By: Dwight Nelson, Pioneer Memorial Church
“The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him” (Revelation 16:8-9).
Let me be clear—I don't believe we’re in the midst of the Seven Last Plagues. But let's go apocalyptic for a moment. That is, after all, the point of my weekly blog “The Fourth Watch,” where I scan rapidly mounting harbingers that this civilization is now in the throes of its final watch, what the Romans called “the fourth watch”—the darkest period of night before dawn.
On Monday, the journal Nature published a study, “Global Risk of Deadly Heat.” Commenting on the study news media reported: “Deadly heat waves like the one now broiling the American West are bigger killers than previously thought and they are going to grow more frequent, according to a new comprehensive study of fatal heat conditions…. A team of researchers examined 1,949 deadly heat waves from around the world since 1980 to look for trends, define when heat is so severe it kills and forecast the future. They found that nearly one in three people now experience 20 days a year when the heat reaches deadly levels. But the study predicts that up to three in four people worldwide will endure that kind of heat by the end of the century if global warming continues unabated.”
No doubt the inhabitants of the cities experiencing the sun's deadly scorching this week would be inclined to concur—Phoenix 119 degrees (with planes grounded because it was too hot), Las Vegas 117 degrees, Sacramento 107 degrees, Death Valley 127 degrees. Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, lead author of the study, predicted, “The United States is going to be an oven…. This is already bad. We already know it…. Empirical data suggest it’s getting much worse” (ibid). Only in America? Turbat, Pakistan, back in May registered a lethal 128 degrees (ranking it “among the five hottest temperatures reliably measured on Earth.”)
The death tally isn’t in yet, of course. But a sober reminder of how high the human toll can be is the 2003 heat wave in Europe that claimed over 70,000 lives. The 72 deaths in Portugal last week from the dry sun-ignited wildfires are a reminder no place will be exempt from deadly heat.
“And the sun was given power to scorch people with fire.”
We are not experiencing the fourth plague, whose apocalyptic proportions will surely dwarf the statistics scientists are scrambling to interpret. Nevertheless, Jesus warned His followers that before His return “there will be signs in the sun…for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).
Shall we be afraid? No. Shall we be reminded that we live on the edge of God’s escalating endgame? We must.
I was on assignment last week in the nation’s capital. The chaotic mix of fear (my plane landed just hours after the shootings at the Congressional baseball practice that early morning), confusion and capricious volatility the world over surely compels those of us who call ourselves "Adventists" to shake off the numbing lethargy that paralyzes the heart of our faith community and our own souls as well.
Now more than ever the masses that live in Washington, D. C. and Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles—the scores of urban centers in this nation—must be warned that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). It is simply not enough for us to comfort our end-time-hungry souls with the reminder that Jesus is coming soon. You don’t win this game by guessing how close we are to the end. The only winning left on this deteriorating planet is the mission of Almighty God to save every lost earth child of His while there is still time. Forget the signs—we must embrace the mission—now rather than later.
Simply because later will one day be too late.
So what, pray tell, are we waiting for, you and I?