Lessons From the Titanic

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Lessons From the Titanic

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“She was the largest and most luxurious ship afloat. On her maiden voyage, she epitomized the leading edge of the technology of the time, inspiring awe and wonder. With her 16 watertight compartments, she was thought to be unsinkable; in fact, when one of her deckhands was asked at the beginning of the voyage whether she really was unsinkable, he replied, “God Himself could not sink this ship.”

The Titanic is perhaps the world’s best-known ship because of the tragedy that befell her. The loss of this great liner has long since passed into legend. But perhaps the most tragic part of the saga is that it didn’t have to happen.

The story of the Titanic (described in more detail in the preceding article) is moving and harrowing, and presents an important spiritual lesson for our day.

Technologically advanced though she was, the capacity of the Titanic ‘s lifeboats was only 1,178, while the ship was built to carry 3,000 passengers and crew. This is part of the macabre fascination people have with this story: There was simply no way any more than half the ship’s complement would survive should the unthinkable happen. So when the tragedy occurred, only the few survived. Many lifeboats were well short of their capacity-only 705 out of about 2,220 escaped to the safety of these craft.

In many ways the modern era is like the Titanic . Ours is a technologically advanced age, with a greater array of luxuries and conveniences than ever before. We are speeding forward into dark, uncharted waters at full throttle. Most people cannot believe this society could ever sink; the idea seems so remote that few allow the possibility into their thinking.

Yet according to your Bible this age will founder. This world-this age and society with all its wonders and marvels- will fall because it functions on the wrong foundation. It violates with apparent impunity God’s law based on the Ten Commandments. It resists the will of God and lurches inevitably toward a time of terrible trouble. When that moment of destiny arrives, like that icy mass that shattered human complacency, pride and arrogance 86 years ago, there will be a kind of lifeboat available, but by no means will it be accessible to all.

In Matthew 24 Jesus Christ was asked by His disciples when the end of the world (Greek aion , meaning “age”) would come and what signs would precede it. Christ’s answer focused on a time of great trouble, the likes of which the world has never seen, even to this day. It will be so bad that it will require the return of Jesus Christ to intervene and save mankind from destroying all human life. However, said Jesus, “for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened ” (verse 22, emphasis added throughout).

In Revelation 3:10-11 Revelation 3:10-11 10 Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.
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, in a passage connected with that same time, God promises to keep His people (the elect) “from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world.”

The apostle John later described a woman, representing the Church, who would be protected from the rampaging serpent, representing Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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, 14). Satan is prevented from hurting the woman, but is allowed to “make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (verse 17). God provides deliverance and protection for a few. Others will not enjoy that same protection or deliverance.

The basis of selection for this “lifeboat” is not so much physical-how much money you have, who you know, the way you appear on the outside-but the way you really are on the inside. This selection applies to all those called by God’s grace to have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, but who respond in an appropriate way. It applies to Christians who are determined to hold fast to God’s way of life.

An earlier lifeboat for humanity

Noah, called “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5 2 Peter 2:5And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;
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), lived thousands of years ago. In his time the world was in a sorry state, much like its condition in our time. The world was corrupt and evil. Mankind despised God’s laws, and God was angry. “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 Genesis 6:5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
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).

God so abhorred people’s behavior that He regretted creating humans (verse 6), and determined to destroy them and give society and civilization a fresh start.

So, quite literally, God instructed Noah to prepare a lifeboat so that, when their world sank beneath the waves, Noah and his family would be spared.

Many scoffed and ridiculed Noah as he built this massive lifeboat. But they quit laughing when the rain came and the waters began to rise. Like the helpless victims on the Titanic , they were trapped in the waters with nowhere to go. They all drowned.

Jesus Christ tells us that just before His return, at the end of this age, conditions will be strikingly similar to the state of the world in Noah’s time (Matthew 24:36-42 Matthew 24:36-42 36 But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.
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). When the Titanic that is human society goes down, God will have a lifeboat of sorts planned out and available.

Sad to say, men and women everywhere will be unaware that anything is really wrong. Just as the ship’s band continued to play as the Titanic took on icy Atlantic water through the mortal wound in its side, society today continues its slide toward disaster, blissfully ignoring the danger all around.

The lesson of Lot and Sodom

After the flood came a time when God was again so repulsed by evil that He intervened to destroy sin and its effects. In the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, sexual perversion was rampant (Genesis 19:1-13 Genesis 19:1-13 1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and you shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, No; but we will abide in the street all night. 3 And he pressed on them greatly; and they turned in to him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called to Lot, and said to him, Where are the men which came in to you this night? bring them out to us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door to them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brothers, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out to you, and do you to them as is good in your eyes: only to these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with you, than with them. And they pressed sore on the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. 10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. 11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. 12 And the men said to Lot, Have you here any besides? son in law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whatever you have in the city, bring them out of this place: 13 For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.
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), aided and abetted by pride, arrogance, prosperity and idleness (Ezekiel 16:49-50 Ezekiel 16:49-50 49 Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
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).

Warned by angels of the coming destruction of Sodom, righteous Lot tried to alert his immediate family so they could escape. He was rebuffed: “But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking” (Genesis 19:14 Genesis 19:14And Lot went out, and spoke to his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked to his sons in law.
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). The joke, however, was on them. Fire rained on and destroyed both cities, which have since become a byword for sin and its consequences. “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt” (verse 29). Only Lot and his daughters escaped.

The examples of Noah and Lot are linked together as profound lessons for our day (2 Peter 2:4-8 2 Peter 2:4-8 4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved to judgment; 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample to those that after should live ungodly; 7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
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). Whether we recognize it or not, our world is like that of Noah and Lot. Wickedness and disregard for God and His ways are almost universal. Many of our cities and towns are morally no more than festering cesspools, not unlike Sodom.

God will not forever turn a blind eye to the ever-increasing corruption around us. Nor will He abandon those whose outcry against society’s sins rises to His ears. A day of reckoning for sin approaches. A time of deliverance for the righteous beckons.

If God punished sinners and delivered the righteous in the time of Noah and Lot, then we can be assured that for our time also “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (verses 9-10). God delivered righteous Noah and Lot. He will do the same for the godly in our day-those who resist the prevailing, pervasive sins that characterize this age.

A world caught unaware

Noah and Lot are again mentioned in the same context in Luke 17:26-37 Luke 17:26-37 26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31 In that day, he which shall be on the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 37 And they answered and said to him, Where, Lord? And he said to them, Wherever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
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, where Christ describes conditions at the end of the age. The timing of the events that lead up to His return will catch most people unaware. In the time of Noah and Lot, in spite of these two men’s warnings, people continued in their normal routines until disaster suddenly struck. So will it be, said Jesus, in the day of His return to earth.

In spite of warnings from God’s servants, those who do not heed will face a time of supreme trouble, without God’s protection and promise of deliverance. Verses 34-37 describe how some will be miraculously spared, delivered from the calamity about to envelop the world. Truly God knows how to deliver the righteous from a time of trouble.

This passage illustrates the tendency of human nature to assume that the longer something has been going on the longer it will continue to go on. The Bible, however, shows the danger inherent in that assumption. The ancient Israelites expressed these thoughts in proverbs and sayings of their day. “The days are prolonged, and every vision fails,” said one (Ezekiel 12:22 Ezekiel 12:22Son of man, what is that proverb that you have in the land of Israel, saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision fails?
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). “The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off,” said another (verse 27). In both cases God makes it clear that His word will be done, and judgment for sin is certain.

Did people react the same way to the preaching of Noah and Lot? Apparently they assumed that “every vision fails” or that Noah or Lot prophesied “of times far off.” They didn’t realize that the vision of Noah and Lot pertained to their own eras.

A time of reckoning

As a society, we seem to think we can get away with almost any despicable act without facing the consequences. In effect we proclaim, “God Himself could not sink this ship!” As the apostle Paul bluntly put it, “There is no fear of God …” (Romans 3:18 Romans 3:18There is no fear of God before their eyes.
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).

One of Britain’s favorite patriotic songs proclaims, “Rule Britannia … Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.” But the continued existence of all nations is actually determined by the goodness and grace of God. No nation is unsinkable, and one day we may well learn that at great cost.

Most people go along with the crowd, participating in and coexisting with sin while thinking little of it. But God is looking for those who stand out from the crowd and resist evil. He looks for courageous, concerned men and women “who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done” in society around us (Ezekiel 9:4 Ezekiel 9:4And the LORD said to him, Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the middle thereof.
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), whose conscience, morals and values are in tune with His. He will hear their anguished outcry, just as He heard Lot and Noah.

In a compelling prophecy for the time immediately preceding the return of Christ, Malachi discusses the end of this age. A time is coming, he says, when the unthinkable will happen. Just as the supposedly unsinkable Titanic met disaster, so will civilization face unimaginable catastrophe. “ ‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch’ ” (Malachi 4:1 Malachi 4:1For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
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).

A lifeboat is available

At this prophesied time, the returning Christ will intervene and provide a lifeboat of sorts for some. The way of life we lead will determine whether we will be on that lifeboat or not.

Who will be spared at that time? God, through Malachi, gives us several indications: those who have a godly fear, respecting and honoring God and His way of life (verse 2), and who “remember the Law of Moses, My servant” (verse 4).

God gave His laws to Moses for His redeemed people of Israel. That law is based on His Ten Commandments and was expanded through statutes and judgments. Jesus Christ Himself clarified that these laws are based on the two great spiritual principles of loving God and fellowman (Matthew 22:37-40 Matthew 22:37-40 37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
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). The law is holy, just and good (Romans 7:12 Romans 7:12Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
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), and is a reflection of God’s unchanging character, which is based in love (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
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, 16).

God’s Church today is, spiritually, a continuation of that physical nation and is now “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16 Galatians 6:16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
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), God’s new “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
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) and the true children of the promise (Romans 9:8 Romans 9:8That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
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). These believers are expected to uphold the standards and pattern of behavior God revealed to ancient Israel through His laws, which are relevant and applicable to all humanity.

The burgeoning sins of our increasingly lawless societies will exact their inevitable penalties. Like ancient Israel, many people don’t wish to be told of their sins and defiance of the laws of God. Their attitude is expressed in Isaiah 30:9-10 Isaiah 30:9-10 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: 10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not to us right things, speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
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: “… This is a rebellious people … who will not hear the law of the LORD; who say to the seers, ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.’”

Because most people increasingly despise God’s ways, viewing them as irrelevant to their way of life, God will intervene. Like the proverbial bulge in the wall that has been there so long that it has come to be ignored, its “breaking comes suddenly, in an instant …” (verses 12-14).

Don’t go down with the ship

We don’t have to be like the people described in these scriptures. We know the ship is going down. The signs are all around us. The wall is bulging. The cracks are starting to appear.

Little can be done about the massive problems facing mankind. Life continues pretty much as usual, with occasional exciting technological advances to satiate and titillate us as we continue our collective moral degeneration. One day-as was the case for those in the days of Noah and Lot, and for the doomed passengers and crew of the Titanic -“life as usual” will be no more. The wall will come tumbling down.

Seeing that all these things are certain to happen if we do not change our ways, God asks of us a serious question: “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness …?” (2 Peter 3:11 2 Peter 3:11Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
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).

It bears thinking about, doesn’t it? Did God hold the key to survival at the time of Noah and Lot? Was the deckhand who said of the Titanic that even God couldn’t sink her proven wrong? Does God hold the key today?

Of course He does. And the lifeboat He is preparing has everything to do with your relationship to Him and the way of life you lead. God provides a lifeline, through Jesus Christ, to all who will fear and obey Him.

Let’s be clear. This age is like the Titanic . We naively assume society to be unsinkable. Yet it is destined to go down. But we don’t have to go down with it. By establishing a relationship with God and upholding the way of life He calls us to, we can locate a lifeboat.

When you look around at the glitter, glamour, splendor and wonders of our age, remember the Titanic , which no one believed would ever sink. Remember the haunting description of that mighty ship’s last moments: “The band played on … and the deck continued to tilt.” GN

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