Was the Holocaust the Judgment of God?

That on you (Pharisees) may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth

Jesus (Matthew 23:35)

It’s not popular to talk about the judgment of God, especially in the circle of Christians that I have typically run with. This is partly due to error regarding the judgment of God, with some going so far to think that every hurricane and every earthquake is a demonstration of God’s fierce anger. Of course, I don’t believe that, but I’m also not convinced that God reserves all of His judgment for the afterlife. God still judges nations, just like He’s always done.

In our title passage of scripture, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who had rejected Him. The Pharisees, who were self-righteous, were following the path of their fathers in continually rejecting their God. For almost their entire history, the Israelites had turned away from the Lord and served Baal and other false gods. Now, although they were fiercely monotheistic, they rejected God for their man-made traditions. They turned the religion of God into rule-keeping and developed an elitist society where the religious leadership profited from the poor and truly pious. Religion became a means of wealth and power, and many entered its ranks for that very purpose. Their poison had spread to all the Jewish people to such an extent that they rejected their own Messiah, as John had written: “He came to His own, but His own received Him not.”

So Jesus addressed these wayward shepherds of God’s people in a harsh manner. He pronounced upon them a series of woes and then finished up by stating that ALL the righteous blood that had been shed since Able would be required of THAT GENERATION.

What a statement! These Jews received such judgment not because they had refused to listen to one, but because they had rejected the culmination of what every prophet and righteous man had prophesied of for thousands of years. The spirit of Christ had been speaking for generations through holy men (1 Pet 1:11), and now the perfect One stood before them in the flesh, the beloved Son of the one true God. They had not just rejected God’s servant but hated His very Son (see Mark 12:1-11).

This was an extremely guilty generation. These were the people who had been entrusted with the oracles of God but twisted them and ignored them. So Jesus pronounced judgment upon them, and upon all of Israel, because, for the most part, the people followed the paths of their leaders.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate;”

– Jesus (Matthew 23:37-38)

This lament over Jerusalem was given in the same breath as the proclamation that all the blood of all the saints gone by would be required of that generation. And in the very next chapter, Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple, and of Jerusalem. This was clearly the judgment of God and is reminiscent of similar things spoken by Jeremiah the prophet in his days when the Lord was bringing judgment upon Israel through Babylon. Look at what the Lord says:

“You have forsaken Me,” says the Lord, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary of relenting”

– Jeremiah 15:6

God judged Israel through Babylon in days gone by, but the judgment Jesus was speaking about was yet to come. It came in the form of the Romans in 70 AD, when they sacked Jerusalem, killed over a million Jews, and dispersed the rest throughout the world. Of this very event, Jesus spoke, saying, “These are the days of vengeance” (Luke 21:22).

Now the reason I say all of this (switching gears a little bit) is because I need to make one very important point: Judgment came upon Israel after Jesus died for the sins of the world.

Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. Jesus died around A.D. 33. Many Christian teachers teach that God does not judge anymore because all of His judgment was poured out upon Jesus on the Cross. They maintain that His judgment is reserved only for the afterlife. However, it seems to me that this judgment upon the Jews in 70 A.D. thoroughly frustrates this line of reasoning. Yes, Jesus died that all the world can be forgiven, BUT it’s only for those who meet the conditions of repentance and faith. As John the Baptist said, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

I know that many disagree concerning God’s judgment and it is partly due to a faulty understanding of the atonement. For more on that, read my blog entitled, “Jesus Didn’t Pay For Your Sins.”

But what has any of this to do with the Holocaust? The point is that if it is possible for the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 to be the judgment of God, it is possible for the Holocaust to be the judgment of God. This doesn’t mean that we have established the Holocaust as the judgment of God, but we can now see that it is at least in the realm of theological possibility.

Is the Holocaust the judgment of God?

Was the Holocaust the judgment of God? I used to think not, but now I think it probably was. Why? For a few reasons that I will list here and then explain further:

  1. The Jews were a primary target.
  2. The fashion of judgment was very similar to God’s judgments of Israel in the Bible.
  3. Deliverance for the Jews did not arise until the judgment was completed.
  4. God provided a way of escape for those who would take it.
  5. The people did not understand their guilt.
  6. God ultimately showed mercy after His judgment was complete.

Let me elaborate on these points:

1. The Jews were a primary target. In the Holocaust, the Jews were a primary target of the Nazis. If God were to judge His people, certainly they would be the target of His judgment. God may have used the Nazis to judge others, as well, just as we see that He used Babylon to judge many nations (Jer 25:9, 46:13, 49:28, and others).

2. The fashion of judgment was very similar to God’s judgments of Israel in the Bible. Compare the Holocaust to when God used the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans to judge His people:

  • God used an unrighteous nation
  • The judgment was horribly severe
  • God afterward judged the nation He used to judge Isreal

It can’t be doubted that the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans were an unrighteous people. They were just as bad as Hitler and the Nazis, if not worse.  They killed without mercy and unleashed unspeakable horrors in the process. They starved the people to the point of eating their own children (Lam 2:20, 4:10), they ripped open those that were pregnant, and they dashed the infants upon the rocks (Hos 13:16). The young women were raped and the princes were tortured. The young boys were forced into slave labor (Lam 5:11). Indeed, those who were killed quickly were better off than those who tortured, enslaved, or who starved to death inside of the disease-ridden city walls (Lam 4:9). The Holocaust was horrible, no doubt, but these judgments were just as bad. More people may have died in the Holocaust, but it was only because there were more people in the world and technology had rendered it easier to kill.

And we see that the Holocaust fits the description of the kind of judgment God would use against His people:

Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you. – Deuteronomy 28:47-48

Does it not sound like a concentration camp?

And consider this verse:

And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see. – Deuteronomy 28:65-67

We also see that the nations that God used in judgment were ultimately judged themselves. God may have used them as He used Pharoah and Judas, but ultimately their own sinfulness came under judgment. Each of these great empires fell, as did Nazi Germany. (See Jeremiah chapters 50 & 51)

3. Deliverance for the Jews did not arise until the judgment was completed.  In the book of Esther, we see a very similar situation with the Jewish people compared to the Holocaust. A madman by the name of Haman sought to completely eradicate them. However, God raised up Esther to deliver the Jews from their enemies. Mordecai, her uncle, boldly proclaimed that deliverance would arise from another place for the Jews, even if Esther did not take her place (Est 4:14). Yet, in regards to the Holocaust, we see that deliverance did not arise for the Jews. It was only after millions had been slaughtered did the Allies liberate the concentration camps.

4. God provided a way of escape for those who would take it. God provided a way of escape for all Jews during the Babylonian judgment. Those that defected to Babylon received their life as a prize, but those who refused were judged (Jer 21:9).

In like manner, every Jew also had an opportunity to escape the horrors of the Holocaust. There was a great movement to bring Jews back to their homeland before the onset of the war. God even raised up a secular Jewish man during this time to urge the people to pursue their own place. However, many Jews refused or were not interested. Some waited until it was too late. The Jews who took the difficult journey to their homeland were safe during the Holocaust.

5. The people did not understand their guilt. This fact should be exceedingly concerning to us! The Jews, for the most part, did not understand their guilt in the days leading up to the Babylonian captivity. Everyone just carried on with life as if everything was hunky-dory. Indeed, Josiah, in his day, seemed quite content with how religious life was progressing in his kingdom until he found the book of the law in the temple. When it was read to him he exclaimed, “great is the wrath that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord!” And when he sent to the prophet, he found that judgment was indeed coming. Nobody knew it! Think about that. The people were perfectly unaware of God’s looming judgment.  Josiah’s heart was stirred, but even Josiah’s reforms did not turn the people back (except in pretense: Jer 3:10); it only put off judgment for a little bit longer.

And when Jeremiah was preaching to the people (as the Babylonians were sharpening their swords), the people asked, “Why has the LORD pronounced all this great disaster against us? what is our iniquity? what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?” (Jer 16:10). What? They were about to be besieged and slaughtered by their enemies according to Deuteronomy 28:49-57, but they were blind! They had no idea what was coming! When the Babylonians came, they expected that they could call on God for help (Jer 37:2-10)! When help did not come, they reasoned that it was because they had not been faithful to their idols (Jer 44:16-18)!

We see a similar thing in the time of the Roman siege. Many Jews were certain that God was on their side, but He was not. It was a time of ‘vengeance’ (Luke 21:22),’ and Rome was His sword.

Were the Jews in the days of the Holocaust guilty of forsaking their God? There can be no doubt. Unlike the Jews in the time of Babylon, these Jews did not turn back to God after the Roman invasion. They stuck with the ‘traditions of men’ rather than turning to the Word of God.  Their perversion of the word of God caused the nations to blaspheme (Rom 2:24) and God made them a reproach to every nation (Deut 28:37).  They continued to reject their Savior and made up new rules to operate without a temple. And when the time came to return to their land, they were indifferent. This is just a small outside view of their guilt, but God could see into each one’s heart.

6. God ultimately showed mercy after His judgment was complete. God ultimately was merciful to His people, bringing to pass the promise to gather them back into their land, even as He is presently doing.

Look at God’s heart regarding all of this:

Is Ephraim (Israel) my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord. – Jeremiah 31:20

What do we see in these passages? We see a God who has been abused by His own people and brought to a place of firm resolve in His judgment towards them. But what else do we see? We see a God whose heart yearns for his people, who does not afflict willingly (Lam 3:33), who is ready to pour out mercy. Jesus is an exact reflection of this – declaring judgment, yet yearning over the people that He loves!

We need to understand God’s judgment in this context. Some people think of God’s judgment with the idea of a fuming god who didn’t get his way. Others think of Him as a gushing daddy that would never lift a finger towards his kids. But these are both wrong. God is reluctant to carry out judgment, but He has and He will. He’s patient, but His patience isn’t forever. We see in the Old Testament that His proclamations of judgement would span several generations before being carried out. When it finally was carried out, it was severe. But even then, while His judgments were being carried out, He would exercise mercy and say, “It is enough” (2 Sam 24:16). Even in His anger, He is a merciful and loving God. The book of Jeremiah shows us clearly His thoughts during times of judgment. Even before His judgment had been carried out, He had already made plans to bring His people back (see Jer 31).

Conclusion

Because of the reasons afore mentioned, I have come to the conclusion that the Holocaust is consistent with Biblical judgment. This should not cause us to question God, but to fear Him. If He is willing to carry out such judgments upon His own people whom He has chosen, how much more will He carry the same judgments upon the rest of the world (Rom 11:21-22)? And, indeed, He will. Jesus spoke about these judgments, as well. They will be fierce, worse than the Holocaust; worse than anything we have ever seen (Mat 24:21).

I know that many people will not like these conclusions. We don’t like to think about the judgments of God. We don’t understand them as we should. We don’t understand the severity of our sin. We don’t understand what our sins truly deserve. These judgments serve the purpose of helping us to understand the evil of sin. I pray that we look at them solemnly and examain ourselves sincerely.

If you doubt my conclusions, I would challenge you to prayerfully read through the book of Jeremiah and Lamentations. God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has always been an exceedingly good and gracious God. He has also always been a God of judgment. He has not changed. I pray we all acknowledge this and fear Him as we ought to, for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.