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Question and Answer

Why is the God of the Old Testament so harsh and vindictive, and the God of the New Testament is both loving and merciful? It doesn’t seem like the same God to me.

Many people have thought this, but in fact the God of the Bible is the same throughout all the Scriptures. In both the Old and the New Testaments, God is loving and just. He is not merely wrathful in the Old Testament; He is loving and merciful and forgives sin, as in the example of David, who committed adultery and orchestrated the death of Uriah the Hittite. This description of God is found in the Old Testament: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Ex. 34:6–7).

The New Testament describes God’s justice as well as His love. He holds people accountable for their sin, and sometimes exercises discipline in seemingly severe ways. For example, when Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much they were giving to the congregation, Peter rebuked Ananias first, saying he had “not lied just to human beings but to God”—and then God struck him dead. The same then happened to his wife, Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11), reminiscent of instant justice sometimes seen in the Old Testament. The New Testament also describes the end of days, when God’s judgment will fall on the earth at the hands of Jesus, the Lamb of God. This is how people will respond in that day: “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’” (Rev. 6:16–17)? God is always the same. He is perfect and infinite in holiness and justice and in His love and mercy.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the Bible teacher on Moody Radio’s Open Line, answering listener Bible questions on over 200 stations nationwide across Moody Radio. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was raised in an observant Jewish home in Brooklyn, N.Y. As a high school student, Michael became a follower of Jesus the Messiah and began teaching the Bible almost immediately. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary, a commentary on the whole Bible by the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael is a regular contributor to the Day of Discovery television program and appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons who call and write all the time. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill., and enjoy leading study groups to Israel and hiking with their two collies.

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