For most of us who were born after World War 2, the Asian Tsunami of 26 December 2004 was a jolt to our sense of comfort and wellbeing. One minute all was calm in Asia and India; the next minute many coastal regions were enveloped in surging death.

Our modern generation has never before witnessed the death of so many people in one single day. The estimated death toll now stands at 226,000—Indonesia having just revised its estimates upwards by another 50,000! When the news first hit the press, the world stood aghast at the magnitude of the power of nature as it unleashed its fury upon an unsuspecting world and created such devastation. ( It’s the word “unsuspecting” that is the most alarming, because history will repeat itself in the near future when the Lord of all the earth returns in an hour when we least expect him (Mk 13:35–36).

We tend to push back into the recesses of our subconsciousness the fact that God will soon judge the world in righteousness, probably because most of us seek to focus on the positive aspects of worshipping our gracious heavenly Father: seeking for glory and immortality, rather than concentrating on the wrath to come.

But the events of last December have brought into sharp relief this important aspect of God’s purpose—His coming judgments, which are poised to engulf the world and those who are rejected at the tribunal of Christ (2 Thess 1:7–9). It is indeed a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Heb 10:31). The events of recent weeks should serve to warn us of the reality of impending judgments upon the disobedient. To argue that we will take our chances at the judgment seat is to ignore the reality of God’s great power.

The Coming Devastation

The first real unveiling of Messiah’s power to the world will be the decisive destruction of Gog through war, storm, plague, volcanic upheaval and earthquake (Ezek 38:18–22). The recent tsunami showed thinking man that there is a greater power than himself, but, as Ezekiel reveals, the events of Armageddon will go further than this. Many nations will be so shaken by this upheaval that they will begin to understand that the event was miraculous and attributable to God.

The destruction will be enormous. It will lift the Dead Sea hundreds of metres above its present level. It will split Olivet, elevate Zion and create a plain from Geba to Rimmon—some 60km in extent (Zech 14:4–10). By way of comparison, the recent tidal wave in December was caused by an earthquake which only caused sea bed movements of a few centimetres!

One of the physical effects of the Asian tsunami was that it caused the earth to wobble for a few days. Imagine what the great earthquake of the future will do! It may even distort the shape of the earth or change the axis of rotation to effect climatic conditions across the globe. How significant, too, that one of the by-products of earthquakes is the release of ozone into the atmosphere. Here surely is the way God may repair the hole in the earth’s ozone layer.

The effects of unleashing this awesome amount of power will be horrific in terms of loss of life. Zechariah 14:16 speaks about every one that is left coming to Jerusalem as suppliants. The Hebrew means “every remnant of all the nations”. We know how small a remnant is—a tiny fraction of the whole; and the prophet describes each nation having just one small remnant each. Two hundred and twenty-six thousand seems an enormous figure to us, but imagine the figure running into the millions!

Surviving Nations

And yet despite this, there must be enough survivors and enough infrastructure left in some countries to either assist the final Jewish return or mount a defiant challenge to the impending rule of Christ.

For example, in Isaiah 60 we read of the ships of Tarshish responding immediately to the work of bringing the Jewish exiles home; and they bring their wealth with them as a gift (v9). This implies that some of these ships and some of the nation’s wealth will survive.

In verse 5 the wealth of other nations will be offered to Israel. In verse 6 we have incense coming from Sheba—a place which is today barren. And in verse 10 we have labourers flocking to the land to rebuild Israel. In fact the chapter paints a picture of frantic activity by the Gentiles in restoring the land once racked by violence. All of this suggests a certain level of global survival and an understanding that Israel as the people of God needs re-building.

There is a prophecy in Psalm 48:7 which indicates that Yahweh will break the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. This implies that once the ships have served their purpose they will be destroyed once and for all in another miraculous storm.

In stark contrast to the support of the Jewish people by many nations, we have a determined resistance to Christ’s rule by the goat countries of Catholic Europe. For this to occur there must be a significant number of survivors who have the means to prevent another exodus of Jews back to the land.

We know from the timing of the mid-heaven proclamation (Rev 14:6–11) that catastrophe must strike Rome at some point after Armageddon. So despite its precarious position on the fragile and volcanic ridge of the great Apennine mountain-chain, Rome survives the earthquake of Zechariah 14.

The picture described in Revelation 18:8 is of plague, death, mourning, famine and raging fire that consumes Rome in a day. Her patrons and suitors are seen standing afar off and weeping and wailing over her fate.

The implication of all of this is that the future judgments of the world will be Divinely controlled in a measured way against specific targets. God’s judgments in the past were not arbitrary and this practice will doubtless continue in the future (Isa 10:12). It would also seem that the unleashing of God’s wrath through natural catastrophe will be rolled out in stages. It will allow men and women to ponder their future and eventually learn righteousness (Isa 26:9).

Surviving Individuals

If we examine the state of the recent survivors in Asia, we find them staggering amidst destruction that stretches as far as the eye can see, bewildered and frightened. Some were lucky. They were able to find their loved ones and bury them. Others are still hiding in the far-off hills, too frightened to come near the sea again.

The psychological damage has been immense too. Some still hear the roaring in their minds, the waves thunderously loud, sweeping away all that was precious to them. Grief counsellors were sent by a number of countries to counsel people over the loss of whole families. Frequently, the sole family survivors cannot come to grips with the fact that they survived and others didn’t.

Approximately one third of the causalities were children, unable to defend themselves from the fury of the disaster. On the other side of the scale, tens of thousands of children have been either separated from their parents or orphaned. Relief workers are reporting that many orphans are suffering from both physical and psychological trauma. Many are in a state of denial.

Protecting children from exploitation is another priority. Human traffickers were amongst the first people on the scene and fears for the safety of the children became a pressing issue.

A number of relief workers found themselves caught up in civil wars that have been raging for years. Even amidst all the destruction, mankind was unable to put their weapons aside and assist with the relief work.

In all the worst-hit areas, the most immediate enemy is infection. Thousands were attacked by their own flimsy homes, sliced up and gashed by falling timber, shards of glass and jagged pieces of corrugated iron. Gangrene and tetanus have set in and amputation is the most common operation in field hospitals. Lack of trained medical staff only heightened the sense of helplessness.

Refugees are camped in local mosques and schools but they still use the rivers for washing their dishes and bathing—a recipe for cholera and typhoid. Fresh water is almost as precious as money in some regions. Identifying the deceased is almost impossible and families are not able to gain closure—hoping against hope that their loved ones will somehow miraculously appear.

If we multiply these scenes a thousand-fold, we will begin to appreciate the enormity of the change that will soon sweep across the whole world. Is this exaggerated? Listen to the words of the prophet:

“For the day of Yahweh of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low… And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and Yahweh alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of Yahweh, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of Yahweh, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isa 2:12–21).

This destruction will touch the whole world and all mankind will be abased. Like those hiding in the mountains of Aceh for fear of the sea, men and women will flee in an attempt to find some kind of protection and refuge. The fabric of society will be wrenched apart, but who will pick up the pieces when all nations realise that international aid isn’t forthcoming, and death and disease are everywhere? Surely the only help will have to come from the newly immortalised saints.

The Work of the Saints Amongst a Humbled Society

The work of the saints in the interim period between Armageddon and the establishment of the Kingdom will be twofold. They will have the honour of administering judgment on the intransigent nations (Psa 149:9), but they will also have the privilege of ministering to the oppressed, particularly Israel (Jer 31:8–9). The work of being kings and priests reflects this duality of office. The nations will be dashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel but, as in ancient times, when the ground-up shivers were used to make lime and coat the cisterns and wells with a sealant, so the saints will pick up the pieces and repair people’s lives, so that the water of the Word of life won’t be wasted.

Imagine the extent of that work! We have a few hints of this huge task in relation to a humbled Israel, and it forms a faint echo of what the rest of the world will also need.

Jeremiah hears the inconsolable sobbing of Rachel (a symbol of natural Israel) weeping for her dead, refusing any offers of comfort. But then he sees Yahweh (manifested through the saints) stepping in and saying: “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith Yahweh; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border” (31:15–17).

What a wonderful thing it will be to have the capacity to “satiate the weary soul” and “replenish every sorrowful soul” (Jer 31:25).

The saints will be healers too. Egypt will be smitten and then healed (Isa 19:22). Israel will have her wounds bound and healed (Isa 30:26). Armageddon is likened by God to a smiting with the wounds of an enemy, and her restoration is likened to taking healing medicines (Jer 30:12–17). “Behold, I will bring it health and cure”, records the prophet, “and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth” (Jer 33:6). This language, although pre-eminently spiritual, will also doubtless have a natural fulfilment as well.

We have already seen the prophecy of Isaiah 60 describing the re-building of Israel. As God has watched over their destruction, so He will, through the agency of the saints, watch over them to build and to plant (Isa 61:4, Jer 31:28). We can only begin to appreciate the order and establishment that the saints will be required to implement in getting society back on its feet around the Truth of God’s revealed Word (Isa 9:6–7).

One of the interesting outcomes of the recent devastation in Asia was that an inter-faith religious ceremony was held to release the souls of the dead to heaven and to offer thanks for the survivors. Isaiah tells us that mankind will abandon their idols and superstitious beliefs after experiencing the massive upheaval of the future. This can only happen if an external agency is at work educating people in the right way. Hence Jeremiah 3:15 speaks in this vein to Israel: “And I will give you pastors [shepherds] according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Our time of probation now is preparing us for this future role as shepherd-kings and priests. In the midst of adversity and trial, Yahweh is currently perfecting His people and shaping them into the image of His Son. He is pruning us so that we can produce the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

If these qualities are not being manifested in our lives now, how can we possibly be part of the future age when they will be so desperately in demand? The change to immortality doesn’t confer upon us characteristics that we don’t have. If we have not the spirit or the mind of Christ now we are none of his (Rom 8:9). We have to develop a caring, considerate and edifying way of life now. Mercy and Truth must meet in our lives now, and the outworking of that has to been seen in our ministrations one to another.

We need to be “complete in him” before he returns. And this means putting on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.” It means putting on a self-less love. It means letting the Word of God dwell richly within us. It means being thankful for all that God has done for us (Col 3:12–17).

The events of late December last year ought to warn us that God will soon judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained. Let us take stock of where we are heading in life and remember that one day we must give account of our stewardship and receive our reward—either for good or for ill (2 Cor 5:10).