If God really were the kind of person His enemies have made Him out to be, arbitrary, vengeful and severe, there would be no freedom under His government. Any professions of love and trust on our part would be compromised by our fears. How could God be satisfied with expressions of love from children who are afraid? Would you parents be satisfied with such expressions of love from your own children? When you consider Satan’s perversion of the truth in this matter, it’s no wonder millions of people have turned away from God,.
Satan has crafted a picture of God that has made God look even more cruel than old King Nebuchadnezzar and his burning fiery furnace. In the book of Daniel (chapter 3), Nebuchadnezzar built a very large idol and ordered the nation’s leaders to bow down at a given signal and worship his god. Anyone who refused to worship the image was to be thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Readers of the story recoil in horror at how Daniel’s three Hebrew friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, got caught up in such cruel tyranny. In the words of Nebuchadnezzar, “You either submit to my god or I will throw you into the burning fiery furnace” (based on Daniel 3:14-15).
Many, somehow, find it possible to accept a God who is described as doing the very same thing as Nebuchadnezzar. They see God saying to us, “On your knees, worship Me, or I’ll throw you into a burning fiery furnace.” Actually, this portrayal of God makes Him even worse than Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was willing to settle for a simple act of submission: “On your knees!” God asks for much more, our love and our trust. He is caricatured as saying, “If you will not love and trust Me, I will throw you into the burning fiery furnace. And I won’t burn you as briefly as Nebuchadnezzar did. I will burn you forever and forever.” Does that picture of God make sense? Is it acceptable? I love Ellen White’s words on this. “Such thoughts destroy human reason.”
Of course, gentle Jesus would never say such a thing, would He? So is it the Father who is the fearsome one who would issue such a threat? And if the Father is the fearsome member of the Trinity, is that why the Son came to die? Was it to assuage, appease and propitiate the wrath of the offended member of the Trinity? Is this why Jesus had to go up quickly on resurrection Sunday—to intercede with the fearsome member of the Trinity? Could the Father never find it in His own heart to forgive His rebellious children unless He were begged to do so by the most sympathetic member of the Three? I hope no one reading this chapter believes any of this! But can you see the impact our understanding of the death of the wicked has on our picture of God and our understanding of the plan of salvation? That’s the reason for this chapter, to explain that there is really no need to be afraid of God.