According to Genesis 1, everything that God made in the beginning was originally perfect. Man’s sin corrupted everything, so God placed a curse upon the world (Genesis 3). When Christ returns, all will be restored, for then “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
Christians have long been waiting for that glorious day when Jesus Christ restores nature to its perfect state. But in the meantime, we live in a world where nature has been thrown into a great upheaval. That chaos is demonstrated by extreme weather.
God’s Uses for Extreme Weather
To get man’s attention, God often uses signs in nature to underline major events. For example, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, Mount Sinai was covered in “thunderings and lightnings and a thick cloud” (Exodus 19:16-18). When Christ was crucified, three hours of darkness blotted out the daylight, and Jerusalem experienced a great earthquake (Matthew 27:45,51). God used and still uses extreme weather to point to significant events in history.
At other times, God uses the signs of nature, such as extreme weather, as remedial judgments to call wicked nations to repentance. For example, Moses warned the Israelites that if they became exceedingly wicked, God’s weather-related curses would “pursue and overtake you until you are destroyed because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28: 18-30,45-46). Sure enough, once the Israelites had become steeped in sin, God inflicted them with remedial judgments through extreme weather.
Likewise, when the prophet Elijah called King Ahab and Israel to repent, Ahab flat-out refused; so God sent a drought that withered the crops for three-plus long years (1 Kings 17-18).
Another time, when Israel had become lethargic in their relationship with their Heavenly Father, God cursed the land with a great locust swarm that quickly consumed all of Israel’s crops. As God had desired, the Israelites repented (Joel 1-3).
Later, when the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon in order to rebuild the Temple, they stopped working after laying the foundation. God waited patiently for 14 long years before He decimated their crops with root rot and mildew and sent furious hailstorms to cut the remaining plants down. Again, as God had desired, the people recognized His judgment, repented, and began working to finish rebuilding the Temple (Haggai 1-2).
How do we know the difference between a natural disaster caused by a fallen world as opposed to one sent by God as a remedial judgment? Three points:
- The timing of the event as it relates to the sin of a people, location, or nation
- The magnitude of the event, meaning its ability to capture people’s attention and force them to consider an eternal perspective
- In Scripture, a legitimate prophet declaring on behalf of God, “this will happen to get you to repent.”
So, we can know the difference based on the timing, the magnitude, and a biblical declaration regarding natural disasters.
Pointing to Christ’s Return
Some may be thinking, “That’s the Old Testament! Aren’t we living in the Age of Grace? God doesn’t use signs of nature anymore, right?” Well, not according to Jesus Christ.
In the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13), Jesus provided ten signs that would point to His soon return. He added that the signs would increase in frequency and intensity — like the birth pangs of a woman in labor — the closer we get to His return (Matthew 24:8).
In addition to an outbreak of wars, Jesus said, “there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). Other signs would involve “fearful sights and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11). Likewise, “there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations…for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26).
Eventually, these signs will become exceedingly violent and frequent, and “then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Offering us insight and hope, Jesus said, “when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:27-28).
The Apostle Paul confirmed that Christians are meant to be able to discern the signs that point to Jesus’ soon return so as not to be taken unaware (1 Thessalonians 5:1-5).
Today’s Extreme Weather
What are we witnessing happening all around the world today? All sorts of weather calamities: out-of-control hurricanes, record numbers of tornadoes, increasing earthquakes, devastating floods, and destructive forest fires. These disasters are occurring more and more frequently and causing greater and greater damage with each passing year. Nature has clearly been getting out of hand, and it’s getting worse.
The disasters are not limited to North America alone. For instance, in recent years Australia suffered severe drought, historic bushfires, successive years of record-breaking floods, and six mass coral bleaching events accompanying the ongoing collapse of the Great Barrier Reef.
In addition to increasingly destructive weather, earthquakes have also plagued the world over the past few years. The annual number of “great” earthquakes has nearly tripled over the last decade. Between 2004 and 2014, 18 earthquakes with a magnitude of 8.0 or more rattled subduction zones around the globe—an increase of 265 percent over the average rate of the previous century. Leading news agencies warn that America itself might be overdue for a “Big One.”
The World Gets It Wrong
What’s interesting is how scientists are interpreting extreme natural weather phenomena. The consistent explanation for natural disasters is “man-made global warming” or, more recently, “climate change.” The key point is that regardless of the secular world’s interpretation, there is agreement that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity. It all sounds rather biblical, doesn’t it?
So, the world recognizes that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity, but faults mankind’s pollution problems. However, Christians know better. We know that God alone is in control of the weather and not mankind.
Remember that God doesn’t wish that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, God always warns before He executes His wrath. And, for thousands of years, God has chosen climactic and catastrophic weather to get our attention. Why? Because God controls the weather!
The Bible contains at least 47 different verses that declare that God is in control of the weather. Here are some examples:
- “What kind of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey Him” (Matthew 8:26-27)
- “Fire and hail, snow and clouds, stormy wind, fulfilling His word” (Psalm 148:8)
- “He did not leave Himself without witness, that He did good and gave you rains from heaven, and fruitful seasons” (Acts 14:17)
- “I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or in any tree” (Revelation 7:1)
So, again and again and again, the Bible says that God is in control of the weather. God is sovereign, and nothing happens that He does not allow, either in His perfect will or His permissive will. That is the reason the Bible attributes all natural disasters to God.
Mankind’s pollutive tendencies might contribute to calamities, but God controls the weather. The fact that natural disasters plague mankind at all is due to the curse on the world. But God still utilizes freak weather in order to wake people up to their sins and need for a Savior.
The ultimate climax to all of these weather signs occurs during the Tribulation. The signs of nature we are witnessing today—along with social, political, technological, economic, and other end times signs—will all increase in frequency and intensity leading up to the Rapture of the Church. Then God will unleash His wrath during a seven-year period of judgment called the Tribulation.
As bad as the weather has gotten today, nothing compares to the disasters foretold in the book of Revelation. In reading Revelation, one will marvel at how God’s weather-related judgments will devastate the world, for God will be pouring out His wrath on its corrupt people during the most horrific era the world will have ever endured (Matthew 24:21).
Our God is so merciful. He is patiently sending us one natural disaster wake-up call after another because He never pours out His wrath without warning.
The Response God Wants
God’s Word makes it crystal clear that when He sends discipline, the primary purpose is never to punish. Instead, the primary purpose is to call wayward mankind to repentance so that we might be saved. Here’s how the prophet Isaiah expressed it, “For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9b).
How does God want us to respond to these end times signs, particularly the sign of nature as it relates to extreme weather?
First, we each need to repent individually for our own rebellion and selfishness. God is calling each person to repent. So, respond in faith and repentance by surrendering to the Lord. Read the Bible so that we can be discerning.
Second, we need to repent as a nation for removing God from our society, for idolatrous self-worship, for our 63 million murders in the womb, for our obsession with sexual promiscuity, for our fascination with the occult, and for our lack of support for Israel’s right to exist, among a plethora of other sins. Every nation needs to live out the claim of “in God we trust,” for that is the only way to receive God’s mercy.
Once King Jesus finally returns, the curse on this earth will be lifted and these natural disasters will cease to persist. Until that glorious day, we can live by this hope: “The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12-14).