|Variety of Disasters|
|The first Disaster|
|Noah and the ‘Flood’|
|Why do disasters happen?|
| Jesus Teaches Disasters in the ‘Last Days’
|The Four Horsemen Bring Disaster Rev 61-8|
Variety of Disasters [Contents]
There are so many different varieties of disaster like Hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes that ‘just happen’ and man has no control over these. He can redesign and strengthen buildings and build dams to prevent tidal surge flooding. But the problem that remains is balancing the cost against the risk. And the poor often do not have this luxury of choice. We cannot all live in places where such danger is minimal. With droughts and flooding that mostly cause hunger or even starvation, it is the poor who suffer most. Other disasters like pandemics, or asteroid impacts can affect everyone. So can car or work-related accidents, or national wars.
These and many others are predominately physical in nature. But what about disasters caused by personal health issues or relationship breakdown?
It is true to say that most people try to avoid all disaster! Though some are more accident prone and others seem to almost enjoy high risk activities. But no one can avoid them all. And it is totally unreasonable to expect the government to give us 100% protection! What do we do or think when disasters occur? Many ask why do we have to suffer? Often it seems so arbitrary and unexpected.
The Scriptures provide us with a few answers; which some may find surprising.
The First Disaster [Contents]
The Bible opens with two chapters describing God’s fantastic creation, which culminated in a perfect world that teemed with a vast numbers of all sorts of creatures, large and small, that inhabited the sea, air and land. Finally he created Adam and then Eve who lived in the paradise of Eden and walked with their Creator in the cool of the evening. But it was not long before the first disaster struck. God had warned them of just one restriction. They must not eat of the fruit of one particular tree in the middle of the garden. Satan was, and still remains God’s prime enemy. He hated what God had made. So he beguiled Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. God’s beautiful creation was marred. Their perfect relationship with Almighty God was broken. As promised, they ‘died’. God pronounced judgement on all three. They were thrown out of paradise. No longer could they enjoy their beautiful, complete relationship with Almighty God. They were alone. Also, their now sinful nature would be passed on to all their children and to successive generations. It wasn’t long before the jealous Cain murdered Abel. The reason for this long lasting disaster was simply disobedience.
Noah and the ‘Flood’ [Contents]
Just ten generations, four chapters and 1,000 years later, God tells us what had happened to his once beautiful world. The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. Gen 65
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. Gen 611,12
What could the Lord God do?
The problem wasn’t just a few individuals; it was everyone. How could he stop all this evil and yet allow men to continue having the freedom of choice.
What would you do?
God has told us what was wrong, also what he decided to do about it.
So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth. Gen 67
Does that sound a little extreme?! It was an unprecedented disaster.
God saw one possible solution because there was still one man who was righteous and who shared God’s grief - Noah. And he instructed him to build a 450 ft boat with three decks and 75 ft wide. There was no Harland and Wolf shipyard; just Noah and his 3 sons. Day after day they built for 120 years. And each day God endured seeing the endless uncontrollable wickedness.
There were two little details about this event that reveal the kindness and mercy of God in the midst of his seemingly harsh judgement. They are easy to miss.
1. Noah’s great grandfather was called Enoch. And Enoch ‘walked with God’. He had a son, who he named Methuselah. Strange name; but it was God’s choice. It means “In the day that I die, it shall happen”. God was warning the disinterested world of his impending judgement. But they took no notice for 969 years. Then Methuselah died. And one of the last things Noah did before the flood came was to bury his old grandfather. 187+182+600 = 969 = 187+782 (see Gen 518-28 711) There is a reason for God telling us the ages, and in this case it was to show the greatness of his mercy to wicked men, in giving them the opportunity to repent.
2. God told Noah to ‘coat it (the Ark) with pitch inside and out.’ Gen 614 Why?
Obviously it would help to make his huge boat waterproof. But that was not the only reason. The great significance of the pitch, the tar, is only seen in the Hebrew word used for pitch. Yes, it does mean tar, but the word ‘Kippur’ on the other 94 occasions the word is used in the OT is translated as atone, cleanse, cover, pardon etc. God was telling both Noah inside and the others outside that Noah and his family were saved by the atonement of God.
God gave men the opportunity to avoid this just disaster judgement.
Only Noah and his family chose to take any heed of the warning.
But God’s creation was able to make a new start.
The next Biblical disaster came when men said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Gen 114
Almighty God tells us his response to man’s blasphemous pride and the desire to become like little gods. First he sent confusion - it has always been easier to sow dissension than harmony among proud self-opinionated men. Then he scattered them over the face of the whole world. Gen 117-9
(And Babel became Babylon)
Why do disasters happen? [Contents]
As we have seen, when God judges his people, it is always for a good reason.
When Moses was sent to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, Pharaoh refused to listen to the God of Israel, the one true God. So God sent a series of 10 plagues, starting with the Nile becoming like blood (undrinkable) and finishing with the death of all the first-born in Egypt. But with each disaster Pharaoh hardened his heart. He had to learn the hard way, the way of disasters, that the Lord God is the Almighty, who should always be obeyed.
After 40 years in the wilderness Moses was near the end of his life. He sang a song that does much to help us understand something of God’s purpose in sending disasters.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. ...
But Israel rejected their God.
They forsook God who made them and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. ...
Therefore God says,
I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows on them;
they shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured by plague. Deut 323,4,15,23,24
Later in Israel’s history, in 755 BC, after 2 centuries and a dozen evil kings, God sent the prophet Amos to warn them that he was not pleased with their religious arrogant, wealthy, unjust, immoral, indulgent, 'we know better' society. So the faithful Amos went and told them that it was God who sent them the disasters.
I gave you cleanness of teeth, lack of bread. 46
I withheld the rain from you. 47
I struck you with blight and mildew. 49
I sent among you pestilence as in Egypt. 410
I overthrew some of you as with Sodom. 411
And after each disaster, the prophet says: Yet you did not return to me ...
Therefore prepare to meet your God ! 412
Today, does anyone dare to preach a message like this in UK.
Does anyone think that the ‘Loving God’ ever punishes or sends disasters?
One day Jesus asked an enquiring crowd about a local disaster - The tower of Siloam had collapsed and killed 18 people. He asked, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Lu 134,5
Jesus did not blame the disaster upon those who suffered, but he makes it very clear that anyone who refuses to repent of his sinful ways, will perish.
The same is true about the Grenfell Tower block cladding fire that killed 72.
Those who died were not any more sinful than those who survived. But if anyone is to receive eternal life, he must repent, he must be ‘born again’. Jn 33, 17-19
Some disasters, like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are a direct judgement for wickedness. Almighty God sends or allows most disasters to encourage those who experience them to repent and cry to God for mercy - and also those who only observe the disaster. And thus save their souls for all eternity. Few today see disasters in the light that Jesus taught. If a prophet like Amos was sent to preach, he would be rejected and ‘sent packing’ just as he was in 755 BC. We are now living in the days that Paul prophesied, For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Tim 43,4 Most preachers think that they need to appeal to popular, modern ideas. And if they quote the Bible, it is often very selective. They only choose the parts that illustrate what they want. The Word of God is ‘used’ rather than taught. The majority of UK do not even listen to any preaching; they consider Almighty God to be old fashioned and totally irrelevant to modern life. All who believe the Evolution Theory lie in effect declare that creation by God is only a fairy tale. They refuse to admit that all men are sinful and need the forgiveness of God to inherit eternal life. Some may say that Jesus Christ lived a good life and was a great example; but the fact that he came and had to be crucified in order to be our Redeemer, is thought to be ridiculous. They see the judgement of God to be simply a foolish Victorian threat.
This is a poor preparation for all the disasters of the Great Tribulation that the Scriptures prophesy, and that Jesus confirmed.
Jesus Teaches Disasters in the ‘Last Days’ [Contents]
Before Jesus was crucified, the Apostles thought, hoped, he was the Messiah, the One whom God had sent to make everything right, to heal the sick, bring righteousness to both low and high places. The One who would restore Israel and send the Roman soldiers back to Rome. One day during the last week in Jerusalem, they were rejoicing over the second Temple that Herod had only recently completed. Jesus had to tell them the truth that very soon “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Math 242
The apostles asked, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Math 243
So Jesus told them.
“See that no one leads you astray. ...” 244
He repeated this twice. So obviously it was important for them to remember it.
What sort of falsehood should they expect?
“Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ.” 245
Their personal claim would first imply that Jesus obviously wasn’t the Messiah - Not only is he now dead, but the Romans are still here! And secondly they would have no appreciation of the necessity for a perfect sacrifice to gain the propitiation for our sins that required redemption. This was the reason for Paul’s emphasis in preaching ‘Christ crucified’ to the Corinthian church. He also warned the Ephesians that fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert. Act 2029-31 It is good to read in the letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” They had heeded the united warning of Jesus and Paul about false Christs.
Jesus continued to tell the Apostles about what would happen in the last days.
It would be days of increasing disasters. There would be wars, famines, earthquakes, tribulation and persecution. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains, he told them; but he also added that the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
It is encouraging that in spite of increasing disasters, the offer of salvation through Christ would continue to be preached. 246-14
Jesus then tells them that there will come a time of ‘great tribulation’, which will immediately be followed by the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 2429
Only after all these increasing disasters will the Son of Man return to his earth and establish his glorious, righteous kingdom.
Jesus completes his teaching on the last days with the great assurance that
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 2435
In spite of the horrendous happenings, very few will realise that the moment of his return will be as in the days of Noah - totally unexpected! The redeemed will be shut in, but a vast majority, unprepared and unrepentant, will be shut out.
Again we see that such disasters are both a judgement of wickedness and an incentive to cry to God for mercy before it is too late.
The Four Horsemen Bring Disaster Rev 61-8 [Contents]
Most people avoid the book of Revelation because they prefer a message of hope, joy, peace rather than learning to be prepared for the tribulation of the last days.
Nevertheless, in his wisdom and grace, Almighty God has chosen to reveal to us the Great Tribulation events. It would be a foolish excuse to ignore it saying that as it was written 2,000 years ago, it’s quite safe to leave it a few more years!
It is very easy when reading this book to forget both its title and its purpose.
The first 5 words give us the title: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
And the purpose that he unfolds is the opening of the scroll with seven seals.
The scroll reveals all the names of the redeemed, the Bride of Christ and the whole purpose of God’s glorious creation - a righteous kingdom and a holy fellowship that will continue for all eternity.
When John first sees the scroll it is sealed. He began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. 54-6
The events of Revelation tell the story of how the Lion of the Tribe of Judah breaks open the seals, which includes the trumpet warnings and his wrathful judgement. So keep your eyes on Jesus completing his kingdom building task, and avoid getting distracted by the events and their mystery.
At the end in Rev 19 the tasks revealed in the book are all but fulfilled.
John hears a great multitude crying out:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come ...
Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” 196-9>
For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. 1910b
This book is the testimony of Jesus, fulfilling his prophetic word.
How does it begin?
Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer. 61,2
It was the Lamb who made the first move. The first living creature knew immediately what to do. The white horse with its rider responded and with great power; he came out determined to conquer. It may be significant that he was given a bow, but arrows are not mentioned. This suggests that his conquering was not by military might on the battle field, but was more in the the realm of domineering by deceit and fear. He seems to conquer for his own power rather that for the glory of God. Dan 8 reveals a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy people. He will cause deceit to prosper. ... Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. Dan 823-25
Rev 131-4, 11-14 reveals a satanic ‘Beast’ who deceives by using signs and wonders.
Also 2 Thes 29,10 reveals the same leader, the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.
This horse may also use political pressure, a controlled media and will certainly use evil spiritual power to enable him to conquer. For the world to have such a successful evil leader will cause the first major disaster of the great tribulation.
The second living creature then calls forth the red horse. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword. Rev 64 Satan was given a free reign to do what he loves best - to kill the people that God had so wonderfully created. There were no refugee camps under this ruthless being. And there were no peaceful havens of escape. Red, blood red, was a very suitable colour for this rider and his horse.
The third and forth riders were black and pale - death of the untreated wounded, epidemics / pandemics, and starvation that so often follow war. This was disaster on a major scale. ¼ of the world’s population will die. (68) If there were 8 billion initially, that would be 2,000 million dead c.f. 50 million in WW2.
It may seem strange to us that God would order such a disaster. Habakkuk had the same problem. He prayed earnestly to Almighty God about the wickedness in Judea during the reign of Zedekiah. He complained and pleaded with God to do something about it. God told him that he would not believe his plan, but he told him what it was. Behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation ... Hab 16 Nebuchadnezzar came, and after an 18 month siege destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Habakkuk came round to see that God’s plan was just.
‘Disasters’ is not a pleasant subject.
But the Sovereign Lord is consistently faithful, just, merciful and gracious.
And he wants us to be prepared for the last days and the great tribulation.
Remember the warning that Jeremiah gives to all who deny their sinfulness:
You say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’
Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’ Jer 235
Disasters can be a persuading opportunity.
The Lord’s desire is always to save the lost.
Blessed are the poor in spirit ...
Blessed are those who mourn ...
Blessed are the meek ...
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... Math 53-5