Yes, God punishes. But He decides life and death - when the game is over. None of the forces below can decide life and death.
2. Satan. Satan has a certain amount of power even though Jesus defeated him at the cross. Satan was allowed to wreak havoc on Job except take his life.
Man has free will, whether to serve God or Satan.
God created a marvelous machine called Nature that obeys the physical laws of the Universe. Whenever people say that God caused this hurricane or that earthquake, I think they are mistaken.
This machine was set in motion and God rarely steps in to interfere - and when he does, it is called a miracle. (if an inventor created an engine and constantly interfered with its running, it would show he didnt really know what he was doing).
In Luke 13, we see that the age old question was asked which Jesus answered:
What about certain Galilean Jews who were killed by the Roman ruler Pilate in the temple - were they especially guilty?
Here, Man's choice to do evil - and to serve Satan - was the driving force.
1Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Why did a tower in Siloam fall and kill 18 people - were they more guilty?
Here, Nature was the tool that caused this calamity.
4Or 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? 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
In both these two cases, God decided who would live and who would die.
How does He decide?
6Then he [Jesus] 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. 7So 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?'
8" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "