Home > Theology > When God kills, it’s really OK (even kind?)

When God kills, it’s really OK (even kind?)

If you read the Bible enough or deal with people’s responses to it, you’ll inevitably come across the question of whether it’s “fair” for God to kill people. Why is it that God can wipe out an entire city—or even most of the world’s population (Noah’s flood)—and He’s still all good, loving, and just?

Well, let’s get the obvious cliche answer out of the way first. By the way, being cliche doesn’t mean it’s not true.

God is sovereign and creator of everything.

If God created the entire universe, including every single person in it, then who are we to tell Him what He can or cannot do? Technically, our lives are in His hands, even on a daily basis. The Bible tells us (e.g., Psalm 54:4) that God sustains our lives, gives us our every breath. Why then is He obligated to keep us alive if we have completely turned away and rebelled? What does God owe us? The answer is, of course, nothing.

This answer is really at the root of the issue, but it’s not enough for some people. So let’s take a practical look at how we can justify God’s killing of people (even though a perfect being should never have to justify His actions to us). Note that this next section is based on human reasoning (mine) so it’s prone to error, but it’s just one possible way to look at it.

God knows every person and is completely just, punishing and rewarding accordingly.

Here are a few verses to read and consider before we dive in:

Luke 12:47-48: “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

Psalm 62:12: “and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.”

What do these verses tell us in a nutshell? First, there are varying degrees of punishment and reward. In hell, whether you’re a traditionalist or annihilationist, it’s clear that people will be punished according to their deeds. This may mean longer suffering or a different measure of severity; we cannot know for sure. Second, God searches the heart and examines the mind. This means He knows our thought life and our actions—past, present, and future. Whether or not every one of our future actions is set in stone is not important. God knows where we’ve been and He knows the direction/path of our lives. He literally knows us better than we know ourselves.

Finally, God is loving. Sometimes, this seems to be at odds with His perfect justice, but it’s really not. They work together, but logically we can assume that God would want people to suffer the least amount of punishment while still achieving perfect justice. He will not overly punish anyone—there is no overkill with God.

So now let’s apply this to instances in the Bible. Picture the city of Sodom, where wickedness abounded. God was rightfully angry and wrathful when He wiped it out. But what gets lost in the skeptics’ minds is that God was also just and loving.

He was just because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but He was also removing a source of corruption from the world. Is it any secret that moral decay spreads quickly when left unabated? If you think peer pressure (and culture) is something that only affects feeble-minded teenagers, think again. It affects everyone, though to differing degrees.

If the people of Sodom were allowed to live and increase in population and influence, can you imagine how much the rest of the world may have followed? Every time a wicked people was allowed to live in the Bible (usually in disobedience to God’s commands), they would cause the righteous around them to fall to sexual immorality and idolatry. The natural flow of the stream always goes from difficult –> easy, high to low.

For example, the Jews—God’s chosen people—were easily taken in with Baal worship and some even committed the reprehensible act of child sacrifices. These kinds of things wouldn’t have happened if the wicked around them were wiped off the earth. If you think the world is full of evil and suffering today, please know that it could have been much worse if drastic measures had not taken place in the past.

All it takes is one prominent figure—for instance, in the music industry—to push the limits of decency, and the world will swiftly follow. Things that used to shock us or seem abhorrent quickly become the norm. We need more and more extremeness to elicit any moral outrage from us as we grow increasingly callous and desensitized. God knows that this is how humans are. In His wisdom and foreknowledge, He cuts off the source of corruption like a cancerous tumor…and then people accuse Him of being “mean” and “petty.”

God was also loving in this scenario, even to the Sodomites. Think about it logically here: if God punishes people according to their deeds, then you would think that MORE bad deeds would incur MORE punishment in the long run. So if God knows that the Sodomites were a lost cause, unwilling to turn from their ways, then wiping them off from the face of the earth instantly is the most merciful solution. This way, they will enter into the afterlife with a shorter rap sheet. Simply put, God will have less to punish than if He had allowed them to live longer.

Remember that sin entails punishment since God is perfectly just, but God’s love wants to limit the severity of that punishment if at all possible. The only way to do this (without infringing upon free will) is to cut a person’s life short if they’re headed down the wrong path.

This principle also applies to “good” people as well. Consider King Josiah whose life was ended at 39 years of age. All throughout his life, He served God and brought his people back away from idolatry. So why didn’t God allow him to live longer? Well, we may never fully know the answer to that question. Part of the reason lies in the sins of Judah leading up to that point (2 Kings 23:26-27). Realistically, there are consequences for past generations’ mistakes as well as federal headship.

But also, the event that caused his undoing may hold some hints. Egypt was marching up to the Euphrates River to help Assyria against the Babylonians, and the Egyptian pharaoh had rightly warned Josiah not to interfere. Their quarrel was not with Judah, and God had warned against attacking the Egyptians at this juncture (2 Chronicles 35:20-22). But Josiah, overly confident and reckless, decided to try anyway. He was killed for failing to take heed of God’s warning. Pride had started to seep into him after all the blessings God had poured out onto Josiah’s kingdom.

So why did God kill Josiah so quickly after one act of disobedience? Maybe it was a necessary part of God’s timing regarding judgment on the kingdom of Judah. But also, maybe God knew that Josiah was on the same track as King Solomon who preceded him. Solomon had started out his reign in complete and humble submission to God. After he prayed for wisdom—which greatly pleased God (because most people would have asked for riches and power)—God blessed his kingdom mightily. Solomon’s kingdom became wealthy beyond imagination and the king’s wisdom was known through much of the world around him. But this eventually caused pride to seep in, and not only that, but Solomon was taken in with the desires of his flesh—namely, scores and scores of foreign women as his wives. Solomon’s empire began to crumble away, and the next generation would see the kingdom split into Israel and Judah.

Anyhow, sorry for that detail. It’s still fresh in my mind from my studies, but the point is that Josiah may have been on a similar track. By killing him at 39, God may have seen that Josiah’s later years (from 40-on) would be more bad than good. So God lovingly allowed Josiah to die then and enter into the afterlife with a relatively clean record. Eternal reward infinitely outweighs all temporary worldly prosperity, including a long life.

I hope this made some sense and that I didn’t ramble on too much. Again, this is just my take, and it’s therefore very limited. But you can see how we can make some sense of God’s actions if we’re not so quick to close our minds. Knowing the Bible in its entirety helps, too. You can’t look at one piece of scripture in isolation, but rather, you need to piece it together in light of the overall picture.

God knows what He’s doing, folks, and please take comfort in knowing that He’s a lot wiser and loving than you and I could ever be.

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