The Gatlinburg Fire and the “Day of the Lord”

Last Monday night, as Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains that I had visited many times in my life burned, I saw a very clear picture of the “Day of the Lord.” I remember picking up my 12 and 8 year old boys from school that day. They looked up at the dark smoky clouds from miles away and said that the sky looked apocalyptic. That is not a common word for boys their age. The older said he heard it from movies, but I had hoped he may have heard it in a sermon. Apocalypse can mean the same thing as Revelation, as in the book of Revelation in the Bible. If you have ever read that book, the dark and disturbing images describing the end of the world in it had some eery matches to that fateful night in my east Tennessee mountains. Another way of referring to the apocalypse or Revelation is “The Day of the Lord.”

Do you know about the Day of the Lord? Is it possible that you don’t know? I heard that phrase many times in the small church I attended in Tennessee as a kid. What disturbs me concerning the fact that many don’t know about it today is that the Bible actually prophesied 1,000s of years ago that many wouldn’t know about it before it would actually occur! Before the “Day of the Lord,” the Bible says that the majority of people, even though claiming a Christian faith, would not know the basic teachings of the Bible (Revelation 3:14-22, 2 Timothy 4:3-4, 2 Timothy 3). The world before Jesus returns will look much like the prophet Amos said when considering the future in Amos 8:11: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”

I was reminded of this future “Day” the most on the morning after the tragic fires in Gatlinburg, when a worker at the popular Sevierville attraction Dollywood, Isaac McCord, found a burnt page from a Bible just laying in the park while helping the House and Grounds team clean up after the disastrous night before.  This single page was under a bench soaking wet. Isaac said as he read it “Talk about goosebumps…”The passage has been shared by 168,592 people on Facebook as of this writing. The page was from the book of Joel and it had four verses on it that seemed to reflect the destruction of the night before (Joel 1:15,19-20,2:1):

joel

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I believe so many people were intrigued by this post because the Gatlinburg fires reminded us that God is in control and, to many of us East Tennesseans, we heard the voices of the old pastors who had warned us of the “Day of the Lord” in our youth. That is actually the entire theme of the book of Joel. Could it be that the Gatlinburg/Smoky Mountain fires were only a picture of the judgment God has for this world in the future? A preview?

The Day of the Lord?

Since some of you never heard the country preaching that I have or maybe just never studied the subject, in the Bible, the phrase “Day of the Lord” usually identifies events that take place at the end of history and is sometimes just called “the day.” The phrase is used nineteen times in the Old Testament and five times in the New Testament. It is also alluded to in several other passages. The bigger part of Revelation (ch. 4-22) documents the events that take place during that future time.

Even though it is called a day, it really references a much larger period of time. It actually lasts for 1,007 years. You might say that must be a mistake in the Bible! How can a day last 1,007 years? I think Peter explained that best in 2 Peter 3:8 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

From my study of scripture, here is a timeline for the “Day”…

  • The “Day” begins with the Rapture: a one-time event when all true believers will be brought to Heaven by Jesus before He begins His work of ending the world (1 Thess. 4:13-18)
  • …followed by a 7 year tribulation/Great Tribulation: Basically, God takes His world back with all the things you may have heard about in movies about the apocalypse (and some you may have not even imagined) (Matt. 24, Rev. 4-19),
  • …followed by a time called the Millenium: The 1,000 yr reign of Christ on this Earth which was promised to the Jewish people all throughout the Old Testament and is fulfilled in Revelation (Rev 20:1-6),
  • The “Day” ends with the Lake of Fire: God wipes all sin out by destroying the World by fire and then creating a new Heaven and a new Earth (Rev. 20:7-21:1, 2 Peter 3)

making it last for 1,007 years.

Now that you understand what I mean by the “Day of the Lord,” I want to share with you how Mr. McCord’s discovered Bible passage and the Gatlinburg fires reminded me of 3 very real truths about the “Day of the Lord”…

1. The Day of the Lord is Sudden! (Joel 1:15)

“Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.”

  • For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 1 Thessalonians 5:2
  • But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; 2 Peter 3:10a

“People were basically running for their lives,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner. Mark Benzschawel, a resident of the area said,”There was flames everywhere. It was a firestorm,”  He said police banged on his door Monday night to wake him and his wife. They barely escaped with clothes on their backs. (Park) A friend of mine named Phil Ogle had to walk out of his house that night, because his driveway was blocked and the fires had surrounded his home just minutes after he had come home for the evening to rest. He barely made it out alive!

When the Lord returns in the rapture, many people will not be ready because it will be sudden. The Bible says it will happen in “the blink of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). They will not be given a second chance  after it occurs either if they understood the gospel that was presented to them before that moment according to 2 Thessalonians 2:11. The Bible says that “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” Don’t think you can wait until the Lord returns to make things right. He has not given you that option!

2. The Day of the Lord is a Cleansing Fire! (19-20)

O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.

The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

  • “in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10b

Scott Frederick, an employee at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, shared photos of liquified aluminum wheels that occurred during the fire! “Imagine the sheer amount of heat required to liquefy aluminum rims, or a block,” said Frederick. “I can only imagine the inferno that was here when I took these pics.”According to EngineeringToolBox.com, aluminum will liquefy at 1221 degrees Fahrenheit (WATE 6).a-forest-fire-burning-the-smoky-mountain-scenery

When God send the fire on this world during the tribulation it will burn 2/3 of the earth according to Revelation 8:7, but that is not the complete burning that will occur later on referenced in 2 Peter 3 (above). That burning will occur when this world is completely burned up leaving a new heaven and new earth. What is being burned off the Earth you might ask?

  • Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. Isaiah 13:9
  • For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. Obadiah 15
  • For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: Isaiah 2:12
  • The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. Zephaniah 1:14

What is the Lord cleansing from the Earth? Sin and sinners. Does that mean our friends and neighbors in Gatlinburg were any worse sinners than us? A thousand times NO! Jesus had some Galileans ask him about a group who had faced both an unfortunate man-made and natural disastrous event once:

 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1-5)

Jesus point in saying except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.? We all deserve judgement as the Bible clearly states over and over: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). When a disaster happens, don’t think it happened to them because you are less sinful than they! Be reminded that it is a warning of a much worse judgment to come on this world in the future! When we see these heartbreaking events, we should be reminded to repent and recognize what is truly important in this short life!

3. The Day of the Lord is a Warning! (2:1)

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand;

Earlier in the evening, Gatlinburg police had been going door to door in different neighborhoods asking for voluntary evacuations. By 9 PM a mandatory evacuation was issued for downtown Gatlinburg. Judy Tucker, director of Sevier County’s E-911 call center said that at around 9 p.m.”We were just told by the Gatlinburg Fire Department that they had told everybody in Gatlinburg to get out,” unfortunately “… No one’s getting through to anyone. Phones are ringing and not being answered anywhere. It’s chaos.” (Dorman)

Many lost their lives that night because the destruction came quick and the warnings weren’t taken seriously by the residents when they were asked voluntarily. The knowledge of “Day of the Lord” that I have given you should cause us you to stop and ponder how you are living your life because, when that day comes, the time for pondering will be over. I want to leave you with two different take-aways from this, one if you are already a Christian and the other, if you are not one:

  • For the Christian: The apostle Peter told us long ago how this knowledge should affect us: 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2 Peter 3:11-13) This should change your attitude about how you are living Christian. God wants to reach the world! Is that your objective? Why not start living with eternity in mind instead of the next paycheck? All that will be left behind one day is those you won to Christ. Doesn’t that give you a different perspective about what is important?
  • For the Non- Christian: YOU don’t have to stay in the inferno that is to come! Joel went on to give a promise of escape: And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: (Joel 2:30-32) This promise is repeated in the New Testament: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Rom 10:13) Trust that Jesus has paid the price for your sins. You need only believe in His sacrifice for you on the cross as the most famous verse in the Bible says: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) My prayer is that you would pray that prayer of salvation today!

gatlinburg-fires-burn-smoky-mountains-threaten-dollywood-force-evacuations-video

References

Dorman, T. Ahillen. S. (2016, November 29). Wildfire leads to evacuation of downtown gatlinburg. Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2016/11/28/rain-just-what-east-tennessee-firefighters-ordered/94535434/

Park, M. (2016, November 29). Tennessee residents escape ‘firestorm’. CNN. Retrieved from
http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/29/us/gatlinburg-fires/

WATE 6. (2016, November 30). Gatlinburg fire liquefies car rims at Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort. WATE 6. Retrieved from http://wate.com/2016/11/30/gatlinburg-fire-liquefies-car-rims-at-westgate-smoky-mountain-resort/

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