When a massive hurricane rolls across the ocean toward land, bands of the storm often go well ahead of the storm itself. It’s almost as if the storm has arms. Satellite images show these bands spinning out from the main storm. When one of them hits land, surf and winds rise. Rain increases. But between the bands, skies can be clear. It might start to look like a good day to go to the beach. People look at the sky and say, “See, it’s not so bad.”
Meanwhile, further out, the heart of the storm keeps churning, growing, and moving ominously closer to land.
That’s something like the way Jesus described events as the end of the age approaches. He said it would be like a woman in labor. As her time of delivery approaches, contractions become more severe, grow longer, and happen at closer intervals. One minute she’s laughing with family and the next she’s in agony.
The Lord was very specific about life having a sense of normalcy even as the end approaches. In Luke 17:26-27, Jesus said, “As it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
Today, we live between the bands of the storm. People do all the things that people normally do. Some of those things are small like eating and drinking, going to school, to work, and to the dentist. They have little concerns like making it to their next appointment on time. The big things also continue — marrying and giving in marriage, buying houses, deciding where to live and what to do for a living.
Sometimes we look up and see the storm’s outer bands. But sometimes we look up into a blue sky. Either way, the alarm has sounded, and the storm is coming. God’s watchmen on the wall have called out their warnings. Those warnings are two-fold and at first sound contradictory. “Take shelter now and prepare to be evacuated!”
“Take shelter” means take shelter in Christ. Psalms 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Verse 10 adds, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.”
But how do you take shelter and prepare to be evacuated at the same time? The first sounds like you’re preparing for the long haul and the other sounds like you’re getting ready to get out of here. Notice the wording. We’re not preparing to evacuate. We’re preparing to be evacuated. Jesus Himself will come for His Church before the heart of the storm reaches us.