When a natural disaster strikes, how are we to understand the situation? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Let me say at the start that this post is not meant to give any consolation to people who are suffering from Hurricane Sandy. Prayers are with you. If you are hurt by this now, this is not the post for you to read at the time. This is providing a rational answer to a question that is risen and is not meant to deal with current emotional suffering. That is the area of a good counselor instead.
A friend of Deeper Waters told me yesterday that her brother is someone who is highly into prophecy and thinks that Hurricane Sandy is a fulfillment of prophecy. Now I have in the past stated that my view on prophecy is that of orthodox Preterism. For all who don’t understand that view, my position is that Jesus Christ is going to physically return some day and that there will be a future resurrection of all the dead. I will put a link at the end of this post to the web site of DeeDee Warren, the best I know of to explain Preterism.
Also, with regards to what I was told yesterday, I have indicated numerous times that I am politically a conservative and that I do vote conservative. It is not essential to this post that you agree with either of the viewpoints that I present. I can easily picture a liberal who is a futurist agreeing with what I have to say.
To begin with, I’m not sure what prophecy Sandy is said to fulfill as none was given, but I do know the habit of going to the Bible, finding one verse that agrees with you, and then wresting it from its historical context and plopping it right down in modern times and saying that it is a fulfillment of prophecy, because we all know that in ancient Israel 2,500 years or so ago, God was warning them about a hurricane that would happen in a totally separate country today.
This does not mean the prophecies are irrelevant to us if they have already been fulfilled. We can still see a precedent on the kind of behavior God universally opposes, particularly when He speaks about behavior outside of Israel. Why? Because that nation is not one that is under the law of Israel that is civic and ceremonial, although to be fair, most of the criticisms of Israel were the failure of the moral law.
The problem is that when we have these disasters, there is always someone claiming it was a fulfillment of prophecy. It doesn’t matter that this “prophecy” has been fulfilled several times before. This time, this is it. This is our generation! We are the one! It’s irrelevant that every other generation has had someone who has thought that before. We are obviously the exception this time.
Of course, this could be the generation that the kingdom comes into full realization. We should always be open to that. We dare not proclaim it without clear revelation from God however. We play a dangerous game when we do that. There were numerous books that were written that showed Saddam Hussein was the antichrist. Some were saying Bin Laden was the antichrist. What are those books doing now? They’re gathering dust on bookshelves somewhere. They have embarrassed the Christian faith and the authors are going to go out and try it again. To use an extreme example, what do you think someone like Harold Camping does to the Christian faith?
Still, I would not be surprised if someone like Pat Robertson will go out or has already gone out and said that the east coast is being judged and Hurricane Sandy is the proof. This lady I was talking to about her brother said that we are being judged with this election. Look at the states that are hit the most. Those states are New York and New Jersey. These states are blue on the map and so they are being judged for supporting Obama.
Now I find this just odd. To begin with, you’d think if this was the kind of thing being done, we’d see the disaster on the West Coast which is even more liberal. We don’t. Instead, we see the hurricane come and people say “Obviously God is directing this hurricane. This hurricane has to be judgment. Why could these states be being judged? Look! They’re both blue states! That has to be it!”
I was also told that hurricanes aren’t common at this time of year. Common? Perhaps not. Unheard of? No. Hurricanes have happened. Back in 1993 here in Tennessee, in March, we had a blizzard come. Blizzards don’t normally come at that time of year and I as a young boy thought I would never see it again. The reality is, I did. I saw it in APRIL of 1996. Should I have concluded both were a divine act of God for some reason? To say something is unusual and uncommon does not mean that it is a judgment of God.
Of course, this does not mean that God cannot use a hurricane to judge, but I need a clear reason to think that it is. What message we can get out of such things is to realize the fragility of life and we dare not grow complacent where we are. We can look at Luke 13 where tragedies happen and the reply of Jesus is “You repent just in case!” (And from my viewpoint of course, they had a really big disaster come 40 years later and unfortunately, they did not repent.)
When we have situations like this happen, it leads to further embarrassment of the Christian faith and more attention paid to non-essentials. As I told my friend yesterday, it is a tragedy that Christians today tend to spend more time seeking to understand who the antichrist is rather than spend that time seeking to understand who Christ is.
Having said that, I do want to make it clear that I have no problem seeing my futurist friends as Christians. I would rather you be right on the Jesus question and wrong on the eschatology question, than be right on the eschatology question and be wrong on the Jesus question. This is an in-house debate. I have no problem with futurists. I’m married to one after all. I do have a problem with dogmatism either way. I have a problem with preterists seeing futurists as second-class Christians and I have a problem with futurists who like to accuse me of just wanting to “Allegorize” or “spiritualize” the Word of God.
Let’s be careful with how we are presenting ourselves to the world and handling our interpretation of Scripture. We must always try to first find out what it meant to the people then before finding the application for our own day and age. If we are reckless with how we interpret it, we will pay the price. Let’s also remember that there are people who are hurting from Sandy and the last thing we need to tell them is that God is judging them.
The preterist site can be found here.