(From top left to right: Texas wildfires, Alabama tornado destruction, Washington DC's National Cathedral earthquake aftermath, Vermont flooding)
People who read my blog or hear me preach or read other stuff I've written know that I do not dwell very much on the "signs of the times." In fact, I cannot remember ever taking a full sermon, article, blog or anything to focus on the idea that we are near the end of time and that the Lord is coming soon. It's not that I do not believe we are in the end times, nor is it that I don't think it is important we acknowledge the craziness in which we live. I just avoid talking about the subject for a few reasons:
1. I find that mentioning such things is often fear-inducing - exactly the opposite of what God is trying to do in these last days (see 1 John 4:18). God does not use "fear" to motivate. Instead, He seeks to use love as the motivating factor in Christians' lives.
2. Many of these "signs" have been happening for a long time. This does not mean that I do not believe they will happen with greater frequency before Christ comes, but it seems like for hundreds of years we have been saying, "Look at all that has been happening in the world; it must mean that the Lord is coming soon!" I don't want to be a scoffer like in the days of Noah, but in light of the next point, I do not look at the conditions of the world as the primary barometer as to the parousia's nearness.
3. The primary reason I do not get caught up in sign-watching is because, as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, I believe Christ has been waiting for us for the last 165+ years, not the other way around. Christ could have come a long time ago, but He didn't. This is because He has been waiting for a "bride" to make herself "ready" (see Revelation 19:7). Only when this happens will any worldly conditions mean anything.
I write all this because even I have sat up in my chair lately and noticed the signs! I am baffled - absolutely baffled - by all the goings-on in the world, especially as it is related to natural disasters. Never before in my life have I witnessed as many natural disasters - and incredibly destructive ones, at that - as there has been in the last year or two.
What really has me shaking my head is what recently went on in Vermont in the wake of Hurricane Irene. For the last few years, you could often overhear me saying, "New England seems to be sheltered from any major natural disasters." I almost felt as though we were invincible. But then Hurricane Irene pretty much swamped all of Vermont, leaving major destruction in its wake (click here to see some amazing pictures of the Green Mountain State), and I couldn't help but notice.
So I got to thinking about all that has gone on in the last few years, and here are some of the major weather-related events that have happened:
1. 7.0 magnitude Haiti earthquake - January 12, 2010
2. 8.8 magnitude Chile earthquake - January 27, 2010
3. Iceland volcano eruption - April 16, 2010
4. Russian wildfires - July - September, 2010
5. 9.0 magnitude Japan earthquake and tsunami - March 11, 2011
6. Largest tornado outbreak in the American south - April 14-16, 2011
7. Mississippi River floods - April - May 2011
8. Joplin tornado - May 22, 2011
9. Massachusetts tornadoes - June 1, 2011
10. Texas wildfires - April - September, 2011
11. Eastern United States earthquake - August 23, 2011
12. Hurricane Irene and flooding - August, 2011
This list does not even include Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or the crazy snowstorms in the American south!
But many people have sat up and taken notice. In fact, it is not uncommon for newscasters to shake their heads and describe the disasters in apocalyptic language. Just recently, one newscaster in Boston said that he never remembers a time where there were tornadoes, an earthquake, and a hurricane all in one summer. It is just mindboggling.
Of course, everyone has a different explanation for why we have seen so many disasters in the last few years, but for my money, there are really only four viable explanations as to why we have seen these catastrophic events - two are "natural," the other two are "supernatural."
1. Man-made global warming
2. Natural weather cycles
3. God is punishing America or the world for its (our) immorality
4. God is slowly letting go of the four winds of heaven (see Revelation 7:1-4) because His sealing time is drawing to a close
In the interest of time, I will just go right to the fourth option - the one I think is most likely. I believe that God is slowly letting go of the four winds of heaven and indicating to us that time is short. I say this mostly because of the positive things I see happening among God's people more than anything else. I see there being a dual ripening of God's people and the world at the same time (see Revelation 14:14-20). If it was just the world that was getting crazier and crazier, and if it was just the weather that was just getting more and more destructive, I wouldn't pay much attention. But I see a lot of things all converging at one time, indicating that time is short.
I see mainly three things converging (sorry for all the lists - this is atypical for me):
1. The economic upheaval in America and in the world - which just seems to be getting worse and worse, much to everyone's surprise. Just when we think we've hit rock bottom, we seem to dig ourselves deeper.
2. The aforementioned natural disasters.
3. The call - and response - for revival among God's people. There seems to be a definite re-awakening for the message of Christ's righteousness among my particular community of faith. The leader of our denomination has called for church-wide revival. People have a renewed interest in the message of righteousness by faith. Not to get too provincial or myopic, but I see incredible things happening in New England among Seventh-day Adventists as it relates to righteousness by faith (read this for one vignette into it).
The convergence of these three things - and others - leads me to believe that Christ is at the door. But especially the last one. I believe we are on the verge of world-wide revival. I believe Christ is coming soon - or, at the very least, He is trying really hard to come real soon.
But it rests upon us to seize the opportunity to prepare ourselves - by His grace - for the "marriage of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7).