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The Lord of Heaven and Earth

A biblical perspective on natural disasters

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This summer, fires raged in Colorado, tornadoes ravaged the Midwest and one of the largest floods ever in Western Canada surged through Calgary and many other communities, causing devastating destruction. Lives have been lost in all three places. What are we to think when nature strikes us with forces that are totally beyond our control? Let me advance some thoughts based on the teaching of Holy Scripture.

Natural disasters remind us that we live in a world that is under God’s curse. After our first parents sinned against their Holy Creator and were expelled from the Garden, they entered a world of weeds and sweat and pain and violence. The Lord said to Adam, “‘Cursed is the ground because of you . . .’” (Gen. 3:17). Several generations later, He sent the first great international disaster in the form of a flood. Only Noah and his household were saved (Gen.7:1–24). It is instructive to observe that the rain that fell and the fountains of the deep that produced this flood were under the direct control of the Lord of heaven and earth.

Sometimes natural disasters come as a judgment from God on people because of their sin. The previous point is a classic example of this. It was when “the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” . . . that He sent the flood (Gen. 6:5). There are many other instances where God sent pestilence, droughts and plagues to show His abhorrence of evil (see Amos 4:6–13). However, we must never say that ALL natural disasters come from Him as a judgment on sin. This would be to repeat the terrible mistake that Job’s three friends made. Indeed, they were “miserable comforters”!

Often in natural disasters we experience the protection of the Lord’s presence. “‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God . . .’” (Isa. 43:2–3).

We must never feel that those who are adversely affected by a natural disaster are worse sinners than those who are spared. Our Lord made this very clear in Luke 13:1–5. A tower in Siloam had fallen and killed 18 people. Our Lord’s query to the people was whether these victims of the accident were worse sinners than those who were permitted to live. He answered His own question with an emphatic “No.” And then He added, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Every calamity is a call, not to search for causes or to try to determine the disposition of those suffering, but rather for me to search my own heart and to change (repent).

Natural disasters will be part of end-time events. Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror . . .” (Luke 21:25–26). He said in Matthew 24:7 that “there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”

Finally, natural disasters cause us as believers to look forward to our Lord’s return, after which there will be no more disasters. We are told in the last book of the Bible that when Jesus comes back, the kingdoms of this world will become “the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). He will rule over a perfect environment that is described in the last chapter of Scripture. There is a pure river, flourishing trees that produce fruit and healing for all and no more curse. All of this is surrounded by the eternal brilliance of God’s glory—light and darkness is banished forever. Paradise restored! Later in this same chapter Jesus gives us the last promise in the Bible: “‘Yes, I am coming soon.’” And we join with the writer of the book and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

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