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The severity of God in the NT

The severity of God in the NT
Posted on October 16, 2019  - By Dr. David Brooks

Did God change between the Old Testament and the New Testament? In our first look at the harshness or severity of God in the OT and graciousness in the NT, we observed many examples of God’s grace in the Old Testament. These were not all the examples that could be listed, but they are readily noticeable.
People often say the God of the NT is gracious and not harsh. Attentiveness to the NT reveals not only His grace, but that He is still harsh in dealing with sin and unrepentant sinners. The following are examples.

  1. The OT did not clarify or correct the ancient Near Eastern belief that the land of the dead is a place of rest (cf. Job 3:13-15; Isaiah 14:9-10), but the NT is clear that Hades is a place of torment (Matthew 5:22; 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45; Luke 16:23).
  2. Jesus said that a man who lusted after a woman may be thrown into hell (Matt 5:29).
  3. Jesus said God will not forgive a person who will not forgive others (Matt 6:15).
  4. Jesus said that the judgment of those who rejected His disciples’ message would be worse than that of Sodom, which had already experienced a rain of fire and sulphur (Matthew 10:14-15).
  5. Jesus said He did not come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34-36).
  6. Jesus predicted Capernaum would descend to Hades and its judgment would be worse than the future judgment on Sodom (Matthew 11:23-24).
  7. Jesus announced that the majority of people will go to eternal destruction and not be allowed into His kingdom (Matthew 7:13-14).
  8. Jesus called His adversaries a brood of snakes (Matthew 12:34; 23:33).
  9. Jesus repeatedly called His contemporaries an evil generation (Matthew 12:34, 39; 16:4; Luke 11:13, 29).
  10. Jesus warned that the sinful and lawless would be thrown into a blazing furnace at the judgment at the end of the age (Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50).
  11. Jesus told a parable of a vineyard announcing the deadly destruction of the leaders of Israel (Matthew 21:32-45).
  12. It appears that the horrific fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was the result of rejecting Jesus (Matthew 23:37-24:2).
  13. Jesus said people not prepared for His coming would be cut in pieces and consigned to great anguish and suffering (Matthew 24:51).
  14. Jesus warned that some servants were good for nothing and would be confined to continual sorrow (Matthew 25:30).
  15. Jesus said that, in the judgment, He would send some people off into eternal fire (Matthew 25:41).
  16. In Luke 13:1-3, Jesus warned that those who would not repent would suffer a fate similar to those whose blood Governor Pilate shed and mixed with their sacrifices.
  17. The Lord struck Ananias dead in a moment when Peter rebuked him for dishonesty, and then he struck the man’s wife, Sapphira, dead with only a moment’s notice (Acts 5:1-11).
  18. In Acts 12:20-24, the Lord’s angel struck and killed Herod because he did not give God glory.
  19. In Acts 13:10-11, Paul struck a man with temporary blindness for trying to prevent the proconsul from believing the gospel.
  20. In Romans 3:8, the NT commends the condemnation of people who advocate doing evil, so grace may abound.
  21. In 1 Corinthians 5:5, the apostle Paul exhorted the church to deliver a man into the power of Satan for a time, which, though for a positive purpose, would be severe.
  22. In 1 Corinthians 11:30, the NT says that the Lord took the lives of some of the believers because of their mistreatment of one another.
  23. The NT issues a curse twice on those who change the gospel (Galatians 1:8-9).
  24. The NT announces that Jesus will come with flaming fire to destroy His human enemies (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
  25. In 2 Timothy 4:14-15, Paul called for what in OT studies would be called an imprecation, a curse, on Alexander.
  26. In 1 John 5:16, the NT says that there are times God will not hear intercession for a sinning brother or sister in Christ, but He will kill them because of their sin.
  27. The terrifying judgments in the last days on the people of the earth are revealed in the NT book of Revelation (Revelation 8:5-9:21; 14:17-21; 16:1-21).
  28. It is the NT that introduced the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14).

Examples of God’s harshness or severity in the NT do not mean that He was not gracious, just as examples of His grace in the OT do not mean He was not harsh with sin and sinners. But these facts weaken the idea that God developed or changed from the OT to the NT or that there are two different Gods in the Testaments. As a matter of fact, the OT judgments were physical and temporal, but the judgment announced in the NT is spiritual and eternal.

It is true that God’s grace appears prominent in the NT, and John 1:17 makes the contrast between the OT and NT: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” However, just as this does not mean the OT displays no truth, neither does it mean it showed no grace. The love and mercy of God in the OT was shown by prophets, psalmists, and many events of deliverance. But beyond this, in the NT, God Himself came in person and demonstrated that the grace shown in the OT (and NT) was truly at the heart of the very Person of God.

Jesus came to show without a doubt, and without any alteration, what God is genuinely like (John 1:18; 5:19-24, 30; 10:15, 32, 38; 12:44-45, 49; 14:9-11, 24). In person, God showed He loves sinners (John 13:34) to the point of dying for us even though we were His enemies (Romans 5:10). Although the NT makes stern pronouncements and issues frequent condemnations, it is clear that God the Father and God the Son love sinners to an extreme degree (Romans 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; Titus 3:4-7). Jesus’ humble, substitutionary, generous, intervention for sinners brings honour and glory to the Father, because it was exactly what the Father desired for sinners (Philippians 2:5-11; cf Isaiah 53:10-12). The OT says this (Isaiah 53:10-12); then the NT goes beyond, and God does it Himself — in person.

Dr. David Brooks

About Dr. David Brooks

David Brooks is a senior professor of Hebrew & Old Testament at Criswell College, Dallas, where he lives with his wife and four children. Having been raised with an emphasis on international missions, he often accepts international teaching assignments while also teaching adjunctively at Dallas Theological Seminary.



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