Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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The Tsunami in SE Asia—Divine Punishment?

Rev. Angus Stewart


In a day of political correctness and evasions in church and state, many people in N. Ireland look to Ian Paisley to "tell it like it is." Thus it is all the more important that his repeated, emphatic statements (Belfast Telegraph, 5 January, 2005) that "disasters are not punishments" and that "Punishment for sins belongs not to this world but to the world to come" should not be received as biblical truth.

Rev. Paisley’s statements expressly contradict the Westminster Standards—his  creed and that of his Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. The Westminster Larger Catechism declares that, because of the sin of our first parents and our own depravity, mankind is "justly liable to all punishments in this world and that which is to come" (A. 27). The Catechism proceeds to divide these punishments into two classes: inward and outward. "The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusion, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself" (A. 28).

Scripture teaches that for the ungodly loss of property (Deut. 28:30) and famine, disease and war (Eze. 5:17) are judgments of God. The ten plagues; the overthrow of Sodom, Nineveh and Babylon; and the destruction of the flood were all divine punishments in this world. Though as fellow creatures we sympathise with, pray for and seek to help the sufferers, we must also confess that the earthquake, the tsunami and all the resulting devastation in SE Asia are divine judgments upon the reprobate wicked and signs of Christ’s return (Matt. 24:7). A much greater retribution awaits all the impenitent in the lake of fire in the world to come (Rev. 20:15).

However, for God’s elect people in SE Asia, this same terrible calamity is not a divine punishment, for Christ bore the punishment for their sins on the cross. For them, in some divinely inscrutable way, this tragedy serves their salvation. For "we know that all things [including tsunamis] work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

See also the article "Where was God when the Tsunami Struck?"

Click here, to hear a sermon from Job 12, entitled "God and the Tsunami"