Would God kill us all?

For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them —it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:24-30, NIV)

In our house we have a children’s book version of the Noah story. When my daughter used to read it to her little brother, she would edit it. On the page that said God was so angry over the wickedness of humanity that he decided to wipe us all out, she would paraphrase anger and wickedness and death out of it. “One day, God decided to make it rain a whole lot.”

This morning, I was reading an excerpt from Adam Hamilton’s new book on the Bible. In discussing the historical basis of the Noah story, he raised some questions that are often asked: “How do we reckon the morality of God sending universal destruction such that every terrestrial creature, including every human being, was destroyed? This story seems harsh and unjust to many who read it.”

That question was still in my mind this evening as I was reading Luke 17 as part of my year-long devotional reading of Luke-Acts with Bishop Ken Carter and other United Methodists. In Luke 17, I found the question of what Jesus made of the Noah story suddenly right there in my face.

In Luke 17, Jesus does not shy away from the moral questions people sometimes raise about the Noah story. He does not try to edit the story to make it more palatable to us. Jesus here uses Noah as an object lesson. Just like all those people were wiped out by the flood, so will the coming of the Son of Man overwhelm the world. Clearly the implication is that a lot of people are going to be destroyed in that.

Our God, the Bible says, is a consuming fire. We sometimes don’t like that truth, but I don’t know how to read either testament of our Bible without coming to terms with that. Jesus Christ reveals to us the true nature of God, but we do not rightly describe God — as far as I can see — when we suppose Jesus stands opposed to the God of the flood.

NOTE: This post has been heavily edited from its original version. If you remember it being different, you are correct.


10 thoughts on “Would God kill us all?

  1. Yes, to your last question. I believe we have so made an idol of life itself, and so domesticated God, that our pride easily convinces us that God would never harm a decent guy like me. The fear of God is absent in our churches, and this is but one more example of that.

    Last Lent I wrote a short reflection on Desire Mercy called ” Our Killing God”. It didn’t get much applause, but I believe it to be true.


  2. Yes. God is not nice. The realization of the new age reaching its fulfillment will obliterate much and many. Jesus and the NT are eminently clear about this. So is the apocalyptic lit in the OT, btw. So on this (as on many things) there is deep continuity between OT and NT.

  3. The Apostles seemed to think so.

    How is God suppose to be the protector of His people if his hands are tied by man?
    Put your family in place of Lot’s family. Do you think they felt compelled to lock their doors, shield their children, or hide their riches? Do you think they lived in fear?

    4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, 11 whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
    2 Peter 2

    Hamilton must have missed the many passages in the New Testament that do not support his position.

  4. The apostles who lived with Jesus didn’t seem to have a problem including a story of a husband and wife being struck down dead in Acts for simply lying about their offering. Whatever anyone wishes to say about that story I think we must at least admit the apostles didn’t have a problem depicting God as one who kills people.

  5. A quote from Brian McLaren on this topic: Leading the way is his view of the Bible. He does not see the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative Word. He displays this, for example, in his interpretation of the account of Noah by saying, “a god who mandates an intentional supernatural disaster leading to unparalleled genocide is hardly worthy of belief, much less worship.”

    Taken from: http://www.challies.com/articles/the-false-teachers-brian-mclaren

  6. Like Noah, the wise thing for us to do is to believe God (who never lies), and the Bible as living, written Word of God. It performs itself, because their is no divorce between Christ and the Bible (contra the revisionists).

  7. We can judge the morality of God if we choose. He’s got big enough shoulders to deal with such childishness and still love us through it. But if one chooses to become the kind of apostate described in Hebrews 10:26-31, then the reasonable expectation would be that the reality of “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” will indeed be deathly. BTW, seems to me we’ve got better things to do with our time than judging God’s morality — like assessing our own.

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