Do you wonder if a recent natural disaster is an important prophetic sign? Are some calling it God’s judgment? Or that it fulfills a prophecy in the Bible? Are you feeling kind of nervous or worried after a recent disaster that it was a warning or wake-up call from God or telling us that the end is soon? If so, then learn why natural disasters are not prophetic and not warning signs of the need to act...except for one thing that applies always...
Hurricane Irma Update: Why I still don't see God's hand in any of this...
With two devastating hurricanes hitting the US within 18 days following a (totally normal) total solar eclipse across the country, it is making it harder to reassure Christians that there is no cause for alarm or suspicion of God speaking through these events.
For example, I had one supporter asking if I still maintain what I said two weeks ago with Hurricane Harvey that this all is not a "message from God?" The answer is yes, I'm still 100% sure this is not God sending judgment or a message.
But I have some perspective that others probably lack if they fear God is behind these events:
- Historical Perspective: Hurricanes have always come in clumps, with many quiet years in between. This causes us to forget the literally hundreds of hurricanes in US history. In fact, I challenge anyone to look at this list of 292 US hurricanes since 1851 and maintain that hurricanes Harvey and Irma are "special." Many have come within days or weeks of each other all by themselves. What rational basis is there to claim these are different? Then why are the many other clumps of hurricanes in history ignored? (Is it simply because YouTube was not around to promote theories for those hurricanes, too?)
- Geographic Perspective: It's not only America that gets bad hurricanes, but many countries all along the Atlantic and Caribbean, like Cuba, St. Martin, Barbuda, Bermuda. They usually get hit, and hit worse, before the hurricanes reach the US in a weakened state. Why are they getting punished at all for what America is doing, let alone worse? (Sometimes it seems like Christian prophecy theorists completely ignore other countries getting hit by the same storms they call God's judgment on America. Does God have that bad of aim?)
- Logical Perspective: Some will still say, "But what about the total eclipse that had not happened in 100 years preceding these two hurricanes?" Answer: Eclipses just like hurricanes are a very common, natural phenomenon on earth. I am sure if you checked enough history, you will find other cases of natural disasters hitting after eclipses. But you have to ask if this is how it works, why don't natural disasters follow every solar eclipse? What makes this one special? (I suggest it's because this eclipse came where most YouTube prophecy theorists live: America.)
- Scriptural Perspective: The Bible does not tell us to look for messages from God through combinations of scary natural phenomena. It's just too ambiguous and subjective for God to send any kind of clear, actionable message that way. Instead, God sends a prophet to warn in plain language what's coming and why (and what to do about it).
For more on how to recognize God's hand using the Bible, continue to our regularly scheduled article below... Thank you.
While being a Bible-reading believer is supposed to bring you peace, wisdom and maybe even some insight into the future via Bible prophecy, in practice it tends to have the opposite effect. The reason is found in the saying that “a little knowledge is dangerous.” When you know that Jesus spoke about certain prophetic events being “the beginning of sorrows” or “birth pains” of the end, but you have only a vague understanding of what those events are, you tend to match them vaguely with similar disasters in current events—just to be safe and not “miss what God might be trying to tell us.”
"Supernatural Natural Disasters?"
For example, when natural disasters happen, Christian speculation lights up about them being supernatural disasters or directed by God for some reason, such as a warning sign. A popular theory about many natural disasters is that they are a judgment for some recent heinous act of Congress, the President or the sinful population at large.
For example, if a hurricane happens to disrupt something like a gay pride festival, many Christians will say it was no accident where the hurricane's path took it. (Where are these people to explain when a hurricane disrupts many good things as is more often the case?)
2012's Hurricane Sandy was no exception. Christians attached various kinds of significance to it. The satellite image below of Hurricane Sandy with the caption “Provoking the Almighty” was shared around on Facebook at the time:
This one was focused on some legislation in favor of "dividing Israel." Of course, this is just one opinion on the storm with no real proof to back it up. As such, many Christians would disagree with it and feel comfortable doing so.
“God Told Me...”
However, disagreeing gets awkward when your Christian brothers bring out their personal revelations from God about that latest natural disaster. Consider this “word ” (implied from God) about Hurricane Sandy:
It has been drawn to my attention that the path of Hurricane Sandy made the shape of the Hebrew Letter LAMED, ל. I find that most interesting as this letter in Hebrew means to learn, it also speaks of the King of Kings. This very strongly indicates to me that the King of Kings is not only telling us something but He is teaching us how He feels about what is happening in the United States of America.
When I first noticed the path of the storm Sandy looked like Lamed, I stopped and begin to pray over this, and during prayer and asking God what did this mean, I heard in my spirit that small still voice that speaks to those who know His Voice.
"This is the beginning of Great Sorrows for the Churches have fornicated with other gods and have offered up prayers that are a stench to my nostrils. Those who have called themselves people of God have deceived the people and fed their own bellies with unclean foods of greed and spiritual pride. No man can save them now, for those who know me and I them must know My Word is the Beginning and the End of all things, now it must rain on the just and the unjust alike. There is still time for repentance for those who have sinned against Me, but Judgment now will fall on the Nations who have come against Jerusalem and My people.
As for Jerusalem I say to you, I will cleanse my house first, fall on your faces and repent before it is too late. You have invited horrible sins into My House and the time for cleansing has come near."
Now, how comfortable would you be disagreeing when it implies a word from a brother is false? The person quoted above is convinced that God directed the hurricane's path into a certain shape to tell us something about the USA. He believes God said that he is displeased with the churches and that judgment is now coming on the world. Do we dare suggest that maybe he is mistaken about the source of the “word” he attributes to God? Can you already hear a “despise not prophecies” (1Th 5:20) coming your way?
Why Natural Disaster X Is Not From God
I will take one for the team here and argue that, with all due respect, maybe such words are mistaken and that natural disasters are just natural disasters unless something important is present.
"Depart From Me, I Never Knew you!" - Jesus
Jesus predicted that he will tell many sincere believers to basically "get lost" instead of welcoming them into the Kingdom. So...who are they and what did they miss or do wrong? In this study, get those answers and the one requirement for salvation Jesus taught (that Christianity misses) so that you can make sure you don't hear these dreaded words yourself!
There are two reasons I feel this is most likely the safest conclusion.
1. God Does Not Send Ambiguous, Unclear Signs
The major problem with the idea that these natural disasters are signs from God is just that, they are normal natural disasters. While there have been several books written on how certain weather events have been a sign from God, these events have been occurring throughout our history and have become a normal part of our lives. There is nothing unique or unprecedented about them.
Further, science has given us quite adequate explanations for why storms, earthquakes or tsunamis happen. Therefore, when they happen, they have no more special meaning than a rainy day does. We know what causes the rain and we do not think God caused it. When rain causes flooding or other disasters, then our minds begin to wander and ask if maybe God is mad at us and caused it. Same with hurricanes or earthquakes or what have you.
To be certain, God can do anything including sending a flood or a storm. The Bible records that he has done just that. He sent the great flood in Noah's time as a judgment on the world. He has even sent rain as a sign (discussed below). But how do you know when God is doing it and when it is natural? It's easier than you think. The Bible shows at least two distinct ways God does this.
A. Signs + Prophet's Explanation
In many of the stories of judgment in the Bible, the pattern is that God will send a prophet to warn a nation, then to predict what will happen and to explain why it will happen or has happened to leave no ambiguity or guessing required. In the time of the prophet Samuel, God sent rain as a sign. He did this in connection with the people rejecting him and asking for a king (a request later met by the first king, Saul).
Let's review how people knew that this rain was no ordinary rain but indeed from God and what God meant by it:
1 Samuel 12:16-20 (KJV) — 16 Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king. 18 So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
The wheat harvest came in the dry season. It was therefore highly unusual and noteworthy for it to rain then. It was a true sign and wonder. More importantly, no doubt was left as to its meaning for the people as the prophet Samuel both predicted it would happen and expounded the reason for it and what it meant:
- God had indeed sent the unusual harvest rain. It was not just a fluke of nature.
- God did this because he was displeased with their request for a human king to lead them, taking his place. He was warning them about their rebellion.
It is clear, specific and accurate, unlike what we are used to from Christian prophets.
B. Standalone Signs - Painfully Clear
When a nation does not have an established, recognized prophet like Israel did, how does God express his will to that nation?
Naturally, this question is of great interest to us today because it matches our very own "non-prophet" situation. Some believe that, in this situation, God can use ambiguous signs that are subjectively judged using the Bible. Christians readily accept the notion of letting any Christian pastor, teacher, blogger or YouTuber fill in for a prophet to identify, interpret or explain the signs.
Curse Those Who Curse Israel? (With Storms)
For example, you may have heard the theory that natural disasters befall America when she goes against Israel (such as by making her give up land or stop the settlements). This supposed phenomenon is caused by God's promise to Abraham to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him (Gen 12:3). Based on this (and a tenuous equating of modern wicked Israel with righteous Abraham or ancient Israel under righteous Moses who the promise was spoken to), when America "does evil" against Israel, a curse is returned in the form of a storm or other natural disaster—because of this special protection for Abraham—and apparently his descendants (minus the Ishmaelites/Arabs!).
But if this is so, then how is everyone but a select few missing it? Reasonable people rightly argue that there is no clear, consistent curse-Israel-receive-disaster correlation and that those who say so are suffering from a "confirmation bias" or ignoring evidence that contradicts their theory. Skeptics can also point to how God has worked in a more consistent manner in the past with curses on nations when he wants them to do something.
The Book of Samuel has a great example of how God works in prophet-less situations to once again make it crystal clear and unambiguous when he is doing something or when action is required on the part of a people. After the Philistines captured the ark from Israel (1Sa 5:1), unusual and drastic events began to happen wherever the ark was:
- Where they first put the ark in the temple of Dagon in Ashdod, the next morning they found Dagon fallen down bowing in front of the ark (1Sa 5:2-3). (They stood him back up, thinking it was a fluke.)
- The next day they found the same thing but with the head and hands broken off (1Sa 5:4). (Looking less like a fluke!)
- Severe plagues of tumors, rats or even bubonic plague (uncertain) began in Ashdod. It became so heavy with so many tumors and deaths that they moved the ark to Gath (1Sa 5:6-8, 12).
- The plagues stopped in Ashdod but began in Gath (1Sa 5:9).
- This pattern repeated for a total of five cities (Ashdod, Gath, Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron) over seven months (1Sa 6:17, 2).
At that point what do you think the Philistines were thinking? As uneducated as these peoples were compared to us, they properly put two and two together to conclude that the "ark of Israel's God" was the source of the recent plagues and that God wanted them to send it back (1Sa 5:11). The method they chose to use so was clever in that it also provided further confirmation that everything that had transpired over the past seven months was indeed God's hand against them and not just coincidence (1Sa 6:9-12).
If God is using or sending storms or disasters on America (where we have no established national prophet) to communicate his will on the treatment of Israel or anything else, we can expect it to follow a similarly consistent and progressive pattern. Anything less than a painfully clear and easily corroborable pattern is not going to be effective for God to get his point across. It is proper for us to doubt theories that depend on us subjectively judging something from God or require us to ignore readily available evidence to the contrary.
2. God Does Not Expect Us To Take Just Anyone's “Word”
Which brings us to the next point about the claimed prophetic words from Christians explaining these disasters as God's doing, after the fact.
If a person came who established a track record of successful accurate predictions in God's name before the disaster event, they would establish themselves as someone God is speaking through. Their reputation would proceed them and their fame would grow and spread. They become someone to listen to, recognized as God's prophet.
This is exactly what happened with the prophets of the Bible. People knew there was a “prophet in Israel” even in neighboring nations because of their feats and reputation (2Ki 5:2-3, 8; 6:12). Therefore, if someone claimed to have a word from God but was not known to be a prophet, it was foolish to listen to them and your blood was on your own head if you did. This was literally true in the story of the man of God who obeyed the deception of an old prophet he did not know and was judged by God for it (1Ki 13:11-34). Samuel became known in all Israel after a flawless track record of his words:
1 Samuel 3:19-20 (HCSB) — 19 Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and He fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the LORD.
Prophets, especially new ones, also cemented their status through signs. When Moses was sent by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he did not send him empty-handed. It is important to remember that he gave him three certifying signs: 1. the staff that turned into a snake; 2. the ability to make his hand turn leprous and healthy again by sticking it in his cloak; and 3. the ability to turn waters to blood (Ex 4:1-9). God did not expect the Israelites to listen without proof to just anyone who arrived out of the desert claiming he had come to liberate them!
My point is, when it comes to our Christian brothers who claim to have a word from God, you are under no obligation to believe them if they have no track record. In fact, you are showing discernment if you question the validity of their prophetic words.
Testing Prophetic Words
If someone manages to pass the above test there is yet another one we should know and use. This one is important because it will allow you to not be deceived by the Beast and False Prophet in the end times who, like God's prophets, will be able to do supernatural signs.
The Bible establishes the principle that not every word should be accepted as true just because a brother or self-proclaimed prophet says it. They need to be evaluated:
Isaiah 8:20 (KJV) — To the law and to the testimony [revelation from God given to Israel]: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
This somewhat cryptic verse is made plain by the New American Commentary – Volume 15a: Isaiah 1-39:
God's past revelation is the only valid guide to judge any new wisdom about the future. Anything that contradicts what God has said or leads one in a direction inconsistent with the clear teachings in the nation's traditions is untrustworthy and misleading. The light of God's truth is not in it.
Paul instructed the Corinthians to judge the prophets' utterances rather than just accept them without proper scrutiny:
1 Corithians 14:29 — Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
Without a doubt, it is a challenge to do this. The Bible is often unclear and open to interpretation, so who is to say for sure if a word agrees with the Bible or is contradicted by it? It takes practice and then some more practice. Yet your discernment does grow and soon you will be able to rule out some Christian words, especially about end-time events, by comparing them to the Bible.
However, do not worry about needing to be a Bible expert to not be deceived by words. These days, the first test will filter out 100% of the anonymous, unreliable sources of words out there. Just as the False Prophet is still not here yet working powerful signs, neither is there a prophet of God doing signs and multiple accurate predictions like the prophets of the Bible did.
If a prophetic word still nags at you after considering all this, you can always do what Gideon did and ask for a confirming sign as in the story of Gideon's fleece (Jdg 6:37-40). Note that God was not angry at Gideon for doing so! Again, God wants us to be safe and secure in following only him. If we have a doubt about a supposed word of God and we pray and ask for confirmation or a sign but none is given, it is safe and proper to judge that word as not from God and ignore it.
Conclusion – Yes, God Speaks to Us Today, But...
In case any of the above gives someone the wrong idea, let me conclude with the clarification that:
- I'm not saying God cannot spawn or use natural disasters to render judgment or get our attention today. Rather, my point is that the pattern of the Bible is for God to announce this disaster specifically beforehand through a prophet who explains its meaning clearly.
- I'm also not denying that God gives prophetic words about disasters (or other things) to his servants today. Prophecy still is given and received today, no doubt about it. However, Christian words today seem to always come from anonymous or unknown strangers over the Internet with no known history of accuracy and always after the event has happened. Even famous Christian “prophets” do not have a solid track record to back them up, let alone accompanying signs which biblical prophets used. The teaching of the Bible is to not follow or fear what these people say (Dt 18:20-22).
There will always be Christians ready to label the latest natural disaster as a warning, sign or judgment from God. They may even have prophetic words to back them up. If you evaluate them against the Biblical patterns shared above, you should find these theories and words much less worrisome than they were at first.
Save your worry for when God sends a real prophet working signs and wonders and making accurate specific predictions successfully. God promises to do just that in the time coming up just before the Day of the Lord (Mal 4:5). When he appears, the main events of the Book of Revelation will not be far behind.
But until then, do not fear that you may be missing God's mysterious warnings or other messages through natural disasters. We already have the warning in the Bible that the end is coming and that we need to be ready by doing the one thing that God has required of his servants of all time. We are to practice being truly set apart people (different from the world around us) who act in love towards God and neighbor as Jesus did. If you wish, let the urgency and anxiety that comes from disasters serve as a reminder of our need for God's protection every day and to be focusing on him to receive that. If we practice this, we will already be God's faithful servants in the end times, whom he leads to protection from the global disasters that come.
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