Editor’s Note: Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bible has a lot to say about natural disasters linked to God’s judgment. Insurance claims even use the term, “Acts of God” to describe natural disasters as if He was to blame. Is He? Is it possible to know whether or not God is using a certain natural disaster to judge someone? Please enlighten me.
A huge hurricane was bearing down on Virginia Beach, Virginia. Destruction was predicted to be in the billion dollar range. On the airwaves, Pat Robertson was pleading for God to perform a miracle and turn the hurricane away from his home and his international 700 Club headquarters. He encouraged 700 Club members to join him in his prayer for deliverance from the approaching bad weather.
Several days later, the hurricane changed course more to the north. I watched as Pat gave praise and glory to God for answering their prayers and diverting the disaster! The hurricane continued to move up the Eastern Coast of the United States finally slaughtering Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine with torrential rains, floods, destruction and overall mayhem.
I was confused. Was this God’s judgment on New England for turning so dramatically away from its spiritual roots of Christianity over the past several centuries?
Did God really answer the Club’s prayers and redirect the storm or was it just the normal cycles of hurricane patterns that occur naturally over time? Pat was so excited.
I wondered if the problem was that New England didn’t have as many people to pray as did the international 700 Club.
I wondered about the ethics and personal spiritually that could be glad that the hurricane missed the Beach but then brought such pain and suffering to others.
Can natural disasters be God’s judgment for a nation’s sin (or an individual person’s sin)? The answer to that is simple: yes, God does sometimes uses nature to punish sin. In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 God proclaims how He sometimes deals with sin.
13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people,14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Let’s think for a moment about the United States. Does the U.S. stand under God’s hand of judgment? No doubt. America is no longer a God-fearing nation. It is trending toward a secular country. Sin is everywhere. Think about lying. Lying starts at the top and flows to the bottom. The president lies; Congress lies, the common people lie.
Mrs. Billy Graham said: “If God doesn’t bring judgment upon America He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
So, we hear about global warming, about PAX storms which blow frigid arctic weather, paralyzing the entire eastern half of our nation with snow and ice. Tornadoes are roaring though Tornado Alley at an increasingly prodigious rate. The western half of the United States is experiencing a decade-long drought. California is out of water. Many say, “These are God’s judgments on a sinful society.”
I don’t think so. Not if we look long enough into the past. These specific issues seem to be within the boundary of normal weather cycles. Of course, they could all be within the parameters of God’s judgment. It is really hard if not impossible to discern which is which.
According to Paul, God’s judgment looks entirely different. When a nation rejects God, loses its conscience and acts as if consequences to sin are inconsequential, God turns His back on that nation. He basically says, “You have rejected Me so I will reject you. You are on your own. Make the best of it as you rot away from the inside and fall inwardly upon yourselves to utter destruction. My judgment is to leave you on your own and we know what happens when mankind has no restraints!”
Please, read the entire following passage from Romans 1:18-32. You will see that we are not waiting for God’s judgment to come America. It’s already here:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:18-32).
God’s judgment on America is to allow the internal turmoil that will destroy our country from the inside. The breakdown of the social fabric of any nation soon results in anarchy and civil war. Leaders lie to us regularly. I am reminded of Aaron who tried to excuse his sin by saying, “Don’t blame me. All I did was throw in the gold and out jumped this calf.”
Who is to say that we in the United States are any different? Sin abounds; the very principles we hold dear are being torn asunder and we cry, “Don’t blame me.”
Meanwhile, most natural disasters are simply just that: natural disasters.
For example, ice ages that cover massive parts of the earth occur every 11,000 to 14,000 years. The last great ice age occurred 11,000 years ago. We are due for another. Why? Because over time the sun varies in the amount of heat it dispenses. Because the earth’s axis is not always a perfect 23.5 degrees (the tilt results in our four seasons). The earth wobbles.
So this kind of climate change is nothing new. Centuries ago Mesopotamia was lush and fertile with abundant rainfall. Now it is desert. The Holy Land was not called the “land of milk and honey” for nothing.
Volcanoes in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire occur naturally as continental plates collide. Tsunamis result from underwater landslides deep in the ocean which produce water upheaval that create huge waves as they approach land.
We can think about God’s judgment on America; we also know that He has judgment reserved for our sinful world.
The Book of Revelation has three cycles of disasters that occur just before the Lord Jesus returns to set up His earthly kingdom. The first cycle is man’s judgment upon himself. The second cycle is what Satan does to man. The third cycle is God’s judgment upon mankind. The cycles increase in intensity.
Regarding that first cycle, man is producing disasters that are not natural, they result from man and his behaviors – like nuclear reactor meltdowns in Chernobyl, and Japan. Japan’s reactors are now saturating the Pacific. Some radiation from that disaster has reached Oregon and California.
So it would seem that man-made global warming and global pollution will help destroy our world. Once CO2 begins to build up, global warming begins, weather patterns change, and there is absolute nothing we can do that will reduce the trend. The earth will just get hotter and hotter. Venus, our twin, has such a buildup of CO2 in its atmosphere that the average surface temperature there is over 840 degrees.
The Book of Revelation does clearly link the disasters of the end times with the Judgment of God. Revelation categorizes disasters such as: famine, plague, war, wild beasts, contaminated rivers and oceans, massive earthquakes, energy from the sun increasing to destructive levels, cataclysmic events upon the sun and moon, demonic manifestations that torment millions, and painful sores to name a few. By the time the plagues finally cease, 11/12ths of the world’s population will have perished.
In the end, Jesus says, “Now, I am coming to earth to show everyone how it ought to be done.”
So sorting out just what is and isn’t God’s judgment isn’t easy. Too often we hear tornado victims extolling the protection of God that saved them and their houses from the storm… while the house across the street is gone. In such cases may we simply ‘be Jesus’ to those from the house across the street.
Well, Christy, I hope that my musings are helpful to you.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Publication date: February 18, 2014