Extreme Weather, Climate Change and Bible End Time Prophecy
If global temperature change is a primary parameter, then climate change is a reality. According to NASA, the mean global surface temperature (GST) has increased by about 1° Celsius since 1880, and two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975.
The main debate is between those who attribute this rise to man i.e. anthropogenic warming and those who attribute it to natural causes, such as solar irradiance change. In fact, natural causes may well be cooling the planet over recent years and long-term change may not be so drastic. Those who agree with the latter viewpoint might also point out the Biblical promise:
While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not ceaseGenesis 8:22
In other words, the natural cycle of things was promised to continue, and nothing special was meant to happen to the climate whilst man is around. Of course, man may well be upsetting what God had planned.
We should also distinguish between weather and climate. The difference between weather and climate is the timescale. ‘Weather’ refers to the atmospheric conditions over short periods of time (days), and ‘climate’ refers to atmospheric behaviour over relatively long periods of time (decades or centuries). In other words, ‘weather’ refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere – weather events.
Long-term climate change is not readily apparent in the Bible (although some point to scientific evidence supporting the view that long-term climate change is simply due to the earth emerging from an ice-age some 4000 years ago). On the other hand, there are good examples of God using relatively short weather events as a way of arresting man’s attention. Moreover, Bible prophecy says that He will do it again!
God’s Extreme Weather Control in the Past
Let’s consider some historical events:
According to Genesis, when God saw the violence and wickedness of man He was grieved in heart and vowed to destroy all but Noah and his family through a flood:
I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights”Genesis 6:4
As the Israelites wandered in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, God gave them the Ten Commandments, together with many sundry laws. He warned Israel to obey them and if they did not then one of the consequences would be drought;
The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you iron. And the Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust … (Deut 28:23-24)
If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain … (2 Chron 7:13)
But if they sought God and turned away from their rebellious ways, then God promised to ‘heal their land’ (2 Chron 7:14).
And when some Israelites returned from exile in Babylon, they were more interested in making nice houses than in the restoration of God’s house – the desolate temple. As a result, God caused drought, resulting in a lack of produce (Hag 1:11).
Violent Storms and Hail
The seventh plague of Egypt was severe hail. Because Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go, God said to Pharaoh:
I will send a very heavy hail … and the hail shattered every tree of the fieldExodus 9:18,25
When the kings of the Amorites attacked friends of Israel, Joshua’s army went up to defend them. It is recorded that God helped Israel by throwing large hailstones at the enemy:
… more died from the hailstones than those killed by the sons of IsraelJoshua 10:11
Later, the prophet Ezekiel challenged the false prophets of Israel, saying that God would judge them. The Lord spoke to these false prophets through Ezekiel, saying:
I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath … flooding rain and hailstones …Ezekiel 13:13
When Jonah tried to ignore God’s instructions by taking a boat trip, God sent ‘a great wind and storm’ (Jonah 1:4) that threatened to destroy the ship. Then, in New Testament times, God reversed the situation and calmed the wind and sea in order to save the disciples:
Jesus rebuked the wind and sea … and the wind died down and it became perfectly calmMark 4:39
Darkness and Gloom
The ninth plague of Egypt: when Pharaoh still refused to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, God said to Moses:
stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land … a darkness which may be felt … and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three daysExodus 10:21-22
Again, when Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon he challenged Israel to turn from their wicked ways, but he also spoke to the surrounding nations like Assyria and Egypt. He warned Egypt of God’s coming judgement, when clouds and darkness would be used as a way of arresting their attention. We read:
It will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nation … all the shining lights in heaven I will darken over you and will set darkness on your landEzekiel 30:3, 32:8
From these few examples we are left in little doubt that, in the past, God has used abrupt weather changes or weather events (not long-term climate changes) to arrest man’s attention.
Recent Extreme Weather Events
The Cost: One of the worst disasters in U.S. history, hurricane Katrina, caused an estimated $161 billion in damage in 2005. Global re-insurer Munich RE claimed that natural disaster losses for the first 9 months of 2011 totalled $310 billion, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 made new weather records. NOAA announced that there were 12 different weather disasters that each cost more than $1 billion at the time of the event. The previous record was nine in 2008. Such events included blizzards, wildfires and tornadoes. Flood damage for 2012 cost UK insurers about £1bn.
By 2020 the US had sustained 273 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. NOAA claim the total cost of these 273 events exceeds $1.790 trillion, link. Scientists blame ‘an unlucky combination of global warming and freak chance’!
Extreme Winds: 2013 will be remembered for apocalyptic weather across the globe. Super typhoon Haiyan hit the eastern Philippines with maximum sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts to 235 mph – one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. Powerful tornadoes carved a path of destruction across the US Midwest, with Washington being hit by winds of up to 200 mph.
Extreme Rains: In 2013 the Italian island of Sardinia, cyclone Cleopatra dumped nearly 50 cm of rain in just 24 hours – half the amount it normally receives in a year! In 2012 England had the wettest year since records began, with extreme flooding in the South. Torrential rain in July and December saw extreme flooding and repeated property damage across the UK. In January 2014 southern Britain saw its wettest winter month on record, and saw its largest wave ever (75 feet)! The highest ever rainfall recorded in UK was in December 2015 at Honister Pass in Lake District with 341.4 mm falling in 24 hours.
Extreme Cold: In 2010 the UK had the coldest December for 100 years [UK Met Office]. In 2018 (‘the beast from the east’) thick snow blanketed the UK and brought the average March temperature down a whole seven degrees. Rural areas experienced temperature lows of -12°C. In February 2021 Scotland experienced -23°C, and Texas had rare extreme cold – colder than Alaska!
Successive Extremes: The UK has seen three extreme Februaries in succession. February 2019 saw a winter heatwave when London reached 21.2 degrees C. February 2020 was the wettest on record in England. February 2021 saw minus 23 degrees C in Scotland and the river Thames froze over for the first time since 1963.
From these few examples we might conclude that global weather catastrophes appear to track global warming. In fact, detailed analysis shows that the number of reported global natural disasters have indeed increased from typically ten/year in the early 20th century to typically 350/year since 2000, link, link. Natural disasters include drought, floods, extreme weather, extreme temperature, landslides, dry mass movements, wildfires, volcanic activity and earthquakes.
God’s Extreme Weather Control in the Future
The Bible makes it quite clear that there will be a definite end to life as we know it. Earth’s governmental systems, economic and trading systems, animal kingdom, and even geology will all be changed at the Second Coming of Christ. Our current age is coming to a dramatic end as God deals with rebellious nations. And just before these changes, at the very end of this age, it seems God will intervene in Earth’s weather!
God’s will Protect Israel
Sometimes God uses weather events in a beneficial way. He says to Israel:
Whoever assails you will fall … no weapon that is formed against you will prosper (Isa 54.15,17)
In 2016 some claim God intervened in the Golan Heights to protect Israel from ISIS: “This strange storm of what appears to be dust, cloud and rain did NOT cross the border fence into Israel. It sat like a barrier between ISIS and Israel” [Israel News Online].
In the future, as God brings back His people from the nations and establishes them in their own land, He will also bless their land with the required rains. The wilderness turns green and becomes fruitful with the blessing of the required ‘early’ and ‘latter’ rains (Joel 2:21-27). In Israel the ‘first’ rains usually fall in early November, the ‘latter’ rains in April, corresponding to Autumn and Spring respectively.
Britain certainly has experienced weather extremes over recent decades. Many see Britain as a rebellious, post-Christian nation in danger of judgement, and, as discussed, extreme weather is one form of judgement. See Prophecy over Britain, 2011. But Britain could be just one example of how God will use extreme weather events to exact a series of judgements on the Gentile nations! Recall:
For when the earth experiences Your judgements the inhabitants of the world learn righteousnessIsaiah 26:9
These are more likely to be severe ‘weather events’ rather than long-term ‘climate changes’ simply because of the relatively short prophetic timescale involved.
An idea of these changes is described in Isaiah. Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah are sometimes called ‘Isaiah’s Apocalypse’ since they describe God’s judgement upon the entire world for its sin. They also correlate well with judgements on the earth described in Revelation. Consider:
Drought and Scorching Heat
One of the judgements predicted by Isaiah appears to be drought:
The earth will be completely laid waste … the earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers…Isaiah 24:3-4
Drought is one of the consequences of disobedience (Deut 28:23-24)(Zech 14:17). Another form of judgement prophesied by Isaiah appears to be extreme heat – heat severe enough to kill people:
Therefore … the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are leftIsaiah 24:6
The book of Revelation appears to speak of the same end time events and predicts extreme weather as part of God’s judgement upon the nations. There will be fierce, scorching heat:
The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire. Men were scorched with fierce heat …Revelation 16:8-9
Extreme Weather: Storms, Torrential Rain, Snow and Hail
When questioned about the end of the age, Jesus hints at wild weather:
There will be … dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the wavesLuke 21:25
The root meaning of the Greek in this verse can mean nothing else but literal sea and literal waves. The word ‘roaring’ comes from the Greek ‘echeo’ meaning ‘to make a loud noise’. Hurricanes and coastal flooding spring to mind. Torrential rain is also prophesied:
For the windows above [the floodgates of the heavens, NIV] are opened …Isaiah 24:18
The word ‘windows’ here is the same as in Genesis 7:11, and denotes an opening, like a sluice or floodgate. It seems that torrential rain, as experienced at the Flood, will also feature at the end of this age as part of God’s judgements on the rebellious nations.
Then there’s the future Gog-Magog War. At some point in the future (biblical timing here is uncertain), it seems Iran, together with other Islamic nations, will invade Israel from the north (Ezekiel 38). But just as God intervened to release Israel from the grips of Pharaoh, so He will intervene to protect Israel from the invading armies. As with Joshua (see above), the weather plays an important part in their defeat:
I will rain on him (Gog) and on his troops … a torrential rain, with hailstones …Ezekiel 38:22
Hail features high on the weather ingredients list at the end of the age. It is part of God’s judgement upon the nations. Besides fierce heat there will be extreme hail and snow storms:
Or have you entered the storehouses of the snow … which I have reserved for the time of distress … (Job 38:22-23)
and huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men … (Rev 16:8-9,21)
Clearly, God intends to use short-term weather events to influence world affairs in the future. Since there is clear Biblical support for God’s control of past and future weather, it is logical to ask ‘Is God beginning to speak through the severe weather events seen today?’ How close are we to these future events?
Is God Speaking via Climate Change
or via Severe Weather Events?
Climate change is hotly debated. Certainly some effects associated with climate change have been observed over the last century:
- The world warmed by about 0.8 degree C
- Most glaciers retreated
- Sea level rose about 9 inches
- Water tables fell significantly (China: 1.5m/year, India: 1-3m/year)
But who or what is responsible is another matter: is it anthropological warming as proposed by the IPCC, or simply natural causes? This discussion is summarised here. The natural view has good support and is summarised below:
- Global warming correlates well with solar irradiance change
- Cloud cover is one of the key factors determining whether we have global warming or global cooling
- There is significant correlation between cloud cover (which affects temperature) and cosmic rays
- Temperature rise and CO2 increase seem weakly correlated
- CO2 increase lags temperature increase – sometimes by hundreds of years
- Temperature rise due to CO2 increase seems hard to detect
- All anthropogenic greenhouse sources contribute only about 0.3% to the Greenhouse Effect
- Glacier retreat commenced some 150 years before sharp CO2 rise
- Sea levels started rising some 100 years before sharp CO2 rise
Summarising: very long-term climate change may simply be due to emergence from the last ice-age. And any climate change observed during the last few decades of the 20th century could be attributed in the main to increased solar activity and the resulting reduced cloud cover.
ConclusionGiven the uncertainty as to the cause of climate change, we might consider climate change as part of God’s end-time scenario. In other words:
It is God who is controlling the climate!In fact, according to Bible prophecy it may be more logical to watch for ‘extreme weather events’ rather than long-term ‘climate change’ since end-time events seem short-term. From the Bible we can say with certainty that:
- God has used the weather to influence nations and individuals in the past
- Bible prophecy says that God will use severe weather events to ‘speak’ to the nations at the end of this age
- Prophetic signs and the state of the world suggest the end of this age is imminent
Now the Good News
There is no need to worry! Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ are eternally safe in the hands of the living God:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16)
You do not have to go through the extremes of these end time judgements (the ‘wrath’ of God). The Bible promises all those who put their trust in Jesus Christ will be exempt from ‘the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world’ (Rev 3:10). Many believe that those who trust in Christ will be rescued from what is coming, just like Noah before the Flood. Jesus said that at the end of this age:
There shall be two men in the field: one will be taken, and one will be left
Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken, and one will be left (Mat 24:40-41)
Don’t delay, put your trust in Jesus and receive His peace, forgiveness and security in an insecure world.