The tsunami in Southeast Asia created a disaster of unfathomable proportions. Certainly the fact that over 225,000 people died is shocking and sobering to each one of us. But there is a greater tragedy—and that is, how ministers have responded to that disaster.
This should be a muchbigger news story than the tsunami itself!
Some very prominent priests and theologians have said it is not God’s will that something like the tsunami happen. Some of them even question the existence of God. That is a tragedy.
I will honestly tell you that this tsunami has increased my faith—not decreased it!
In the Sunday Telegraph appeared this headline: “Archbishop of Canterbury Admits: This Makes Me Doubt the Existence of God” (January 2). This man is the head of 70 million Christians in this world! And the tsunami has diminished his faith.
The article paraphrases the archbishop, Dr. Rowan Williams, as saying, “The Asian tsunami disaster should make all Christians question the existence of God” (emphasis mine throughout).
The tsunami doesn’t make me question the existence of God! On the contrary! In fact, I will show you why it should strengthen everyone’s belief in God, according to your Bible. That article said, “Prayer, [the archbishop] admits, provides no ‘magical solutions’ and most of the stock Christian answers to human suffering do not ‘go very far in helping us, one week on, with the intolerable grief and devastation in front of us.’” If that’s the way our prayers are, something is wrong. And if these “stock answers,” as he calls them, don’t really satisfy anybody, something is wrong. Something is terribly wrong with that religion!
We cannot be careless about something so critical. We’re talking about the state of our eternal lives!
In his own article, the archbishop wrote, “The question: ‘How can you believe in a God who permits suffering on this scale?’ is therefore very much around at the moment, and it would be surprising if it weren’t—indeed, it would be wrong if it weren’t.” That is not the kind of statement that builds people’s faith.
I have a right to respond to some of these statements. After all, he presumes to speak for all Christians. But he doesn’t speak for me. I don’t agree with him at all—not even close.
Does God exist? Does this catastrophe diminish God? Why did He allow this to happen? Do you know? There is a Bible answer to that! There is a tremendous answer, and it ought to strengthen our faith. We need faith in the midst of these terrible times.
In Matthew 24, Jesus Christ was asked by His disciples about what signs would precede His Second Coming and the end of this present world. He responded with the pivotal prophecy of His earthly ministry—the Olivet prophecy. Every end-time Bible prophecy revolves around it. A red-letter Bible shows that these are all Christ’s own words.
Christ spoke about the end time—the time we live in right now. In verse 14, He gave us the major sign of His return: the gospel being preached around the world. If you know the history of God’s Church, you know that has happened. In verses 21-22, Christ said there is a time coming when no flesh would be saved alive if He didn’t return and prevent it! We must realize that in today’s age of weapons of mass destruction, this is a very realistic scenario. These are obviously end-time prophecies.
But notice verses 4-5: “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I [Christ] am Christ; and shall deceive many.”
This is the first warning Christ gave—it is the major warning sign we need to watch out for. He warned that people would come in Christ’s name, but they wouldn’t believe Christ’s message. And He said that these false ministers would deceive many!
The prophecy continues: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers [different] places” (verses 6-7).
Here is another sign of the end time: earthquakes in different places. The Asian tsunami was caused by a 9.0 earthquake, which jolted trillions of tons of water in an instant, creating gigantic waves that crashed into the surrounding countries and swept thousands and thousands of people away. Christ said this would happen: devastating earthquakes in different places. He told us to expect it.
Is it God’s will? Well, that depends on how you look at it. It isn’t His will that people have to suffer like that—but if they reject His message or turn away from Him, then that’s another matter. Then He wants to correct them so He can bring them into His Family for all eternity.
Christ also spoke of famines—not enough food and water—and then pestilences, or disease epidemics. Southeast Asia is strewn with rotting corpses, and that brings disease; authorities say this aftermath will be worse than the initial devastation caused by the tsunami. Earthquakes, famines, pestilence: These are among the signs Christ gave of the end of the world we know—and the beginning of a beautiful new world we can hardly even imagine.
Can we ignore Christ’s words? Why won’t religious leaders believe these crucial signs of the end? Why won’t so-called Christians simply believe Christ?
But the prophecy gets even more shocking.
The Beginning of Sorrows
In the very next verse, Christ tells us, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (verse 8).
Jesus Christ was the greatest newscaster ever. If you doubt that, just watch what happens. Compare what He said with what these ministers are saying. Learn Christ’s prophecies, and then watch what happens. Every single one of them will be fulfilled. And then, right on the heels of all these catastrophes, He will return.
The point at which we find ourselves today, Christ told us, is only thebeginningof sorrows.
One Indonesian man said, “When the second wave came … I thought it was the end of the world.” In a way he was right. It is the beginning of sorrows. The beginning of the end of the world! Jesus Christ is about to usher in a new world—a world without tsunamis and without disasters, without any such troubles because Christ will be ruling! When He governs Earth, it will be an absolute paradise. The Bible is full of prophecies about that.
The problem now is, most men are not ruled by Christ. They may say He rules them, but most of them are wrong. Their statement simply will not stand the test of the Scriptures.
If we don’t listen to Christ, the troubles will intensify—to the point where no flesh would live if Christ didn’t intervene! “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (verse 21). The tsunami is just a little sliver of the sorrows about to come. Do you believe Christ? Most people do not, and that’s why we have all these problems. We wouldn’t have to experience the sorrows if we would only listen to Christ!
At the end of the previous chapter in Matthew, Christ said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). You wouldn’t allow it—you wouldn’t do what I wanted you to do! Those are strong words. We must listen to them, or the sorrows are only beginning.
“And because iniquity [lawlessness] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). The translators, because of their human nature, obscured a key word in this verse. Christ said that, in our day, lawlessness would abound.
Oh—is that ever true! Everywhere today we see lawlessness. Do you suppose that has anything to do with the problems we face? God wants us to keepHis law. In 1 John 5:3, He goes so far as to define the love of God as keeping His commandments.
Think about this. Isn’t it strange that not one of these prominent ministers—at least none I read about—talked about lawlessness? They blame God very quickly, but they don’t like to blame man.
In Southeast Asia, 250,000 children are trafficked annually into prostitution. That’s more human beings—and these are children—than died in the tsunami!
If we’re going to evaluate God, how about evaluating man? How about assessing what’s happening in this world? It seems to me that we ought to look at our sins too. Those poor children! In that same part of the world, those children are practically born into the twisted world of prostitution. That is absolutely abominable. I can’t think of a more disgusting, repugnant sin than that—can you? The world those children live in is worse than the tsunami in many ways. Do we really care? That needs to be stopped!
But nobody says a thing about it.
Can you see the evil in this world as God does?
When Jesus Christ came to this Earth, He was bludgeoned to death by sinners. We’re all guilty of His death, because we all sin. Even those “innocent” human beings who died in the tsunami weren’t so innocent. Not one of us is.
It’s true that, when He has to, God does bring evil upon people. In the book of Daniel, which is for the end time (Daniel 12:4, 9), the Prophet Daniel said, “all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice” (Daniel 9:13-14). God allows evil, and sometimes He brings it upon us. But why? “That we might turn” from our lawlessness!
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved [the Moffatt translation says ‘saved alive’]: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). All flesh would be destroyed if Jesus Christ didn’t come back to this Earth and stop it from happening.
Now, Christ didn’t bring those nuclear bombs into this world. He didn’t invent the terrible weapons of mass destruction we possess today. Man did that, in violation of God’s law. Will we blame God for all of this like we do for the tsunami?
God is going to put the people of this world through great tribulation until they know that, without Him, there is no hope at all—there’s nothing man can do. People will be brought to the point where they have to rely on God! So often, an alcoholic has to hit rock bottom before he’ll ever say, I’m wrong and I want to change. That is the way mankind tends to be.
The two hardest things in the world for people to do are, first, to admit they’re wrong, and second, to believe God.
“For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (verse 24). False prophets are going to appear who will actually be able to show signs and wonders. Do you know the difference between a false prophet and a true one? You must, or you will be deceived.
But God’s very elect cannot be deceived. Do you know why? It’s because they simply believe Christ. They hold on to what He said and won’t let go.
A lot of ministers talked about the tsunami. What is strange, though, is that I didn’t hear one of them—not one of them—quote Scripture. That is staggering! Why not? What does God have to say?
The Sydney Morning Herald reported, “The dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Neal Brown, has criticized religious leaders who say the tsunami disaster is the will of God.
“The comments came after the Anglican dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen, said disasters were part of God’s warning that judgment was coming. … At a mass dedicated to victims of the tsunami, Father Brown told a congregation at St. Mary’s yesterday that humans could not know the will of God” (January 3).
You can’t know the will of God? Then what is the Bible for? What is the Holy Spirit for? We are to let the mind of Christ dwell in us (Philippians 2:5).
The article continued, “Father Brown is joined by Jewish and Hindu leaders who say the tsunami cannot be described as the will of God, or punishment from God.
“Rabbi Raymond Apple … said humans could not read God’s mind. ‘One cannot imagine God deliberately, willfully bringing such suffering on innocent human beings’” (ibid.). Are we really so “innocent”? We are all guilty of crucifying the Son of God. Let’s be careful how we use the word innocent.
In his Sunday Times article, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote, “The traditional answers will get us only so far. … If some religious genius did come up with an explanation of exactly why all these deaths made sense, would we feel happier or safer or more confident in God? Wouldn’t we feel something of a chill at the prospect of a God who deliberately plans a program that involves a certain level of casualties?”
That is a rather dangerous statement, I think. He is scoffing at the idea that anyone could have an explanation. But Jesus Christ has an explanation! It’s there in the Bible. Christ is a “religious genius,” and He has the answers. Is the archbishop familiar with Matthew 24?
This man is destroying people’s faith—exactly the opposite of what a spiritual shepherd is supposed to do for his flock.
Are these religious leaders willing to look at the Bible and simply believe God?
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:27). Wow! Christ is going to return, and that’s what it will look like. Change is on the way like this world has never known! That is the best possible news you could ever hear.
“So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (verses 33-34). Christ’s return is right at the doors—it is almost upon us! True, we don’t know the day or the hour (verse 36)—but Christ said we should know when it is at the doors. And we can be certain that everything He prophesied will be fulfilled—both the bad news, and the best possible news! Do we believe that?
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (verse 35). You can always trust His words of life. They will never fail.
My faith has been strengthened by the tsunami. My faith has grown because these earthquakes and tsunamis were prophesied by Jesus Christ, and it’s all coming to pass precisely as He said!
We must build our faith—and prepare for a rocky future until Christ gets here. Yes, God brings evil upon us, but He also shows us how to turn away from our sinful way of life so we’ll receive nothing but blessings, on top of blessings, on top of blessings.