Last Friday night a storm hit the DC area unlike anything I had ever seen before. Lightning was so incessant that it ceased to flash, and instead there was a sustained white glow in the air. It was as if flood lights lit up the sky, more intense than day, but with an eerie pale light.
Compared to hurricanes or tornadoes the winds were not terribly strong, but they came in such sudden gusts. It was calm–other than looking like there was a giant black light–then a sudden blast of 80 mph wind. Those blasts uprooted trees, peeled back roofs, and downed power lines. I was reminded of John Piper’s description of a storm he endured:
God strolled the beach—
Our legs and faces could not bear the piercing blasting sand.
God stepped ashore—
Palms waved, scattering branches in his path
God strode inland—
Magnolias, pines, and oaks,
Who’d stretched one hundred years toward God,
Fell to the ground before him.
God stood and breathed—
While we—in a dark, closed closet—
Feared to face his glory.
Surprisingly and fortunately, only six people died from the storm. But the aftermath has been difficult; temperatures over 100 degrees, and hundreds of thousands of people without power. My family has been without electricity now for five days, and it will likely be another week still before power returns to our neighborhood. Our church met Sunday without electricity or air conditioning, without lights or mics. Most of our congregation had lost power as well.
The phones were down, 911 was broken, and even land lines failed. Traffic lights were gone, and the internet was also inaccessible. But it was, comparatively speaking, not a severe trial. Within two days, power was back to about 75% of residents. Families from our church without power moved into other’s homes, and the police hooked stop lights up to generators by the Monday commute.
But what stands out to me was how quickly the storm hit, and how much haavok it created. With email, internet, phones, and electricity all gone, communication became impossible. By Monday, politicians were blaming others (“911 should never, ever be allowed to fail”), and people were referring to the storm with hyperbole usually reserved for athletics (“that was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen!”).
Many people comforted themselves with the knowledge that things could have been worse. My family is safe, and nobody in my congregation lost their life. So there is comfort there—it could have been worse…and yet it will get worse before the Lord returns.
Compare this brief two-hour storm with what the world is preparing to face in the future. After being decimated by wars (Rev 6:4), famine (v.6), and plague (v. 8), the earth will be hit with a global quake (v. 14). Every mountain will be moved, and islands will dip. Fire will break out, and one-third of the earth will experience what Colorado Springs—but one city—experienced last week (8:7).
After that, a comet or meteor of some kind will hit the earth with such force that one-third of all fish will die. A collision of that magnitude will most likely send an electro-magnetic shock throughout the planet. Cell phone service will not be restored within the week. The smoke of this disaster will darken the sun, and human existence on the earth will be precarious. And that is before a mutated breed of scorpion appears. This week in Virginia, utility crews were working 20-hour shifts to fix power lines. In the days of Revelation 9, a plague will hit the earth after the scorpions, and order will not return until the anti-Christ brings it.
Jonathan Edward’s tenth resolution says: “Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.” This week I applied that in this way: Resolved, when faced with the inconveniences of living for a week without electricity and in the heat, to think of what awaits the world that refuses to submit to Christ.
Last week’s storm was severe, but momentary. Politicians can wring their hands about the failure of the telecommunications network, but the truth is that trials and storms and “interruptions of service” are only a harbinger of what awaits. God can send a brief storm that shatters 100-year-old oaks. And he can just as easily send a storm that will kill one-third of the world.
I am thankful that my congregation was spared the worst, but I also realize that the worst awaits a world without the church.