Luke 18:8 (NIV)
I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
August 24, 79 A.D. began with a tremendous noise that woke anyone still asleep in the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. As they ran outside, they noticed a mushroom-shaped cloud rising from Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near these towns. Suddenly flaming residue and volcanic rock began raining from the sky, bombarding these towns and their inhabitants for a 24 hour period. We can only imagine how much destruction and death such an event would cause!
People tried to find shelter in their homes, planning to escape when the volcanic storm had subsided. In the end of the bombardment, however, more than two meters of volcanic rock had fallen on and around Pompeii.
An eye-witness named Pliny the Younger wrote the following; "When night fell, not one such as when there is no moon or the sky is cloudy, but a night like being in a closed place with the lights out. One could hear the wailing of women, the crying of children, the shouting of men; they called each other, some their parents, others their children, still others their mates, trying to recognize each other by their voices. Some lamented their own fate, others the fate of their loved ones. There were even those who out of their fear of death prayed for death."
At first daylight on August 25, a fierce explosion of toxic gases and fiery residue poured forth from the volcano, infiltrating everything in its path and making it impossible for anyone to flee. As it was raining at the same time, the rain and ash poured down on the town and before it was over, they were covered with more than six meters of wet ash. It clung to anything and anyone. No one could escape its vicious grasp.
In 1748, excavations began of the area. What would amaze the archaeologist for the next 250 years was the degree of preservation of all the ancient objects. It seemed that this shower of ash mixed with rain formed an airtight seal around the town, preserving houses, temples, theatres and baths. More than 2000 bodies were found as well, including gladiators who had been chained to prevent escape. The ash mixed with rain also enveloped its victims, forming perfect, solid molds, even after the bodies themselves had turned to dust.
As a result of the preserving effect of the ash and rain, we can establish without difficulties the daily activities of these inhabitants, as well as how they spent their last moments of life.
This story makes me wonder. What will others discover about us after our deaths? And more importantly, how will we be welcomed in heaven? Do we have any dark secrets? Do we trust our Heavenly Father in everything we do? Do we savor and hunger for time with our Heavenly Father? Do we reach out to the ones Jesus valued highly enough to die for? Where are our priorities?
Is our day and age any different from the descriptions we have in the Bible of the end times?
What would cause us to loose faith?
1. "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt 24:12-13 NIV)
The "how can God be a loving Father in the midst of this wickedness?" kind of questions can lead right into the devil's traps. Jesus died in the middle of this wickedness, as a solution to our inevitable doom. God is the One who offers us reconciliation and eternity with Him! We are the ones who turned away from Him, not the other way around!
2. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other," (Matt 24:9-10 NIV)
The most vibrant believers in the world are those who live in persecuted countries. Nothing fazes them. They are madly in love with their loving Heavenly Father! What would happen, however, if persecution were to develop in more "civilized" countries? Would church attendance be on the rise or would it dwindle to nothingness?
3. "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matt 24:44 NIV)
Are we truly hungering for Jesus' return? Is He our priority in all that we do? In whom or what are we truly placing our faith?
May we learn from the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There will one day be an end to our existence, and then people will discover who we truly are. What kind of person will we be discovered to be? How warm will our welcome be in heaven?
Dear Lord, help us live our life in a way that brings honor to You. Help us be ready for Your return. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.