The Bible provides some important safeguards to prevent us from either under-reacting or over-reacting to major tragedies and world events such as the recent massacre in Paris. First consider Matthew 16:3 where Jesus scolded the Pharisees and Sadducees for ignoring important trends: “You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times.” Later Jesus warns “Be on your guard . . . or that day will come on you unexpectedly like a trap” (Luke 21:34-35a).
Similarly, the Apostle Peter warned: “First, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, living according to their own desires, saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation'” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
On the other hand, Jesus recognized that there would be those who would over-react to specific world events – misinterpreting them as the fulfillment of specific prophecies. For instance, a well-known Christian leader insisted on blaming Hurricane Katrina on homosexual practices. In Matthew 24:6-8 Jesus gave us a caution:
You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these events are the beginning of birth pains.
Jesus referred to a local disaster of his day to make a similar point:
At that time, some people came and reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And He responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well! Or those 18 that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed – do you think they were more sinful than all the people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well” (Luke 13:1-5).
Jesus taught that major tragedies and natural disasters are a normal, predictable aspect of our human experience. They should serve as reminders of our fallen world and need for God as we pray “Thy Kingdom come …” As we look forward to the return of Jesus and ultimate deliverance from evil, as His followers we must focus on walking in God’s will as I explain in Principle #53 in the Life Essentials Study Bible on page 1331 in Matthew, “Even though we do not know when Jesus Christ will remove believers from this world, we are to prepare ourselves by faithfully living in His will.”