we are also commanded to love. It is evident that Esau was also loved and favored, even though, temporally speaking, not to the degree Jacob was. We see God’s favor and love for Esau demonstrated when the time came for Israel, Jacobs’s descendants, to enter the land of Canaan:
“And the Lord spoke to me, saying: 3 ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward. 4 And command the people, saying, ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. 5 Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.” (Deut 2:2-5)
Obviously, if God had hated Esau in a sinful way as mankind often does, He wouldn’t have given him any possession as an inheritance. Therefore, God’s hatred must be understood in the light of His eternal nature. God is love. All that He does is ultimately rooted and grounded in His love. His hatred, anger, wrath and even rejection are His loving response against all evil within us, disciplining us and even casting some in the lake of fire, in order that all may ultimately partake of the peaceable fruit of righteousness. God does not hate any individual in the sense in which many of us as sinners hate those who have wronged us. His hatred is His opposition to our sinful actions and becomes favor as soon as the sin has been separated from the object of His love.
 Martin Luther: The Bondage of the Will, pp. 226, 228-229.
 The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chap. 3 — Articles 6 and 7.
 Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 The word for “submit” in this verse normally refers to a feigned submission. However, there are no words in Hebrew which express true, voluntary submission. Here it is the context itself which determines its meaning as true submission and adoration in spite of its normal meaning, since feigned submission would never result in His enemies worshipping and praising Him.
 “them” is not in the original Greek text, but was added by the translators.
 Our English word “things” does not have an equivalent in Greek. Neither does the neuter form in Greek always indicate objects as in English. When the translators insert “things” in contexts that are evidently referring primarily to persons and not inanimate objects I take the liberty to cross it out in order to keep the focus where it belongs.