catastrophes, or human-conceived tragedies occur, where is God?
December 26, 2004 South East Asia
was overwhelmed by a tsunami of great proportions such as has not been
seen in centuries. The result was a catastrophe that led to
hundreds of thousands killed and a great many injured. The damages to
several nations are incalculable. September 11, 2001, Muslim fanatics
pierce the Twin Towers with two jets and bring about the collapse of the
two skyscrapers and the death of nearly 3000 people who worked in them.
December 14, 2012, a deranged young man burst into an elementary school
in Newtown, Connecticut and kills mercilessly kills 20 children and 6
Many have understandably asked:
"Where was God when these events happened? If He is a loving God, why
did He not intervene?" Atheists gleefully answer such a question with
their well-known pat answer: "God did not intervene, because there is no
Theologians from various religions
offer, at times, various contradictory explanations. The following is this
author's explanation based on scriptural indications. It proposes that
God exists, that He knows about such tragedies in advance but does intervene because humanity
from the very beginning has invited Him to stay out of its affairs --
and He has obliged.
Before analyzing this topic, it is
critical that certain foundational aspects relating to God’s nature be
established. They are critical pillars in this article's discussion of
God’s fairness and justice in relation to any and all catastrophe. They
are as follows:
The first pillar on which this
article builds is the belief that God exists and that He is totally
sovereign over nature and over humanity.
The second pillar is the belief
that the Judeo-Christian God is the only God, and that there are no
other gods. He, in fact, asserts the following: "I am He, I am the
first, I also the last" (Isaiah 48:12), and "Besides me there is no God"
The third pillar is that God is
"omniscient," that is all knowing. Therefore, God knew in advance about
the terrible earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and its catastrophic
consequences and tragedies such as what happened in Newtown,
The fourth pillar is that God is
"omnipotent." We read in the Old Testament that " In YAH, the Lord, is
everlasting strength" (Isaiah 26:4). The New Testament, likewise,
testifies to this through Christ Himself: "For with God nothing will
be impossible" (Luke 1:37). Thus, if God wanted to He could
have prevented the earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and the catastrophes
that followed, and any and all human conceived tragedies.
The fifth pillar is that God is
"holiness," that is "righteousness." God is holy, and He demands holiness.
In the Book of Deuteronomy we are told that He is "...a God of truth
and without injustice" (Deuteronomy 32). Christ had no doubt
about this great truth and referred to God the Father as "Righteous
Father" (John 17:25).
The last pillar is that God is
"Love." That is, God is always motivated by love, and only love.
Therefore, whatever He has done, and whatever He has not done,
must be framed by love. The Bible assures us that God is love (I
John 4:8,16); that He is a God who delights in loving kindness (Jeremiah
9:24); and who is "abundant in mercy" (Psalm 86:5). Everything about His
essence is goodness and other-centeredness and no selfishness can be
found in Him.
Let’s, therefore summarize these critical
fundamentals: God exists and He is supreme over all creation; being
Omniscient, He knows about all tragedies that will befall humans in
advance- - yet He chooses not to intervene, in
spite of the fact that He is omnipotent and could intervene. God
is righteousness and love and these factors must somehow be present in
His actions or inaction.
Why did God not intervene, then?
SATAN IS THE GOD OF THIS WORLD
The first key factor that the
author would like to propose is that God, "by-and- large," is not
involved in the matters of this world, and that most of humanity, in
fact, is in the hands of another god: Satan.
The Bible is quite explicit about
this fact. Jesus confirms this fundamental truth, by calling Satan,
"The prince of this world’" (John 14:30; 16:11). The Apostle Paul
refers to Satan as, "The prince of the power of the air, the spirit who
now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Most
meaningfully, Paul also refers to Satan as "the god of this world." (I
At present, therefore, Satan is
the Ruler of this world—not the Almighty. Humanity has adopted
Satan as its god and offers worship to him through their evil thoughts
and actions. The philosophy of this world is one of disobedience and
rebellion towards God’s laws. Our conscience testifies to right and
wrong, even if we have no knowledge of the true God, and humanity,
by-and- large, is choosing to do what is wrong and evil. This choice
places humanity into Satan’s camp -- and God has been invited out.
GOD IS HOLINESS AND JUSTICE
From the beginning of the Bible to
the end, God manifests Himself as a Being who greatly values holiness
and justice. Since the Garden of Eden, He has chosen to teach His human
children His way, but does not force His way upon them.
In the Garden of Eden, we see this philosophy revealed in God’s approach
toward Adam and Eve. He told the first two humans not to eat of the Tree
of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that represented self-sufficiency and
rebellion against God’s will -- and then He left. Interestingly enough,
He allowed Satan to present his deceitful side, and did not intervene.
Adam and Eve chose the path to
rebellion with the consequence being toil, suffering and finally
death. Humanity has also chosen Satan’s
way ever since, thus reaping the same fruits. These are the daily
rewards Satan showers his worshippers with daily, worldwide.
God, in the meantime, has obliged
to the manifest wish of humanity; He has pulled away from the affairs of
this world and has abandoned humanity to its own devices. Paul describes
rebellious humanity in these terms:
…although they knew God, they did
not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in
their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened…Therefore God
gave them up to uncleanness…to vile passions…to a debased
mind…committing what is shameful…being filled with all unrighteousness,
sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy
, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness, they are whisperers,
backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil
things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving,
unforgiving, unmerciful (Romans 1: 21-31).
The consequence to this rebellious
spirit leads to separation from the Creator, with the consequence that
He will not answer human prayers, though He clearly has the ability to.
"Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, Nor His
ear heavy that it cannot hear.
Your iniquities have separated
you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from
you" (Isaiah 59: 1-2).
God Himself asserts that He has
the power to intervene in whatever situation that might arise:
hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to
deliver? Indeed with my rebuke I dry up the sea. I make the rivers a
wilderness…I clothe the heavens with blackness . And I make sackcloth
their covering" Isaiah 50:2-3). In short, God has the power to control
natural disasters; He has power over tsunamis, floods and earthquakes,
etc. but He is prevented from intervening by human wickedness.
God will not reward evil with good.
On the other hand, God does
intervene at times to protect those He is pleased with. Sometimes He
chooses not to intervene even on the righteous’ behalf, even if
it involves death and injury, and that is part of His great plan for
each believer. In some cases, even His greatest of Apostles have not
been spared being involved in destructive natural events. For instance,
the Apostle Paul suffered shipwreck twice, because of great sea storms
and almost lost his life.
At times, even great famines have
not been prevented, though God’s people would have been adversely
affected by them. In the New Testament we read that a great famine
befell the area of Judea and the Church in Jerusalem was not spared. In
fact, the Apostle Paul organized a charitable collection in Asia Minor
for the benefit of the suffering Christians in Judea. God allowed the
famine to test the Jerusalem Church’s faith and to test the liberality
of the Gentile churches.
God does not allow suffering on His people
capriciously. He has very good reasons every time He tests His
people severely, and those reasons are invariably for their benefit.
On occasions though, the
scriptures make plain that God "does" intervene in the affairs of humanity
and "does" bring about catastrophes on humanity or nations, if they become
exceptionally degenerate. The great Noachian Flood is an example of
God’s intervention in wiping out almost all of humanity for their
extreme depravity. Sin abounded on the earth, but God did not intervene
for a long while. As the centuries went by, "the Lord saw that the
wickedness of man was great upon the earth and that every intent of the
thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6: 5). And God
concluded that mankind did not deserve to exist any longer, and thus the
fatal verdict: "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of
the earth" (V. 7). Only eight people found favor in God’s eyes: Noah,
his wife, his three children and their wives.
Sodom and Gomorrah attracted God’s
wrath and they, too, were obliterated. God "rained brimstone and fire on
Sodom and Gomorrah" (Gen. 19: 24), and "He overthrew those cities, and
all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which
grew on the ground" (V. 25). God describes the sins of Sodom and
Gomorrah as being "very grievous" (Genesis 18: 20).
The New Testament tells us that
another reason why God overthrew the two cities was because He wanted
their destruction to be "...an example to those who afterwards would live
ungodly" (2 Peter 2: 6). God’s intervention was meant to be so powerful
and so drastic that all would hear and tremble. He also wanted
generations to come to know that His will is supreme, that He will not
forebear evil forever and that, though He is longsuffering, the day will
come when He will extirpate evil in very dramatic ways. Likewise, Jude
warns that "Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in similar
manner, having given themselves over to sexual immorality, and gone
after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the
vengeance of eternal fire" (Jude 7).
Finally God assures us through
various Bible books, such as the prophets and the Book of Revelation,
that in the end of times God will again intervene and punish humanity
severely for its sins. The Two Witnesses, two great prophets of God,
will first warn humanity on God’s behalf, but all indications are that
humans will refuse to repent, in spite of the increasing severity of the
God, therefore, is presently not
involved in the affairs of this world. The sins of humanity and its
rebelliousness separate it from God and, as a result, humans are at the
mercy of tragic events. When such events
occur, God does not intervene. When human depravity reaches unacceptable
levels, God will pour His wrath on humanity. At the end of times God
will bring about horrific destruction on all of humanity, after warning
humans with His Two Witnesses.
GOD IS LOVE
Being a holy and righteous God,
the Eternal will not be involved in the affairs of a sinful world. He
does stand by and watch, while catastrophes befall humanity and, at
times, He causes such catastrophes to punish depraved humans. Yet God is
also "Love." How can such a "loving" Being allow and bring about so much
suffering? Is there more to the picture than we see?
In John 3:16 we read that God gave
"His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life." Many people through the ages have perished
by natural causes and through horrific wars and natural catastrophes,
without the knowledge of Christ. Many people perished in non-Christian
South-East Asia without awareness of God's plan of
salvation. Countless innocent children have perished, and they had no
knowledge of God, His will or His Son. Is that it for all of them?
A God of love must finally show
humanity that He does have a plan of salvation that manifests his love
for all of humanity, and that He does have a way of bringing the
knowledge of Christ’s saving power to all people, including those who
have died in natural catastrophes without a knowledge of God.
The Bible reveals such a future plan, and it is as follows:
1. Christ will return, and converted Christians
will be resurrected to eternal life.
I Corinthians 15: 51-54 --
I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be
raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on
incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this
mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying
that is written: “Death is swallowed up in
2. Christ and his saints will rule
over the earth for one thousand years during which time there will be no
wars and no catastrophes, and peace and joy will engulf the whole world.
And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to
them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their
witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the
beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or
on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand
Isaiah 2: 2-4
Now it shall come to pass in
the latter days
That the mountain of the
Shall be established on the top of the
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the
shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.
3. Satan will be let loose for a
little while at the end of the Millennium, and evil and wars will re-occur.
when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his
8 and will go out to deceive the nations
which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather
them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.
9 They went up on the breadth of the earth
and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire
came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.
10 The devil, who
deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where
the beast and the false prophet were.
4. Afterwards, all the dead will
be resurrected and a time of judgment will begin in which the dead
without a knowledge of Christ will be enlightened and will have
salvation offered to them. Those who had rejected the Way, though
converted, and those who reject the way once enlightened, will be
destroyed forever in the Lake of Fire.
Revelation 20: 13-15
-- The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades
delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one
according to his works.
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the
lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into
the lake of fire.
5. A New Heaven and a New Earth
will be created, permeated with holiness and justice. Finally all fear,
hunger, disease, wars, and natural disasters will be abolished forever.
This is the glorious time when all human suffering will finally end
Revelation 20: 4 -- God will wipe
away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor
sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former
things shall pass away.
The sufferings of mankind are
many. Every day humans reap the fruits of following Satan's way of
rebellion and unrighteousness. God is allowing man to exercise His human
free will and learn from hard experience. God is out of human affairs,
because humans want Him out of their affairs. When calamities strike, He
is far and distant and will not intervene, except in the lives of those
who please Him.
This horrible time of learning
allotted to humanity is nearly over. Soon the Great King will say,
Jesus Christ will return, as He promised, and will
assert Himself over a rebellious humanity. Humans will finally obey
God's Laws, even if at first He will be forced to use a "Rod of Iron."
During the Millennial rule of Christ, men and women will taste the joy
of submitting to God and will reap the abundant benefits of obedience.
All of humanity, young and old,
will finally be resurrected and will know their God and will get to
choose life or death. If Christ and God's ways are their choice, they
will be saved and will live forever in a world where the anxieties and
the horrors of this life will be only fading memories.
May the Great God speed the day!
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© Copyright, Michael Caputo,
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