By the Way With Joel Meeker

Suddenly ...

After many unheeded warning signs, a beautiful city was unexpectedly and completely destroyed in a few seconds. Should this teach us anything about the future? 

Martinique is one of the jewels of the French West Indies. The island boasts beautiful beaches, friendly people and delightful cuisine. One small town, however, teaches a sobering lesson about unheeded warnings.

Saint Pierre, once the island’s bustling capital, lies at the base of Mount Pelée, an active volcano.

In April 1902 the volcano obviously began to awaken, with a rain of ash and rock over several days. Authorities assured citizens there was no danger. Elections were scheduled, and officials didn’t want to interrupt them.

By May 4 the air was thick with ashy smoke. Some citizens decided to leave town, but authorities reassured the rest that there was no danger. On May 5 a river of boiling mud gushed down the mountain, burying a sugar factory and 150 people. Newspapers continued to reassure. The island’s governor and his family remained in Saint Pierre to calm the population. Citizens trying to leave were threatened with arrest for sowing panic. 

Suddenly ...

Suddenly, just after 8 a.m. on May 8, the upper part of the volcano split open. A cloud of burning gas and ash rushed down the mountainside into Saint Pierre, engulfing it in 60 seconds.

Many people probably looked up in fear, but it was too late. Perhaps 30,000 people burst into flame and vaporized. Repeated warning signals that catastrophe was imminent had been misunderstood. People believed authorities who, in fact, knew little more than they themselves did. 

Like a thief in the night

Today Saint Pierre is a colorful curiosity, known for black-sand beaches, seaside restaurants and charred vestiges of buildings destroyed in 1902. This town can remind us of warnings in the Bible.

The Bible predicts a time of great calamity just before the return of Christ—the event that will finally usher in a period of worldwide tranquility. Many people will be deceived and swept to their deaths by the preceding catastrophes, called the Day of the Lord. They will be complacent from ignorance and false reassurances that they will be safe. They’ll ignore the signs.

Paul told Christians of his day: “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them. ... And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

In those fearful times ahead, authorities will promise that if people will only believe and follow them, all will be well. Most will be distracted and deceived.

Jesus predicted, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39). 

Heeding the warnings

It is vital to heed the prophetic warnings inspired by our Creator (2 Peter 1:19). The Bible reveals warning signs to which we must pay attention.

As you watch world events in light of prophecy, remember the lesson of Saint Pierre in Martinique. 

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