Faith and Theology: Dr. John MacArthur Q&A


Are catastrophes a sign of God’s judgment?

Upon hearing about an incident where Galileans were sought out and killed in the temple by Roman authorities while in the process of offering a sacrifice, perhaps because they were seditious zealots, Jesus asked His listeners, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners…because they suffered such things?” (Luke 13.2). It was the belief of many that disaster and sudden death always signified divine displeasure over particular sins (see Job 4.7). Those who suffered in uncommon ways were therefore assumed to be guilty of some more severe immorality (see John 9.2).

Jesus did not deny the connection between catastrophe and human evil, for all such afflictions ultimately stem from the curse of humanity’s fallenness (Gen. 3.17–19). Furthermore, specific calamities may indeed be the fruit of certain iniquities (Prov. 24.16). But Christ challenged the people’s notion that they were morally superior to those who suffered in such catastrophes. He called all to repent (v. 3), for all were in danger of sudden destruction. No one is guaranteed time to prepare for death, so now is the time for repentance for all (see 2 Cor. 6.2).

Jesus also mentions another disaster in Siloam, where evidently one of the towers guarding an aqueduct collapsed, perhaps while under construction, killing some people (v. 4). Again, the question in the minds of people was regarding the connection between calamity and iniquity (“worse sinners”). Jesus responded by saying that such a calamity was not God’s way to single out an especially evil group for death, but a means of warning to all sinners.