By Ross Engel –
Down here in the Sunshine State (Florida), our governor has declared a state of emergency due to the incoming tropical storm. Where we live, we’ll see increased rain, rip currents, winds, possible tornados, and we might lose power for a bit. The weather folks aren’t saying that this storm will be too bad by the time it hits my side (East Coast) of the state. Hurricane season is always an interesting time with lots of uncertainty. When storms start forming on the coast of Africa, these potential tropical storms and potential hurricanes take up significant amounts of time on the evening news. There are models and predictions as to what will happen, where the storm might “make landfall,” and the constant reminder that the predictions change every few minutes. It’s a veritable crap shoot. Hurricane prediction models look like someone threw multi-colored spaghetti on the screen.
For days and days, the weather forecasters warn us about all the potential “danger zones” and “hot spots.” You end up with alarm fatigue because of the constant bombardment of tropical storm and hurricane predictions. In fact, what often happens is that everyone waits until the storm is just about to hit land before they finally stock up on necessary supplies to ride out the storm. Or maybe that’s just us? It could perhaps explain why there wasn’t any water left at the store tonight when we stopped to stock up and why the shelves were picked over, too.
We all know that there is a potential storm coming. We all know what kind of damage a hurricane can do. We’ve seen it first hand or at least on the evening news. Hurricanes have names, and some of those names bring back terrible memories. Andrew. Katrina. Charley. Sandy. Camille. Galveston. Destruction and loss of life comes to mind when we hear those names. Some places still haven’t recovered from the effects of these storms. It’s been eleven years since Hurricane Katrina, and things are still being put back together in New Orleans. The LCMS has a very active presence there with groups like Camp Restore, who stick around long after FEMA packs up.
Truth be told, we don’t really blink much in Florida for tropical depressions or tropical storms. We may have some wind or water damage and go without power, but it isn’t really until the storm becomes a hurricane that folks start to worry. Some of us are well prepared. Some are definitely not. Some are well stocked with generators gassed and ready, waiting for whatever might happen. And then there are those who stop at the store, unaware of what’s going on around them and wonder to themselves why the shelves are empty, realizing only too late that something destructive is on its way.
If only we knew. If only we were prepared!
Scripture speaks of another day of destruction that is hastening on its way. There are a great number of passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament—from the voice of the Torah, the Psalms, and the Prophets, and the mouth of Jesus Himself. The church has prayed for centuries now, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” Knowing that His return will bring about the Last Day. A day that will be both terrifying and joyous all at once! No one knows the second, the hour, the day, the week, or even the year when it will arrive. What we know is that it is coming, God’s Word declares it, and we believe it. Or at least we’d better believe it!
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:10-13
This day is coming, but do we live in that reality? How often do we chase after and make first priority in life the very things of this world that will be destroyed by fire, annihilated, and melted to nothing? Knowing what our Lord promises in Scripture about the Last Day, how often do we actually put the things of this fading world into proper perspective? It’s not that we must become nihilists regarding the things of this world but that this world and everything in it needs to be held in proper relation to the eternal things of God. His eternal gifts to us must be first, and everything else comes after.
The world around us is ignoring the pending destruction to come. Like a last-minute hurricane supply shopper, they know that something is coming. They think, but it’s just not worth their time and attention to deal with it now. For many in the world, it may not be the return of Christ that they think is coming. They may acknowledge that one day they will die, but not for a very long time. And so they don’t worry because they’ve got plenty of time to prepare. Or so they think.
No one knows the day or the hour.
As a professor of mine liked to say, “Maybe today.”
My guess is that, if you’re anything like me, you don’t spend a whole lot of time anxiously looking for and hastening along the Day of our Lord’s return and all that comes with it—destruction of the old and the revealing of the new heavens and new earth. But for over a millennium, the Church has prayed that this day would hasten on its way. One day, either our lives will end or our Lord Jesus will return and the Last Day will be upon us. Whichever one comes first, let us be prepared, placing into proper perspective the things of this world, with the things of our Lord, the things of faith, taking first priority. May we also join the Church of every time and every place and pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” We’re ready!