Are Disasters a Sign of God's Judgment?
There's a place in John's Gospel where Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders, who talk about a man who was born blind. And they ask Jesus, trying to trap him in a theological question, "Who sinned? This man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" And Jesus said, "Neither. He was born blind for this moment, to show the glory of God." In other words, as difficult as it is to swallow, there's something bigger than you and your personal happiness, and that is God and his purposes displaying his mercy.
He was born blind up to this point for God's purposes, because he wanted to glorify himself through this sign of my Messianic mission and ministry. And so it's not because of his own personal sin. That was a radical view in that day, and it's sometimes a radical view today because when tragedy strikes, there are a lot of religious leaders who will say, "Well, nothing comes from nothing. If something bad happened to these people, or if something bad happened to this person, it must be because they sinned, or somebody close to them sinned." Not that it's just a part of the fallen world in which we live.
And that's dangerous, because we have absolutely no reason to believe from scripture that anybody is prosperous because they've been good, or anyone suffers because they've been bad. The whole story of Job throws that into disarray. So, there is no Biblical basis for the message you sometimes get, pouring salt into the wounds of tragedy, that God did this to this particular nation, or to this particular person, because of some personal judgment.
When Jesus returns for the last judgment, people are going to be ... we're told in Scripture, people are going to be eating and drinking and dancing and playing and marrying and giving in marriage. In other words they're going to be at the mall. No one is going to be expecting this judgment. They're going to be living happy lives. There is absolutely no reason to believe Christians are going to live prosperous lives, and non-Christians are going to lead difficult lives of material impoverishment, and disease, and so forth.
We have no Biblical text to indicate that Godsends particular diseases upon particular people for particular sins. And the good news, again, is that Christ has assumed, on himself, the burden of all of our sins so that even though we do suffer in life, we know that ultimately all things are working together for our salvation.
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