The grisly sights echoed of the Holocaust. Dump trucks unloading bodies into mass graves. Pits filled with piles of corpses. Limbs jutting out of sand heaped upon bare earth. Smoldering carcasses littering burning garbage dumps.
Within two weeks of the January 12 earthquake that flattened 20,000 businesses and nearly a quarter-million homes, Haiti’s official count surpassed 150,000 victims buried. Those still entombed in the rubble may have been double that.
Haiti’s cathedral crumpled, killing the archbishop. Seminaries and convents collapsed, killing the believers inside.
“There is no God,” wrote one observer of the horror. Mass-scale suffering always seems to arouse the temptation to put God on trial.
Why didn’t God stop the quake? Does He care? Did He cause the quake? There are almost as many opinions on God’s role as there are religions.
The truth is, most people do not accept the God who reveals Himself in the Holy Bible. They worship a god of their own creation. God’s Word does explain—in explicit detail—why cataclysmic disasters happen, from the first book of the Bible to the last.
Many ministers are quick to say it couldn’t be God’s will to cause something as destructive as the Haitian earthquake. Their God would never do that, they say.
God is all-powerful. God does control the forces of the Earth. God does allow disasters and suffering. And He does these things for a reason. We need to understand what our Creator is doing.
Go Back to the Beginning
First, understand a crucial truth. This is not God’s world.
Let’s look at the Bible to see what God claims. Scripture says that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). That love is God’s giving way of life, manifested, for example, in God giving His only begotten Son to the world (John 3:16). That love is defined by and expressed in God’s commandments: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments …” (1 John 5:3).
Do you see love in the world around you?
Long before man was created, God made angels. The most prominent, powerful archangel, Lucifer, decided to reject his Creator’s authority and become His enemy, Satan.
Then God created man. He made Adam and Eve in His own likeness and gave them the opportunity to care for and rule the rest of creation (Genesis 1:26-31). He gave them intellectual and creative powers, and the ability to grow into His own image, or character. Earth was their training ground where they could learn to fulfill their potential as eternal children of God.
Adam and Eve had the opportunity to choose to obey God, to live under His protection, to develop a relationship with Him, to think like Him, and to give like Him. Instead, they decided to trust themselves, just as Lucifer had, and succumbed to Satan’s deceptions. God removed His guidance—which humans had rejected—and removed His protection. He pronounced upon them certain curses. He banished them from the Garden of Eden and cut off their access to the tree of life (Genesis 3:16-24).
Think about this fateful moment in human history in relation to the Haiti quake. Adam and Eve rejected God as their authority. So have their children. They lost His guidance. So have their children. They lost His protection. So have their children—and so have we today!
God punishing Adam and Eve was not a short-tempered, retaliatory outburst. God was preserving man’s potential. Had they rejected Him and then eaten from the tree of life and become eternal spirit beings, they would have produced eternal division and misery. In expelling them from the garden, God was sparing them that fate. He took occasion to teach Adam and Eve, and all who would follow, an enormous lesson.
In his final book, Mystery of the Ages, Herbert W. Armstrong explained what God, in essence, told Adam: “Go, therefore, Adam, and all your progeny that shall form the world, produce your own fund of knowledge. Decide for yourself what is good and what is evil. Produce your own educational systems and means of disseminating knowledge, as your god Satan shall mislead you. Form your own concepts of what is god, your own religions, your own governments, your own lifestyles and forms of society and civilization. In all this Satan will deceive your world with his attitude of self-centeredness—with vanity, lust and greed, jealousy and envy, competition and strife and violence and wars, rebellion against me and my law of love.
“After the world of your descendants has written the lesson in 6,000 years of human suffering, anguish, frustration, defeat and death—after the world that shall spring from you shall have been brought to confess the utter hopelessness of the way of life you have chosen—I will supernaturally intervene” (emphasis ours).
Every aspect of our society has been affected because Adam and Eve defied their Creator. This fatal choice at the beginning of human history made necessary the writing of that lesson in human suffering—the 6,000-year period of which mankind is now nearing the end.
All of Adam and Eve’s descendants today remain under the malicious influence of the devil (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4). This is not God’s world, it is Satan’s! These verses prove that truth, though most people remain blinded to it. Swayed by Satan, each of us is “naturally” hostile toward our Creator (Romans 8:7-8). We are carnal. We naturally hate God’s law and reject it—just like Adam and Eve.
In order to restore the exalted human potential our first parents turned their backs on, God’s ultimate goal is to convert the heart of every person in the world—to help us recognize the error in going the wrong way, and to create in us a deep love for His loving, giving way of life. “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s overarching plan includes everyone willing to come to repentance. This is a tremendous ambition, since each carnal human heart is a mountain-size obstacle. But here is another unrecognized truth: God is not calling everyone on a mass scale today.
A Call to Repentance
In fact, God is only calling a very few to repentance today. The first step toward real and everlasting happiness is genuine, deep, complete repentance. To recognize our own helplessness, unhappiness and inadequacy apart from God is the most fundamental lesson any of us could learn.
Whenever God begins working with someone, He begins by humbling that individual. As it says in Proverbs 15:33, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.” God wants to give each of us phenomenal honor—but the humility, rooted in a deep respect for the Creator, must come first.
The curses God imposed upon Adam and his seed teach this lesson. The suffering that saturates this present world, cut off from God, teaches this lesson.
When God was working with the carnal nation of ancient Israel, here is how He did it: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19; you may find it helpful to read verses 15-20). This goes beyond just the natural consequences for obeying or disobeying God’s laws. God said He would bless for obedience and curse for disobedience. When the Israelites obeyed, He prospered them; when they rebelled, He would send a plague, or turn the weather against them, or remove His protection and allow them to go into captivity. Essentially God was teaching them a proper fear of man’s Creator.
God has as much control over natural phenomena today as He did in ancient Israel and when He created the Earth.
In God’s omnipotence, He could have stopped the Haiti earthquake. Jesus Christ stilled a storm with just a few words (Mark 4:39). Whether that tremor was caused by a random tectonic shift or the devil himself, God could have prevented it. But He didn’t. And He had a reason.
When something like the catastrophic Haiti earthquake occurs, we should all learn to fear God! God wants each and every carnal individual in the whole world to learn to fear Him.
The God of Judgment
Those who dismiss the possibility that God actually uses disastrous phenomena as a tool—do they know the God of the Bible? The God who blesses for obedience—and punishes for disobedience?Can we recognize the love in God’s correction?
Many who see devastation wonder whether God loves us. Shouldn’t we ask the more piercing question: Is it possible that we don’t love God?
Cross-examining God’s love over an earthquake is a flawed line of reasoning if we think that no matter how much evil we perpetrate, no matter how much selfishness we amass, no matter what we do, God is obliged to shower only blessings upon us.
“Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17).
Do we know this God?
In Noah’s day, God was so disgusted with the sins of humankind that He sent a catastrophic Flood. By the hand of God, every inhabitant of the Earth was wiped out except Noah and his family—eight people. The destruction exceeded the Haiti earthquake by several orders of magnitude.
In fact, Scripture repeatedly describes God’s judgment and punishments on the nations, including His own (e.g. the Flood in Genesis 6-8, Sodom and Gomorrah’s fate in Genesis 19, punishment on Egypt in Exodus 12:29-30 and on Israel in Amos 4:10). And more shaking and judgment is coming in the near future, spelled out in Revelation 16.
Should we be so shocked when we see such calamities today? If we are, we don’t know the God of the Bible.
God on Death
But hundreds of thousands of Haitians died in January. How could they learn to fear God? How could they learn who He is and how to live His way? It’s too late for them!
Or is it? You have to understand God’s perspective on human life. Otherwise it is impossible to understand how correction through calamity is actually an expression of love.
To God, human death is a temporary sleep (1 Corinthians 15:51-55). Our Creator is able to resurrect humans from the grave! That is what your Bible says.
One of the greatest, most hope-filled truths in Scripture is that of the resurrection of the dead. Hebrews 6:1-2 list the resurrection as being one of the foundational doctrines of your Bible. Scripture actually refers to three separate resurrections, each serving a unique purpose (this truth is explained in our free reprint article “The Three Resurrections”). In God’s immense wisdom and mercy, every individual who ever lived will be given one genuine chance to choose eternal life or eternal death. The vast majority of people in this Satan-gripped world—including the victims in Haiti—have not yet been given that choice, and have not yet been judged (Hebrews 9:27).
God has promised it! Those who died in the Haiti earthquake will be raised again! They will live again in a safe, peaceful world ruled not by Satan, but by God. They will have the opportunity to finally understand their Creator and turn their hearts to Him. That is a message of hope.
God’s perspective is very different from ours. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). He does not allow us to suffer and even die because He is cruel. He is using disasters to shake those of us still living—to call us to repentance.
“Ye Shall All Likewise Perish”
Jesus Christ spoke of this in Luke 13. He had been told of some wicked Galileans who were killed by Pilate in an especially gruesome manner. Did they deserve that fate? “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3).
Christ followed up with another example. A tower had collapsed, tragically crushing 18 people. Those who happened to be near the tower bore no particular guilt beyond those who happened to be a safe distance away. But again Jesus followed up with the barbed statement: “[T]hink ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (verses 4-5).
No one can impute extraordinary wickedness on the Haitians who died in the January quake. Their deaths do not prove they were more sinful than those who survived. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Disasters that befall others should serve as a warning to us, Christ said. We will be subject to the same fate unless we repent of our sins!
“God told [the Jews] they must repent or the whole jewish nation would die in the same violent way!” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in our June 1995 edition. “That is precisely what happened to the Jewish nation in a.d. 70! Only God’s loyal remnant escaped to Pella. They are the only ones who heeded Christ’s warning!”
But, Mr. Flurry explained, “We must not forget that what happened to the Jewish nation is only a type of what is to happen to Israel—mainly the American and British peoples in this end time” (request The United States and Britain in Prophecy).
We must accept this sobering reality. As gruesome as the carnage in Haiti was, the punishment prophesied to befall the end-time nations of Israel is far, far worse. The corpses in Haiti are finding their way into mass graves and being burned in dumps. Death tolls in our First World nations are about to climb to the point of overwhelming even such crude disposal methods! “They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth … and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth” (Jeremiah 16:4).
“Jewish historian Josephus recorded that there were many catastrophes which were rapidly intensifying before the Jewish nation was destroyed in a.d. 70. Disasters were very common,” Mr. Flurry continued. “Today, we see the same scenario in end-time Israel. Horrifying events are becoming common for us today. It is all leading to the total destruction of our nations unless we repent! These disasters are the strongest kind of warning from God. … Why all these disasters? They are a warning from God to repent! The disasters will keep coming until we repent. That is our only hope.”
The Beginning of Sorrows
Yes—the disasters will keep coming. We can count on that. Notice what Christ prophesied in the Olivet prophecy for today: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:7-8). Today’s disasters are only the beginning of sorrows! God is going to bring them upon the whole world.
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (verses 21-22).
Why would God allow that suffering?“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).
God wants us to repent so we can live!
God is determined to allow suffering to increase until mankind accepts that there is no hope in man! Until we admit that rejecting God only results in misery!
If God cut His losses now and accepted only those few on Earth who have so far repented and believed and obeyed their Creator, He would have a family of only a few thousand. But by allowing 6,000 years of human existence in Satan’s world to play out—to in fact cause events to climax in unprecedented catastrophe—God is creating conditions so that many hundreds of millions, even billions, of human beings made in the likeness of God will recognize the futility of the ways that seemed right to them but led only to death, and embrace the God-ordained way of love, of joy and peace—the way that leads to life.
God is a God of love. To comprehend the love of God, we must realize that what we have now is not real life—it is merely a short-lived chemical existence. God wants to give us real life—eternal life! That is why He will allow so much destruction and suffering to come upon this world: so as many as possible will repent, and He can then reward them with eternal life.
Even in the face of these catastrophes—even as we see these types of natural disasters increase and see human suffering increase—we can be filled with a vibrant hope. Why?
Because knowing that we are in the last days tells us that Jesus Christ is about to return! When He does, this 6,000-year-long lesson in human suffering will be over, and everyone on Earth will have seen the futility of following after the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. People will be ready to do what’s right, to live the way of peace, joy and happiness that God offered Adam and Eve 6,000 years ago.
Satan the devil will be banished, and Jesus Christ will rule over the greatest time of prosperity that has ever been.
Finally, with God’s benevolent government in place, the hope of the resurrection will become reality, and everyone who has ever lived—including our loved ones and the victims of the Haiti quake—will be raised into a world where the right choice has been made, where, as the Prophet Isaiah said, the knowledge of the Eternal covers the Earth as the waters cover the sea.
To learn more, request our free booklet Repentance Toward God.