Failure to heed a warning may prove harmful, even fatal. We have all sorts of warning lights and bells on the dash of our automobiles to warn us if we are getting low on oil or gasoline or the engine is overheating, or if you don’t have your seatbelt on, or a door is not shut, etc. Warnings are given on the radio and television of the approach of severe thunderstorms or snow storms. Warning sirens go off to warn of approaching tornadoes or hurricanes. We can choose to ignore the warnings, but we must then face the consequences for our choice.
On January 27, 1986, Robert Ebling called his boss with a warning. He and four fellow engineers concluded that their project contained a weakness that could prove fatal, particularly in below-freezing temperatures. However, because the project had already suffered costly delays, his superiors ignored the warning. The next day they forged ahead with the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Only 73 seconds into its flight, the shuttle exploded due to a failure of the O-rings, and all seven astronauts aboard were killed!
The Bible records numerous accounts of those who disregarded warnings and incurred calamitous consequences. God has given us warnings in nature of imminent danger from storms such as a sudden drop in barometric pressure, or warnings in the sky: “Red skies at night—sailor’s delight; red skies in morning—sailors take warning!” God often sent prophets to warn people of coming judgment if they did not repent of their evil, idolatrous ways. When Noah built the ark, he continued to warn people of the coming judgment of a flood. People had plenty of time to repent for it took Noah 120 years to build the ark (Gen. 6:3), but only eight people got on that ark before “God shut the door” (Gen. 7:16) and the rest perished in the world-wide flood (II Pet. 2:5).
Two angels were sent to earth along with “The Angel of the LORD” (pre-incarnate Christ) to tell Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son in a year and to warn Abraham of the coming destruction of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18). Abraham whose nephew Lot lived in Sodom, pled with God to spare the cities if there could be found there 50 righteous people…or 45…or 40…or 30…or 20…or, “suppose ten are found there?” Lot was a believer for he is referred to in II Pet. 2:7 as “righteous Lot,” but apparently he had been influenced by the lifestyle in Sodom rather than being a godly influence on the people who lived there and there were not even 10 righteous who could be found, so the cities were destroyed, but first the two angels went to warn Lot and told him to take his family and flee the city. Lot had two daughters who were soon to be married. The account in Genesis says: “And Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, ‘Up, get out of this place, for the LORD will destroy the city.’ But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting” (Gen. 19:14). Tragically, Lot’s lifestyle didn’t lend to others believing him when he related what the LORD told him, and only he and his wife and daughters left the city, and only by the angels taking them by the hand and physically taking them out of the city. They then told them, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you…escape to the mountains” (v. 17). But Lot’s wife, whose heart was really in Sodom, “from behind him. looked back; and she became a pillar of salt” (v. 26).
In contrast, when God sent the prophet Jonah (after much persuasion!) to the wicked city of Nineveh (in modern-day Iraq) to warn them of coming judgment, they repented and God spared them. So often when God sent his prophets to warn, the pride, arrogance, and greed of hard hearts had deafened people to the warning. Rather than repenting, they remained “stiff-necked”—a favorite biblical description (cf Acts 7:51; II Cron. 30:8; Jer. 7:26)—even when it meant forging headlong into disaster. This tendency to discount warnings that require costly change makes Nineveh’s response to Jonah even more extraordinary. A foreigner miraculously arrived—probably foul smelling and bleached out after having spent three days in the belly of a great fish!—proclaiming the impending judgment of a God who, in all likelihood, the Ninevites hardly knew about. And yet, they not only heard his warning but also heeded it. Donning sackcloth and proclaiming a fast, the king ordered the people to “call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked ways and from the violence which is in his hands” (Jon. 3:8).
After the judgment of the Flood of Noah, God promised He would never again “send a flood to destroy the earth” and gave us the rainbow as a sign of His promise (Gen. 9:8-13). But the Bible warns of another coming judgment of the earth which will lead to the eternal state. He will destroy the earth, not by a flood, but by fire. Many people today say as they observe the evil, suffering, and corruption in the world, “My, what’s this world coming to?” Well, the Bible clearly tells us. God is going to judge mankind once and for all and warns us—just as he warned Noah’s contemporaries, the inhabitants of Sodom and the Ninevites—of the need to repent, to turn from our evil ways and turn to Him. The Bible tells us that Jesus is coming back to earth, this time not to give His life as a ransom for sin, but as Judge of all the earth. But many mock the promise of His coming, saying “all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation. For (but) when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water (creation), through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (II Pet. 3:3-7).
God always gives a warning before He sends judgment. It is man’s choice to heed or ignore the warning. God is also very patient, giving us many opportunities to repent and turn to Him. In fact, that is why He hasn’t returned yet. Peter goes on to write: “The Lord is not slow about His promise (of returning), as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).
If you have yet to trust Christ for eternal life, you still have that opportunity. But one day that opportunity will end. Peter writes: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which 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. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (vv. 10,11). Just as in the days before the flood when Noah preached of the coming judgment, there was a day when he and his family entered the ark and the door was closed by God. It was then too late for those who had mocked Noah. They all perished. While God is patient, “not wishing that any perish but for all to come to repentance,” (II Pet. 3:10), it also says, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Gen. 6:3).
Whether it is a red light on the car dash, a smoke alarm, or a storm warning, warnings are given for us to take action to avoid danger. Ignoring warnings can prove not only harmful, but fatal. And to ignore God’s warning of coming judgment will result in eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. So, if you or any you know have not heeded His warning and put your trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, do so now while you have opportunity. “Today is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2).