Time and Chance

The Bible refers to another aspect of human suffering, called time and chance in Ecclesiastes:9:11.

Many good and bad things occur to people regardless of whether they are good or evil. As Jesus explained, God lets it rain on both the just and the unjust (Matthew:5:45).

What was Jesus Christ's perspective on a tragic accident in Jerusalem?

". . . Those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke:13:4-5).

Jesus acknowledged the principle King Solomon had written about some 1,000 years earlier: "I returned and saw under the sun that—the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes:9:11).

Jesus noted that the incident at Siloam was not some sort of divine punishment directed at the victims because of their sins. Although other factors such as improper construction and maintenance procedures might have been a part of the picture, it was strictly time and chance as far as the dead victims at Siloam were concerned. Because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, they died.

But Christ urged those who escaped this calamity to repent of their sin and, by implication, to begin living in harmony with God's plan and purpose. Such tragedies should be powerful reminders to take action now to set our spiritual house in order. Why put off our salvation? Why procrastinate when it comes to repentance? Why not act now? That is the emphasis of Jesus Christ's comments.

What lesson did Jesus draw from the deaths of others in another tragic incident?

"There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish'" (Luke:13:1-3).

In this incident the Roman authorities apparently slaughtered several Galileans who had come to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem. Jesus made the point that these men suffered horrible deaths, not because they were exceptionally bad, but because they were caught up in larger events. In a violent situation innocent people are sometimes injured and killed. It could happen to anyone—unless God were supernaturally protecting the person at such a time.

We should heed the advice of James: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'" (James:4:13-15).

In God's plan and purpose, He will resurrect all victims of fatal accidents and other tragedies. Those who die in such situations are not eternally lost to God or their loved ones. Jesus Christ Himself promised a future resurrection when "all who are in the graves will hear His voice" (John:5:28-29). Our free booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind fully explains this resurrection with all the essential scriptural details.

Still, we humans must deal with suffering and even death in the here and now. See "Steps in Dealing With Grief," the final chapter in our free booklet What Happens After Death? Your copy is available free of charge.

What fundamental biblical principle can give us a proper perspective when inexplicable suffering occurs?

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children . . ." (Deuteronomy:29:29).

God simply does not reveal a reason for everything that happens to us. Therefore, no human being can provide an accurate answer for every unfortunate circumstance. God may not reveal certain things this side of His coming Kingdom.

But, whatever our circumstances, we are always accountable for obeying our Creator and staying in harmony with His plan and purpose. We must leave the rest to God, patiently relying on Him in faith that "all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans:8:28).

As covered in earlier lessons of this study course, the reason for our existence is clear. But that doesn't mean we understand everything about how God will accomplish His plan for us. We await full knowledge and understanding that will come at the time of the resurrection. Any teaching that aligns itself against our calling and the true biblical knowledge supporting it is ultimately false. We need to be careful not to allow inexplicable suffering to make us bitter and lose our faith in God.

Possibly you or your loved ones have suffered cruelly and unjustly at the hands of others. Such seems to happen to most of us at times. Allowing ourselves to become bitter so that we begin seeking revenge is not a proper Christian response. "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans:12:19). God will put things right in His own way and time.

Always remember that we have only partial knowledge. Full understanding will not come until later. Understanding this principle, the apostle Paul tells us: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known" (1 Corinthians:13:12).

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How do we reconcile anguish and suffering with the Bible's portrayal of a loving God?

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