Since the tsunami devastated Japan last week, the news has been at times unimaginable. The last death toll I read was around 10,000. As I am writing this blog, breaking news on Yahoo! reports that there are fears of yet another tidal wave hitting the nation.
Yet another Yahoo! article reports that the tsunami had some interesting long-term geophysical results: The shifts in the earth’s crust caused by the earthquake have shortened days by 1.8 microseconds. Combined with two other major earthquakes since 2004, Earth’s days are now almost 10 microseconds shorter. Not that I noticed.
Whenever there is a natural disaster of this magnitude, many Christians ask if it is a sign of the end times. They frequently cite Matthew 24:7-8, where Jesus says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”
I would urge Christians to read this passage carefully. In response to his disciples’ question, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3), Jesus is essentially saying that such natural disasters are not really signs of his coming. If you read Matt. 24 (a chapter which many people assume catalogs signs of Christ’s return) carefully, you will note that most of it is listing events and circumstances which we should not view as signs of the end.
The first event referred to as a sign of the end is the worldwide proclamation of the gospel to all the nations of the Earth (Matt. 24:14). How sad that so many Christians are busy date-setting and engaging in end-times speculation, instead of telling others about the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Whether the Japanese tsunami is a sign of the end or not, one thing is certain. For at least 10,000 people, it was the end. It does not matter to them whether Jesus returns seven years or 2000 years from now. They now stand before God Almighty to find out their eternal destiny.
In the continental United States, one man apparently was killed by the tsunami. He ignored warnings to vacate the coast, because he wanted to take pictures of the oncoming wave.
There is a lesson here for all of us. None of us are promised another day. I have plans written in my Day-Timer up until September and beyond. However, those plans are all assume I will still be alive. There are no such guarantees. Illness, injury, terrorist attack, or natural disaster can end any of our lives without regard to our plans.
And, we would do well to heed warnings. Warnings to avoid natural dangers are wise to heed. So are spiritual warnings. “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and offer us eternal life. We do not know when we will stand before him in judgment. Let us all be ready, whether it happens today or decades from now. This is far more profitable than debating when Jesus will return.