* I wrote this column in 2013, but I thought it would be good to revisit it today.
Since today is September 11th, many cable channels have documentaries on what happened during the terrorist attacks. My husband and I have watched several of these programs and come away shocked and grieving all over again. Words can’t describe the horrors of that day.
This is why it angers us that parts of the church claim God is the source for the horrors of September 11th. Jonathan Cahn, Pat Robertson, and many more who agree with, and prop up Cahn, such as Paul Crouch of TBN, Jan Markell, Eric Barger, and Dwight Douville of Calvary Chapel in Appleton, WI, all point to the 9/11 attacks as being a judgment from God. John McTernan has been warning that God’s final judgment is coming on America and even John MacArthur believes that God is judging America.
We also thought this way at one time. We thought we had an insight into the Bible that others who didn’t love the scriptures didn’t have. We actually went to see John McTernan when he visited our community, and purchased one of his videos, As America Has Done to Israel. We watched the 700 Club for years. We also listened to Jan Markell on the radio every Sunday afternoon, went to her annual prophecy conference in Minnesota, and visited Calvary Chapel in Appleton. We were blessed by these ministries.
But last year something happened to us. John McTernan began to say that Hurricane Isaac, which was about to hit New Orleans on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, was another judgment from God. He said Isaac was expected to sit on top of New Orleans and just keep churning. He thought that the levies could break again. But they didn’t. We admit we felt puzzled that the judgment of broken levies didn’t happen. Oh, Isaac wasn’t an opportunity to see God in action? No. It was just a regular hurricane. When we realized that our hearts were thinking like that, a little crack started to develop in our doctrinal beliefs.
Then when Superstorm Sandy struck, we heard a story of two little boys getting swept away by a wave out of their mother’s arms and dying. At this time, McTernan was again claiming that Sandy was a judgment on America for her sins. After this, our hearts were prepared to question McTernan’s doctrine and we began to search the scriptures to discover the truth. Does God judge nations for sin? Was 9/11 a harbinger of judgment?
We knew that God judged the world for sins at different times in the past. He caused the flood of Noah. He judged Sodom and Gomorrah. He judged Israel and exiled them to Babylon. God is a just God, and it is necessary for there to be a system of justice in the universe. But these events happened before Jesus came.
What we knew was that Jesus took the punishment for our sins. He took our judgment on himself and paid the penalty. Isaiah 53 says he was “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.” We thought this provision was for those who believed in him, and that those who didn’t receive Jesus were still exposed to the wrath of God (as Romans 1 seems to say). But then we thought, “Did any Christians die on 9/11?” If they did, then they received judgment from God even though they were “covered by his blood.” So how could these two views be reconciled?
What we didn’t know or understand was the power of the propitiating atonement of Jesus Christ. We spent days asking the Lord for an answer and begging him to give us understanding concerning God’s judgment on the nations. After having many discussions, wandering through the scriptures, and seeking for truth, we found this scripture:
“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
We had never heard a teaching on “propitiation,” so we began to study it on our own. It’s a hairy word, but it’s basic meaning is “to appease.” The sacrifice of Jesus not only atoned for our sin, it also appeased the wrath of God on behalf of the entire world. Notice that John only mentions the propitiating power in this verse, and not the atoning power. The atonement reconciles us to God. That is why many people describe it as “at-one-ment,” but the propitiation holds back judgment.
Some Bible teachers, such as John Piper, have a difficult time with this verse because it could seem to mean that God is providing universal salvation, so they teach that the verse is referring to the Gentile believers from all the nations who get saved. But this isn’t what the verse says. It says the “WHOLE WORLD.” The Greek words there are “holos kosmos.” Holos (G3650) means “all, whole, completely,” and the word kosmos (G2889) has many meanings, and could refer to the Gentiles, but then it would mean that ALL the Gentiles would be saved, thus it would promote a universalist position, which is not what we believe.
Instead, we think the scriptures support the view that the sacrifice of Jesus appeases the wrath of God for a time. Just as the sacrifice of a lamb, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat, appeased the wrath of God for a year, Jesus’ blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and is holding back the wrath of God until the DAY OF WRATH. That is why 2 Corinthians 6:2 says:
“In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Romans 2:4-5 seems to support this position also. Paul is warning those who are judging sinners and hoping for the wrath of God to come down, by saying that those who judge sinners are sinners also. [Remember that verse–“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”? (Romans 3:23)] Then Paul tells them to not despise the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and patience, because a DAY of wrath will come, when God will judge righteously.
And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
What is “forebearance?” It means “a refraining from the enforcement of something (as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due.” Yes, God’s justice demands reprisal for sin, but it isn’t happening now! Right now, Christ’s propitiating sacrifice is causing God to refrain from judgment.
The teaching that God is indiscriminately pouring out judgment through terrorist attacks or natural disasters is wrong doctrine. I challenge anyone to find a New Testament scripture which tells Christians to preach the impending doom and judgment from God that could come to their nation. No! That isn’t the Great Commission. The Gospel is GOOD NEWS! God isn’t judging the nations at this time! Instead, today is the day of salvation! Climb in the ark (Jesus) and be safe. He loves you and died for you, providing a way to be reconciled to God for eternity.
Jesus told us the towers of Siloam didn’t fall down because of the people’s sin. (Luke 13:4) Jesus rebuked his disciples for wanting to call down fire from heaven in judgment against unbelievers, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” (Luke 9:53-55)
We believe those who promote the judgment view are neglecting the Gospel and and actually profaning the name of God. To “profane” means: 1. to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt, to desecrate. 2. to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.
To say that God is responsible for the deaths of 9/11 is profanity! It’s treating God abusively, accusing him of something He never did. It’s the work of the devil–the accuser of the brethren. (Revelation 12:10)
In fact Jesus said, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” (John 5:22) And Jesus said he isn’t the source of destruction either, “for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56)
We’re beginning to think that the people who need to be most concerned about the return of Jesus and the day of wrath aren’t the homosexuals and abortionists (they aren’t deceived into believing they are safe before God [maybe they are now in 2018!]), but the false teachers who promote the view that God is an indiscriminate and unjust judge, and that the precious, propitiating, atoning blood of Jesus isn’t strong enough to hinder His wrath. This false doctrine of God’s judgment does many evil things. We will just list three:
1. It disparages the true character of God, blaming Him for things that were caused by false religion, false doctrine, the Fall, and evil men.
2. It blends Old Testament law with the Gospel of Grace.
3. It deceives Christians, causing them to credit the work of the devil to God.
Because of these concerns, we feel we need to warn the church about these false teachings and encourage them to instead remember the grace of God and the wonderful power of the blood of Jesus, because it’s the “GOODNESS of God that leads to repentance” (Romans 2: 4), not the wrath of God.
In Christ’s Grace and Truth,
Greg and Diana Lesperance