God’s direct intervention and punishment, as described throughout the Bible, is the exception rather than the rule. This is due to His supreme patience (Psalms 103:8 Psalms 103:8The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
American King James Version×) motivated by His love for us and desire to reconcile us to Himself for salvation. The Bible teaches that God’s wrath is preceded by a warning so that people have the opportunity to repent (Amos 3:7 Amos 3:7Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets.
American King James Version×), as opposed to the many tragic occurrences that strike daily and without warning throughout the world.
Jesus Christ spoke directly on the topic of accidents, natural disasters and even persecution as it relates to a person’s sin. In 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.
American King James Version×, He gave two examples of people who suffered—some who had been slaughtered by Roman officials, and others who died when a large tower suddenly fell and landed on them. He pointed out that these people who died were not “worse sinners” than those in the same town who were unharmed, but instead He taught that “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” This speaks to the reality that all people are under the same penalty of sin, which is death, unless we repent and follow God.
Conversely, even those who follow God and keep His commandments will sometimes suffer or die in tragedies. Of these, the scriptures teach that this is not divine judgment, but that “time and chance happen to them all” (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.
American King James Version×). Following God is a matter of our eternal salvation that does not free us from all physical dangers, trials or harmful accidents.
Sin is the root cause of all death, disease, suffering and corruption in the world today. The cumulative destructive effect of sin that is in the world leads to death by illnesses, accidents, natural disasters and other tragic events that are completely unconnected to our own actions. While “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
American King James Version×), often those who experience a tragedy are not receiving the direct punishment of their own sin. There are many cases when people do suffer as a direct result of their sin, but this does not require divine intervention. For example, adulterers will suffer emotional damage in their marriages with the additional possibilities of sexually transmitted diseases or retribution from the other person’s partner, but this type of “punishment” is simply cause-and-effect.
In the particular cases of God’s wrath found in the Bible, God acted in response to extreme conditions of depravity, and the result was complete and utter devastation on a scale that is far beyond the natural disasters or local tragedies that we experience today. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah illustrates this point, where only Lot and his two daughters survived. Again in the flood of Noah’s day, only eight people out of the entire world were spared. The Bible does teach God’s future judgment and wrath on the earth, but this is not merely to punish sin—it serves the dual purpose of breaking down the corrupt institutions of the world and raising up His righteous Kingdom under the rule of Jesus Christ and the saints (Romans 8:22-23 Romans 8:22-23 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×; 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.
American King James Version×).
For more information on the cause of death, pain and suffering in the world—and God’s solution to sin for all mankind—please see our free study aid, Why Does God Allow Suffering?