A Storm Shelter

by Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: On May 20, 2013, a terrifying tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma, with peak winds reaching over 200 mph. On the ground for thirty-nine minutes, it chewed up a path 1.3 miles wide and seventeen miles long, killing twenty-four people and injuring 377. Only about 10 percent of homes in Moore had storm shelters, and only two of the city’s thirty-one schools. When the Plaza Towers Elementary School took a direct hit, seven children died.

If you want to strike up a conversation with a stranger, one of the easiest ways is to talk about the weather—especially the severe kind. Hazardous weather impacts tens of thousands of lives across the United States each year—floods, lightning strikes, hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes.

Tornadoes alone injure an average of 1,500 people each year and cause eighty deaths. Large twisters can lift homes off their foundations, uproot trees, demolish large buildings, and hurl vehicles hundreds of yards. The states with the highest number of EF5 tornadoes, the most powerful kind, include Alabama and Oklahoma, with an average of seven per year.

The safest place to be when a tornado strikes is in a storm shelter that provides refuge from the extreme wind and flying debris. Most storm shelters are underground bunkers, but some above-ground safe rooms are also used. According to FEMA, personal emergency planning and storm shelters save at least ten thousand lives each year.

Another Storm Is Coming
A growing fear among many is of a coming storm beyond anything imaginable. Some doomsday prophets predict nuclear holocaust that only preppers hiding in underground bunkers will survive. Others anticipate a breakdown in technology that will allow total anarchy to prevail.

Some businesses are capitalizing on these apocalyptic fears by selling specialty bunkers for a high price. These bomb-proof underground condos can house up to 1,000 people for over a year and are hidden beneath the prairies of the Midwest. They are selling like hotcakes.

Here is how one company is motivating some to buy into their survival shelters:

“We have all heard the prophecies of the ‘End Times.’ The Bible warns of it. Nostradamus foresaw it … and prophets throughout the ages all warn of the same epic global catastrophes. … We have been warned of Armageddon, Nibiru/Planet X, a sudden pole shift, future plagues, a solar kill shot, a super volcanic eruption. … We don’t know what, when, or where catastrophe will happen; but whether we want to believe it or not, it likely will. It is only a matter of time. We cannot deny that we are on the cusp of an increase in number and magnitude of events that may, in the twinkling of an eye, change the world, as we know it. … Millions will perish, or worse yet, struggle to survive as victims. … What will you do? Will you be a victim or a survivor? Vivos is your solution to ride out and survive these potential catastrophes.”

But will a bunker protect you from the biblical apocalypse? John the Baptist said, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7). In other words, “You can run, but you can’t hide from the Second Coming!”

The Bible speaks of a day when God’s wrath will be “poured out full strength” (Revelation 14:10). Whether you are in the International Space Station or in the deepest shelter under a mountain, you cannot seclude yourself from the Day of the Lord. Another prophet described the fruitless efforts of trying to escape on that day: “It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him!” (Amos 5:19).

Still, the Lord instructs us to hide—for a time. “My people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past” (Isaiah 26:20). What are we to make of this?

Wise Planning
Christians can feel conflicted about preparing for the time of the end. We want to trust the Lord, but we also want to prepare in a pragmatic way. What should we do with our savings? Where should we live? Some have sold their city homes and moved to the country—only to find that they could not make a living and had to move back to the city.

A “bunker” mentality has developed among some Christians that drives them to run for cover like prairie dogs—they are always diving underground, fearing the worst from every breaking news event. I think the devil likes to spook us about the end of time so that we will panic and abandon God’s work. That’s why, before making any drastic changes, we need to pray for God’s guidance.

At the same time, we should plan wisely for the time of the end. It’s always good to carefully invest our money for emergencies, but we shouldn’t hoard our funds. And if you are a city dweller, having some land in the country as a potential retreat in a national crisis isn’t a bad idea, but don’t quit your job and run for the hills on a whim after reading a scary news story. If God hasn’t opened a door for you, He may want to use you right where you are.

The story of Nehemiah gives us balance on living during challenging times. When God called Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he was met by severe opposition. The last thing the devil wanted him to do was build up the capital city as a beacon for God’s kingdom. The Israelites’ neighbors even threatened them with war.

At one critical point, Nehemiah learned that someone was planning his assassination and that he was advised to go into hiding. But Nehemiah refused to budge, believing God had miraculously opened a door for him to rally the people to rebuild Jerusalem. (See Nehemiah 6:11.) Thus, it was not God’s will that his servant should run away and hide in a bunker.

When the apostle Paul was warned not to go to Jerusalem for the fear of prison and persecution that awaited him, he replied, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). He risked everything to make evangelism a priority.

Satan delights in getting Christians to seclude themselves to save their own hides, losing their influence as salt and light in the world. Don’t fall for his trap!

A Time to Flee
There will come a time when we must seek shelter, however. Jesus warned His followers of the coming destruction of Jerusalem: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Luke 21:20, 21). He added, “Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house” (Matthew 24:17). It was like the advice angels gave Lot when fleeing from Sodom: “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you” (Genesis 19:17).

A time is coming when Christians living today must flee from society. What will be our signal to run? When the secular powers “surround” God’s people with religious laws and remove our freedom to worship.

That time has not yet come. And until then, Christians should not cry wolf. We are still free to worship and proclaim God’s truth. Like Nehemiah and Paul, we should be careful to not allow the devil to frighten us into withdrawing from the work God has placed before us. Satan knows that now is the best time for Christians to witness for Jesus. People are living in fear and searching for answers. This is not the time to hide like gophers in an underground bunker.

After his triumphant victory on Mount Carmel, Elijah was spooked by a threatening message from Jezebel. Without consulting the Lord and thinking his only priority was to save himself, he fled into the wilderness. But God sent him back into Israel to carry on the revival. When Christians think about saving themselves, they not only misrepresent the sacrificial life of Jesus but also lose a giant chance to witness. Such self-centered behavior is a catastrophic waste of evangelistic opportunity. When the people of the world are searching for safety from the coming storm, we need to be there to point them to Christ, the only refuge that will protect them in the end. We can’t do that if we’re hiding in a bunker.

We Have Shelter
When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, Moses demanded that Pharaoh let God’s people go. When the king stubbornly refused, the plagues began to fall, but God protected the Hebrew people through their storm.

The last plague to hit Egypt was the death of the firstborn. God explained that this tragic, frightening plague must come before His people would be delivered—and that there was only one way for them to be sheltered during this judgment.

The Passover was given as a sign of God’s saving power. After a lamb without blemish was slain, its blood was placed on the “two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses” (Exodus 12:7). Then, during the meal, “The Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you” (verse 23).

The experiences of ancient Israel are a foretaste of God’s protection for spiritual Israel—the church today. Revelation describes plagues befalling the earth. Just as the Israelites were, God’s people will be shielded from the “bowls of the wrath” (Revelation 16:1) and “come out of the great tribulation” because they have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). Through the blood of Christ, we can be immunized from the seven last plagues and sheltered from the angel of death.

Just as the Hebrews stood under the blood of the lamb within their homes, we must stand under the blood of Christ. If the Israelites wandered out of their homes, away from the shelter of God’s care, they were overtaken by the plague. But in the bunker of the Lord, they had nothing to fear. Neither do you!

Sheltered in the Ark
Perhaps the most famous Bible bunker story is that of the sheltering ark of Noah, in which he and his family could hide from the greatest storm that has ever struck the earth. I imagine that storm had it all—volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, howling winds, driving rain, crashing lightning and thunder. “He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle. … Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Genesis 7:23). It was the storm of the ages!

We can hardly imagine the horrible intensity that killed every living thing. The catastrophic tsunamis in our day simply don’t compare with what Noah and his family experienced. How could a wooden boat protect those eight from the explosive forces of nature that shifted the foundations of the earth? It took more than pitch and wood to provide a stormproof shelter; we know it took God’s miraculous care.

This story will be repeated. “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37). Someday the world will be destroyed by the power of His coming. Is there a stormproof shelter that will protect you from that day? Nothing made by humans will, as “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

Thus, for the Christian, safety is not found in a place, but in a person—Jesus Christ. I like the way Isaiah describes it: Christ “will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land” (Isaiah 32:2). We find our ultimate storm shelter by hiding in Jesus.

King David put it this way: “Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings” (Psalm 61:1–4).

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who survived the Holocaust of World War II, found Christ as her protector while struggling to survive with her sister Betsie in a Nazi concentration camp. Her famous book, The Hiding Place, was named after one of her favorite Bible verses: “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Psalm 119:114). During the war, Corrie once asked her sister if they could ever feel safe again. Betsie, who would die in the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp just two days before liberation, replied, “The safest place in the world is to be in the center of God’s will.”

Just before Christ returns, when the world is in upheaval and Satan’s forces are bent on destroying all of God’s people, you do not need to be afraid. Your most secure storm shelter will be doing God’s will. Do not run and hide before that time. We have an important work to do in guiding fearful people to the safe arms of Jesus.

Let’s prepare for the coming storms by standing under the blood of the Lamb!

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