“There will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. . . . . And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:11,25-27)
Taken at face value this looks like a global disaster caused by the Earth being struck by several asteroids, causing huge Tsunami-type waves. It speaks about “those things which are coming on the Earth,” and the perplexity and fear generated. This is followed by “the roaring of the sea and the waves.” It reminds us of films like The Apocalypse, Armageddon, Deep Impact, and The Day after Tomorrow, together with dozens of others which try to depict apocalyptic happenings. Disaster movies are indeed very popular, and are often thought of as portraying coming events.
What is the Church’s attitude to the Lukan prophecy? I get the impression they think that all true believers will be whisked away to meet the Lord, whilst the Lord deals with the Earth in dire Judgment. OK for us, hell-fire for the rest. This is the theme of the Left Behind series, with its popular films. But does this agree with Scripture, and more to the point, does it resonate with the clearly defined character of God?
In the 7th chapter of Amos, the prophet is shown three visions. In the first he sees the Lord calling for a mighty swarm of locusts to devour all the crops of the land. He cries to the Lord to forgive His people, and the Lord responds. In the second vision Amos saw a great fiery object descend upon Earth, causing the upswelling of the ocean, a sort of huge tsunami. Again he cries to the Lord, and receives the promise that it will not happen. But in the third vision he sees a plumbline, by which the Lord will come to judge His people, and he is told this cannot be avoided. Days of judgment must come, but not dreadful destruction and disaster.
Should we not adopt the attitude of Amos, and pray that the apocalyptic events will not happen, and that instead God will come to judge His people in righteousness? Didn’t Jesus say that Elijah will return? “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.” (Matt.17:11) He was referring to Malachi’s prophecy. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6) Paul said that “The earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revealing of the sons of God. . . the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom.8:19-21) Are we not looking for a lifting of curses rather than a new one?
Didn’t Peter plead with the thousands at Pentecost, saying, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21) Notice particularly the mention of “times of refreshing” and “times of restoration”, rather than apocalyptic destruction. The key word was “repent”. Jonah warned Nineveh, and they repented, but Jonah still sat there waiting for destruction, and he was severely chastised by the Lord for his attitude.
Let us be like Amos, not Jonah.
Islam is waiting for the coming of their messiah-like figure, the Imam Mahdi, and their stated objective, from the Koran, is to create havoc on a world-wide scale which, they say, has to precede his coming. Christians must not adopt a similar attitude of blind acceptance of prophecy and the inevitability of disaster before the return of the Lord Jesus. The Lord was willing to answer the prayer of just one man, Amos. We should therefore not lose heart, but pray likewise.