By Jerry Harris
It was a beautiful Saturday morning in Hawaii when, at 8:07 on January 13, 2018, push notifications were sent to all cell phones and mobile devices, and television and radio stations across the state activated the Emergency Alert System. The message was clear:
“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII.
SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Some people were just stepping into the shower. Others were on a morning commute. Many were enjoying breakfast with their families. Some people knew that they had about 12 minutes till impact. Some parents removed manhole covers and ushered their children inside. Hawaii has few basements, so many people rushed to hurricane shelters, parking garages, or whatever they could find. There was really no adequate place to hide.
Some parents recognized the hopelessness of the situation and chose to let their children continue sleeping. One Christian grandmother wanted to take her grandchildren to the beach; she imagined no better way to meet death and be welcomed into the arms of Jesus than holding hands with family.
After 38 heart-wrenching minutes, at 8:45 a.m. a second alert went out:
“THERE IS NO MISSILE THREAT OR DANGER
TO THE STATE OF HAWAII. REPEAT. FALSE ALARM.”
It turned out an emergency management worker had pressed a wrong button during a shift change because he misunderstood something he heard.
The heart-pounding drama that morning captured what it would feel like to experience the end of the world.
Ever since the waning days of World War II, when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world has been keenly aware of the potential of a worldwide catastrophic event. In 1957, an American science advisory committee promoted fallout shelters as “the only feasible protection for millions of people.” On October 6, 1961, President Kennedy encouraged all Americans to build fallout shelters. Congress appropriated money to build community bomb shelters. I can still remember “duck and cover” drills at my elementary school.
In 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock to illustrate the threat level of global nuclear war (“the end of the world”). When introduced, the clock showed 7 minutes to midnight. In 1949 it moved to 3 minutes till midnight when the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear device. In 1953, it clicked a minute closer to midnight after the first U.S. hydrogen bomb test. An arms reduction treaty pushed the Doomsday Clock back to 17 minutes till midnight in 1991.
The Bulletin began considering other global threats in 2007, and “unchecked climate change” was a consideration in 2015 when the clock advanced to 3 minutes till midnight. In 2017, with the Iran and North Korea situations unsettled, the clock ticked forward 30 seconds (to 2.5 minutes). And in January, soon after the false alarm in Hawaii, the clock advanced again and now stands at 2 minutes till midnight—the “latest” it’s been since 1953.
So, what’s my point? Besides nuclear calamity, scientists and science fiction writers have outlined any number of scenarios for how the world might end: giant asteroid, unchecked artificial intelligence, melting polar ice caps, depleted ozone layer, solar flare, diminished rain forests, killer virus. Movies have been made using each of these scenarios.
These potential events can get under our skin and into our brains, but all of them fail to factor in the greatest truth of them all . . . God!
Faith is something the scientific community runs away from, screaming with hands waving in the air. I sometimes wonder if scientists are more afraid of faith than any of their doomsday predictions.
So what does God have to say about it? Is there an “end of the world” teaching in the Bible? The answer is yes, although “end” doesn’t really apply.
Second Peter 3:10-12 relates the truth of the world’s end. Jesus spoke about it in Matthew 24, and John wrote about it at great length in Revelation. The best way to understand the end of the world might be to go back to the beginning of it. Read the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
This is my Father’s world. He created it, designed it, sustains it, and it is exclusively up to him to destroy it. So maybe the best way to understand the end of the world is to understand God. What was he up to in creating it and what would be the benefit in destroying it?
Now you’re at the place you need to be when living under the threat of 2 minutes till midnight.
But how do I live with this knowledge and the fear and apprehension that comes from it?
Understand the truth of it. It’s going to happen. You may or may not be alive when the world ends, but here are the questions: Are you ready for it? What have you done to prepare for it?
I remember when Y2K happened. All the ministers in my city met at the mayor’s office to pray and mobilize. People stored food and water. Y2K turned out to be a big nothing burger, but the end of the world promised in the Bible won’t be. There is only one way to prepare for it. Jesus is your fallout shelter!
Live out your faith tempered by the urgency of it. The most frequent command in the Bible is to “fear not”; it’s often said to occur 365 times . . . one for every day of the year. Jesus is the absolute proof that we can put fear aside. It’s like the “No Longer Slaves” song says: We are no longer slaves to fear . . . we are children of God. People desperately need a Savior. Christians have the solution—we’ve got to share it!
Rest in the fact that God is in control. Remember that the end of the world comes in the context of Jesus coming back for us. God has a plan for the world, and he has a plan for your life. It’s an upper-story plan that will not harm you but will set you free.
I was reminded of that just this week as my 18-month-old granddaughter called me by the name she made up for me, blew me a kiss, and told me she loved me. This little one can be mean, self-centered, defiant, and just plain bad . . . and I don’t like it when she’s that way. She might even get some discipline. But I’m not going to stop loving her . . . period. I don’t want her to be afraid of me, and I want her to know that I will always protect her. How is that any different from God’s attitude for his children?