*The Inescapable Love of God
Thomas Talbott takes an in-depth look at the nature of God's forgiveness and punishment; if you've never read MacDonald, or you have trouble seeing how punishment and forgiveness can coexist, you might find Talbott's book helpful.
If we take the Bible seriously, we must conclude that there are two kinds of forgiveness from God. Both are motivated by unconditional love. Perhaps the following illustration will help.
When a little girl ignores her mother and runs on the road, it angers and hurts her mother because she loves her daughter. She punishes her daughter not because she wants her daughter to suffer; she punishes her because she loves her and does not want her to suffer. (Good parents know intuitively that sometimes you have to appear to be cruel to be kind.) In a similar way God is not pleased when we refuse to trust him. Sin destroys the soul of the sinner. God’s punishment does not.
If a person will not repent, punishment becomes necessary. This kind of forgiveness is conditional upon repentance.
The second kind of forgiveness is unconditional. It simply means God is always doing his best for each of us. He is not treating us as people treat us; he is giving us his very best. He loves us unconditionally. If someone is always doing their very best for you, you would have to conclude that they love you and are not holding anything against you. (“Love keeps no record of wrongs.” See 1 Cor 13)
Whether conditional or not, God’s forgiveness is always motivated by love. God desires that we all receive both kinds of forgiveness, but that will only be possible when we’ve all repented. (This will happen after the age to come. The age to come is 1000 years and is marked by the first resurrection. See Rev 20:1-6)