Recently I heard a radio announcer say the nightly news was straight out of the book of Revelation.Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have wielded unprecedented paths of destruction through the southern states and the Caribbean. Irma is one of the worst storms on record. Similarly the 8.1 Richter scale earthquake that devastated impoverished parts of Mexico, is said to be the strongest quake in the past century.
In my province of British Columbia, Canada, a smoky haze has enveloped the local region since early August. The province was under a state of emergency for most of the summer due to raging wildfires. Every week thousands of evacuees were sent scrambling to get families and livestock out of the path of consuming flames. The fires, razing over 9000 square kilometres, are the worst on record ever.
A solar eclipse was seen throughout North America in August. A few weeks later what appeared to be a meteor landed in southern B.C.
On top of these events, we have terrorism in the Western world, the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the supposedly supreme leader of North Korea who has pointed his missiles at the Western world, are clear threats of war.
Revelation 6:8 speaks of death by “sword, famine and plague.” There is a great earthquake and the sun turns to blood (6:12). A star falls to earth (Revelation 6:13). “Thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake,” take the stage (8:5) and on it goes. The book of Revelation, like the evening news, is not for the faint of heart these days.
What is one to make of the recent news? The popular viewpoint is to blame climate change and human beings’ tendency to pollute the earth in the name of progress and the economy. It is a possibility, but hard to prove, given that accurate records have only been kept during the past 150 years or so which just happens to coincide with the later industrial revolution, a well-known culprit when it comes to polluting our atmosphere. Without getting into these arguments here, I suggest considering another possibility.
The earth was created as a home for human beings (Genesis 1:1). Before death and decay were introduced by humankind’s choices, it could have made a fine permanent home. But, since the first people on earth messed up a perfect place by their sinful choices (Genesis 3) and we, the descendants of that first couple, have continued to do so, I would argue that the earth is no longer permanent. It has an expiry date (Matthew 24:35) and will eventually wind down as an old clock stops ticking. Ironically Even Steven Hawking is in agreement.
But for the believer this is not as bad as it may seem. It is easy to draw parallels between Revelation and recent events, but the end is not yet and we are promised a new heaven and a new earth. (Revelation 21:1). “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:4-8)
The birth pains are the end of earth as we know it, also the beginning of a new era. “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind (Isaiah 65:17).
In the meantime what is the message here? Do we put our energies into buying smart cars and planting trees? Try to recharge the earth as if it was a battery? Stock up on emergency supplies and build a fallout shelter in case of natural disasters or nuclear war?
Environmental stewardship is a good idea and one we should embrace. Preparing for the worst is a reasonable plan, but if this is all we do, we have missed the whole point.
As you may have read in my earlier blogs, the book of Revelation, with all its imagery and disastrous events, points us to one thing. Jesus Christ. The Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. As we view our present earth going to pieces we need to be reminded of him and what he asks of us.
Warning: it’s not as popular or politically correct as climate change or political solutions.
The message for all humankind and the church in particular is to repent. (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21, 22 3:3, 3:19,9:20-21, 16:9, 16:11.) We are given opportunity to repent and invite others to do so.
Good old-fashioned repentance may have fallen out of favour, but it’s time to to turn from our wicked, corrupt, selfish ways and worship Jesus, who will make the earth new once again. If we are willing to turn ourselves towards him, we can face whatever flood, landslide, earthquake, war or persecution this old world can throw at us and nothing will be able to separate us from him (Romans 8:38-39). When we hear the nightly news, let’s remember what it really means.