Does God warn unrepentant people today before they experience calamity and even death?
In the 33rd chapter in the book of Job, beginning with verse 14, Elihu makes some stunning comments about God’s dealings with humans:
“For God may speak in one way, or in another, Yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, When deep sleep falls upon men, While slumbering on their beds, Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction. In order to turn man from his deed, And conceal pride from man, He keeps back his soul from the Pit, And his life from perishing by the sword.
“Man is also chastened with pain on his bed, And with strong pain in many of his bones, So that his life abhors bread, And his soul succulent food. His flesh wastes away from sight, And his bones stick out which once were not seen. Yes, his soul draws near the Pit, And his life to the executioners.
“If there is a messenger for him, A mediator, one among a thousand, To show man His uprightness, Then He is gracious to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down to the Pit; I have found a ransom’; His flesh shall be young like a child’s, He shall return to the days of his youth. He shall pray to God, and He will delight in him, He shall see His face with joy, For He restores to man His righteousness.
“Then he looks at men and says, ‘I have sinned, and perverted what was right, And it did not profit me.’ He will redeem his soul from going down to the Pit, And his life shall see the light. Behold, God works all these things, Twice, in fact, three times with a man, To bring back his soul from the Pit, That he may be enlightened with the light of life.”
What is contained in these Scriptures is the fact that God may deal directly with a person two or three times to warn him or her of serious trials and even impending death due to his or her sinful way. What is also included is the fact that there is no promise that God will prevent grievous problems, illness or death from occurring after these two or three warnings have been given, if the person does not perceive or take to heart those warnings and does not repent and change his or her ways; but rather, if he or she continues to sin.
When God deals individually with a person, He gives him or her warnings when He sees that the person is in need of correction. These “wake-up” calls can come in many different ways, but if they are so serious that they deal with serious trials and even impending death, then it is high time to wake up, because God might not give those signs for more than three times, if at all.
Christ warned that those who refuse to repent and who don’t heed God’s warning may die a violent death. We read in Luke 13:1-5:
“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’”
Christ continued in verses 6-9 to give a time element, showing that God’s patience has limits. He will not wait forever for a person to repent and change; especially, if He has given him or her ample opportunities and wake-up calls:
“He also spoke this parable: ‘A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’’”
God warns in numerous ways before He is going to act. He warned mankind through Noah, a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), before He sent the flood to destroy all those who did not listen and who refused to repent. The USA, the UK, Canada and other English-speaking nations have been placed on notice that unless there is genuine repentance, they will be invaded by a foreign power and defeated in a nuclear war, with most people dying and most cities being completely obliterated. As He warned the world through Noah; Nineveh through Jonah; and Sodom and Gomorrah through Lot (Genesis 19:9; 2 Peter 2:6-8), so He is warning our nations today. His warning has been contained in the Bible for a long time, but it is in our time that it is being powerfully proclaimed by His Church. We read, for example, in Ezekiel 33:2-5:
“Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life.”
The people of Nineveh heeded the warning and were spared; the people of Sodom, as well as mankind at the time of Noah, refused to listen and perished.
God does not leave individual people without warning either; especially those with whom He has been directly dealing on an individual basis and who have been given knowledge of the Truth and understanding about His Church and His true servants. We read in Psalm 52:3-5:
“You love evil more than good, Lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah. You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah.”
Or Psalm 55:19, 23:
“God will hear, and afflict them, Even He who abides from of old. Selah. Because they do not change, Therefore they do not fear God… But You, O God shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days…”
Psalm 73:18-19 adds the following about those who refuse to listen and change:
“Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!”
At the same time, God has no pleasure in the death of unrighteous sinners, but He wants them to repent and change. That is WHY He gives them wake-up calls. Moses wrote in Psalm 90:12:
“So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” A better translation is (compare Luther Bible 2017): “Teach us to consider that we must die…”
Psalm 107:4-14 speaks of those who were in trouble and turned to God for help, finally taking God’s warnings seriously:
“They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, Their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He delivered them out of their distresses… Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death [they were near death], Bound in affliction and irons–Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High, Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; They fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces.”
He continues in verses 17-20:
“Fools, because of their transgression, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their soul abhorred all manner of food, And they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.”
The Psalmist concludes with these words, in verse 43: “Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.”
God gives this warning in Proverbs 5:12-14, quoting someone who refused, for a while, to listen to Him and His true ministers: “How I have hated instruction, And my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me! I was on the verge of total ruin, In the midst of the assembly and congregation.”
Proverbs 29:1 adds: “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” A better translation is (compare Luther Bible 2017): “He who is stiff-necked against all warning…”
Returning to Elihu’s above-quoted speech in the book of Job, the statement that God will warn and send wake-up calls two or three times should be taken quite seriously and also quite literally.
The numbers three and two have significance in the Bible and may also indicate finality. Christ was three days and three nights in the grave, as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster. Peter received the vision with the sheet of unclean animals three times, and three men came to him to lead him to Cornelius, an “unclean” Gentile in the minds of the Jews, whom he then baptized. Paul reasoned with the Jews for three Sabbaths in Thessalonica, before turning away from them, due to their hostility (Acts 17:1-5, 10).
God pronounces severe punishments against several modern nations because of three transgressions committed by each of them, respectively (compare the book of Amos, chapters 1 and 2). As we saw earlier, the owner of the fig tree was searching for fruit for three years. God presented David with three kinds of punishment for his sin of numbering Israel. Finally, Paul asked God three times to heal him but God decided not to do so then (2 Corinthians 12:8).
In Solomon’s case, God punished Solomon after He had appeared to him two times to warn him not to forsake His Way and follow other gods (1 Kings 11:9-10). A sin or crime, especially a capital crime leading to the death penalty, needed to be dealt with when the testimony of two or three witnesses established the facts (Hebrew 10:28). The acceptance of an accusation against an elder requires two or three witnesses (1 Timothy 5:19); and by “the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1).
In light of this, if someone who knows (of) God’s Truth has received two or three warnings from God through serious life-threatening situations or other grievous and frightening occurrences, and has still not repented or has even turned his or her back on God, then the life of such a person is in serious danger, and it is high time to return to God with prayer and fasting and ask for forgiveness.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link