Many think of God as an angry entity just waiting for a reason to pour out His wrath on us. This, however, is worlds away from the truth of who God is. Truth is, God desires to pour out His mercy on all people. He gave His own Son to take His wrath for us, which was part of the penalty for our sins that justice required. Abba (Father God) does not want to have to pour out any of the wrath and penalty of sin upon man, but there is a condition to this not having to come to pass.
This condition is that one must believe and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, accepting that Jesus paid the price for sin and took that wrath for us. Essentially, justice was served and Jesus did the time for us, but we have to accept this.
Think of it this way: You go to dinner with a friend and they offer to pay for your meal as a blessing to you. When the server comes with the check, you both find it was split into two, so your friend just gives you money to put toward your check instead. Your friend holds out the money, but you don’t take it. The server comes, takes both receipt folders, but comes back and says to you, “You did not pay. You have to pay for this.” You did not accept your friend’s payment for your meal, so you have to pay.
It is the same way in receiving salvation so that we do not have to take the punishment that justice requires for our wrongs. If we do not receive the free gift of salvation from God, then the payment does not count toward our “bill” and we have to pay for it ourselves. But praise God that He loves us so much to make that way for us not to have to pay. Jesus is the One who saved us from not only our sins but from having to be punished by God’s wrath for our wrong doings, by taking our place in undergoing the punishment.
Yes! Someone had to “do the time” and Jesus chose to do it for us, but only if we accept that He did so. This had to be, not because God is unloving but because He is both loving and just and cannot let evil remain unpunished. The true enemy is the devil, and our flesh when it is not submitted to God, but instead leans toward following satan’s evil schemes to destroy us who are so precious to God.
(A short side note: Yes, satan caused the first sin of man and the enemy himself committed the first sin, but man did have a choice in the matter. We failed and chose to disobey God, and so God had to find a way to satisfy the justice that we then had to face. God didn’t want us to fall into sin, but He also wanted us to choose whether to love Him with not only all our hearts but through our actions and words, so He had to let us have the option.)
The wrath of God, which some of us are so apt to look at while forgetting His mercy and love, was poured out upon His Son so that He wouldn’t have to pour it out on us, even though we ourselves freely chose to sin. He loves us so much! Now we simply have to “sign the papers” per say, believing in Jesus and accepting that Jesus paid the price for our wrongs and took the wrath of God for us even though we committed the crime. Now, that is love!