Behold, I am coming
quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to
what he has done.
torpedo can't get to the Lusitania - she runs too fast."
Lusitania's Captain Turner's response to German threats three days prior
to being sunk by the u-boat U-20.
Biblical authority and
man concludes with this thought: the Bible is arguably the word of the
one true God. Archaeological, philological, and literary evidences firmly
substantiate that what we read today in the Bible is that which was written
long ago. These writings are furthermore supported as valid and truthful
by many fields of study including history, astronomy, geology, biology,
and more. The writings indicate repeatedly and with clarity that Jesus
Christ is Lord. That same Jesus Christ - the Word - is beyond question
the divine authority before whom every moment of our life is playing out
in grand detail.
5.2 The story of the S.S.Titanic: welcome aboard.
The drama of life in
the presence of the Word returns us to the ocean
liner analogy with which this study began. Although the ocean liner
Titanic has become a euphemism for spectacular disaster, Titanic's tragic
fate was not the result of any singularly spectacular cause. The seeds of
the enormous ship's doom were sown in many surprisingly subtle and invisible
ways; the scraping of the iceberg being the only apparent cause at the time.
The Titanic is properly
remembered as a pyramid of small mistakes, misplaced priorities,
complacency, carelessness, and bad judgments; all of which cascaded into
a very avoidable loss of life. Consider how various sets of details within
Titanic's saga curiously parallel humanity's position before God and the
5.3 The nature of the crew.
- Captain E. J. Smith
had been wired messages by other ships about ice in the area, but he distrusted
the credibility of messages delivered by wireless technology.
- The White Star Line's
representative believed that breaking the company's previous ocean-crossing
record was of greater concern than cautious sailing after dark.
- The Marconi operators
were preoccupied with many tasks, and only forwarded a fraction
of the incoming ice warnings they had received.
- The lookouts failed
to locate the binoculars they were to have ready for their evening
It is easy to look back
on those individuals and say to ourselves what fools they were for the mistakes
they made, but many of us act no differently when it comes to God and the
Bible. Like the captain, many nonbelievers distrust the Bible without even
considering the facts for its case; and like the White Star Line's representative,
they end up prioritizing temporal goals at eternal expense.
Believers, too, have
their parallels to the Titanic's crew. The lack of dedication among certain
believers to their professed faith resembles the inaction of the Marconi
operators. They are not sharing the message they have received with the
people who need to hear it - the message of Jesus Christ. One reason believers
don't share the message of Christ is that, like the lookouts, they aren't
in possession of their chief tool: the basic knowledge of God's Word, something
that should always be at their side.
5.4 The nature of the danger.
The iceberg that lay
in the ship's path turned out to be what was called black ice or a blackberg
- an iceberg that had become inverted and consequently protruded clear ice
up into the dark moonless night instead of the expected snowy white appearance.
A blackberg is not what anyone expected to see. It was very difficult
for the lookouts to spot and, by the time they saw it, it was too late.
The nature of a blackberg
is like the nature of Christ's return. If you are not looking, or don't
know what to look for, it won't be seen until it is too late. Those who
don't believe that Christ is the resurrected Savior don't expect to see
him. His return is not something they're watching for. But for those who
know him and do know what to look for, Christ's return is a spectacular
Also consider the fact
that the blackberg was not spotted because the lookouts were not looking
at the ocean through their binoculars. Similarly, nonbelievers cannot
spot the certainty of Christ's return because they are not looking at the
world through the binoculars of Scripture. One of the specific blessings
of Scripture is its ability to help us to see the certainty of Christ's
coming through the fog of our uncertainties and emotions. God allows this
assurance precisely so that we who believe will not be caught off guard
as will those who don't expect his return (1 Thes. 5:4).
When Christ does come,
his sudden presence will be as undeniable as that iceberg, and the course
our lives are on will determine if seeing him will be a beautiful experience
or the specter of imminent disaster.
5.5 The nature of the ship.
Below the waterline,
the hull sections of the ship had been cast with manganese impurities
many months before. Unknown at the time, these impurities result in extreme
brittleness when subjected to frigid temperatures; temperatures common to
the icy north-Atlantic. When the Titanic sideswiped the iceberg, the iceberg
intermittently hammered or cut a pencil-thin line across the length of six
water-tight compartments; compartments which, like an ice cube tray, had
no water-tight tops. Water slowly began to fill the ship.
Like those unseen impurities,
the sinful nature we are born with taints all of us with imperfection in
every aspect of our being. We may not feel weakened by sin, but those weaknesses
remain hidden until we're put to some kind of test. When the icy waters
of a stressful job or a stormy relationship tasks our patience, a conflict
suddenly flares up. We then find ourselves saying things we didn't want
to say, or acting in a manner we later regret.
The Bible reveals that
sin has not only tainted humanity in this way, but also all of creation.
That's why it, too, will be destroyed at Christ's coming and recreated in
perfection with all God's people.
5.6 Discovering the problem.
The collision at the
bow of the Titanic went almost unnoticed in the further reaches of
the ship. The ship was so large that the second officer explored several
decks immediately after the collision and reported that there had been no
This false security
that stemmed from a lack of visible and immediate damage is much
like humanity's general failure to recognize that actions have consequences;
specifically, that every sin brings destruction on some kind of scale, large
Of course, when a sin
is committed, whether it be a white lie or murder, there is no lightning
strike or booming voice from above shouting, "Now you'll pay!". This lack
of immediate retribution is sometimes misinterpreted as an indication that
neither will there be any punishment or consequence to follow.
Although God is aware
of what the absence of any immediate response will do ("When the sentence
for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled
with schemes to do wrong" Ecc. 8:11 NIV), God is a gracious and patient
judge who desires that people make a full and uninterrupted testimony before
pronouncing his final judgment on them.
Even when one person
murders another, God has no need to rush to get the offender or even to
prevent the murder from happening. For God is the Supreme Creator. There
is nothing that one person's testimony can take away from another that God
cannot restore a hundred fold, including life and everything in it.
5.7 Acknowledging the problem.
When damage reports
did start coming in, the ship's stewards were urgently commissioned to go
door to door in order to inform the passengers of the situation. Though
it was a time consuming process, personal contact was necessary because
the Titanic preceded the advent of public address systems or emergency lights.
The stewards evangelized,
as it were, their gospel of the ship's condition to the passengers. Certain
stewards took it upon themselves not to inform the socially less-desirable
steerage-class passengers. Among the passengers who were informed, some
believed and responded, but many others doubted and waited. Survivors recount
that it was curiosity that initially drew people onto the decks more so
than any belief that the ship was actually in trouble.
The effort to alert
the passengers to the ship's condition is similar to the efforts of evangelists
like Billy Graham or Luis Palau, or of ordinary persons who share the gospel
one-on-one. What is also similar are the variety of responses given by people
when they hear of the coming day of wrath. The gospel of Jesus Christ is
not always welcome news, but those who have heard the message and believed
are always grateful to God for whatever measures he employed in rescueing
The sad similarity to
the ship's stewards who would not tell certain people of the ship's condition
are believers who won't share the gospel for one reason or another. Out
of arrogance, some believers consider themselves deserving of God's mercy
and feel no compulsion to share the news of Christ with people or groups
they judge to be undeserving
or too disinterested in God. And out of fear of what others will think of
them, or just complacency, other believers will not even share those blessings
or events with which the Lord blesses them daily.
Just as history frowns
upon the wicked stewards who neglected to warn certain passengers of the
Titanic's condition, God warns that neither will he look favorably upon
believers who keep his message to themselves (Ezek. 33:5-6).
5.8 Acting on the problem.
A musical ensemble gathered
on deck and began playing; ragtime music interspersed with Christian hymns.
The surface decks soon became a montage of every different nationality,
social standing, age, religion, and gender. Some people scrambled for positions
in lifeboats while others, in stark contrast, refreshed their cocktails
and returned below. Against this mixed background, the first lifeboats were
launched while only one-third to one-half full.
Everyone on the Titanic's
deck, regardless of race, wealth, education, or skills faced the same danger
though not everyone realized it. All of humanity, likewise, faces the same
spiritual position: each of us has sinned and, to different degrees, gone
our own way instead of God's. Of course, not everyone agrees that is the
case. Thus, like Titanic's passengers, everyone is making different appraisals
of the same situation.
Certain believers are
so fixated on the coming day of judgment that they act as though having
abandoned all reason and tact when interacting with nonbelievers. Certain
nonbelievers, meanwhile, are so complacent about even the possibility of
eternal eventualities that they scoff at the message of the cross. They're
contentedly returning to their cabins of unconcern, interpreting any rising
water in their lives as an aberration in an otherwise harmless world of
"to each his own".
Both sides, the church
and the world, have problems that are exemplified by the tragic detail of
the lifeboats that sailed away unfilled. The lesson for the church is to
maintain gentleness and respect for everyone, preach the Word to the whole
world, and do everything God commands to further his kingdom and make disciples.
This includes reaching out to people who come from the "less desirable"
backgrounds such as divorce, dependency, incarceration, or homosexuality
- "such were some of you" (1 Cor. 6:11).
The lesson for the world
is much simpler: today is the day of salvation; receive God's forgiveness
while he is there to receive you.
5.9 The abruptness of the end.
Officers on board Titanic
expected those initial lifeboats would return for more passengers once it
became obvious that the ship was going down. While doubt still existed among
passengers on deck, it was very apparent from the vantage point of the lifeboats
that the big ship was doomed. Light could be seen flooding out of portholes
beneath the waterline, and the ship's stern was slowly beginning to cantilever
out of the water. The band's songs such as Nearer My God to Thee
were progressively being drowned out by the screams of nearly 1,500 persons
still on board; two-thirds of the ships occupants.
Reportedly, one lifeboat
officer commented on refusing to return his boat to rescue more passengers,
"It's our boat now, not theirs". Multiple boiler explosions and the
screeching of tearing metal tearing eclipsed the pandemonium on deck. Very
quickly after this point, the ship disappeared below the surface of the
water and began its irreversible descent to the bottom.
There comes a time in
life when it is too late to take a certain course of action; a time when
opportunities are lost and there are no more second chances. The opportunity
to follow and serve God is right now and continues until the moment of your
death. The importance of taking advantage of this opportunity might not
be appreciated by those unfamiliar with humanity's position before God,
but from the perspective of being in the Church, the world's desperate need
of the Lord is very clear.
One matter of great
concern today is a growing complacency about ungodliness - both outside
and inside the church. Seeing complacency in the unsaved world is like watching
people partying on the ever-increasing tilt of the Titanic's deck; people
oblivious to the rising waterline. But seeing complacency inside a church
is as angering as seeing sparsely filled lifeboats not bothering to return
to save additional passengers.
"What did you do
for those you left behind?" the rescuing ship's captain likely asked
those of the lightly filled boats. "What did you do for those you left behind?"
God may similarly inquire of believers at the judgment.
5.10 The living and the dead.
For the next thirty
minutes or so, the surviving lifeboats were engulfed in the sounds of weeping
and screaming in the near total darkness of a moonless night; a darkness
pierced only by weak lanterns from the lifeboats. Survivors scanned about,
desperate to know "Who made it?" Then, there was only silence
and darkness and cold.
The next few hours probably
passed like an eternity. As dawn approached, the weak lights of the lifeboats
waned in the greater light of the morning sun. Once in full light, it was
the survivors' fears which waned with the beautiful sight of an approaching
ship - the Carpathia.
When the Carpathia picked
up the lifeboats, only a scant one-third of the Titanic's inhabitants had
survived. Thanks to their survival and their sharing of the preceding details,
the world would have yet another opportunity to learn from the past.
The end of the world
which the Bible describes is so similar to this final scene that a detailed
comparison almost need not be made. Substitute icy waters with what the
apostle John described as a lake of fire and all the essential elements
of the last day are right there. The great, dawning light of the world is
Jesus Christ. He comes to seek and to save us. This light from him is the
light every believer has been given to reflect. But even the best of our
reflections will pale in comparison to his goodness once he appears in his
fullness over the horizon.
At his coming, everyone
will be judged, but the lost and the saved will be eternally separated.
For the unbelievers, there will be the tragic irony of being sentenced to
live as independently of God as they had lived on earth. Only they will
finally see that God had been the source of all the delight, contentment,
and good things that they had been seeking everywhere but in his companionship.
For the believers, their
excitement is described by the Bible as that of a bride or bridegroom on
their wedding day. Though the quality of each believers' work will be tested,
the fright of judgment will end with God forever wiping away their tears
and welcoming them into a union with him that will never end.
5.11 The sum of humanity's best efforts.
Did humanity learn from
the lesson of the Titanic? Well, only a few short years after the Titanic's
sinking, there were assurances that no disaster of that magnitude would
ever happen again. Someone made the fateful comment that although the Titanic
had been nicknamed "Unsinkable", the truly unsinkable ship had
been crafted thanks to lessons learned and to engineers' improved efforts.
The name of that ship was...the Lusitania.
Fast forward in time
to May 7 of 1915: Lusitania's lifeboats did little good as that ship sunk
in eighteen minutes. Although the Lusitania's antagonist was not an iceberg
but one or two torpedoes from a German submarine, Lusitania's story is an
amazingly similar pyramid of inconsequential actions and decisions which
all added up to disaster. Of the 1,962 passengers and crew that set sail
from New York, sailing in spite of advertised German warnings that any British
or allied ship approaching the English Channel would be sunk, only 764 survived.
The Lusitania's addition
to the Atlantic floor eased the suffering of Titanic's victims in much the
same manner as some believe there is comfort in going to hell with their
friends - no comfort at all. And the Lusitania's permanent exile to the
sea bed reinforces the same lessons that should be learned from the Titanic:
the need to see, recognize, and avoid the dangers of arrogance, complacency,
and misplaced security.
For you and me, the
lesson is a spiritual one. We must see our need to obtain the forgiveness,
power, and guidance of God, recognize that Jesus alone has accomplished
this for us on the cross, and believe that his loving sacrifice has saved
us from condemnation and has brought us into an everlasting relationship
5.12 We have a responsibility.
As was the case for
the Titanic, a large part of the responsibility for seeing that everyone
hears of the free gift of eternal life through belief in Jesus Christ lies
with the stewards. This is because salvation begins with the Holy Spirit
who draws people to God; and it is largely the people who desire and obey
God and who are filled with God's Spirit whom the Spirit will use. Those
loving, obedient, Spirit-filled believers are the good stewards.
Each good steward needs
to be the vigilant watchman that God has commissioned him or her to be.
They must not be forgetful of their preparedness, but be familiar with the
Word that will make them "thoroughly equipped for every good work," (2 Tim.
3:17b). They must remember to view the world through the binoculars of the
Scripture rather than trusting their own imperfect eyes, and persistently
proclaim the good
news of Jesus Christ; if not door-to-door and cabin-to-cabin, then
just by the silent but powerful testimony of godly living.
Followers of Christ
are also to share the Word with everyone; never presumptuously judging who
deserves the gospel and who does not. They are to remember that their particular
church and denomination do not belong to them, but to God. The believing
churches and denominations are God's appointed lifeboats which must always
be prepared and willing to receive the lost. This should be easy to remember
for there is no one in God's church, save for God himself, who did not get
there by first stepping off his or her own ship of unbelief.
The Word is the glorious
presence of God. May every reader who opens the Word hear the Master's voice
in every passage. For there is no greater authority, no greater confidence,
no more blessed assurance that one can have than knowing through the Holy
Bible, God has spoken.
NEXT: The prehistory of English translations
Public Law 97-280