|Volume 22 Number 2 February 2020||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
“Does God punish people with earthquakes?” someone inquires. The short answer is, “Yes,” but some clarification is necessary.
God created a perfect world and an Edenic habitat for the original pair of humans, Adam and Eve. However, once they sinned (Genesis 3), God modified His created universe. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, in which they had access to the Tree of Life, by which they would never have died. Consequently, death entered the world, along with its accomplices—aging, pain, diseases, accidents and murder (Genesis 4). The earth underwent changes, too, with the introduction of thistles and sweating labor; these may be representative of other changes from paradise that we experience today, too.
Later, mankind excelled in sinfulness, for which reason God determined to destroy the surface of the world that He had created. A remnant, though, of humanity—Noah, his wife and their three sons and their wives—was spared from the universal flood (Genesis 6-8). Only eight people and a sampling of animal kind aboard the ark (barge-like ship) survived that deluge (1 Peter 3:20). The events surrounding the flood forever changed the face of planet Earth as well as its weather patterns. Continents may have formed; mountains and valleys occurred; global weather dramatically altered from what it was. Thereafter, natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, local flooding, snow blizzards, droughts and such like were commonplace. Akin to that, disease, genetic defects and similar maladies also became ordinary.
All of the foregoing and kindred things represent changes that God made to the created universe, including our world, as a consequence of human sinfulness. In that sense, God punished and started a process that continues owing to sins by His highest creation—man. However, God does not punish, today, anyone or any portion of the human population directly through natural disasters, such as earthquakes.
This is what we can discern from Scripture and observance of the natural world in which we live. If God were to punish anyone in our day with earthquakes or other natural disasters, we could not distinguish it from what He has already set in order because of the entrance of sin among men. If God were to punish anyone or a segment of the world’s population with natural disasters, such as earthquakes, He would do so unseen and through the behind the scenes working of His providence.
Essentially, mankind is responsible, because of sin in general, for the presence of natural disasters, death, aging, disease, etc. However, we have no evidence that God is presently targeting anyone or any group of persons in particular with catastrophes (i.e., earthquakes, disease or even death).
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Dear Brother Louis Rushmore, Christian greetings from Foncha Street congregation, Nkwen, Bamenda, Northwest Region, Cameroon. You have always handled doctrinal and Christian teachings that seem to be controversial with utmost maturity and plain biblical truths. Consequently, I would like you to give a comprehensive and thorough teaching concerning the following: 1. What is the Godhead? 2. Explain fully the “oneness” of God in the Godhead. 3. Explain fully the distinctive nature of the divine persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in the Godhead. 4. Is there anywhere in the Bible that teaches that the name “Jesus” stands for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit or that Jesus is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? 5. Is there any passage in the Bible that supports the idea that the “us” in Genesis 1:26-28 is referring to God (the Father) and angels? Please, brother, be very thorough in answering these questions with biblical passages. These issues are trying to tear our congregation apart. I wait for your urgent answers through God's guidance and wisdom. Regards, Andrew Ihedi Umezurike
The question above is lengthy and complex. Yet, let us answer its parts with brevity as well as with sufficient thoroughness. First, the Godhead (Acts 17:29 KJV; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9) is to the Persons of the Godhead what humanity is to the people who comprise it. Whereas there are three divine Persons in the Godhead (Matthew 28:19), there are billions of persons in humanity.
Second, Jesus spoke of the “oneness” of the Godhead. “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30 NKJV; cf., John 17:22). “Are one” here means “we are” a “numeral one.” The Father and the Son, in this passage together contribute to a singular existence. Other passages attribute the Holy Spirit to the same singular existence (Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; Acts 2:33), which we call the Godhead or simply God (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Third, though equal with each other (Philippians 2:6; John 5:23; 10:30), each Person of the Godhead has a different primary role. The Father is the recipient of prayers (Matthew 6:6; Ephesians 3:14), the giver of mercies, comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) and gifts (James 1:17), and the Sender of mankind’s Savior (John 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit is the divine Messenger (John 14:26), Intercessor (Romans 8:26-27) and source of miraculous power (Hebrews 2:3-4) whereby the Scriptures were provided to man (2 Peter 1:21). Jesus Christ is mankind’s Savior (John 4:42), Advocate (1 John 2:1), Intercessor (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25) and One through Whom men are to approach God in prayer (Ephesians 5:20). These are some of the characteristics of differing roles among the three Persons of the Godhead, though as one might expect, some of the roles overlap (e.g., intercession: Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ).
Fourth, Peter’s sermon on the birthday of the church called for penitent persons to “repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Days earlier, our Lord instructed the apostles to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). As far as the Holy Spirit led apostles (Acts 2:1-4) were concerned, there was no difference between the Matthew 28:19 directive and what Peter proclaimed in Acts 2:38. It is not the case that Jesus Christ is the Father and is the Holy Spirit, but rather, owing to the oneness or unity of the Godhead, there is no variation in the authority by which believers repenting of their sins were to be baptized.
Fifth, to be consistent with Scripture throughout both testaments of the Bible, Genesis 1:26-28 can only refer to the Godhead and not to angels regarding the creation. The Hebrew word for “God” and accompanying pronouns, too, are plural of the One God of which the Old Testament speaks (Deuteronomy 6:4). A plurality of Persons in the Godhead is implied in Genesis 1, but one must turn to other passages to determine the number and identity of those Persons.
Notice that creation is attributed primarily to the Person of the Godhead Who we best know as Jesus Christ. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). Jesus Christ was not created, but He was with the Father from the beginning, and He primarily created everything. “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:2-3). Job 38:7 may refer to the presence of angels at the creation of the physical universe, but they are not responsible for creation; they were simply created before the physical universe.
The Godhead and the nature of God is difficult to comprehend, largely because there is little with which we can compare it on earth by which we might more easily understand it. Nevertheless, there is enough biblical information upon the pages of inspiration—the Bible—that permits us to understand the fundamentals of Who God is and that the Godhead represents three distinct divine persons who are in perfect harmony with each other. The Godhead—comprised of three divine Persons—stand in contrast to humanity—made up of billions of human persons.