Terrorists and Death

By Ken Ham and Dr Jonathan Sarfati

We offer our sympathy to all the families who have lost loved ones as a result of the devastating terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. These were cowardly acts of suicide/mass murder by terrorists who lack the slightest respect for human life.

As the shock of these horrible events subsides, many people are probably asking why such horrible things occur. Others may be asking questions such as: ‘How can there be a loving God controlling the universe in the light of such death and suffering?’

We have written much on the subject of death and violence—articles are available on this Web site, e.g. Why would a loving God allow suffering?

From a perspective of the literal history of the Book of Genesis, the perfect world—described by God as ‘very good’—was marred because of Adam’s rebellion. Sin entered the world that was once a paradise.

Because Adam was the head of the human race, and we are all descendants of Adam, the Bible makes it clear that we all sinned in Adam (Romans 5:12 ff.; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22). In 1 Corinthians 15:26, Paul describes death as the ‘last enemy.’ And that’s the point—death is an enemy—it’s an intrusion. Death of man and the animals was not a part of the original creation.

Sadly, those who teach that the world is millions of years old have no coherent answer as to why there is death and suffering in the world. If one believes in millions of years, then death and suffering have been a permanent part of this world. For those Christians who have believed in the supposed millions of years of history, then they have effectively taught that God describes all this death and suffering as ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). It’s worse if one believes ‘God used evolution,’ because evolution relies on death of the ‘unfit’—this would mean that God actually used ‘the last enemy’ as His means to achieve a ‘very good’ creation.

The Bible makes it clear that death is the penalty for our sin. In other words, it is really our fault that the world is the way it is. When we sinned in Adam, we effectively said that we wanted life without God. All of us also sin individually—Romans 3:23. God had to judge sin, as He warned Adam He would (Genesis 2:17, cf. 3:19). In doing so, God has given us a taste of life without Him—a world that is running down—a world full of death and suffering. As Romans 8:20–22 says, ‘the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs.’ Man in essence forfeited his right to live.

It’s important to note that the Bible teaches that individual suffering is part of this ‘big picture’; it is not always correlated with a particular sin by that individual. Job suffered intensely although he was the most righteous man on Earth. A man was born blind, and Jesus refuted the idea that it was due to his own sin or his parents’; rather, it was to demonstrate the power of God (when Jesus healed him—John 9).

Jesus said something directly applicable to this present tragedy: ‘There were present at that season some who told Him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, “Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? … Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all other men that dwelt in Jerusalem”?’ (Luke 13:1–4).

Unlike tragedies like the Tower of Siloam, but not unlike the Pilate massacre, these ghastly events are indeed the consequence of individual human evil, i.e. of the terrorists, not the victims. It is likely that the perpetrators were ones fuelled in part by an intense hatred of the Christianity they still associate with America.

We all inherit this propensity to evil because of our descent from Adam. God in His mercy, however, stepped into history in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1–14). He became a man so He could suffer death (the penalty for sin) on a cross, paying for the sins of His people (it also means that God Himself can personally empathize with suffering, since He has experienced it). He also rose from the dead, showing he had ultimate power—power over death (see also Did Jesus Christ really rise from the dead?). Those who put their faith and trust in Christ as Savior can spend eternity with the Lord in a place where there will be no more death (Revelation 21:4).

But the Bible warns that those who reject Christ will taste a ‘second death’—eternal separation from God (Revelation 21:8).

But God does not delight in the death of the wicked. ‘Say unto them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn you, turn you from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11). In other words, God takes no pleasure in the afflictions and calamities of people. He is a loving merciful God—it is our fault that man is in the current situation of death and suffering.

God states, however, that ‘precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints’ (Psalms 116:15). This is because even though we are sinners, those who have trusted Christ will spend eternity with their Creator in a place where righteousness dwells—and there will be no more crying, suffering or death.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away’ (Revelation 21:4).

Let this day of horrible tragedy be one in which people are reminded of the ultimate cause for such calamity: our sin—our rebellion against God. Let this day also be a reminder that a loving God, despite our sinfulness, wants us to spend eternity with Him. And let this day be a reminder that Christians need to stretch forth a loving, comforting arm to those who are in need of comfort and strength at this time—and let’s help them find such strength in the arms of a loving Creator who hates death, the enemy that will one day be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14).

Our hope is in Christ. As we remember this, please pray for the families that have been affected by these horrible events.

Published: 3 February 2006