No Time to Think


As the massive death toll continues to rise in the wake of the powerful tsunamis that struck Southern Asia the day after Christmas, the mainstream media, the scientific community, relief organizations, students of Bible prophecy, and common observers struggle to understand the magnitude and meaning of the catastrophe. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake, centered 155 miles off the coast of Sumatra, triggered tsunami waves of up to 500 mph. The quake was so strong, its force has been compared to the detonation of a million atomic bombs (the type dropped on Japan at the end of WWII). Some scientists are even claiming that it literally altered, if infinitisimally, the earth's rotation. Researchers at the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) note that tsunami waves in the Indian Ocean are historically rare to even nonexistent on record. This was not your average natural disaster. Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs described firsthand (subscription req'd) his experience in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit:

The speed with which it all happened seemed like a scene from the Bible, a natural phenomenon unlike anything I had experienced.
Scientists and the media will attribute these tsunamis to geological chance or even years of ecological irresponsibility. However, the sheer scale of the calamity, when set against the backdrop of natural disasters over the past 12 months, ought to give believers pause: there is something supernatural to these natural disasters.

The metaphor of a "thief in the night" is memorably used in several passages of Scripture to describe Christ's return. Peter wrote that "the day of the Lord will come like a thief." (2 Peter 3:10) Likewise, Paul warned, "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief." (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Jesus Himself says in Revelations 16:15, "Behold, I come like a thief," referencing his own words from Luke 12:39-40. But not everyone is to be surprised. Jesus cautioned believers not to fall asleep spiritually; foreseeing this, He gave us explicit clues to His return in addition to end times prophecy located elsewhere in Scripture. Among these signs are natural disasters. From Matthew Chapter 24 (KJV):
7 There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these [are] the beginning of sorrows.
Bible prophecy is often the focus of the mainstream media because, in isolation, it sensationalizes Scripture and reduces it to sound byte consumption. The secular media manipulate and overemphasize the role of natural disasters in prophecy to play on people's fears and, knowingly or not, impugn the veracity of Scripture by heightening a sense of Cecil B. DeMille-like theatricality. Our psyches are conditioned by the special effects images of Hollywood disaster movies to the point where we are clearly desensitized to the real thing. To Western countries observing the events in Southern Asia, the disaster is removed, held captive on a picture tube, and thus abstract. In other words, if it ain't in our own backyard, we don't pay attention. Sadly, short-sighted Western-centric perception, dimmed by selfishness and moral turpitude, is slow to recognize that the world as a whole is experiencing an incredible amount of upheaval with great rapidity. Jesus was quite clear that, in the last days, natural disasters would strike in diverse locales and that they would be a very real part of supernaturally directed design. In Luke Chapter 21 (KJV), Jesus said:
25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26 Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
North America certainly has experienced its fair share of atypical climatic and ecological occurrences in recent months, and yet there is the sense that the increasing frequency of such events is not resonating with a public inured to "breaking news" stories. After 18 years of silence, Washington state's Mount St. Helens made the news again when it erupted in early October. Although the steam-and-ash eruption was relatively minor as far as volcanoes go, notable seismic and magmatic activity continues there. Far more devastating was this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which was considered to be among the worst ever to hit the United States. Four major hurricanes in a six-week span -- Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne -- battered the state of Florida alone, and damage will likely exceed that caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The hurricanes caused thousands of deaths in the Caribbean, and the next several years are expected to bring similarly powerful hurricane seasons.

Yet it is on the international scene over the past 12 months where natural disaster is looking less natural and more "supernatural." Exactly one year to the day previous to this week's tsunami disaster, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake shook southeastern Iran and killed upwards of 30,000 people. The terrible tragedy has nonetheless faded from Western consciousness. This year alone, there have been nine earthquakes around the world (including the December 26th Sumatran temblor) of magnitude 7.0 or higher. During June, July, and August, some of the worst monsoon flooding in 15 years ravaged parts of India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, killing 1,800 people. A record ten typhoons have struck Japan this year, leaving more than 100 fatalities in their wake. Among them was Typhoon Tokage which hit Japan on October 20 with a record 80-ft. wave. Three days later, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the city of Niigata, Japan. Volcanic activity, in addition to that of Mount St. Helens, continues to dot the globe from hot spots in Japan and the South Pacific to the Kamchatka region of Russia.

We hear reports more and more frequently of astronomers spotting an asteroid that could possibly strike the Earth, causing damage on an worldwide scale. While such an event seems quite remote, some Bible prophecy watchers believe the Apostle John described an asteroid in Revelation Chapter 8 when he wrote:
8 Something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea.
9 A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Just this week, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California reopened their tracking of an asteroid that could make impact with Earth in 2029. The odds are 300-to-1.

Everyone from the U.N. to insurance companies to Hal Lindsey recognizes the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Worldwide, the number of major weather-related disasters in the 1990s was more than five times the number for the 1950s, and the number of natural disasters over the past half century have surpassed those in the previous half. The secularists and evolutionists desperately point to phenomena like global warming and increasing carbon dioxide levels to explain the meaning of these natural disasters. Even if substantiated, their hypotheses do not even begin to deal with the why. A world so fixated on empiricism and the kingdom of physical senses cannot mitigate the fear and suffering of its people when faced with supernatural judgment.

Journalist Alan Morison wrote this eyewitness account of the tsunami's effects on Phuket Island (in Thailand):
What do you do when you see a huge wave-wall coming at you? You run. You run as fast as you can. You think: "This is surreal."

But you keep running ... until the water lifts you off your feet and sweeps you onwards.

It makes no difference whether you can swim or not.

The force carries you forward, and you become a living, breathing projectile. Grab onto something and you may live.

Surf the wave and you have a chance. Hit something solid, and you die.
Faced with so-called "forces of nature," man is reminded of how powerless he truly is. We have no time to think, only time to react. Jesus warned believers to be spiritually ready at the end of the age. These signs, these birthing pangs, are warnings for His Church to prepare itself, to return to its faith, to return to the Word and turn away from the world. Fear and unbelief have ruled man for eons, but by God's design, calamity and disaster tear man's grip away from the minutiae of his life so that he may focus on the reality of his spiritual situation. But this applies only to the survivors; only in life can we prepare. For once we are in the moment, there will be no time to think.

A considerable number of lives lost in the tsunami disaster in Southern Asia were children's. Several Christian relief organizations (including Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse) are currently assisting aid workers. Please consider a financial contribution to help those in an extremely difficult situation.