Many people have a hunch that the hands on the cosmic clock are pointing at a few minutes to midnight. Movie, television, and book producers are churning out doomsday stories. Even the newest generation is entitled Gen Z.
My beloved grandmother, born in 1880, thought she was living in the last days. Although she was spared the immorality of the 2019-2020a and never saw The Jerry Springer Show, she couldn’t imagine the world could get any worse than it was in her day. “God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah He doesn’t set things to rights soon,” she would say. She was aggrieved over child labor, the theft of Native American lands, and the mistreatment of blacks, Indians, women, and children. She saw the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918-19 and the deadly storm season of the 1930s as judgments.
But what about all of the disasters of last few years And the threat of the Corona Virus? Are these any different? Let’s take a look at the questions people are asking:
1. Are disasters a sign of the end of the world?
No. Jesus said, “Wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately.” (Matthew 24:6) Jesus goes on to say that natural disasters will happen, too, but the purpose for these troubles is to wake people up, not to signal the end of the world.
2 Are disasters punishments on particular cities or peoples?
God has not changed. In the past, whenever He sent a specific judgment on a people, Nineveh, Sodom, Gomorrah, Noah’s neighbors, etc., He first sent them a well-publicized, strongly worded notice via a prophet. They had no doubt that when the forecast in the Sodom Daily News read: “Cloudy with a strong chance of brimstone” that God had written the prediction. So, for example, if He had planned to destroy New Orleans for its sin, He would have raised up a prophet who would have announced that unless New Orleans repented, in thirty days Hurricane Katrina would flood 80 percent of the city. To my knowledge, He did not.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that some of the hardest hit areas are sinful spots. Mardi Gras seems to be planned by a select committee of devils. Indonesia does, in fact, have a terrible record of singling out Christians for abuse. Crimes have been committed against Christian aid workers before and after the tsunami. The same is true of India and Pakistan. But Jesus warned us that we would be persecuted. Are the Christians being punished for being sinners? No, they are shining in darkness as Jesus said they would.
Why does God allow disasters?
I’ll answer that in a second. But first let me say that people typically have one of three reactions to disasters: fear, dedication of purpose, or hedonism.
In times of trouble, people are fearful enough to hear the truth about sin and forgiveness. They have no interest in a “prosperity gospel.” They want to get right with God. Disasters will do that. And that is one of the reasons why God allows disasters: It makes people seek Him honestly.
Disasters give Christians a holy discontentment. Some Christians are no longer willing to simply sing in the choir and chip in a few bucks on Sunday. Instead, they roll up their sleeves and take the Gospel to the hurting, naked, hungry, and lost. Jesus said that the passionate response of Christians to disasters (Matthew 25:31-46) will cause people to see Jesus and the Gospel will be preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14). And that’s the second reason God allows disasters: It gets lukewarm Christians cooking!
And then there are those who respond with hedonism, which is the third reason. They judge their own hearts.
Are we living in the last days?
Maybe. Probably. Speaking of the end of the age, Jesus said, “No one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen…” (Matthew 24:36 NIV) He goes on to recount that His return will be like it was in the days of Noah when the spiritually dead were living life as usual but the spiritually alive were inside the ark. Noah heard God and prepared: the rest didn’t and were lost. Noah didn’t have to know precisely when the first raindrops were going to fall to know it was going to rain.
Over 600 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled when He came the first time. Almost that many will be fulfilled when He returns. Jesus said He would return. I believe Him. I don’t have to know exactly when. The key is to be listening to God on a daily basis so it won’t take a trumpet blast to get my attention.
© Rebekah Binkley Montgomery 2005
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