Death At Twin Towers:
Was It Wrath or Grace of God?
By Rev. Jack Cascione


Was the death of the people at the Word Trade Center the wrath of God? Did these people and this nation deserve God's wrath any more than the rest of the world?

Some LCMS pastors are saying the destruction of the Twin Towers is not the wrath of God. Some Baptist ministers including Falwell and Robertson are saying the destruction of the Twin Towers is because of this country's sins of abortion and homosexuality.

People want to manufacture reasons why others are afflicted and not them so they can have a false security. We read in John 9:2, "And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" Christ answered neither of their conclusions were correct. The man's blindness served God's purpose.

Without a proper understanding of the difference between law and Gospel, the Bible appears to make contradictory statements about the wrath of God. God' s wrath and grace operate simultaneously in the world in relationship to His Law and Gospel, which must also include God's action in judgment, damnation, election, foreknowledge, providence, grace, forgiveness, justification, and salvation, to name a few.

A broken leg is the wrath of God to the unbeliever, but at the same time God 's chastening love for the believer. The death of the Christian becomes the gate to heaven, but at the same time the death of the unbeliever is the gate to hell.

The rate of cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and death are the same for atheists and Lutheran ministers. The difference is stated in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

While members of our congregation are dying, I assure them of God's love even while their bodies are experiencing the ultimate wrath of God for sin, namely, death. Our souls are regenerated at Baptism but our bodies, the sinful flesh, are still objects of God's wrath yet to be buried, turned to dust, and glorified at the resurrection. Christians are at the same time sinner and saint.

What about the thousands who died at the Twin Towers? Their death was no different than the fate of all mankind. For those without faith in Christ, their day of grace ended and they received the wrath of God in eternity. For those with faith in Christ, their bodies experienced the same death sent by God, but their souls received freedom from the sinful flesh, the open arm 's of Jesus Christ, and eternal life.

Are we able to know the difference between God's wrath and grace? Look at the paradox. A gracious God allowed the death of Job's ten children, all of his servants except five, the loss of all his wealth, the torment of his body, and unjust condemnation by his wife and three of his friends. On the other hand, a wrathful God allowed the peaceful death of Herod the Great, Caiaphas, and Pilate.

Were the deaths of the people at the World Trade Center any different than the deaths of the sailors buried at the bottom of Pearl Harbor?

Yes, this country deserves the wrath of God for abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and many more sins, such as pride, self-righteousness, arrogance, greed, and the breaking of all Ten Commandments. There never was a country or a human being since the Fall into sin that didn't deserve the wrath of God. Let's not look for "good or better people."

Look at the words of Christ on this subject in Luke 13:1-9:

"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--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.'"

"Then he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'"

"'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"

Christ's bottom line: It doesn't matter who you are, it is time to repent if you are among the living.

Just like God gave the tree more time, God gave Israel more time to repent and then had it destroyed by sending the Romans in 70 AD for refusing to believe in Christ.

Some of the people who died at the World Trade Center were among the most talented, honest, industrious, and competent people in the world. I could think of other people more deserving of God's wrath. This is a horrible attack by our enemies that must draw us into a just war.

We know that God does rain down special temporal punishment in this life for the evil that some people do, such as: the mark on Cain, the rejection of Esau, the death of Judah's two sons, Pharaoh's army, Nabal, King Saul, Ahab and Jezebel, and Ananias and Sapphira dropping dead at the feet of Peter for lying publicly to the church, Herod eaten by worms for refusing to give God glory, or the death of some members at the Church of Corinth for abusing the Lord's Supper. If there is a special sin in the world that should be punished only God makes that determination.

There are also examples in the Bible of those who suffered great tragedy and were more righteous than any people we know, such as Abel, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Steven, Paul, and Eleven of the Christ's Disciples.

The day of wrath will come at the Last Judgment yet, we Christians confess the Gospel with the Apostles' Creed when we say that Christ, "will come to judge the quick and the dead."

The following list of titles under the word "Wrath," in "What Luther Says" (CPH St. Louis 1959) is a virtual review of the doctrine of the wrath of God.

5033 "God's Wrath Real and Active"
5034 "God Is a Consuming Fire"
5035 "If Wrath were Unreal, Mercy Would be Equally Unreal"
5036 "This Wrath Rests on Man by Nature"
5037 "The World Around Us Preaches God's Wrath"
5038 "History Reveals the Wrath of God"
5039 "God's Wrath Does Hang over the Wicked - As He Fears"
5040 "For the Fearing Unbeliever Wrath Is Real; for the Fearsome Believer It is Unreal"
5041 "Men Like to Doubt God's Wrath"
5042 "Appearances Are Often Deceiving"
5043 "Natural Man Knows but Seeks to Deny the Wrath of God"
5044 "Denial of God's Wrath Is the Fabrication of a Strange God"
5045 "Praying for the Recognition of God's Wrath"
5046 "God, Who is Love, Loves to Do Good"
5047 "Why God Manifests His Wrath"
5048 "God Does What He Dislikes in Order to Achieve What He Loves"
5049 "Flee to God in Order to Escape from His Wrath"
5050 "Man Powerless to Appease God
5051 "The Lamb Slain from the Foundation of the World"
5052 "Wrath and Mercy Reconciled by the Cross"
5053 "Only Christ Could Appease the Wrath of God"
5054 "The Wrath of God Must Have Been Intense"
5055 "Christ "Delivered Us From the Wrath" [of God]
5056 "Christ Dispels the False Notion of God's Wrath"
5057 "Apart from Christ There Is Nothing But Wrath"
5058 "The Greatest Manifestation of Wrath" [When people reject God's Word]
5059 "God's Wrath Blinds Before Destroying"
5060 "When [God's] Wrath Withdraws the Word [of God]"
5061 "The Wrath of God 'Shall Send Them Strong Delusion'"

The Lutheran Confessions and Pieper have a great deal to say about God's wrath. Only two quotations are offered here.

"Temporal death" - "Its Cause." - "Death is not due, as both heathen and some professed Christians asserted, to the constitution of human nature. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments know of no cause of death but sin. When God warns (Gen 2:17): In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." . . . And speaking of the death of the eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifice, Christ exclaims: "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:1-5), thereby declaring the accidental death of some men and the consequence of the wrath of God at the sins of all men." (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III Pieper 507-508, CPH, St. Louis

"That sting and sense of wrath of which Paul speaks 1 Cor. 15:56: 'The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the Law.' This strength of sin, this sense of wrath, is truly a punishment as long as it is present; without this sense of wrath, death is not properly a punishment." Lutheran Confessions Concordia Triglotta page 299, XXIV, 56

Rev. Jack Cascione is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS - MI) in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. He has written numerous articles for Christian News and is the author of Reclaiming the Gospel in the LCMS: How to Keep Your Congregation Lutheran. He has also written a study on the Book of Revelation called In Search of the Biblical Order.
He can be reached by email at

September 17, 2001