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Is God a killer?

If by ‘killer’ we mean ‘murderer’ then the answer is an emphatic ‘no’. God does not and cannot murder.

But if by ‘killer’ we simply mean to ‘kill a person’ then the Biblical answer is an emphatic ‘yes!’ This truth is seen in 100s of verses in both Old and New Testaments.

Old Testament

The question should be able to be settled by looking at a single verse.

Deu 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Does God kill? God himself answers – “I kill and I make alive”. This passage is so plain that if it does not mean “God kills people” then the concept is not able to be described using human language. This is not meant as an exaggeration. The truth that God kills is so clearly presented in the Bible that to deny it requires one to ignore the plain meaning of words and replace them with those who mean the opposite.

But it is worse than that. If many of these verses don’t mean what they say, then the meaning of the broader passage they are found in is lost. Take for example:

Exo 9:14 ESV For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.

God explains to Pharaoh that the plagues that He is about to send which kill thousands of people and cause distress to many more are for the express purpose ‘that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.’ The link between the plague and knowing God is lost if God did not send the plague.

In fact, many today would have us believe that, because God is not a killer, it must have been Satan who sent the plagues. But note the implication of that position. If Satan sent the plague then all would know that there is none like Satan in all the earth. You can see how arguing that God does not kill does not elevate God. Rather it elevates Satan!

Ironically it is those who maintain that God does kill people who are accused of maligning God and attributing to God what Satan does. The above passage is evidence that the opposite is true.

What is seen in Exodus is seen elsewhere.

Eze 28:23 ESV for I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in her midst, by the sword that is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the LORD.

In this passage God sends pestilence and slays people with the sword for the express purpose that ‘they will know that I am Lord.’ If Satan or the fallen natural world or evil men are the cause of this killing, how will that help people ‘know that I am the Lord?’

Amo 4:10 ESV “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

It’s possible that most of the many accounts in the Bible of God killing people or sending evil upon people is for the reason stated in Amos – that people would return to God. That means that God’s intention for the harm He brings on people is not malicious. It is in fact a kindness, if not to those who die, to those who survive.

And finally, if the result of this killing is that people return to God, why would Satan be the one responsible for it? Satan wants people to forsake God, not return to Him.

New Testament

Does God kill in the New Testament? The answer again is an emphatic ‘yes’?

Luk 12:4-5 I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

It couldn’t be expressed more clearly. God kills people and then casts them into hell. And because of this truth we should fear Him!

Here we see how this view that God is not a killer undermines godly living. One reason we should fear God is because He both kills and damns. But those who promote that God does not kill people take away that reason to fear God. This is a loss to the Christian, not a gain.

Jesus establishes the principle which is simply an expansion of the Old Testament teaching. In the Old Testament it is God who kills. In the New it is God who both kills the body and destroys the soul.

This truth is seen multiple times in Acts. The clearest is found in Chapter 12.

Act 12:21-23 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22. And the people were shouting, The voice of a god, and not of a man! 23. Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

This was not an evil angel who killed Herod. It was the Lord’s angel. This is reminiscent of:

Isa 37:36 And the angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

What we see in the New Testament should not come as a surprise.

Mal 3:6 For I the Lord do not change;

Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Finally, the New Testament presents Jesus as a killer.

Rev 19:21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him [Jesus] who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

Many understand this passage should be read literally. But even if it is not literal, it should remind us that the way Jesus was presented in the Gospels is very different to how we are to understand Him now.

Rev 2:21-23 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23. and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

Again, there is good reason to accept the seven letters Jesus sent to churches in Asia Minor were to real people and real churches. So it is reasonable to understand this passage to be a real threat made against real children.

But even if this is not literal, note how different this language is to what we find in the gospels. Those who think the Gospels are the only way we are to understand Jesus are mistaken.

From Genesis (where God kills every person except Noah and his family) to Revelation (where Jesus is said to slay many with a sword), God is presented as one who kills. He commits no wrong on doing this. He has not murdered. He has not sinned.

Those who are committed to letting the Bible say what it wants and don’t try to force it into their own theological system will eventually have to submit to the overwhelmingly weight of scriptures affirming that God, Jesus and His angel all kill.

The only way to escape this conclusion is to either ignore hundreds of verses or to mangle the human language so that black is white and white is black. Or in this case, to pretend ‘I kill’ means ‘I do not kill.’ (De 32.39)

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