79 A.D. began with a tremendous noise that woke anyone still
asleep in the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. As they ran outside, they
noticed a mushroom-shaped cloud rising from Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near these
towns. Suddenly flaming residue and volcanic rock began raining from the sky,
bombarding these towns and their inhabitants for a 24 hour period. We can only
imagine how much destruction and death such an event would cause!
People tried to find shelter in their homes, planning to escape when the
volcanic storm had subsided. In the end of the bombardment, however, more than
two meters of volcanic rock had fallen on and around Pompeii.
An eye-witness named Pliny the Younger wrote the following; "When night fell,
not one such as when there is no moon or the sky is cloudy, but a night like
being in a closed place with the lights out. One could hear the wailing of
women, the crying of children, the shouting of men; they called each other, some
their parents, others their children, still others their mates, trying to
recognize each other by their voices. Some lamented their own fate, others the
fate of their loved ones. There were even those who out of their fear of death
prayed for death."
At first daylight on August 25, a fierce explosion of toxic gases and fiery
residue poured forth from the volcano, infiltrating everything in its path and
making it impossible for anyone to flee. As it was raining at the same time, the
rain and ash poured down on the town and before it was over, they were covered
with more than six meters of wet ash. It clung to anything and anyone. No one
could escape its vicious grasp.
In 1748, excavations began of the area. What would amaze the archaeologist for
the next 250 years was the degree of preservation of all the ancient objects. It
seemed that this shower of ash mixed with rain formed an airtight seal around
the town, preserving houses, temples, theatres and baths. More than 2000 bodies
were found as well, including gladiators who had been chained to prevent escape.
The ash mixed with rain also enveloped its victims, forming perfect, solid
molds, even after the bodies themselves had turned to dust.
As a result of the preserving effect of the ash and rain, we can establish
without difficulties the daily activities of these inhabitants, as well as how
they spent their last moments of life.
This story makes me wonder. What will others discover about us after our deaths?
And more importantly, how will we be welcomed in heaven? Do we have any dark
secrets? Do we trust our Heavenly Father in everything we do? Do we savour and
hunger for time with our Heavenly Daddy? Do we reach out to the ones Jesus
valued highly enough to die for? Where are our priorities?
Is our day and age any different from the descriptions we have in the Bible of
the end times?
"However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke
This text is earth shattering! We need to ask ourselves where our priorities
lay! If it's on the "I", then we are heading straight for a disaster!
What would cause us to loose faith?
1. "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but
he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt 24:12-13 NIV)
The "how can God be a loving Father in the midst of this wickedness?" kind of
questions can lead right into the devil's traps. Jesus died in the middle of
this wickedness, as a solution to our inevitable doom. God is the One who offers
us reconciliation and eternity with Him! We are the ones who turned away from
Him, not the other way around!
2. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will
be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the
faith and will betray and hate each other," (Matt 24:9-10 NIV)
The most vibrant believers in the world are those who live in persecuted
countries. Nothing fazes them. They are madly in love with their loving Heavenly
Father! What would happen, however, if persecution were to develop in more
"civilized" countries? Would church attendance be on the rise or would it
dwindle to nothingness?
3. "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when
you do not expect him." (Matt 24:44 NIV)
Are we truly hungering for Jesus' return? Is He our priority in all that we do?
In whom or what are we truly placing our faith?
May we learn from the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There will one day be
an end to our existence, and then people will discover who we truly are. What
kind of person will we be discovered to be? How warm will our welcome be in
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