This question was discussed thoroughly in a recent graduate prophecy class here at Ambassador College. Here a graduate student reports the important points brought out.
SUDDENLY Cuba is a Communist military base! UNEXPECTEDLY Great Britain is out of the Common Market! Without warning the entire Northern Hemisphere finds itself in the cold, icy grip of the worst winter in the last one hundred years! OVERNIGHT 87 per cent of the American citrus crop is wiped out by a fierce, merciless cold wave! These major headlines have all screamed across your newspaper within recent weeks and months. With them have been literally hundreds of less-significant reports of SUDDEN and UNEXPECTED loss of life and property through fires, drownings, highway accidents, heart attacks, accidents on the job! Those in the world react to these things like the proverbial ostrich who sticks its silly head in the sand — they quickly bury themselves in their own little routine, fearful to face reality. They turn to thrills and pleasures to shut out of their minds any thought that sudden disaster could strike them. "To be sure," they reason, "there are problems — but, after all, any real danger is in the far-off, distant future — there's nothing we need to REALLY worry about today. It will all turn out all right. There will always be a brighter day tomorrow. And if there isn't... well, we'll worry about that tomorrow!" This is the natural reaction of the human mind — the way the world looks at it. And because this IS the attitude of today's world, never has a society been more vulnerable to SUDDEN DESTRUCTION than we are. And never has man had more numerous ways to bring this destruction about! Few realize how precariously balanced our society is — what a thin, frayed, artificial THREAD is holding it together. For example, in today's world, electric and telephone lines, water and gas lines, highways and transportation lines are our LIFELINES! They must all be in top operating condition or our manmade society cannot function "normally." Yet all of these lifelines can very quickly and easily be severed in any number of ways — by man or by the forces of nature. And consider the delicate balance of our gold supply. France and Germany simultaneously demanding their gold from our dwindling supply could SUDDENLY WRECK our entire economy! Or consider the paralyzing, chaotic effects of a general, nation-wide strike called in an outburst of uncontrolled passion by a greedy, selfish labor union leader! Or let your mind envision the holocaust of accidental nuclear war — to say nothing of calculated, deliberate nuclear attack. These are not vague, unlikely-to-happen possibilities affecting only a few people! These are just a few of many very REAL possibilities! Possibilities of SUDDEN DESTRUCTION with far-reaching consequences — affecting WHOLE NATIONS and huge sections of nations! Truly, never in all human history has a society been more susceptible — more RIPE — for SUDDEN and UNEXPECTED DESTRUCTION than ours today! And that destruction will SURELY come! God Almighty SAYS SO!
God Punishes SUDDENLY
God is infinitely patient with mankind but once man has filled the cup of sin and lawlessness to the brim, God intervenes SWIFTLY and SURELY in meting out justice and punishment. God inspired Solomon to write: "Therefore shall his [the wicked's] calamity come suddenly; SUDDENLY shall he be broken without remedy" (Prov. 6:15). "For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth SUDDENLY upon them" (Eccl. 9:12). The flood at the time of Noah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are two outstanding examples of this living principle. Jesus Christ Himself used these examples as types of the destruction that will come in our day. He said: "And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and DESTROYED them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the SAME DAY that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:26-30). Destruction came QUICKLY when God intervened in those days — and it will come quickly again when He intervenes in our day. Just as God warned ancient Israel that if they sinned their punishment would be SUDDEN AND SURE (Deut. 7:4), so God warns modern Israel that if we continue to sin, we, too, will be destroyed SWIFTLY AND SUDDENLY. "Take heed to yourselves," God says to modern Israel, "that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them. And then the Lord's wrath be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye PERISH QUICKLY from off the good land which the Lord giveth you" (Deut. 11:16-17). Today modern Israel has broken this command and now this punishment — this CURSE — is beginning to be carried out. "The Lord shall send upon thee CURSING, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, UNTIL THOU be destroyed, and until thou PERISH QUICKLY; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me" (Deut. 28:20). This IS PROMISED by God Almighty to come on modern Israel today wherever Israel may be. And on Israel's captor — modern Babylon — punishment at the hand of God will also come quickly and surely (Jer. 51:8; Isa. 47:11). Yes, the WHOLE WORLD — Israelite and Gentile nations alike — are going to be taken by complete surprise — totally caught off guard — by the catastrophic events which will soon come crashing down on it. Destruction ALWAYS falls SUDDENLY AND UNEXPECTEDLY on an unsuspecting and God-rejecting world.
How About YOU?
Rut what about YOU? Will YOU be "caught off guard"? What is YOUR reaction to world news and the events you see taking place about you daily? Does it seem unlikely or highly improbable that anything sudden and drastic could happen to YOU? Is sudden death of a heart attack or in an automobile accident something you've always thought of as happening to the other fellow? The fellow in the "world"? Do you think none of these things could happen to YOU, because you're a "member" in God's Church? God says, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Prov. 27:1). God has not made ANY of His children immune from sudden death! Any one of us — and that includes YOU — could be called to give an account of our lives at any moment! But beyond the possibility of personal disaster striking you in the normal routine of your life, what about the CERTAIN disaster which is coming in a few years when the prophecies of your Bible are fulfilled? Will YOU have God's protection then? Do you "think you stand?" (I Cor. 10:12). It's very easy to "forget" about these unpleasant things which are coming — to throw them out of your mind. But that won't keep them from happening! It's easy to trust in a chronological date — a date which gives a false sense of security because it's a number of years in the future. But the date may be WRONG — and the "future" may suddenly be here — sooner than you expected! It's easy to "kid yourself" that there is "plenty of time" — that you can settle down to the serious business of OVERCOMING YOURSELF "just a little later." But "plenty of time" will suddenly be "NO TIME" — and "just a little later" will never arrive!
These thoughts and attitudes are all very NATURAL. But they are also gravely DANGEROUS! If YOU have any such thought or attitude, TAKE HEED! The Bible soberly warns of just such an attitude. It is a warning directed NOT to the world, but to GOD'S OWN PEOPLE! Christ Himself gave the most serious of these warnings: "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you [members in God's Church] UNAWARES. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. WATCH ye [Christ's own disciples] therefore, and PRAY ALWAYS, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that SHALL COME TO PASS, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:34-36). Mark also records this warning given by Christ: "WATCH YE therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find YOU SLEEPING. And what I say unto you I say unto ALL, WATCH!!!" (Mark 13:35-37). Christ KNEW the tendencies of human nature and He warned against becoming entangled in the cares of this life — against going to sleep spiritually. But He also showed how to counteract this tendency and to overcome it. His solution was simple, yet sure. He said to be alert and awake, to be on guard, to WATCH, TO PRAY ALWAYS. The Apostle Paul gave this same identical warning to God's people. He said: "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves [God's own people] know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they [the world] shall say: Peace and safety; then SUDDEN DESTRUCTION cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But YE, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake YOU as a thief. YE are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us NOT SLEEP, as do others; but let us WATCH and BE SOBER" (I Thess. 5:1-6). Those living in the darkness of Satan's world WILL be overtaken by the Day of the Lord. But there will be NO EXCUSE if WE are caught off guard. To us God says: "... knowing the time, that now it is high time to AWAKE OUT OF SLEEP: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light" (Rom. 13:11-12). In other words, WAKE UP! BE spiritually PREPARED for what lies ahead for YOU! World events are snowballing — prophecy is rapidly being fulfilled. Today the world — unknowingly — stands on the brink of SUDDEN DESTRUCTION. Very soon now Jesus Christ will return QUICKLY (Rev. 3:11; 22:7, 20) — "as a thief" (Rev. 16:15) — bringing His reward with Him (Rev. 22:12). Only those who are spiritually awake and alert — WATCHING AND PRAYING — will be prepared to meet Him. Will YOU be ready?