Problem: According to the Bible, God created man 6,000 years ago. God gave man “free will” so that man could choose between good and evil. There was only one catch. . . You see, God mad a big point of not giving man the knowledge to distinguish good from evil. He only gave that to apples. Not being an apple, man, quite predictably, stumbled upon evil. Feigning surprise, God played to his strength . . . Wrath! Then He decided the only fair thing to do was blame everyone and torture them in Hell forever. But first he killed them all in a horrible flood.
Response: You are partially right, according to the Bible God created man about 6,000 yrs. ago. God also gave man “Free Will” so that man had the choice to follow God, His Creator, Who had made everything “Good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). He did not want puppets with no choice about loving Him or obeying Him. He wants us to trust His love and goodness based on what He’s done for us. In this case, God had created everything good and perfect and gave man one and only one stipulation for the continued enjoyment of the Garden and life.
Gen. 2:8-9 “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Gen. 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’”
God clearly spelled out the consequences if they choose to eat from that one tree. They could trust God or they could doubt God. Since they lived in a perfect place and had daily contact with God (Gen. 3:8), they did not need to doubt His existence, His goodness, or His love. In fact, it never occurred to them not to obey God until the serpent came on the scene and lied to them by twisting what God really said (Gen. 3:4-5). True, they had no knowledge of evil, but they were not left defenseless, God had provided them with Himself as a resource. Instead of checking with God for clarification or anything else, they chose to believe the serpent whom they had no reason to believe, over God Who had given them everything and had not thus far lied to them (nor has He since then, lied to us.) “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Num. 23:19)
The moment that they ate, their eyes were opened and they experienced shame and guilt (Gen. 3:7). They hid from God; their once close relationship was now altered. From that moment on, everything began to die. The serpent was cursed to crawl along the ground (Gen. 3:14), pains of childbirth were increased (Gen. 3:16), the ground was cursed with thorns and thistles, plus it would now take hard labor to produce food (Gen. 3:16-17), and they were also told they would die and return to the dust from which they were made (Gen. 3:19). The first animal sacrifices were made to provide coverings for their sin and nakedness (Gen. 3:21). They were removed from the Garden so that they could not continue to eat of the Tree of Life and thus live forever in their sin cursed state (Gen. 3:22). However, God did not leave them without hope. The very first promise of the Messiah is included in Gen. 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
Sin always has consequences, but God in His grace and mercy also provides hope and forgiveness. Mankind was provided with a second chance to follow God and live in fellowship with Him. Unfortunately, due to man’s sin corrupted nature, it wasn’t long (approximately 1656 yrs.) until the earth was filled with violence and wickedness:
Gen. 6:5-8 “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.’ 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”
So even though God had decided to judge the earth, He still provided for the continuation of mankind and the animals. Plus, anyone else who wanted to could have taken refuge on the ark since there was plenty of room (Gen. 6:15-16—it had the capacity of over 522 railroad boxcars), and there was plenty of time for the people to be forewarned (2 Pet. 2:5) and make it to the ark as it took Noah 120 yrs. to build (Gen. 6:3). No one had to perish in the Flood; everyone had the chance to enter the ark, up until Noah and his family went into the ark. The fact that only 8 people did go on the ark shows just how wicked and far away from God the people had become. After the Flood, God promised never to destroy all life by floodwater again and gave the rainbow as evidence of His promise (Gen. 9:12-16).
One of the effects of the Flood was the drastic shortening of man’s lifespan, from an average of 912 yrs. to about 110 yrs. by the time of Joseph (Gen. 50:22, 26). This means less time for each man to sink so low into sin. Thus, it has taken longer for the wickedness on the earth to reach the levels of the pre-Flood world—just another evidence of God’s grace and mercy that most people miss. While the Bible does state that God will pour out His wrath on the wicked in a judgment by fire, He is purposely delaying that judgment as long as possible because, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Several Scripture passages confirm that God wants everyone to have the opportunity to be saved from their sins and His wrath, only those who deliberately reject Him will suffer His Day of the LORD Wrath and judgment.
Matt. 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Mark 13:10 “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.”
Luke 24:47 “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
1 Peter 4:5-6 “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.”
Rev. 14:6-7 “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”
God will not force anyone against their will to love Him, obey Him or follow Him. He gives every opportunity they need to avoid His wrath. However, those who stubbornly refuse to accept His gift of salvation and remain in their sins will suffer the consequences of their decision. They will be cast into Hell, the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:15), prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). It is important to realize that Hell was not created for man, but for the devil and his angels who rebelled against God. In order for God to be a God of justice, He does have the responsibility to dispense judgment on the wicked. In order for the earth to be returned to the perfect goodness of Eden all the wicked elements must be cast out and destroyed. Yet God in His mercy has given us millennia in which to repent and come to Him. We either accept what Jesus did on our behalf in taking our punishment on Himself or we take the punishment for our sins ourselves. Nobody who doesn’t want to go to Hell has to go there, a way has been provided. God Himself became a man, He lived among us, He suffered and died in our place so that we could avoid Hell and instead spend eternity with Him in the New Heavens and New Earth He will re-create after He destroys this present earth by fire (Rev. 21).