What is God saying to us through the remarkable coincidence on February 15th 2013 of the arrival of the near earth asteroid (which we were expecting) and the meteor strike in Russia (which we weren’t expecting)? Some would reply: “Nothing.” Others: “We need to step up our observation and (hopefully) protection against such bodies.”
We are talking about a 10 ton meteor creating a devastating sonic boom, a temperature of 2,500 degrees centigrade and an enormous explosion. Astronomers say such objects enter our atmosphere between once a year and once a decade. They can only hope to find a fraction of objects the size of this meteor and the much larger asteroid which passed earth later the same day. To deflect asteroids would probably require decades of warning. It is only a matter of time before one hits the earth, as has happened in the more distant past.
I do not believe the combined event signals the imminent end of the age! Nor do I believe “God did it.” What I am saying is that we should ask what God wants us to learn from it. Think about it. The coincidence is quite astonishing.
Listen to the comments in the secular newspapers, e.g. the Guardian (16.02.13).
– “Traditionally, a torpedo across the bow is fired as a warning to change one’s behavior – and this coincidence of events should be a warning to humanity that meteors are not always as benign as “shooting stars” and that the next asteroid might not miss! Will we, the crew of SS Earth heed this warning?” (Rusty Schweikhart).
– “Perhaps it’s better to use asteroids and meteors as a way of thinking about the fragility of existence. If the world were to end tonight ….” (Roz Kaveney).
– Then Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, a professional astronomer searching for Near-Earth Asteroids, wrote in the Independent: “…a small asteroid strike and flyby within 24 hours may have been cosmic coincidence, or perhaps mother nature is telling us to take this threat a little more seriously.”
– Russian prime minister prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev commented: “It’s proof that not only are economies vulnerable, but the whole planet.”
So, the secular prophets are interpreting the event: a shot across the bow as a warning to change behaviour; the fragility of existence; “mother nature” speaking to us and even a reference to the end of the world.
But what about the Christian prophets? Some may speak out in similar ways (and, sadly, some of these will be extremists) but experience teaches that many will not. Even on the Sunday after these astronomical events many preachers will have avoided the subject.
Why is this? I believe there are several reasons:
- – Many Christians simply are not aware of the eschatological (End Times) dimension to life. Neither are many Christian teachers and preachers.
– If those teachers and preachers think about the subject they either feel lacking in confidence to speak about it or they are embarrassed to do so because they see it as happy hunting ground for unbalanced ‘prophets of doom.’
– So they ignore the subject as much as possible, despite the fact that Jesus and the New Testament emphasize it and call Christians to live in the light of the End Times.
– Thus they fall into a deceptive trap of the devil to prevent the vital End Times message being conveyed to Christians and, in appropriate ways, to unbelievers. They fail to convey a message which is a strong motive for holiness and evangelism amongst Christians and for thinking seriously about eternal matters amongst unbelievers.
So what is God saying to us through this remarkable astronomical coincidence which shows the fragility of life on earth? In brief:
1. It is a reminder of the prospect of the End Times. Jesus spoke of preliminary reminders – “wars and rumours of wars … earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven …. but the end will not come right away.” He intended us to remember his coming when these traumatic events take place, even when the End is not imminent.
2 Beyond that, after a time of great distress and suffering for the inhabitants of earth, Jesus says: “Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’”(Matt 24:29). When such things happen, Jesus will return (Matt 24:30-31).
3. Christians need to find their security not like the world does – in material things, human efforts and superficial assumptions that “all will be well” – but in God’s love and their relationship with him.
4. Christians need to be aware of their ultimate accountability to God (and of the world’s ultimate accountability to him too). We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We need to be prepared for that.
5. The church and its teachers need to wake up to these three issues and to proclaim that message as part of our evangelism.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction