God's Relation to the Elect
Let us first look at God's relation to the elect as seen in the eternal sense. Romans 8:29-30 says,
"because whom He foreknew, He also predestinated [to be] conformed to the image of His Son, for Him
to be [the] Firstborn among many brothers. But whom He predestinated, these He also called; and whom
He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified." "Foreknew" means
fore-LOVED. God fore-LOVED His people from before the foundation of the world. His decree to
predestinate came from his LOVE for His people. In the eternal sense, God has LOVED His people from all
eternity in Christ. Interestingly, from this verse, God's people are CALLED, JUSTIFIED, and GLORIFIED
from eternity in Christ. In the eternal sense, God's people are already GLORIFIED! Does that mean that,
temporally, God's people are glorified in their sinless state while on the earth? No. But because of Christ's
work, they are GLORIFIED from the eternal perspective. God LOVED Jacob before the foundation of the
world (Romans 9:13). Jacob was CALLED, JUSTIFIED, and GLORIFIED before the foundation of the world
-- in the eternal sense, not in the temporal sense.
Now what about the temporal sense? God says that we were "dead in deviations and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, among whom we also conducted ourselves in times past in the lusts of our flesh, acting out the things, [the] wills of the flesh and of the understandings, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest" (Ephesians 2:1-3). Temporally, before the elect are regenerated, they ARE BY NATURE the children of wrath, EVEN AS THE REST. Some would like to have this passage read, "and we looked like children of wrath but really weren't." Of course, this is a blatant twisting of Scripture. God says that we WERE the CHILDREN OF WRATH before we were regenerated. The total depravity of the elect was NO DIFFERENT than the total depravity of the reprobate in the eyes of God's Law and Justice. Because God is totally holy and righteous and just, He can ONLY show wrath to those who do not have a righteousness that equals His. And before Christ's righteousness is imputed and received by faith, the elect do not have a righteousness that equals His. Thus, to say that the elect are not under God's wrath before they are regenerated is to deny total depravity and to deny the righteousness of God.
So there is a time in each elect person's life that he is LOVED by God as considered eternally in Christ Jesus AND under God's WRATH as considered temporally before the elect person has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.
Is this paradox? In no way. Consider: When the sins of Christ's people were imputed to Him on the cross, and Christ suffered the WRATH of God on behalf of His people, did God stop LOVING Christ? No. Yet, because of imputed sin, God FORSOOK Christ (Mark 15:34), because God, in His holiness, righteousness, and justice CANNOT look upon sin and MUST show wrath toward sin and MUST punish sin. Yet through all this, God LOVED His Son, who remained holy, harmless, and undefiled in His own personal character and conduct. God LOVED Christ in one sense and poured out His WRATH on Christ in another sense.
Also consider: We HATE the wicked with perfect hatred (Psalm 139:22), AND we LOVE our enemies (Matthew 5:43). Is this paradox? In no way. It must be talking about two senses -- two different considerations. We LOVE those whom we count as ENEMIES. We LOVE them when we bless them and do well to them and pray for them. We HATE them when we count them as the enemies of God and, by extension, our enemies.
To summarize: Eternally considered, God LOVES the elect from before the foundation of the world. Temporally considered, there is a time before the elect are regenerated when they are the ENEMIES of God, and God shows WRATH toward them. In fact, God MUST show wrath toward them, or else He wouldn't be God. In time, the elect are called, justified, and glorified, whereas eternally considered they have been called, justified, and glorified from eternity in Christ.