In a time of great crisis, what will you take with you? If you're not already preparing, the one thing that will be most valuable won't be available.
Suddenly you're forced to flee a hotel room in a foreign land with only seconds to awaken, pull on some clothes and get out. You don't know if you will return, and you don't know what awaits on the street. What do you take with you? More than you might ever imagine.
I had to face this question one night in Amman, Jordan, in November 2005 when terrorists attacked three nearby hotels with explosives. My hotel was not targeted, but we had no way of knowing that at the time. At 11:00 p.m. a loud knock at my door aroused me from sleep, and a hotel employee shouted to guests to wake up, get dressed and evacuate into the street. Not knowing what might happen, all we could do was hurriedly throw on some clothes and move.
In such an emergency what do you take with you? Maybe you've thought about this as a "what if" question to determine what you value or what things are most important to you. In my case that night I had seconds to answer the question. At that moment it was simple—I grabbed my passport and airline tickets. I didn't not know if I would return to that hotel room, and I was scheduled to fly home the next day. More than anything, I wanted to be on that flight!
The question of what you would take with you if you had to flee your home at a moment's notice is something to consider at a deeper level. True, you might take with you something irreplaceable or what you value most of all. Some people say they would take a Bible. Others say they would grab their family photo albums containing pictures that could never be replaced. In the era of digital pictures this may have changed. Perhaps now many would grab their computer or smartphone.
So what would you take with you under such circumstances?
While the physical item you pick up says something about what you value, let's consider that when such a time might strike, the one item all of us would take with us as we flee in a time of emergency would be the set of values we live by— our character.
When such a moment strikes, we are what we are—the sum of all our experiences and choices—and that will determine how we react to a crisis.
Character—righteous or otherwise—is what we will take with us when we walk into a trial or emergency. The kind of person we are determines how we handle any period of distress.
It's this intangible quality that lies at the heart of biblical warnings about a coming time of distress like none before it—the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord prophesied to befall the world just prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
"Watch and be sober"
The apostle Paul warned fellow Christians of this in what is possibly his clearest and most cogent passage of prophecy: "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, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.
"But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10).
Here in this well-known passage Paul emphasizes being prepared. When it is least expected—things seeming normal in a period of peace and safety—great distress erupts in this future time of judgment unleashed by God on all the world. Unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, the world changes quickly and dramatically into something different from any previous period of history.
What could trigger this? Perhaps a terrorist attack that brings a swift, greater-than-expected reaction by a large power, triggering a massive war drawing in many nations.
Perhaps an economic meltdown that threatens to bring down the world economy and with it the way of life all have grown accustomed to. Unprecedented actions may be taken to keep the economy functioning. We could see massive realignment of nations and international finance into one centralized authority, with widespread cooperation. What at first appears benign to many then becomes an oppressive controlling power resulting in mankind's most challenging period.
Specific Bible prophecies speak of the events of this period as sudden and on a scale never before experienced at any time in history (Daniel 12:1).
And as Paul described it, it will be sudden and unexpected like "a thief in the night." Encountering a thief in the night is frightening. Such an event is without warning and immediately tests one's resolve, courage, training and resourcefulness. We all will react based on how we may have prepared ourselves in advance for such an occurrence.
So what do you do when something of this magnitude strikes?
How bad could things get?
There is a whole preparedness industry that helps people plan for catastrophe. Bomb shelters can be built and stocked with food, water and supplies to (hopefully) allow people to survive a time of such crisis.
These go far beyond a commonsense plan to be prepared for a hurricane or tornado or other major weather-related problem. One should be prepared to endure a few days of inconvenience due to power outages or damage from such an event. But to think about preparing for and enduring through a major crisis like a nuclear attack is another matter. Can you ever be fully prepared?
A few years ago a fictional work was published with the title One Second After. It told the hypothetical story of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon detonated over the United States, knocking out all electricity. In the book's scenario, anything that runs on electrical power stops, destroyed by the EMP from the detonation of a nuclear bomb at a certain point in the atmosphere. The EMP does not directly harm biological life but destroys the entire electrical grid and anything connected to it—and anything else that runs on electricity.
The story was fictional but based on fact. Scientists and military experts have long warned that this is possible and that precautions should be taken to deal with such an attack in advance. Any nation with a nuclear bomb and the means to deliver it could theoretically create this event.
One Second After focuses on what happens to life in a small town in North Carolina after an EMP weapon is detonated. Within 30 days more than half the town's inhabitants are dead as food runs out and people starve. Motorized vehicles don't run because their electronic circuitry is ruined. Trucks can't deliver food. Refrigerated food is either eaten or spoiled and no more can be produced because tractors can't plow, plant or harvest and the electrical grid is destroyed.
Without electricity, vital medications soon run out and can't be replaced. One of the book's characters dies within weeks when her unrefrigerated insulin supply loses its effectiveness and runs out. People on heart medication or powerful drugs to control other disorders suffer unimaginably when their medications run out. The entire health-care system breaks down with fatal consequences.
In the story the fabric of society unravels. People kill to survive. Large, unruly gangs begin to roam through the towns pillaging for food. Towns have to mobilize armed citizenry to protect themselves. It's brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor.
The novel paints a sobering and graphic picture of what could happen should such an attack occur in our modern world. Without electricity, civilization as we know it comes to an abrupt and grinding halt. Death from famine, disease and conflict occurs within weeks. The apocalyptic scenarios depicted in movies become reality.
Two seconds after
The book is titled One Second After to illustrate the point that one second after a "thief in the night" event occurs, everything changes. The life once known is gone. One has to grope for a way forward. The life that begins in the next second, two seconds after the event, will be lived according to something inside, something called character. It is beyond anything physical that defines us. Character is of the spirit. It cannot be seen or measured by anything we necessarily have in our possession.
The night in Amman when I had to leave the hotel room because of a bomb scare, I took a passport and airline ticket. In that sudden emergency I grabbed and took with me these things that were physical, useful and practical. But when something like that described by Paul occurs, "a thief in the night" event, tangible items will not be enough.
I am going to need something different to survive such an experience. Life will be so precarious, so on a razor-thin balance, that it will require us to react in ways that demonstrate spiritual courage and resourcefulness. Survival will require a spiritual capacity that has been developed in advance through conscious decisions to act and live in a godly manner based on the holy teachings of the Creator.
The apostle Peter described exactly what needs to be done: "Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with
fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:11-13).
Peter had already debunked the scoffers who say such things will never happen. He referred to the time of Noah and the Flood that came as God's judgment on a wicked world that refused to accept the holy knowledge of God. And willful neglect of God is at the heart of the events to come (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Such times as these
We live in such times. Knowledge of God is being pushed from the public discussion at such a rapid rate that those of us who have lived long enough to have known a different time, when at least outward lip service to a godly defined morality was widespread, are shocked.
The recent rulings by the United States Supreme Court on same-sex marriage prompted a young colleague to come to me and say: "Now I finally understand why you baby boomers are so incensed at the changes in the same-sex marriage issue. You've lived long enough to have known a different time when it wasn't generally accepted by the public."
Today's world is moving rapidly to a point where presenting the knowledge of God as recorded in Scripture is considered not only out of date and irrelevant but even "intolerance" and "hate speech." The time is coming when to speak what God plainly teaches in the Bible will be so vilified that those who do so or stand up for doing so will be hounded into silence.
Peter says to those who will hear—those living in the prophetic end times—to become people of holy conduct and godly character. There is coming a new world where only righteousness dwells. The bridge to that world, during the calamitous times ahead, will be walked by those who have put on faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love (2 Peter 1:5-7).
The message we at The Good News offer is simple and straightforward: How do you prepare for any coming time of peril such as that foretold in Scripture? Get your life in order now. Study your Bible to find the way God wants you to live and a lifestyle that He will accept in the worsening times to come. Make God and His truth the anchor of your daily life and your refuge. Do this and you can expect God to shield you and protect you with His divine covering in the day of trouble. Set your deepest affection and desire on God and He will help you.
Watch and understand
Are you a student of Bible prophecy who is interested in end-time events? Do you watch this present world and see things building to another crisis, perhaps the crisis at the close of this age, and wonder whether you will be accounted worthy to escape the events of the last days (Luke 21:36) and be ultimately saved through the grace of God? Likely you are, and that's why you read The Good News and have read to this point in this article.
Listen carefully, then, to what Peter says. He writes that the prophetic word is confirmed and is "as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19).
Prophecy should stir you to walk in the light of God's Word, producing change in your life that enables you to navigate this present evil world and prepares you for the intense period of judgment that lies ahead.
What manner of person ought you and I to be? We should be people who can discern what is holy in a world where holiness is disdained by some and not understood by most. This is the only way we can be prepared for what certain key prophecies foretell.
The character and values we have when the time of trouble begins is what will see us through. That is the only thing of value we can take with us at a moment's notice and, two seconds after, begin to deal with the reality of a changed world. Godly character is the only thing that will see us through!