By Joe Kovacs
As most people live their daily lives, they usually are not focused on the fact that everything they know and love can come to a catastrophic end in an instant.
But it can.
And it does.
And it will for many in the future.
The latest case in point involves the raging wildfires that devastated the state of California.
From the north end of the Golden State to the southern section, the region was engulfed in a scorching sea of flames in November 2018 that destroyed thousands of homes, leaving at least 88 people dead as of this writing and many missing.
"This is one of the worst disasters I've ever seen in my career, hands down," said Brock Long, administrator of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Gov. Jerry Brown said the destruction "looks like a war zone."
Many people were trapped by approaching flames, and suffered horrible deaths by incineration, along with many animals.
The Camp Fire in Northern California destroyed nearly 19,000 structures, including about 14,000 homes. The entire town of Paradise, California, turned into the opposite of paradise as it was obliterated, having nearly every home ravaged.
Needless to say, the suffering caused by the infernos is tremendous on many levels.
Now having said this, it's important to note the Bible itself talks about disasters constantly, from Genesis to Revelation. And while we may presume that what happens today in our everyday lives is pretty much the same thing that happened yesterday, and that what happens tomorrow is going to be pretty much the same as today, we should never fall into that trap.
"The end of all things is near." (1 Peter 4:7 CSB)
This a famous quote from the New Testament, as the apostle Peter was forecasting the ultimate end of all things, referring to the end of human governments and the return of Jesus Christ to take over the helm and personally run things here on Earth.
But perhaps we need to apply the concept to our everyday life, not thinking that "the end" is some far-off event that will take place many moons from now, as the expression goes.
Many Californians just suffered the end of their lives, the end of their homes, the end of their businesses, the end of their financial security, the end of their family, or the end of their peace of mind. They probably were not expecting any of this, but were merely living their daily lives normally. It should remind us how quickly the end can come, even if it's not the so-called "end of the age" when Jesus comes back.
In the very first chapter of the book by the famous prophet Isaiah, God Himself says to His people:
"Your land is desolate, your CITIES BURNED DOWN" (Isaiah 1:7 CSB, emphasis added).
In that very same chapter, he explains why those cities were scorched and the land was desolate:
"I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:2 CSB)
"Oh sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, brood of evildoers, depraved children! They have abandoned the LORD; they have despised the Holy One of Israel; they have turned their backs on him." (Isaiah 1:4 CSB)
God clearly lays the blame for the disasters not on some random act of nature, but on the rebellion of His own people, as they refused to live by the divine instructions, the laws of God.
He even asks them if they want additional punishment:
"Why do you want more beatings? Why do you keep on rebelling?" (Isaiah 1:5 CSB)
We all need to take a warning such as this to heart. God does try to get people's attention to correct their behavior, and He uses many different methods, including disasters to do that.
I have no idea if the 2018 California wildfires were sparked by God's desire to get people's attention, and I humbly pray for the well-being of the victims, but the possibility should at least be considered, especially given the amount of time the Bible speaks of flaming disasters.
The people who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the message of divine fire in Genesis, as Jesus noted: "But on the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all." (Luke 17:29 CSB)
The very next statement from the Savior indicates such a blazing condition is in the forecast for His return:
"It will be like that on the day the Son of Man is revealed." (Luke 17:30 CSB)
The Bible explains how the burning end for Sodom and its sister cities were not just a one-time thing, for those people way back in the day who did not get their act together and get with God's program:
"God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and turned them into heaps of ashes. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people." (2 Peter 2:6 NLT)
Are you seeing this?
God Himself burned people alive -- yes, human beings who were created by Him, incidentally. He scorched both them and their dwelling places, turning them into piles of ashes, all to be AN EXAMPLE of what happens to every individual who does not repent of his or her sins. The end of you and me and everyone else who does not become "godly" is to be burned up and turned into ash. (For what it's worth, God is not some monster who will keep burning people for all eternity, as millions of Christians have mistakenly been taught. But that's another issue.)
The point is that God uses disasters including fires to work His purposes, and there is a life-ending fire in your future you can avoid if you take the correct steps right now.
It's the most famous fire of all time, and it's a conflagration that has not taken place yet. It's the Gehenna fire (often called "hell," the "furnace" or "the lake of fire") of which Scripture constantly speaks. For instance:
"Don't fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna fire]." (Matthew 10:28 CSB)
"And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:15 CSB)
"For look, the day is coming, BURNING LIKE A FURNACE, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them," says the LORD of Armies, "not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall. You will trample the wicked, for THEY WILL BE ASHES under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing," says the LORD of Armies. (Malachi 4:1-3 CSB, emphasis added)
And the Creator's return will seem to everyone living at the time to happen very suddenly. That's when things heat up:
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed." (2 Peter 3:10 CSB)
So, yes, there is an ultimate end by fire for those who don't get with God's program of obedience.
But just like what happened with the California wildfires of 2018, our personal "end" can come a lot sooner than we expect, coming suddenly out of nowhere, changing our situation immediately and tragically. Keeping that in mind may help us to adjust our behavior to be in line with God's instructions and remain in His love and protection.
Copyright 2018 Joe Kovacs. All rights reserved.
Joe Kovacs is the author of the new book Shocked by the Bible 2, as well as his previous books Shocked by the Bible and The Divine Secret, all on sale in bookstores and Amazon.com. Learn more at www.shockedbythebible.com