At 10 pm CDT on Saturday, August 27, 2005, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for the north central gulf coast – from Morgan City, Louisiana, eastward to the Alabama/Florida border including the city of New Orleans. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the next 24 hours and preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. At the time of the warning, the center of Hurricane Katrina was located about 335 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Tens of thousands heeded the warning and the highways going out of New Orleans were choked with cars alternating between stop and 10 mph.
Hurricane Katrina arrived at 6:30 Monday morning, August 29, 2005, as a category four hurricane. A couple of days later, people began to realize that it was one of the greatest natural disasters that has ever occurred in United States history. The swath of destruction covered 90,000 square miles (about the size of Kansas). As this article goes to press, more than 300,000 people have lost their homes. Engineers estimate that as much as eighty percent of New Orleans flooded because the levees and water pumps failed. The damage caused by wind and water could total more than 100 billion dollars. The area between New Orleans, and Mobile, Alabama clearlyresembles the destruction caused by the tsunami that hit southern Asia in December, 2004. Given the biblical proportion of this event, here are some thought questions to consider:
1. Was Hurricane Katrina an act of God – that is, a deliberate punishment?
2. Did God time the arrival of Hurricane Katrina so that the Southern Decadence convention could not be held? (The Southern Decadence convention is a gay and lesbian version of Mardi Gras that has been ongoing in New Orleans since 1972. This orgy and drunken celebration lasts four or five days and more than 120,000 revelers attended last year.)
3. Did God target New Orleans and the cities of the gulf coast because the citizens there are more wicked than other cities in the United States? Is it possible that New Orleans and the gulf coast cities had exhausted God’s grace and protection?
4. Are a majority of the victims of Hurricane Katrina evil people?
5. Were you surprised at the lawlessness and looting that occurred in New Orleans?
6. What will be Katrina’s influence on the United States’ economy in days to come?
7. As you watched Katrina’s drama unfold, did you think about coming events?
I believe Hurricane Katrina, like the tsunami in southern Asia in December 2004, was another "birth pain," and you need to be aware that several more "birth pains" are coming. As the Second Coming of Jesus draws near, events of biblical proportion will escalate in severity and frequency, and their purpose is fourfold: First, disasters forcibly remind us that material things are temporal. The things in life that matter most are the people around us – loved ones and neighbors. Second, disaster bring out the best and worst in people. True character is revealed in anarchy. Caring people respond to the needs of those around them and selfish people think only of themselves and their survival. The problem with the carnal nature is that a large number of people (both rich and poor) are law abiding only because they are forced to be so. Price gougers, thieves and looters are of the same ilk. Third, the economic ripple caused by huge disasters forces those who were unaffected to sympathize with those who lost everything. Last, horrific events are prophetic samples of things to come . They make the scope of Revelation’s story easier to comprehend. The powers of nature are truly awesome and in this light, "birth pains" are for the benefit of the current generation.
According to His sovereign authority, the Father predetermined long ago that random and violent acts of nature would sharply increase near the end of the world. Terrible events will grow in frequency and strength as we draw closer to the Second Coming. The forces that create these natural events were "built in" from the beginning of creation. God designed that nature itself would draw attention to the fact that this planet is predestined for destruction. The cancer of sin is about to be eliminated and the appointed hour for the total destruction of Earth is near.
You may ask, "How do we really know the end of the world is near?" Basically, there are three ways to know that the time of the Second Coming is near. First, the apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel and Revelation prove that the end is near because they are chronological in nature. Remember, the book of Daniel was sealed upuntil the time of the end(Daniel 12:4,9), and now that we understand the four rules of apocalyptic interpretation that were sealed up in Daniel, we find that Daniel and Revelation chronologically chart the progression of time from 605 B.C. to the Second Coming. In other words, the sequence of events presented in Daniel and Revelation means there is no other possible conclusion than we are near the end. Second, the frequency an d intensity of "birth pains" indicates the Second Coming is near. Sooner or later, the whole world will be affected by these catastrophic events and as a result of these calamities, many will awaken to the fact that planet Earth itself is dying. Third, the degenerate condition of people indicates the Second Coming is near. Paul wrote,"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."(2 Timothy 3:1-5)
The Beginning of Birth Pains
Just before His death, the disciples of Jesus asked about signs that would herald His return and the end of the world. Jesus said,"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed . Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains ."(Matthew 24:6-8, italics mine) The apostle Paul also associated "birth pains" with the Second Coming. He wrote,"For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying[we need], ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape."(1 Thessalonians 5:2,3, italics and insertion mine)
Calamitous events are often blamed on God (called acts of God) because God is sovereign. Many people believe that God controls everything that happens, but this is not the case. If this were true, then sin itself would never have happened. However, Bible history does indicate that God does destroy nations and punish people. He even destroyed the whole world in Noah’s day. There is one major difference between violent acts of nature and God’s wrath. God lets people know what He is about to do before He does it! This is a crucial point. In fact, this is why the book of Revelation demands understanding. There is a specific warning for Earth’s final generation in the book of Revelation. This warning can be understood before the Great Tribulation begins and if people choose to reject it, they do so at their own peril."Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets."(Amos 3:7)
Hurricanes, tsunamis, famines, earthquakes and runaway fires are not necessarily a deliberate punishment sent from God. God has used and will use such events as punishment, but when He does, He sends a specific warning. In today’s context, calamitous events that come without divine warning should be understood as "birth pains." God has not yet punished New Orleans and other notoriously wicked places on Earth, but that day is coming.
Currently, God is trying to speak to our generation, but unfortunately, too few people listen to His Word. For example, millions of Christians are acquainted with the term, "The Great Tribulation," but the irony is that very few people believe it applies to them. Most Christians fall into one of two categories. The larger group believes they will be in Heaven when the Great Tribulation begins because of a so-called pre-tribulation rapture. The other group believes the bulk of Revelation happened in the past, that is, it is historical in nature. The net effect in both cases is the same – Christians conclude the seven trumpets of Revelation will not affect them! How sad. How delusional. Jesus said that birth pains will indicate the end of the world is coming and the good news is that birth pains will eventually give way to the creation of a new order. Like Abraham, let’s keep looking for the city whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:10)