THE TERRIBLE NATURE OF RETRIBUTION: THE SINKING OF THE WILLIAM GUSTLOFF
Presently, I am doing a verse by verse study of the book of 2 Thessalonians at the Clifton Bible Church. The first chapter deals with God's retribution that will come upon the lost for their mistreatment of the saints. God's retribution can come for that reason but also for any reason by which a people can be so evil and cruel. This reminds me of the sinking of the German liner The William Gustloff at the end of World War II.
It was January 1945 and the Russians were flooding in to Germany at the very end of the war. On the Baltic Sea thousands of Germans in East Prussia went to the seacoast and attempted to get on this ship to sail out of the way of the advancing Russians, who were bent on retribution against the Germans for the loss of twenty million Russians during that conflict. It is estimated that nine thousand people crowded onto the ship. The liner had wounded German soldiers, and thousands of women and children crowded on board.
A Soviet submarine caught the ship just nine hours out of port and fired three torpedoes into her. She sank in fifty minutes in the stormy waters that were 39 degrees. Obviously, anyone who fell into the ocean would not live long. It was horrible on the ship. People were trampling each other, pushing many overboard. One sailor even shot two children and then killed the mother also in order to spare them from the horrors of an icy death.
Only one thousand survived out of the nine thousand. The eight thousand who perished were four times the number of those who died on the Titanic. Because the war was coming to a close, and there were many news items that occupied the newspapers, most never read about the sinking of The William Gustloff. The people getting on the ship did so for a good reason. In every German city where the Russians entered every woman was raped, no matter what their age. The Russians were animals and had no mercy toward the victims at the end of the conflict.
What is most interesting is that after the war, the captain of the Russian sub just disappeared from view. No one knows what happened to him. He made no comments or gave no testimonies about the affair after the war.
The entire German nation was somehow a party to the evil that came forth from Germany, which brought on the death of some 50 million people throughout the world. God brought a terrible retribution. It compares to what Paul said about the evils coming on the believers in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-6. The passage reads: "This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you. ... dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. ... And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."
While this passage does not exactly fit The William Gustloff issue, there is at least some parallels. God keeps good records and will call to account all of the lost for their sins. Too, He will call the believers to account for the works done as children of the Lord. Human beings are responsible and none of us will get away with any of our sins! –Dr. Mal Couch (8/10)