The wrath of God<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Every so often, something happens which is described as being "of Biblical proportions." Lets remember back to the floods of 1991. The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Mississippi River rose high enough in many places that it overran its banks in spite of 30-foot-tall levees. Entire towns were inundated. In Memphis, TN, the river crept to the very steps of the Pyramid. It was a flood of Biblical proportions. Well, not really. The kind of flood described in Genesis will never happen again. God placed a rainbow in the sky to remind Himself of His covenant with His people and the Earth that He would never repeat it (Gen 9:13-16). Unfortunately, we, children of Ham, Shem and Japheth are a rebellious lot and we picked up the sibling rivalry shortly thereafter. We've been in need of cleansing, again, ever since.
So what do we say about the catastrophic events such as Hurricane Katrina? Are they just some natural disasters or are they literally the Hand of God? I don't know. They certainly could be either. A lot of people think that the God of the New Testament is not the God of the Old Testament. Now I'm not sure which translation of the Bible these people read, but I don't recall anything about us having received a replacement God. Some people also say we are no longer under the Law. Jesus told us, however, that he had not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, and that we are to live by all of the Commandments. See, for example, Matthew 5:17-20 and 19:17, Mark 10:19, and Luke 18:19-20. And if anyone can read Revelation and NOT believe in the wrath of God I think they might want to reexamine their faith. We still have sin, we still are sinners, and surely there are still consequences for sin.
"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." (2Tim 3:1-5a, NIV)
That certainly seems to describe the last 30-40 years in America. Many Biblical scholars believe that we are living in the end of days, we just have not yet reached the end. As the late Ray C. Stedman said, " If 'the last days' mean, as we have already seen, the full period of time between the coming of our Lord the first time and his second appearing on earth, then what Paul is referring to is not just one single period when these kind of conditions will prevail on earth, but a repeating cycle of periods that will come again and again and again in history. There will be cycles of revolutionary conditions ("times of stress," the apostle calls them), they will come again and again, and every time these occur it will look like we are approaching the days of the return of Christ."
Maybe the events of the last few years, e.g. the natural disasters, the worldwide terrorist attacks, the rampant spread of pornography and godless worldviews by those who espouse only the Timothy Leary mantra that "If it feels good, it probably is good, " are just signs of the next round of cleansing. Jesus warned of the ramifications of a life without Him.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (Jn 15:5-6, NIV)
"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! . . . Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." (Luk 12:47-49, 51 NIV)
"The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Mat 13:41-43, NIV)
No brimstone, but definitely no lack of fire. Jesus and Paul told us of the reason for wrath, and the punishment to follow. Jesus never told us that, since He has come into our midst, everything will be warm and fuzzy from now on. Sin lives on. It did not die with Jesus on the cross. And sin has consequences, especially to those who know and are unrepentant. Presuming we have been living in "the last days" for the past two millennia, it is logical to assume that the angels have been weeding His kingdom, and will continue to do so.
So did God send Hurricane Katrina to punish the sinners along the Gulf Coast? Maybe. Or maybe he did it to call home some of His own, so he could tell them, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Whatever the reason, Hurricane Katrina will remain a poignant chapter in American history. Maybe one day we will have the opportunity to ask God and Jesus why Katrina happened. Then again, given the opportunity to face God and Jesus in heaven, would we care?
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