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Natural Disasters

A Biblical Perspective

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1. God has said in Bible prophecy that natural disasters would grow in frequency and intensity as the end of the age approaches—to shake people out of their complacency and lead them to seek Him (Matthew 24:7 Matthew 24:7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
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; Luke 21:25-26 Luke 21:25-26 25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
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; Revelation 6:12 Revelation 6:12And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, see, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
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; Revelation 11:13 Revelation 11:13And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
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; Revelation 16:18 Revelation 16:18And there were voices, and thunders, and lightning; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were on the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
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).

2. In His design for the world, God allows many events to run their course according to “time and chance” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 Ecclesiastes 9:11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
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), so that many tragedies are, for those affected, accidental and unforeseeable.

3. Those who die in accidents or natural disasters are not necessarily greater sinners than those who survive (Luke 13:1-5 Luke 13:1-5 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
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).

4. Personal tragedies or calamities are not necessarily the result of one's sins (John 9:2-3 John 9:2-3 2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
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).

5. Natural disasters or accidents should humble us, helping us to see our dependence on God to sustain and deliver us (Revelation 16:8-11 Revelation 16:8-11 8 And the fourth angel poured out his vial on the sun; and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. 9 And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which has power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. 10 And the fifth angel poured out his vial on the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, 11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.
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).

6. Natural disasters have sometimes been the direct judgment of God on a rebellious humanity (Genesis 6:6-7 Genesis 6:6-7 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repents me that I have made them.
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; Genesis 11-13; Genesis 17; Genesis 18:20 Genesis 18:20And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
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; Genesis 19:24-25 Genesis 19:24-25 24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew on the ground.
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).

7. Some natural disasters are made worse by man's poor judgments (Proverbs 14:12 Proverbs 14:12There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
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) and age-long rejection of God and His laws, resulting in worsening environmental and climatic conditions.

8. God is a truly loving God who is working out a great plan for all humanity (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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; 2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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; 1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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; 1 Corinthians 15:22-24 1 Corinthians 15:22-24 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
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).

9. Converted Christians who die in natural disasters will be resurrected to immortality in the first resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
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; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 1 Thessalonians 4:16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
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; Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
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).

10. Non-Christians who die in natural disasters, those who never had a genuine understanding of God or real opportunity for eternal salvation, will be raised in the second or general resurrection to live again in the flesh with their first real opportunity to learn God's way, repent and be saved (John 5:28-29 John 5:28-29 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
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; Matthew 12:41-42 Matthew 12:41-42 41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. 42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
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; Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
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).

11. The multitudes of humanity who are raised in the second or general resurrection will experience joyful and abundant life under the rule of the Kingdom of God (Ezekiel 37:12-14 Ezekiel 37:12-14 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, 14 And shall put my spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, said the LORD.
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).

12. The sufferings experienced now in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
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)—this era of man's self-rule under the influence of Satan the devil—are writing a lesson of experience about what it means to live in a world cut off from God and His ways.

13. We don't know all the reasons God brings or permits specific calamities or why particular people are made to suffer by them, but we should trust that in God's omniscience and ultimate wisdom He knows how to work out what is best for everyone in the end (Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
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; 1 Timothy 2:4 1 Timothy 2:4Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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).

14. Jesus Christ will eventually return to usher in the rule of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
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; Daniel 7:14 Daniel 7:14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
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), under which natural disasters will no longer plague mankind.

15. When all humanity is at last glorified, there will be no more pain, suffering or sorrow (Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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).

16. All the sufferings of this brief present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory we will ultimately experience for all eternity to come (Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
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; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
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).

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    Comments

  • bwjohnson

    This was comprehensive and well done, thank you. I’m very confused, though, by the scripture references that you use to defend point #10. None of those passages say anything about unbelievers having such an opportunity after death. They actually say the opposite, and quite clearly it seems! In addition, you are ignoring many other passages that are even more clear in opposition to your position. Hebrews 9:27 above all. Would you comment on that please?

  • Ken Graham

    For BW Johnson:

    As the Bible deals with events further and further into the future, the references to those events become less detailed and less specific. Some of the verses that point to the resurrections in the future are direct and some are more indirect. Jesus’ reference to the General or Second resurrection or judgment in John 5:28-29 is less direct simply because it is further out in the future than the first resurrection. When He says, “…those who have done good, to the resurrection of life,…” He is making reference to the second or general resurrection after His second coming. The second resurrection period includes the Millennium or thousand years of Jesus Christ’s rule, right on into the the Great Resurrection also called Second Resurrection or Great White Throne Judgment period. After that, every human who’s ever lived will have had their opportunity to be called and to hear and understand the Gospel message and the opportunity for salvation presented to them. Those who’ve done good, accepted that calling and followed God’s way will be resurrected to life eternal.

    Then comes the third resurrection or final carrying out of sentence upon those who have rejected their opportunity for salvation and refused to follow God’s way of life. (This is the point at which the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man takes place). Jesus sums it up in the last sentence of verse 29, “…and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Condemnation is or sentencing is carried out on them at this point, and they will be placed in the lake of fire, or as it is referred to in the Greek - Gehenna fire.

    Mr. Robinson also makes reference to Matthew 12:41-42. The men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will hear God’s voice, and be resurrected from their graves to live physical lives again in the Second, Great resurrection, or White Throne Judgment period. They will be given their chance to hear the Gospel and receive their calling to God’s way of life for the first time, and with their minds opened for the first time, will condemn previous generations that rejected Jesus Christ and His way of life. Because they failed to heed Him and follow Him.

    Revelation 20:5 is a little tricky because the first part of the verse is a parenthetical clause. This clause takes place after the the final sentence in the verse, “This is the first resurrection.” Remember the first resurrection is complete as Jesus Christ touches down on the earth at the Mount of Olives and begins His reign as King of Kings. So everything thereafter is the Second resurrection period. And this is where the first part of the verse, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” That phrase should be in parenthesis to be better understood. After the Millennial 1,000 year rule of Jesus Christ, comes the Great resurrection.

    Your reference to Hebrews 9:27 fits in nicely here. Human beings are physical. We all die at some point. After death there is a resurrection coming for all men. Which one of the three resurrections they will come up in, is part of God’s judgment.

    Hope this helps,
    Best Regards,
     Ken

  • Steven Britt

    Hebrews 9:27 says “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” However, Revelation 20:6 says “blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the SECOND DEATH has no power.” It also states in verse 5 that those who are not resurrected at Christ’s return will not “live again” until the 1000 years are over.

    Therefore, our understanding of Hebrews 9:27 in light of Revelation 20:5-6 is that there are 2 categories of people: those who are called by God in this age and those who are not called by God in this age (remember that no man can come to Christ unless the Father draws him, John 6:44). Those called in this age will be a part of that first resurrection, and the “second death” has no power over them after they are resurrected because they have already passed judgment at that point. Those not called in this age WILL be called in the age to come immediately after the 1000 years - they will “live again,” as the scripture states, and at that time they receive their opportunity to understand what God wants from them and conduct their lives accordingly before being judged.

  • Brett Diggins

    Thank you for taking the time to read and offer your thoughts on this topic. I am not the author of this article, but rather a fellow reader. I thought maybe I could shed some light on point #10.

    Many of the passages in the Bible that refer to resurrection to either eternal life or to condemnation (like John 5:29) are ultimatums directed toward converted Christians who already know and understand God’s teachings and therefore will be held responsible for practicing those teachings. God is a loving God and holds people accountable only for what they already correctly know and understand. Thus, it stands to reason that if a man dies before being taught His Truth, then God will teach him (after death) the correct way to live before judging him for his actions.

    As for Hebrews 9:27-28, it is guaranteed that everyone will die at some point. The purpose of this scripture is to emphasize that Christ died once for the sins of the entire world. Revelation 20:6 proves that there does exist a second death for those who diliberately reject God.

    There is no single end-all verse that spells this out in perfect clarity, but rather, you can gain understanding of this concept from looking at a number of related verses. If you are willing to take on the challenge of proving your beliefs about life after death, consider reading this e-booklet: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/what-happens-after-death/

    Hope that helps! :)

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