The Terrible Thing

“But you must allow that God hates and punishes sin — and that is a terrible thing.”

“It would be ten times more terrible if he did not hate and punish it. Do you think Jesus came to deliver us from the punishment of our sins? He should not have moved a step for that. The terrible thing is to be sinful, and all punishment is to help deliver us from it, nor will it cease until we have given up being sinful. God will have us good; and Jesus works out the will of his Father.”

I myself do not believe that mere punishment exists anywhere in the economy of the highest. I think mere punishment is a human idea, not a divine one. But the consuming fire is more terrible to the evildoer than any idea of punishment invented by the most riotous of human imaginations. Punishment it is, though not mere punishment, which is a thing not of creation but of destruction: it is a power of God and for his creature. As love is God’s being and a creative energy in one, so the pains of God are to the recreating of the things his love has made, and sin has unmade.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 148


  1. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us his ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who has no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    II Corinthians 5: 17-21

    But now a righteousness from God, part from the law, has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely through his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

    Romans 3: 21-24

    Just as Moses lifted up the snake in he desert so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not prish but have eternal life For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only son.

  2. MacDonald isn’t saying there is no condemnation or punishment. But that it always serves a redemptive purpose.

  3. And Jesus came to save us from SIN, not from the punishment of sin. (Once we’re saved from sin, we also will not be punished, but the point is saving us from sin, which is death.)

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