On Saturday, January 13 around 8:10 AM, residents and visitors of the state of Hawaii errantly received an emergency alert notification on their mobile phones which read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Thirty-eight minutes later a follow-up message, cancelling the original message, was finally sent which said, “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.” Apparently, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency was conducting a shift-change drill at the emergency command post, which it habitually does three times a day, and an employee accidentally pushed the button that sent the alert rather than the button that simply tested the alert.
Although this alert was the result of human error, it was nonetheless real for citizens of Hawaii who entered a state of panic. According to reports, motorists parked inside the Interstate H-3 tunnel that runs beneath the Ko’olau Mountains. Video surfaced of parents escorting their children to shelter beneath manhole covers. Families huddled in bathtubs, patrons gathered under restaurant tables, and tourists were instructed to stay indoors. The panicked response seemed natural for residents of Hawaii, considering the fact that it is the only state in the union to be directly attacked by a sovereign foreign nation since the beginning of the twentieth century and it is the state closest to North Korea whose leader has conducted numerous ballistic missile tests and earlier this month announced the presence of a “nuclear button” on his desk. According to The Washington Post, “Hawaii reinstated its Cold War-era nuclear warning” system back in November “amid growing fears of an attack by North Korea.” So, residents of the island nation were already living with a heightened state of fear prior to the inadvertent emergency alert notification, and, for a few minutes on an otherwise pleasant Saturday morning, everyone residing on that chain of islands assumed that death was imminent.
The situation causes me to wonder what I would have done if I were there and received that emergency alert notification. Officials indicate that in the event this were a real attack, residents of Hawaii “would have as little as 12 minutes to find shelter once an alert was issued.” So, I can’t help but wonder what would have been my focus for the next twelve minutes as I awaited my own end. Would I have focused on trying to contact loved ones? Would I have focused on finding shelter? Would I have focused on assisting others? Would I have focused on my relationship with God? If I assumed that I only had twelve minutes left to live, what would I do? What would you do?
The situation experienced by residents of Hawaii on January 13, 2018 is reminiscent of the situation that Scripture depicts for residents of this world. The Bible warns that there is a day coming when “the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). This statement should serve as our emergency alert notification even though it was penned nearly two millennia ago because through it the Bible is warning us of the destruction that is awaiting this world one day.
Now, this is not entirely bad news as was the case in the Hawaii incident. The end of this world will coincide with the second coming of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:24), and, at that time, Jesus will escort the saved to a new home in heaven where they will reside with God for eternity (John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Hebrews 9:27-28). That’s absolutely good news for those who have entered a saved state! And such a state is attainable by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8) when one repents of his or her sins and is baptized for the forgiveness of those sins (Acts 2:38). However, those who have not entered such a state will face an alternative destination that is described as a place of “darkness,” which indicate loneliness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), a place of “fire,” which indicates pain (Matthew 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8-9; 25:41), and a place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” which indicates remorse (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 2:13; 24:51; 25:30, 41). Therefore, each of us should consider whether or not we have received salvation.
In addition to this warning, the Bible indicates that the timing of this final destruction and Jesus’ return is unknown. When asked by His disciples “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3), Jesus’ response was, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). As a result, the coming of the day on which these things are to happen is repeatedly compared to the coming of a “thief” throughout the New Testament (Matthew 24:42-43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15). Since a thief does not inform his victims of when he plans to arrive, the point of this comparison is to emphasize the unexpected timing of the day on which Christ returns and the world is destroyed. In other words, it will arrive without warning. Therefore, we should be on high alert, living as though the end is imminent. That is why Scripture places so much emphasis on preparedness. Such an emphasis is evident in the Parable of the Faithful Servant (Matthew 24:45-51), which is preceded by Jesus’ instruction to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). The emphasis on preparation is also evident in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), which concludes with Jesus’ instruction to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13). Based on such teachings, we can conclude that Jesus expects us to be prepared for His return, and that’s not an unreasonable request since He already prepared for our presence in heaven (John 14:2-3). Therefore, each of us needs to consider whether or not we are ready for the end because, for all we know, we only have twelve minutes left to live.