With the recent devastation and loss of lives in Texas, Florida and the Islands from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the forest fires out west and earthquakes in Mexico, many people are asking, what is God trying to say to us? Of course, living in a fallen world with natural disasters and evil people, mankind has always asked this question and especially when sudden and calamitous tragedies occur. As I was reflecting on this and praying about it recently, the Lord brought to mind a passage from Scripture that I think is a very insightful and needful to share with our friends and family at this time. But before we look at the passage let’s lay some theological groundwork in which to frame and understand what God is saying to us.
*First and foremost, our Lord is the most compassionate Person in the universe (John 3:16) and weeps with those who suffer the loss of loved ones, injury and loss of property and calls us to come alongside them. (See Luke 10:25-37) “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18) We can reach out to them with prayers, financial support and personal involvement.
*Hurricanes and other damaging weather are not caused by an impersonal “Mother Nature” but by a personal Father God. All weather and all of the natural world was perfect before Man sinned and then God “cursed the ground” (Genesis 3) and all of creation (Romans 8:20-22) and it will remain so until He creates the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-4)
*God is sovereign and controls everything that happens in the world and in our individual lives and He intends everything (trials and blessings) to be redemptive (Romans 8:28) and to lead us to salvation and then to increasing spiritual growth for His glory and our good. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and decisions and how unfathomable and untraceable are His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it would be paid back to him? For from Him [all things originate] and through Him [all things live and exist] and to Him are all things [directed]. To Him be glory and honor forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
*God’s kindness toward us is intended to lead us to salvation (Romans 2:4) but too often it takes trials and suffering to finally turn us to God. “For [only] when Your judgments are experienced on the earth will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Though the wicked is shown compassion and favor, He does not learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9-10)
With this Biblical understanding of God’s ways in our world and life let’s now look at this passage of Scripture that would otherwise seem both unloving and uncompassionate of the Lord.
“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.” (Luke 13:1-5) In these two tragedies we see that sudden calamitous death can be caused be evil people (Pilate) or what we call freak accidents (the tower falling) and we know that many have died from natural disasters since the Fall when the Lord cursed mankind with physical death and spiritual death (hell) and cursed all of creation. (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 8:20-22). So since the Fall this earth is a dangerous place. (Galatians 1:4) We all know that we will die at some point but most of us don’t anticipate or prepare for a sudden and calamitous death. The point Jesus is making is since we don’t know when we will die we must prepare for death now-today. (2 Corinthians 6:2) And then He tells is how to do that.
Apparently Pilate murdered the Galileans while they were offering sacrifices at the temple and then mixed their blood with the blood of the animal sacrifices. Yet, like many religious Jews, their ritualistic worship (offering sacrifices) did not mean they were saved. And then how about the eighteen who died when the tower fell? Were these people who died violent and sudden deaths more guilty than others? Is that why they died this way? Jesus responds to these thoughts and questions by telling them (and us) that the ultimate “calamity” we need to be concerned about is not physical death, but eternal death (hell) and the only way to avoid it is to repent now “or you too will all perish.” “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) In the case of these who died in both of these calamites Jesus, being God and omniscient, knew that all of them were not saved and thus would perish. The word “perish” here refers to hell not to loss of life. This is the same way it is used in John 3:16 as it is contrasted to eternal life: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” And the only preparation we can make for this is to repent and receive Jesus Christ as our Savior now before we die (Hebrews 9:27) of old age or of a sudden calamity. We have to repent (change our mind) about our righteousness being good enough for God and repent of thinking that we have the ability to change and make ourselves acceptable to Him by our own efforts. God says our righteousness is like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and that we are helpless to to make ourselves acceptable to Him. “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) The only righteousness that a perfectly righteous God can accept is perfect righteousness and that only comes as we trust in and receive by faith Jesus’ perfect righteousness. “He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
From this Scripture and many others we see that we must also must repent of trusting in any way or any person or any religion except faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross for salvation and eternal life. Jesus said so Himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6; also see Acts 4:12)) If it were possible to go to heaven apart from the painful, humiliating and substitutionary death of Jesus Chirst, God’s only begotten Son, then Jesus died needlessly. (Galatians 2:21)
There is another event that is spoken of in Scripture that calls for us to repent now and receive Jesus Christ and that is the sudden Rapture of the Church (“in the twinkling of an eye.”) “For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3) “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) (For an indepth teaching on the difference between the Rapture and The Second Coming see http://www.ldolphin.org/Return.html)
Recently (9/13) in referring to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the earthquake in Mexico Franklin Graham said, “These are some of the Biblical signs before Christ’s return. Nobody knows the day or hour, not even the Son of God, but it is a reminder to all of us to be ready to repent and confess our sins, and ask for God’s forgiveness. Other prominent Christian leaders have also said the recent events could be taken as a reminder of Christ’s coming. (http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2017/september/franklin-grahams-end-times-view-were-seeing-biblical-signs-before-christs-return) Another ministry puts it this way: “Things aren’t falling apart, they are falling into place” – for the retrurn of Christ.(https://www.olivetreeviews.org/images/Newsletter-Jan-Feb-2015.pdf)
C. S. Lewis was asked by a media interviewer during World War II what he would think if the Germans got the atom bomb and dropped one on his head. He said, I would look up at it and stick out my tongue and say, “I’m an immortal soul.” “ For I am convinced that ..nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39) Nothing is more relevant than the eternal.
Until He Comes again,
Len and Kristen