From the early morning hours of Sunday June 12, 2016 the horror of the terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL some people said that it was punishment and a warning from God to the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender) community. Those comments were made because the attack was at a nightclub frequented by members of the LGBT community. I always knew, and now we all know, that not all of those murdered were gay. Straight (heterosexual) people who were there just to dance and enjoy the music were murdered too. I’m a straight born again Christian who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible. Comments about this being punishment have greatly troubled me. They troubled me because the Bible is clear that God loves all people no matter what.
1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
If we assume that none of the people killed were straight or Christians then maybe those people are right. However if any of them were Christians and “born of God” (“born again”) or straight then we have a problem don’t we?
The Bible tells us a couple of things. One is that we all sin. All means all. Nobody is exempt.
Romans 3:23 (NKJV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
1 John 1:8,10 (NKJV)8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:10 (NKJV)10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Another is that the punishment for sin is death.
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Keep the last part of that scripture in mind for a minute.
The Bible also tells me that God doesn’t want anybody to perish.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NKJV)3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (emphasis mine)
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (emphasis mine).
Don’t get me wrong I do believe that homosexuality is a sin.
Leviticus 18:22 (NKJV)22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.
Romans 1:26-28 (NKJV)26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
But so is adultery, lying, murder, coveting, etc. There are over six hundred laws or commandments in the Bible. All of them, except the “Ten Commandments” were temporary. They regulated the priesthood, sacrifices, rituals, meat and drink offerings, etc., all of which were a shadow of Jesus, His sacrifice and the cross.
If God carried out the punishment for sin when it was committed there would be no people alive today.
Having said all of this, now let’s look at this tragic event and try to make some sense of it.
The Old Versus the New Covenant
Yes, there certain acts in the Old Testament for which the penalty was death and/or harsh punishment.
Leviticus 20:13 (NKJV)13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
Leviticus 20:10 (NKJV)10 The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.
Numbers 15:35 (NKJV)35 Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp."
Exodus 21:23-25 (NKJV)23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Under the Old Covenant there was quick judgement and harsh punishment for disobedience quite often in execution by stoning.
Leviticus 24:17 (NKJV)17 'Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.
Deuteronomy 17:2-5 (NKJV)2 "If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing His covenant,3 who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded,4 and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel,5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones.
Animals were even stoned.
Exodus 21:28 (NKJV)28 "If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted.
People who point these scriptures as proof that sin (usually only certain sins) results in swift, harsh punishment are also the ones who say that we are no longer under the “Law” (the Ten Commandments and the six hundred laws in the Old Testament) but with the coming of Christ to earth and His sacrifice for sin we are now under “Grace”. What they fail to say, realize, or remember is that Jesus’ sacrifice was the punishment for all sin, everybody’s sin.
With the death and resurrection of Christ a New Covenant was usured in which meant that the Old Covenant was no longer in effect.
Hebrews 8:7-13 (NKJV)7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
The Old Covenant was a physical (earth) based agreement that was initially made at Mount Sinai with the children of Israel. It required obedience to the letter of God's law. It promised that a person or a nation would be physically blessed (health, wealth, etc.) or cursed (e.g. poverty, captivity, etc.) depending on whether or not they obeyed all of God's written commandments and statutes. It was the Being who became Jesus Christ Who established the Covenant with Israel.
The New Covenant, in contrast to the Old, is spiritually based. It is based on obedience from the heart and a fulfilling of God's laws not only in the letter but also in their spiritual intent. It promises an eternal life full of love and glory for those who obey God and eternal death for those who completely reject submission to the Creator. The beginning words of the New Covenant were given by Jesus in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, which is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. - The Bible Study Site
The New Covenant ushered in what many call the “Age of Grace”. Just because God has given us grace through Jesus to cover all of our sin past, present, and future, it doesn't give us license to sin. That makes no sense at all. We died to sin so we can't casually and carelessly continue to sin.
Romans 5:20-21 (NKJV)20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:1-2 (NKJV)1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
1 Peter 2:15-16 (NKJV)15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men--16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.
Grace should cause you to be even more obedient because of you realize that you were forgiven and will not suffer the punishment you deserve and because of your love and thanksgiving you obey.
Punishment or Discipline?
We first need to distinguish between punishment and discipline. For believers, all our sin—past, present, and future—has already been punished on the cross. As Christians, we will never be punished for sin. That was done once for all.
Romans 8:1 (NKJV)1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
God sees only the righteousness of Christ when He looks at us. Our sin has been nailed to the cross with Jesus, and we will never be punished for it.
Discipline is what turns believers from rebellion to obedience. Discipline causes us to confess and repent of sin. Discipline causes the believer to grow. Discipline proves that God love the believer.
Hebrews 12:5-11 (NKJV)5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Discipline presents us with the opportunity to learn and to conform ourselves to the image of Christ
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Discipline is a good thing!
Suffering May or May Not Be Discipline
It is possible that suffering is the Lord’s way of disciplining us. Let me point out though, that God doesn’t cause the suffering. He may allow it but He doesn’t cause it. Suffering, in general, is a result of what happened to the world because of sin.
Genesis 3:17-19 (NKJV)17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."
This does not mean that every instance of personal suffering is a direct consequence of a person’s own sin. The fact that we live in a world that is not what God intended.
Look at Job.
He lost everything he had accumulated in his life, he lost his children, and finally the lost his health. His friends said it must have been punishment for sin but we know that was not the case.
Job 42:7-8 (NKJV)7 And so it was, after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has."
It was Satan who caused Job’s suffering (see Job 1).
Good people and bad people, Christians and Muslims, gay and straight, all suffer because of inherited sin and imperfection.
Romans 5:12 (NKJV)12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--
Godly people suffer sickness through no fault of their own.
1 Timothy 5:23 (NKJV)23 No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NKJV)7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Godly people also suffer because of bad judgement or not following God’s commandments.
1 Kings 11:1-3, 9-11 (NKJV)1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites--2 from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, "You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love.3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 9 So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice,10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded.11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.
The Ultimate Penalty
The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death. There are times that sin results in immediate death. Being shot and killed while robbing or beating someone for example, but that happens to whether you are a believer or not. Most times that we sin we don’t die or even have bad consequences. So the death penalty for sin must be something other than physical death. It is the death that is the penalty for sin is spiritual death.
Sin separates us from God, who is the creator and sustainer of life.
Isaiah 59:1-2 (NKJV)1 Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear.2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
Jesus said that He is life.
John 14:6 (NKJV)6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
When we sin and become separated from God, we become separated from true life.
Christians can and do still sin too and their sin results in symptoms of spiritual death; guilt, confusion, emptiness, and disconnected. Sin doesn't destroy the believer’s relationship but it does set up a barrier. That barrier can be removed though.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV)9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Those who are not Christians can do this too but only after agreeing with God that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for their sin.
Romans 10:8-10 (NKJV)8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Until the unbeliever does this they are under the specter of the ultimate penalty of sin which is eternal separation from God. That ultimate penalty is executed at the great white throne of judgement at the end of the current Age, and not before.
2 Corinthians 5:10 (NKJV)10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Revelation 20:11-15 (NKJV)11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.13 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.
If Orlando Wasn't Punishment What Was It?
The Bible does not indicate that disasters in general are acts of God designed to punish the wicked. Christians and non-Christians, good people and bad people, homosexuals and heterosexuals, black people, white people, yellow people, (you get the point) suffer and die in natural disasters, airplane crashes, home invasions, automobile accidents, terrorist attacks, and other tragedies. This was the case in 9/11, Chattanooga, Ft. Hood, San Bernardino, Aurora, Newcastle, and yes Orlando.
Luke 13:2-5 (NKJV)2 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?3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
God Didn't Do This
The attack in Orlando was one of terror fueled by hate. It was the act of a man consumed by hate. It’s not my intent to speculate about the source of that hate or who, if anyone inspired it. What I can say with the utmost confidence is that it was not God.
James 1:13-15 (NKJV)13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
1 John 1:5 (NKJV)5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
God didn’t do it but He did allow it.
I don’t know. I don’t have God’s mind. I don’t see with God’s eyes. When we ask about specific events and want to know why they happened, we won’t get the full answer now. We’ll find out someday but for now we won’t get a full answer. We have some ideas like global warming, mechanical failure, human mistakes, radical religious philosophies, mental illness, and the list goes on, but we won’t get a full answer in this world. We won’t get a complete answer because we are looking from a finite perspective. God’s perspective is infinite. We don’t need a big theological answer right now anyway because it’s going to seem insensitive and inadequate. What we need is the real comforting presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. What we know is that God loves everybody. Love is His nature.
1 John 4:7-11 (NKJV)7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
The next question is, “Well if God loves everybody and He’s so powerful why does He allow tragic things to happen”?
The following are excerpts from a blog post, “Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering”, written by Andy Rau, Senior Manager of Content for Bible Gateway, after the shooting at the Aurora, CO movie theater.
"So in order for us to experience love, God bestowed on us free will. But unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from Him. And that has resulted in the introduction of two kinds of evil into the world: moral evil and natural evil.
Moral evil is the immorality and pain and suffering and tragedy that come because we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
So much of the world’s suffering results from the sinful action or inaction of ourselves and others. For example, people look at a famine and wonder where God is, but the world produces enough food for each person to have 3,000 calories a day. It’s our own irresponsibility and self-centeredness that prevents people from getting fed.
In other words: look at your hand. You can choose to use that hand to hold a gun and shoot someone, or you can use it to feed hungry people. It’s your choice. But it’s unfair to shoot someone and then blame God for the existence of evil and suffering. Like that old cartoon said: “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”
The second kind of evil is called natural evil. These are things like wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes that cause suffering for people. But these, too, are the indirect result of sin being allowed into the world. As one author explained: “When we humans told God to shove off, He partially honored our request. Nature began to revolt. The earth was cursed. Genetic breakdown and disease began. Pain and death became part of the human experience.”
The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil."
No Orlando Wasn’t Punishment Or Warning
Orlando was an act of terror fueled by by hate and that hate was used by Satan to cause a man to act. Satan’s plan is to cause Orlando to result in fear, division, discouragement, and to question the love and faithfulness of God. Let’s not let him win.
Revelation 21:1-5 (NKJV)1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
PRAYER: Gracious, merciful God, I will never get to the point where I understand the cause of all suffering. Your ways are not my ways, and my judgment is limited. Nevertheless, I pray that you help me to know what I should know and to be satisfied with not knowing what I don’t need to know.
I thank you, dear Lord, for using suffering to make me more like you. I can think of times when you used the pain of my life to open me up to your grace in new ways. I can even see how some of the most painful events of my life have been ultimately some of the most redemptive. Thank you for being a God who works together in all things for good, including my good.
I pray in the name of Jesus, who suffered for me. Amen.
This blog is for you! If you have any questions or topics you would like me to address please use the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.