Hurricanes, floods and wildfires – are we in the last days?
“Are we in the last days?” is the question many people are asking as our newspapers and TVs are filled with horrendous accounts of the destructive powers of nature that are shaking the world.
Hurricane Irma has flattened whole islands where the rich and powerful enjoy their Caribbean paradise in the breath-taking beauty of secluded estates, surrounded by the frail wooden homes of those who serve them. Rich and poor alike have suffered catastrophic damage to their property and lives have been lost.
But it’s not only the small islands that have suffered; a powerful earthquake hit Mexico at the same time as the Irma made landfall on the USA mainland around Miami and tremendous damage was done as the hurricane moved inland across Florida. This was hot on the heels of Hurricane Harvey and ahead of Hurricanes José and Katia: battering the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico and south-east USA with unprecedented fury.
Other parts of the world have also been experiencing devastating flooding and landslides. Monsoonal rains sweeping across a vast swathe of northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh have left 1,200 dead and over 40 million people affected in the worst flooding for half a century.1 Also, wildfires driven by high winds have been wreaking havoc in many parts of the world.2 So, what’s the significance of all this?
Signs in the Heavens and on the Earth
Bible-believing Christians are asking if these horrendous events have any bearing upon the times of great shaking among the nations that we are experiencing. When referring to his own Second Coming, Jesus said:
There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming upon the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)
Is it just an interesting coincidence that last week there was a spectacular aurora of lights dancing across Britain’s skies as a huge solar flare, the most powerful for 12 years, erupted on the sun? The Times reported that “Its blast of radiation was so intense that it caused high-frequency radio blackouts for an hour over Europe, Africa and the Atlantic.”3
The report said that the explosion on the sun “unleashed vast bubbles of superheated electrified gas that shot through space at 1 million mph…and came crashing into Earth.”4
First Israel, Then the World
Warnings of vast disturbances on earth are found throughout the Bible. Isaiah 24 begins with the statement, “See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it.” This is followed by, “The earth will be completely laid waste…The earth dries up and withers…The earth is defiled by people…Therefore a curse consumes the earth.”
This sounds as though some catastrophic worldwide destruction is forecast, such as a nuclear holocaust that many are fearing today as Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un face each other, with North Korea’s newly acquired nuclear capability. But reading Isaiah 24 in the Hebrew gives a very different impression.
All the above references to ‘the Earth’ use the Hebrew word erets which throughout the Bible usually means ‘the land’, or more specifically ‘the land of Israel’. Suddenly in verse 21 (of Isaiah 24) the word changes from ‘erets’ to ‘adarmah’ which elsewhere in the Bible means ‘the whole world’.
So, suddenly, the text changes from the land of Israel being thoroughly shaken to the statement “In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the Earth below”, meaning that some great judgment will come upon the land of Israel, after which the great shaking is extended to bring judgment upon the whole world.
The Times of the Gentiles
If we now go forward to the New Testament, we find Jesus probably referring to Isaiah 24 when he says “For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written” (Luke 21:22). He follows that by referring to events that took place just 40 years later in the war with Rome (AD 66-70), which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the slaughter of some half a million people in Judea.5
Jesus then jumps forward to the times approaching his own Second Coming. He says “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
The big question facing us today is whether or not “the times of the Gentiles” have been fulfilled. Although most of Jerusalem is back in Jewish hands, the Temple Mount is still occupied by Muslims which causes many biblical scholars to say that the prophetic words of Jesus have not yet been fulfilled.
The Days of Noah
Jesus also referred to ‘the days of Noah’:
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37-39)
This warning about being prepared should at least make us stop and think about what is happening in our world today, and review our own relationship with God through our faith in the Lord Jesus. The Second Coming of our Lord may be much nearer than we think. An unbelieving generation takes no notice of the warning signs. Bible-believing Christians have no such excuse!
- E.g. see news coverage here.
- Click here to see maps of 2017 wildfires around the world.
- Simons, P. Solar storm means aurora borealis could light up British skies. The Times, 9 September 2017.
- It is always difficult to be sure of what Jesus meant in his statements to the disciples in Luke 21 and Matthew 24, because some of his words refer to events in the near future and others to the far future. He was clearly in conversation with them about the Temple which they had just left when he said that “not one stone will be left on another” (Matt 24:2). This was undoubtedly fulfilled in AD 70. But his prophecy that the Gospel will be preached in all the world (Matt 24:14) has obviously not yet been fulfilled, although with the present rapid worldwide growth of the Church, it may be fulfilled in the lifetime of the present generation of young people. It should also be remembered that biblical prophecies can refer to more than one event.
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