Hurricane Katrina has struck the Gulf Coast area with a destructive force never seen before in our country. Fellow citizens everywhere join in prayer and solidarity with the people of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in their hour of need. Thousands have been touched by the power of this storm. The loss of lives and property is beyond understanding. The pain and suffering caused by Katrina cannot be expressed in simple words.
The media has provided a great service by giving the people of the United States and the world graphic views of the devastation caused by Katrina. Reporters risked their own lives to bring live pictures during and after the onslaught caused by Katrina. One reporter on Fox called the aftermath of the devastation “a natural disaster of biblical proportions.” A reporter on CBS called the devastation “apocalyptic” while another reporter on CNN, with tears in her eyes, said that she had seen “Armageddon.”
It is not surprising that members of the media are using biblical terminology to describe what is happening in these three southern states, for their descriptions of what is happening is very close to the biblical events that are behind the words they use.
For instance, when the reporter spoke of “a natural disaster of biblical proportions,” his words may be a reference to the great flood that happened in the days of Noah (Genesis 7), to the destruction by fire of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), or even to the ten plagues that afflicted the people of Egypt during the Exodus (Exodus. 7-10).
When the reporter described the destruction caused by Katrina as “apocalyptic,” he was referring to the events that will happen in the last days before the second coming of Christ. These events are mentioned in the book of Revelation. The word “revelation” is a translation of the Greek word apokalypsis. The English transliteration of the Greek word is “apocalypse” and the adjective is “apocalyptic.” The apocalyptic disaster is described in detail in Revelation 15:1-16:21.
When the reporter saw the devastation caused by Katrina and said that she had seen “Armageddon,” she was referring to the battle of Armageddon, the final battle between the forces of good and evil that will happen in the last days (Revelation 16:16). In popular usage, the word Armageddon has become a reference to the catastrophes that will happen on earth near the end times. The word also refers to any great loss of life caused by natural disasters or wars.
The most amazing thing about those reporters who used biblical terminology to describe the devastation caused by Katrina is that most of them probably had no idea of the biblical context behind the biblical terminology. Here is why: what is the common theme behind “a natural disaster of biblical proportions,” “apocalyptic,” and “Armageddon”? The answer is: judgment!
The flood came as a result of the sins of the generation of Noah’s day. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the immorality of the people who lived in those two cities. The plagues came as a judgment on Pharaoh and his people because of the oppression of the Israelites. The battle or Armageddon and the plagues of the book of Revelation will come as part of the final judgment upon the people who refuse to abandon their sins and acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
Did the reporters say that Katrina was sent by God to judge a sinful city? I doubt it. They probably were just using words they learned in their studies. I am sure they did not see Katrina as a divine judgment upon the city of New Orleans.
There is a lesson for us here. The lesson we learn from this is that people must be careful about how they use words. A word spoken at the wrong time can be as sharp as a sword. The wise man said: “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
So, where was God in this tragic event? Next week I will discuss how natural events such as a hurricane can exist in this world created by a loving and caring God. Until then, let us pray to God and ask for grace and strength for those who are suffering because of the devastation caused by Katrina.
Other Posts on Hurricane Katrina:
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary