Warnings That Should Be Heeded
IT WAS springtime of the year 1902. All things were going on as usual on the beautiful Caribbean island of Martinique. The sugarcane harvest seemed promising, and, at the island’s most populous city of St. Pierre, the politicians were busily involved in an election campaign.
But then, late in March, there was a phenomenon that seemed to mar the blissful scene. Mt. Pelée, located about five miles (8 km) from St. Pierre, became active. At first the people did not pay much attention. In April, however, as smoke, ash and bits of rock belched forth, along with acrid fumes, townspeople became apprehensive. Toward the end of April a woman wrote her sister in the United States:
“The city is covered with ashes. The smell of sulphur is so strong that horses on the street stop and snort. Many of the people are obliged to wear wet handkerchiefs to protect them from the strong fumes.”
Early in May volcanic activity increased with frequent loud explosions. Les Colones, the St. Pierre newspaper, said that “the rain of ashes never ceases . . . the passing of carriages is no longer heard in the streets. The wheels are muffled.” A St. Pierre resident wrote her brother in Marseilles, France:
“I write under the gloomiest impressions, although I hope I exaggerate the situation. My husband laughs; but I can see that he is full of anxiety. . . . The heat is suffocating. We cannot leave anything open, as the dust enters everywhere, burning our faces and eyes. All the crops are ruined.”
It should have been evident that real danger was imminent. But were the warnings coming from Mt. Pelée heeded?
ATTITUDE OF CITY LEADERS
Because the sugarcane harvest was approaching, St. Pierre’s businessmen assured the people that there was no danger at all. The politicians, concerned with the upcoming election, did not want the people to be fleeing either, so they spoke in a similar vein. In fact, the mayor from another city came to St. Pierre to convince the people that there was no cause for alarm. The religious leaders, the Catholic clergy, cooperated with the business and political groups in trying to persuade their parishioners that all was well.
Then it happened. Shortly before 8 a.m., May 8, Mt. Pelée exploded with a stupendous roar. Gigantic superheated black clouds raced with unbelievable speed down toward St. Pierre. A writer states:
“The many thousands of bodies in the ruins all told much the same story, of practically instantaneous death when the searing hurricane from Mt. Pelée reached them. There had been no time to attempt to flee, or even to struggle; hundreds simply died in their tracks. The hot gas did its work swiftly, extinguishing thousands of lives in the space of two or three minutes.”
Practically everyone in St. Pierre died—some 30,000 or more persons. Only three persons survived, and two of these soon died of their injuries. The lone person to recover from his injuries and live was a young prisoner. He had been put into the dungeon at the bottom of the prison, where he was found several days after the blast.
To this day there are many ruins, including the dungeon, at St. Pierre bearing witness to this holocaust. Also, a plaque tells of the many hundreds who lost their lives in a Catholic church while attending Mass.
Just plain common sense should have dictated leaving St. Pierre when the air got so bad it was difficult to breathe. And had the businessmen, the politicians and the clergy been more concerned about the lives of their people than with their own immediate advantage, then, rather than trying to persuade the people to stay, they would have joined them in fleeing from the city. It would have saved their lives.
Recently warnings of an even greater destruction have been widely broadcast. What warnings are we talking about? Not those given by Mount St. Helens, of Washington State, U.S.A., earlier this year. One resident there wrote: “The mountain continued to ‘act up’ with greater intensity, almost as though it was warning us to get ready for the real explosion.” State and local officials added their voices, also telling of the great danger to those in the area of the volcano.
But it is not warnings of some anticipated local destruction that we have in mind. Rather, it is warnings, now being broadcast earth wide, of an imminent world destruction—Armageddon—that we are talking about. Foretelling this destruction, Jesus Christ said: “For then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21) Based on Jesus’ description, this “great tribulation” will be more destructive of human life than all the natural disasters of human history put together.
“Impossible!” you say? Yet God’s prophet, Jesus Christ, has never been wrong before. “The war of the great day of God the Almighty,” commonly called Armageddon, is sure to come. (Rev. 16:14-16) It will be the final part of the “great tribulation.” So does it not make sense, at least, to give consideration to the warnings that Armageddon is near, within the lifetime of most persons now living?
In connection with the “great tribulation,” including Armageddon, Jesus went on to say in this vital prophecy: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.”—Matt. 24:37-39.
Thus Jesus made clear that the coming world destruction—which would exceed even the Flood in magnitude—is associated with his presence. This is ‘when he arrives in glory and sits down on his glorious throne’ to rule as king. (Matt. 25:31) Do we have any way of knowing the time of Armageddon?
Yes, we do. Jesus’ disciples were interested in these matters. So they asked him about them. The very question that started off Jesus’ discussion in which he spoke about the “great tribulation” was this: “When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) Surely we should be extremely interested in identifying “the sign” that Jesus gave.
You can check that “sign” for yourself. It is recorded in the Bible at Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark chapter 13 and Luke chapter 21. There you will find that Jesus said his presence and the nearness of the “great tribulation” would be marked by great troubles on earth. There would be wars, including nation rising against nation, great earthquakes, food shortages, pestilences, as well as such an increase of lawlessness that the love of the greater number would cool off. Also, Jesus foretold that his followers would be persecuted, and yet the “good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth . . . and then the end [including Armageddon] will come.”
In another prophecy, the apostle Paul was inspired to write: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
Would you say that the prophecies of Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul about “the last days” are now being fulfilled? Over two million Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they are, and that is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are everywhere sounding the warning that Armageddon is near. They invite people to examine the evidence to determine for themselves whether these warnings have any real basis.
SHOULD THEY BE HEEDED?
Obviously, some warnings are without basis, and it would be foolish to heed them. But the fact that many—including prominent members of a community—scoff at or belittle warnings is not sufficient basis for ignoring the warnings. Recall the situation with Mt. Pelée. On May 5, three days before its major eruption, the volcano sent forth a flow of scalding material that killed dozens of people in its path. Many persons considered this due warning to flee, as Peter Francis writes in his recent book Volcanoes:
“Many tried to leave St. Pierre, heading for Fort-de-France, Martinique’s second town. The local authorities, however, did not welcome the prospect of a large-scale evacuation. Apart from the problem of dealing with large numbers of frightened refugees, there was also an election coming up on 10 May, and the political factions in the town were anxious that nothing should interfere with it, so there was a concerted effort to play down the possible risk. A ‘scientific commission’ comprising some of the most learned people on the island was set up, and they produced a report designed to set fears at rest.”
They succeeded, to an extent, in doing this. The people stayed—and they all perished, with one exception!
Today the Bible’s prophecies regarding “the last days” are being fulfilled. All the features of the composite “sign” Jesus gave can be seen. Yes, what Christ and his apostles foretold would occur just prior to the “great tribulation” is now happening. The evidence is overwhelming. As Jesus foretold, there is “on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out.” Also, “men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:25, 26.
Illustrating the fulfillment of these things are the comments of the editor of the Miami Herald, Jim Hampton. Although not viewing Armageddon entirely from the Biblical viewpoint, he wrote on May 4, 1980:
“Do you have, growing deep in your gut these days, the same kind of knot I have growing in mine? The awful, keep-you-awake-nights knot that tells you something is dreadfully wrong with your country, with the whole world? The knot that makes you shiver sometimes because it has just dawned on you that Armageddon isn’t just some allegory you read about in the Bible, it’s real? And that for the first time in your life the match is so close to the fuse that Armageddon is actually possible?
“I have that knot. And I’m not ashamed to admit it, because I have asked a dozen of my friends if they have it too, and not one doesn’t.”
There are those who will scoff at the thought of God’s bringing an end to wickedness. Others will belittle the evidence that Bible prophecies are in the course of fulfillment. But the Bible foretold this very situation, saying: “In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’”—2 Pet. 3:3, 4.
But such ridiculers are mistaken. The fact is, things have changed. Bible prophecies are being fulfilled. The evidence is just as clear that Armageddon is near as it was clear earlier this year that Mount St. Helens was due to erupt. Yet many there refused to heed the warnings to keep out of the danger zone. They paid with their lives. One woman interviewed on TV expressed her disapproval of the travel restrictions that were imposed to keep people away from the area. After the eruption she appeared on TV again to express humble thanks for the restrictions, which, she said, saved her life.
WHERE SAFETY IS TO BE FOUND
Faced with a volcanic eruption, it is quite obvious where safety is to be found—well away from the volcano. Amazingly, the “kill zone” from the St. Helens eruption was reported to have covered 150 square miles (380 km2). Trees were flattened for as much as 14 miles (23 km) in three directions, and everything was seared for several miles beyond that! But where can safety be found during the near-at-hand “great tribulation”?
It is not in any physical location. Just as at the Flood, Jehovah God will have the means to destroy wicked ones wherever they might seek to hide. By the same token, he will be able to preserve any whom he chooses, regardless of where they live. The key to safety is given by the apostle John, when he says: “The world [of disobedient humankind] is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
The only place of safety is in a person’s proper relationship with Jehovah, which can be enjoyed only by doing his will. But before we can do Jehovah’s will, we must learn what he requires of us. That involves study of his Word, the Bible, and then applying it in our lives. Are you willing to do this? Jehovah’s Witnesses will be pleased to help you. By all means, do not dismiss the Bible-based warnings they are sounding of Armageddon’s approach. These are warnings that deserve careful examination—and should be heeded.
[Picture on page 4]
Hundreds, who refused to heed the warnings, took refuge in a church and lost their lives