The day was September 11, 2001, and the spotlight of America, if not most of the civilized world, was focused on the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The event, still so vivid in the minds of millions who witnessed the colossal buildings reduced to rubble (in what seemed like a nanosecond) by religious fanatics (who believed they were on a mission for their god, Allah), poses some disturbing questions. Hence, the title I have given this written opinion is most appropriate.
My name is Joseph Costa, Pastor of the Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Coram, Long Island. Prior to the Lord’s call, I spent 20 years in Manhattan as a salesman covering both the Midtown and Downtown areas of New York City. I was very familiar with the Twin Towers, although this is not relevant for understanding what, I believe, has happened and may continue to happen other than as a point of reference.
As an independent, Bible-believing Baptist preacher, I have heard quite an assortment of opinions (regarding the recent terrorist actions) by well-meaning Christians and others who point the finger at the United States and say, “ It’s God’s judgment !” To this I say, “No!” God’s preparation … yes, but certainly not God’s Judgment. For those Christians who have some understanding regarding God’s people, Israel, and God’s criteria for judgment, this will be easier to digest. Conversely, those who are less familiar or unaware of God’s dealings with nations, as defined in the Bible, may find an alternate position worthy of embrace.
Do I believe that one day God will judge the world? Absolutely! Do I believe in “divine judgment”? Absolutely! Do I believe that the events, which transpired on 9/11/01, dictate such a position? No! First of all, one must start with a Biblical perspective from which to proceed. Israel is God’s real estate – not any other country on the face of the globe. (Yes, I am a patriot, but I’m just stating a Bible fact!) As such, Israel comes with special instructions from God which govern that land. According to the last book in the Jewish Bible, or their “Tanak,” 2 Chronicles 36:14-21 (Read it!) gives the reason why they were so severely dealt with by God in allowing the Babylonians to ransack and destroy their Temple with fire and carry them away captive into Babylon for 70 years . Yes, that did constitute a judgment upon Israel by a foreign kingdom. Allow me to illustrate this truth.
If one owns a piece of property, that person may do what they wish to the land. If they want to put up a fence, so be it; if they decide to post “No Trespassing” signs, OK; if they choose to cultivate the land or leave it natural; it’s alright. In other words, it is theirs allowing them the right to do as they please. Isaiah 42:24 says, “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.” The verse is very clear. Yes, the Lord can do what he wishes with his people and his land be it natural judgment or enemy captivity to accomplish his will…he is God!
Is this what happened to America? Did God send these foreign terrorists to judge America? Similarities don’t necessarily equate to identical comparisons. When one considers that God never covenanted with America as he certainly did with Israel, neither did America come with those same instructions which governed the land as did Israel, nor are we living in an Old Testament economy dictated by the Law of Moses, the comparison quickly loses its power. The United States of America was never set up as a Theocracy, as was Israel. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 (Read it!), a recipe for restoration is given to King Solomon by God directly after he has dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. The principles that the Lord gives to Solomon can be invoked by Christians because they are consistent with New Testament doctrine, but the direct application has to do with Israel repenting and turning back to God (if they were ever to leave him) so he would not Judge the Land and his people!! In verse 13 it says, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people.” Be careful when you apply an Old Testament passage, like this one, and put it on America when God never said it was for us! It can then only be applied spiritually and individually, not doctrinally and nationally. So, God did not send those terrorists as a means of judgment but, rather, allowed them to act. The Lord does not take away man’s free will, despite his horrific acts of violence, which is evidenced by history. One must make a distinction between “acts of God” and acts of sinful men! This brings me to my next point.
When the Bible talks about judgment, it almost always speaks about the supernatural, or natural, elements which bring about ruin. For example: Noah’s flood … supernatural disaster caused by sinful man’s actions but brought on by God. God commanded Noah and said to him, “For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” (Gen. 7:4) Sodom and Gomorrah, again caused by sinful man’s actions but brought about by God, “… Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” (Gen. 19:24) Judgment! When the Hebrew slaves were to be delivered from Pharaoh’s hand, guess what God did to the nation of Egypt? He brought ten plagues including the supernatural from God’s hand to prove to Pharaoh that the God of the universe had in fact sent Moses to request that he let God’s people (Israel) go free. Not only were some of these turning the water to blood, raining hailstones, and plagues of lice, frogs, locusts and murrain upon the animals of Egypt. How about utter darkness? The Death-Angel? The Lord prophesied to the Patriarch, Abram, in Genesis 15:13-14, “And he said unto Abram, know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, (Egypt) whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” They were judgments from God. The Bible is replete with these examples of divine judgment showing man what can happen if God so chooses.
In Isaiah 29:6, the Bible says, “Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.” That’s future judgment fulfilled, literally, at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. If this interpretation of the Bible appears suspect, one just needs to read the Book of Revelation to see all this dramatically clear! For example, Chapters 8, 9, 16 and 18 of Revelation (Read them!) are almost exclusively reserved for depicting God’s judgment on a nation and world that has rejected Jesus Christ, both as King and as Saviour. Now, two thousand years later, as a result of this rejection, both Israel and the world will be subject to a global leader known as the Anti-Christ or Beast of Revelation 13. This future subjection will ultimately bring about the judgments of God mentioned in the Book of Revelation. They are supernatural, God-directed, not man-manipulated. There are many, many more examples in both the Old and New Testaments to bear out this truth, but for now, let us continue.
In 1912, when the famed maiden voyage of the Titanic left the shores of England for New York City; it met with destruction. An iceberg sunk the previously believed and highly touted unsinkable ocean liner causing fifteen hundred fatalities. As one supporter of this fable cried, “Even God couldn’t sink the Titanic!” Guess again. Was this a judgment of God? Well, it wasn’t a terrorist attack or a missile launched from a warring vessel, it was an “act of God!” When floods sweep through a land, or a hurricane blows a path of destruction, or tidal waves beat relentlessly against a sea coast, or earthquakes rip open the ground causing death and destruction, nobody can point a finger at anyone or any organization for the responsibility. It is an “act of God.” I am not saying that these types of devastation and disasters should be viewed capriciously or as insignificant, but simple said, they are “acts of God” … not sinful acts of mankind. Nobody can be held accountable for what only God controls other than God!! This distinction should help one understand the nature and scope of judgments. Man’s history is bathed in man’s blood. As has been said many times before, “The only thing man learns from history is that man never learns from history!” War is a picture of God’s judgment on this world, but in actuality, it is the result of man’s evil nature spurred by the Devil to conquer and control other people and lands for their own profit!! “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1)
The events of September 11, 2001, should really be filtered through the Sacred Scriptures to get a true analysis. My purpose in writing this opinion is to help others put these events in a proper perspective. As a born-again child of God, I certainly understand that, as far as a believer is concerned, nothing happens to them without the permissive or direct will from their Father in Heaven. Romans 8:28 is quoted many times (and should be familiar to all Christians) to cover a multitude of situations. This makes for a perfectly fine exposition of the text as it deals with individual Christians who love the Lord and are “called according to his purpose.” The problem arises when we try to fit in America where the Lord is dealing with individuals. Individual judgment and National judgment are two entirely different things. Individually, as Christians, we will be judged for our service to the Lord after our salvation. This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ (It can be found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 -11). Nationally, we will be judged according to the criteria established by Jesus Christ in Matthew 25:31-45. (Read it!) It’s based on how nations treated Israel, which brings me to the most important part of this opinion. When one considers the implications laid out by Jesus Christ regarding this judgment, I wonder how well some nations will fare who have treated Israel despicably? Considering the expulsion of the Jews from many European Nations during the dark ages, not to mention the atrocities committed during WWII with nearly six million Jews being exterminated under the Satanic direction of Adolph Hitler, how will they fare?
If God were judging nations right now, I don’t believe (based on our Lord’s criteria) these nations would have a snowball’s chance in hell to make it! But alas! The last time I looked, countries like Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and many other Islamic nations involved in the genocide attempt or ongoing terrorism, are functioning and, in some cases, even thriving! Please don’t misunderstand me, I am well aware of the spiritual laws regarding sowing and reaping, and for many of these nations, they are reaping according to their own sowing; however, let’s not “jump the gun” and say that God’s judgment has fallen. Yes, in some cases, God does visit these lands, as well as pagan countries throughout the world, with certain natural reminders of who really is in control (i.e. Kobe, Japan / a couple of years ago a tremendous earthquake in Turkey / more recently a huge earthquake in India), but God’s hand of judgment has been held back until such time as he sees fit to bring the events of Human history to a final conclusion and set up his kingdom in Israel with his throne in Jerusalem! It all comes down to Israel – God’s land and Jerusalem – God’s City.
Let’s, for a moment, compare this behavior with America’s treatment concerning the dispersed Jew. The United States of America has been a refuge and safe haven for many people who have sought out freedom from repressive forms of government or even blatant religious persecution. The Jewish population after WWII grew rapidly as they fled to America in droves. After the infamous day of December 7, 1941, which, by the way, wasn’t a judgment on America, right? Of course not ! It got us involved to ultimately free Europe from Nazism and to liberate the death camps rescuing the Jew from further destruction and total annihilation. The United States has been the strongest and most influential nation to be supportive of Israel since its “inception” in 1948. To regard our treatment of Israel and the Jewish people, thus far, as superior to any other nation would be an understatement to say the least. Yes, I am aware that we did renege on a promised housing loan to Israel, and our current President has not yet made good on his promise to move the US Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, but just because we have not been perfect, the truth still shines brightly … who’s been better to Israel than the U.S.? Let’s move on.
In the Bible, one of the greatest types of the Anti-Christ is Haman. This story can be found in the Book of Esther. Haman’s desire is that of the Devil’s to completely wipe the Jew from off the face of the earth. His plan gets uncovered and ultimately he meets his death by the same method (hanging) with which he wanted to kill Mordecai the Jew. This is a great tip off to Satan’s plan regarding Israel. In Psalm 83:1-5, the Bible gives a clear picture of the Enemy’s desire concerning Israel. Notice specifically vs.4, which says, “They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.” Wow!! How’s that for being subtle? This is at the root of the terrorist actions of that fateful day. It’s preparation from God allowing Satan to try to unite his forces against God’s people, Israel.
So, why strike at America? We are an obstacle and have long been viewed by Islamic terrorists as an opponent to their conquest of Jerusalem. After Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, the most Holy site in the Islamic World is Jerusalem (where their “prophet” Elijah Mohammed was allegedly translated to heaven.) America stands in the way. Common enemies make for strange political alliances, not to mention military ones as well! The Bible says, “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.” (Luke 23:12) Only a common enemy, in this case Jesus Christ, was able to unite two feuding rulers. So too will the common enemy of Satan (Israel) unite the nations of the world for the future battle known as the Battle of Armageddon. Revelation 16:14 says, “… the Kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” And, Rev. 16:16 says, “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”
Since May of 1948, when the modern state of Israel declared her independence, there has been direct and covert attacks in an attempt to cause her extinction. That will never succeed. God has restored them back to his land, which he promised them, and will not allow them to be kicked out again. In the Book of Isaiah, the prophet issues a great prophecy regarding the return of the Jewish people to their land, written more than 2400 years prior to its fulfillment. In chapter 11:11-12 it says, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, … and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” Amazingly enough, there have only been two dispersions of Israel: once under Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon in 586 B.C. and the other under Titus, Caesar of Rome in 70 A.D. The Jews were allowed to go back to their land in 516 B.C. under the direction of King Cyrus the Persian after their 70 years in captivity was fulfilled. The next time they went back to their land (after their expulsion following 70 A.D. ) was in 1948. They are there to stay! The Bible does not make mention of a third captivity but, rather, a restoration of a Nation once dispersed and now returned. Ultimately, God will bring his people (Israel) through a time known as the Tribulation Period, or the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, or Daniel’s 70th Week. This will be a purging process resulting in a believing nation!
The Bible says in Isaiah 66:8, “ … Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?…” The answer is, “Yes, it will!” In Zechariah 12:10, the Bible says “… and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son … ”
Again, the events of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center did not constitute any form of national or corporate punishment for America but, rather, a signal that the world will be now uniting in a good cause (to fight terrorism). Eventually, after certain prophesies take place like the Rapture of the Church (or Bride of Jesus Christ), its focus will be turned against Israel. I firmly believe, with what the world witnessed in the decimation of the Twin Towers, it should cause the true church of Jesus Christ to take note and start living in a way that is pleasing to our Savior and Head of the Church. Do I believe that this episode in man’s history can be used to stir Christians to greater service? Absolutely!! Do I believe that the Christians in America sometimes take their liberty for granted? Absolutely! Do I also believe that we have been entrusted with a great opportunity to reach the lost? Absolutely! Although we are not responsible for the events that will unfold before the Lord comes back, we are responsible in living our lives, “… soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:12b) Stay the course and finish the race.
Written by Dr. Joseph Costa, Pastor