As a media event, the great tidal wave that recently engulfed much of the region to Australia’s north, bringing death and destruction to a vast area, has run its course. God gets a uniformly poor press in Australia, but it is generally better than those who choose to be His spokesmen, especially if they are observed as failing to live up to the standards they profess.
The tsunami, however, precipitated an unprecedented public discussion about its significance in terms of whether or not God actually exists and if so, then why did this happen.
On the one hand, many atheists have found in this tragedy convincing reassurance as to the non-existence of God since, they argue, a benevolent God could hardly allow such an appalling loss of life amongst the peoples of the region. On the other hand, God had His defenders, with a range of eminent clerics giving themselves over to public musings about the nature of the calamity and the role that God may have played in this event.
Opinions varied as to whether or not the tsunami was a warning of God’s judgement, with most Church leaders coming down in favour of not blaming God, without explaining why not. If their public comments on these issues reflect anything, it is the naiveté of Churchmen in continuing to trust the media to provide credible comment on their public pronouncements on important events.
But the tragic truth of the tsunami can be applied in three ways.
Firstly, the theological answer to the Asian tsunami surely is that, like wars between nations, God didn’t have anything to do with it at all. While God was the Creator of the world and all that is in it, man’s rebellion against God’s authority ushered in the rule of Satan in the earth and its heaven. The corruption of man was only the beginning of the world’s troubles. All sorts of calamities have occurred since the created world became out of whack with its Creator.
God didn’t design the world for the natural calamities that have overtaken it since the Fall. Nor is He responsible for their taking place. Earthquakes are manifestations of the fallen world, not the created world, and are the fruit of the transfer of authority from Adam to Satan. While man has been given the opportunity to find a way back into God’s favour, through the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing can save the rest of the created world. That is why the earth and its heaven are destined for destruction in the final days.
Jesus spoke of it in the Sermon on the Mount;
“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).
When talking of the end times in Matthew 24, Jesus referred to the destruction of the earth and its heaven again;
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:34,35).
Nothing could be clearer; the earth has a terminal date, although man does not know it.
Peter also spoke of the final destruction of the earth and its heaven;
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; in which the heavens will disappear with a loud noise and the elements being burned up will be destroyed and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
Finally, John records his vision of these events in the Book of Revelation;
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were gone, and the sea was yet no more” (Revelation 21:1).
So there is a pastoral application to these calamitous tragedies like the tsunami for Christians. They remind us that the world is fallen and is destined to be destroyed when “all is accomplished” as Jesus put it.
But there is a more compelling and personal application for those who are of Christ.
“There were some present on that occasion who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he said to them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they have suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’
What this teaches us is that we need to keep short accounts with the Lord. We live in a fallen world and we do not know when, or at what time or in what circumstance, calamity will suddenly fall upon us. “Repent”, Jesus says, “unless you all likewise perish”. That reminds us of the tenuous hold we have on life in this world and invites us to focus on the offer of everlasting life in Him.
Finally, there is a prophetic application to these events. We believe that the tsunami is a sign and a warning of the impending flood of lawlessness about to engulf the world, of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 24:
“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the Ark and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left” (Matthew 24:37-40).
This flood of lawlessness will be ushered in by the counterfeit Christ, “the man of lawlessness” as foretold by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2. When that prophesied time is come, the restrainer (Christ) will loosen the restraint against the man of lawlessness and he will be released to do his work “….according to the supernatural working of Satan, with every kind of power and counterfeit signs and wonders and with every kind of deception of unrighteousness in those being destroyed because they did not take hold of the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10).
One will taken in the flood of lawlessness, Jesus said, and one will not. The one that remains will be the one who is in Christ, of Whom the Ark was a type.
So we believe that the tsunami can be interpreted by believers in a way that leads to pastoral, personal and prophetic applications. Pastorally, it teaches us of the fallen world which must be destroyed; personally, it teaches us to remain in a state of repentance and prophetically, it is a foreshadowing of the flood of lawlessness in which only those IN Christ, our Refuge, the Ark of the New Covenant, will be saved.