The Orlando Massacre: God’s Judgment?

Posted on June 12, 2019

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By David Ettinger

Today is the three-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting here in Orlando. I think it is fitting to repost the blog I wrote then.

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Some Are Wondering …
On Sunday, June 12, 2016, a lone gunman, Omar Mateen, entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire. The result: 49 dead, 53 injured. It is the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

For Christians, there was one aspect of the massacre that stood out: the Pulse is a gay nightclub. Because of this, some believers are wondering if the tragedy was an outpouring of God’s judgment upon those practicing what the Bible deems as sin. Many who ask this question are not doing so maliciously, but simply don’t know.

It is a fair question, and one worth examining.

What the Lord Jesus Said
In the Book of Luke, the author tells of an episode where the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, executed a group of citizens from Galilee while they were offering sacrifices. There had been a perception among the people that “these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way” (13:3). Jesus, however, knew this perception was flawed and corrected it: “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (v. 4).

The Lord gave another example. There had been a recent occurrence where 18 innocent bystanders were killed when a tower fell on them. Jesus said of the 18, “do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (vv. 4-5).

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Jesus was making two points. The first is that “death happens.” In this fallen world, people die. Believers die, and unbelievers die. Righteous men and women die, and unrighteous men and women die. Death shows no bias; he is an equal-opportunity disperser of his “favors.” It doesn’t matter how one dies. The one who dies peacefully in his sleep is no less a sinner than the one mercilessly gunned down.

Jesus’ second point regards eternal life. In both instances, Jesus called on His hearers to repent unless they “perish.” The word perish does not refer to physical death, but the eternal state of the soul. We see this in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Note how perishing is pitted against eternal life. To perish is to have one’s soul sentenced to eternal damnation.

Physical death, whether tranquil or violent, is no reflection on a human being’s soul.

What the Apostle Paul Said
In 1 Corinthians Chapter 6, Paul lambasted the Corinthians for behaving like pagans. He compared the behavior of the believing Corinthians with those of the unregenerate. He wrote:

… you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (vv. 8-10).

He then adds, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (v. 11).

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Paul’s point here is that we were all sinners destined for eternal damnation until Christ by His grace chose us to be saved through His shed blood on the cross. We, in and of ourselves, are no better than the unsaved; the only difference is that God redeemed us, something we in no way could have done for ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). It is not for us to wish God’s judgment upon the unsaved, but that they join us in salvation.

What God Said
In the Book of Ezekiel, God spoke of wicked people who die. Far from an evil despot who gleefully rejoices, God makes absolutely clear that the opposite is true: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (18:23). And just to make sure He has made His point, God repeats Himself in 33:11: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”

This truth is reiterated in the New Testament: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Does this sound like a vindictive God to you? Hardly. What it does sound like, however, is a righteous, holy, and pure God who must judge those who go to their graves without having repented of their sins. His great desire, however, is their salvation.

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The Orlando Massacre
So, was the Orlando massacre God’s judgment? I don’t believe it was, any more so than was the attack upon the World Trade Center, or any other act of deadly violence. Rather, the massacre was the result of the evil condition of this world system ruled by Satan, and the God-spurning human race imploding on itself.

Did God take delight in the Orlando massacre? The Ezekiel and 2 Peter passages tell us, “Absolutely not.” It was not God’s desire that any of the 49 who died perish; to the contrary, His desire was that each of them would have “come to repentance.”

There will be a time when God judges once and for all. Until then, He offers salvation to all men and women. It is the responsibility of believers not to condemn, but to be in accord with God, desiring that “everyone come to repentance.”

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