LCN Article
A Storm Is Coming: Are We Ready?

September / October 2023

Gerald E. Weston

The Gathering Storm has been the title of our Tomorrow’s World Presentations this year. These presentations are intended to reach an outside audience—an audience that is already familiar with Tomorrow’s World and perhaps the Living Church of God. Some, but certainly not all, have a Church of God background.

Our magazine, our telecast, and most of our other initiatives proclaim the good news of the coming Kingdom of God and give a warning as a witness. We know from Scripture that this is our responsibility—we are commissioned to do so. However, there is another part of this great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Unlike our magazine, telecast, and booklets, Tomorrow’s World Presentations give much more than a witness. They are meant to nudge along people whom God may be calling, making it clear what they personally should do as a result of hearing the true Gospel and being warned of things to come. We sincerely hope that some of these people will respond to the call, be baptized, and become part of the Body of Christ.

However, we know that these will be few. Thousands are invited to Tomorrow’s World presentations—people who have received a witness through our magazine and telecast. They have been introduced to the Gospel and given a warning message. But, of those invited, only 1 or 2 percent, on average, even show up, although some presentations reach higher percentages. And, of those who attend, it is evident that most either “don’t get it” or are not courageous enough to step out of their comfort zone. The message that we give them, no matter how clearly and powerfully presented, flies right over their heads. But we know that we are not here to convert the world. We are here to be a witness, and to work with the precious few who do respond to God’s calling.

Beyond Fear Alone

The Gathering Storm is a title meant to capture the attention of those who will attend. We hope to wake them up to the reality of where this world is heading. Last June, at a presentation in Winnipeg, Canada, I made the statement, “I’m not here to scare you”—but, realizing that was not quite accurate, I immediately corrected myself: “Well, that is not entirely right. I do hope to scare you, at least a little bit.” That brought laughter from the audience. Fear can be a motivating factor. As Scripture tells us twice, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10).

I recently reread Mr. Herbert Armstrong’s booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last. I was about 16 years old the first time I read it. It was a real shocker, and I got sick that night—probably some kind of stomach bug—and by morning I could only crawl to the bathroom. This attention-getter introduced me to the truth. The booklet’s biblical content, along with Basil Wolverton’s artwork, gave me a fright in the midst of my being so sick. Adding to that fear, the thought of a future nuclear war was especially frightening, as I knew only too well where “ground zero” would be—on the Air Force Strategic Air Command base where I lived with my parents. I did not understand exactly what my father did at work, but I knew those Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles were not there to place civilian satellites in orbit.

While fear can be a motivator to bring us to the truth, our journey must go beyond fear alone. Yes, we must fear God, but we must also love God and His ways. Loving God, His way, His truth, and the hope He gives us helps us overcome any irrational fear of the future. We are probably not being honest with ourselves if we say we have no apprehension about what is ahead, but by knowing the truth, our fear is lessened. Our love for God—and understanding His love for us, as outlined in His Festivals and Holy Days—“casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

We must come to realize, no matter what happens to us, that our loving Father allows or causes any trials for our long-term good. Some trials are severe and can be physically and emotionally painful. But if we serve our Father wholeheartedly, nothing can happen to us that is not for our benefit. As Paul explains,

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons (Hebrews 12:5–8).

Catching Up to the Storm

When people receive too many false warnings, they will likely fail to heed the real warning when it comes. This is the moral of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” and this is what happens to many hurricane victims after so many overwrought forecasts.

We in the Church of God have at times made the mistake of getting ahead of God when it comes to timing Jesus’ return to set up His kingdom. That error is not new—Christ’s followers expected Jesus to set up His kingdom in their time. Paul twice spoke of “we who are alive” in reference to the coming of Christ and the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17).

It is not the Church alone that gets ahead of the curve. Brad Smith and Carol Ann Browne write in Tools and Weapons about how accurate we can be in our predictions—and, at the same time, how wrong we can be when it comes to timing them.

Repeatedly in my quarter century at Microsoft, I’ve been impressed by the ability of engineering leaders to anticipate much of where computing is going. But their predictions around time frames are much more checkered…. as Bill Gates has famously remarked, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten” (2019, p. 240).

Of course, we are not futurists in the human sense, with expertise in worldly matters. But, like Christ, we must speak what God reveals in His word. We can know the outline of history in advance from a humble reading of the Bible and as God opens our minds by His Spirit. And our understanding only comes when God unseals His prophecies (Daniel 12:4). However, as with software engineers, we human beings have a poor record when it comes to the timing of future events. That is why I have personally avoided even giving ranges of time, other than picking a time relatively far off by saying, “I doubt that we have 50 years.” Even that could be in error, but I don’t think so; when we look at the dramatic moral decline of the Israelite nations and the sudden acceleration of end-time criteria, time does seem short. 

Last year, Mr. Jonathan McNair gave a sermon in which he referenced the story of Chicken Little. The point of this sermon was that, unlike in the children’s story, the impending disaster is real and may be much closer than we imagine—and, when it does arrive, will we be prepared?

One evening, a few years ago, I was returning home from a Bible study in Wichita, Kansas. A massively beautiful thunderstorm—a common occurrence in that part of the country—mesmerized me as I traveled northwest toward my home several hours away. It was a rolling stormfront with continuous lightning; there was not even a second between flashes along the well-defined front. The weather service over the radio warned of frequent lightning, hail, high winds, and possible tornados.

It was exciting to see, and I wanted to get closer. I followed the front for nearly an hour before finally catching up to it, but I was not quite ready for what would happen. The wind suddenly picked up, with gusts that threatened to toss me off the road. Rain was blowing sideways, and lightning was all around. I was uncertain of what would come next. Would there be large hail, or might a tornado descend from the sky? Seeking a place to hide, I found an underpass crowded with other cars hiding out—which, by the way, I now understand is not a good strategy to use when anticipating a tornado. After some minutes, the storm moved on, and I, along with the others, came out from hiding.

What About Us?

In many ways, this is what happens to us as we look forward to the fulfillment of end-time prophecies and the reality of the annual seventh-month Festivals. We will hear sermons explaining the exciting meaning of these special occasions. They are so familiar that you can probably give one-sentence descriptions for each of them: the Feast of Trumpets—the Day of the Lord culminating in Christ’s return; Day of Atonement—Satan being removed; Feast of Tabernacles—Christ’s Millennial reign; and Last Great Day—the Great White Throne Judgment and all it means.

We pray for the fulfillment of these days. We look forward to the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when our resurrection to eternal life in the Family of God will come. We look forward to the time when we will assist Christ in bringing this troubled, suffering, rebellious, and confused world to a better state. But much must happen between now and then. While we tell our Tomorrow’s World subscribers about a gathering storm, are we so mesmerized by the beauty of what will eventually come afterwards that we fail to see the power of that very same storm? What are we doing to prepare for it?

The one-year period of the Day of the Lord is the time of God’s wrath (Isaiah 34:8; 63:4; Revelation 6:17). Prior to that will be the ride of the four horsemen, the martyrdom of saints, and the heavenly signs. However, we must not assume that all will be well before the white horse of Revelation 6 begins its ride. Turbulent times are ahead. A whole geopolitical transformation is in the making—and has, indeed, already begun. The U.S. dollar, the global reserve currency since shortly after World War II, could suddenly collapse. Whatever that means, it is not good. We cannot rule out another pandemic. And those who refuse to go along with the perverse LGBTQIA+ movement may find themselves without jobs.

We can turn to Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 for descriptions of what is ahead as God ratchets up the punishment to grab the attention of an unrepentant people. What is clear in those pivotal chapters is that trouble is ahead. A storm is coming. Will we be ready when it hits? Or do we dismiss this as merely another warning from Chicken Little?

We all recognize that there are some events for which we will never be fully prepared—and this certainly applies to the storm ahead. There is no humanly created safe haven, such as a highway underpass or missile bunker, to offer escape. Neither gold nor guns will save us. Only a close relationship with our Creator will do that. 

In the next few weeks, we will once again have the opportunity to come together before God during His ordained Feasts. We will hear sermons, have fellowship with one another, and enjoy fine food and drink. But I hope we all—and I include myself—recognize the need to use this precious time to fellowship with our Creator. As John wrote, “truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Let us not become so busy that we fail that most important fellowship!

The reality pictured by the last four Feast days is soon to dawn. We cannot know exactly how much time will pass before that day comes, but we can know that it is coming as surely as the sun rises each day. But, again, a lot more must happen between now and then—and as much as we try to mentally rehearse what is ahead, the reality will no doubt be very different.

Many of us have the feeling that big surprises are on the way. Economic, political, social, and monetary tsunamis are in our near future. Merely having a feeling about the future does not mean that we are correct; however, since the COVID-19 lockdowns, we see that world events have sped up dramatically. Who would have guessed the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Who knew that a sudden push to rearm Germany would occur as a result? Which one of us foresaw the sudden onset of worldwide inflation?

Bad things must occur to set the stage for the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord. There is good news, however. Our elder Brother tells us, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). Truly, as Paul admonished the church in Rome, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

There is also One who will guide us through difficult times. He has always done so for His people as they experience sickness, war, and other traumas. He has been there for us when we lost a job, a spouse, or a child. And He will be there for us as we move into the uncertain times that must precede Christ’s return, Satan’s banishment, a glorious Millennium, and the Second Resurrection. We know this. However, God also gave us the warning not to be caught off guard.

What God Expects

The first portion of the Olivet Prophecy describes times leading up to the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, and then we receive valuable insight as to what God expects of us at this time. Jesus Christ instructs us, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42–44). 

Christ then asks a question vital for this crucial time in mankind’s history: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing” (vv. 45–46). Yes, the wise servant is not serving himself, but is serving God—doing the Work of God by preaching the Gospel to all nations and warning them of what is to come. Tragically, some who fail to see this big picture are satisfied with sitting at home or in small groups, thinking they are “preparing the Bride”—as if the Bride can even be prepared without doing the Work that her future Husband has assigned to her. 

Proverbs 24:11–12 admonishes us, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?”

Jesus promises a reward for those who do His Work. “Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods” (Matthew 24:47; cf. John 4:36). Next comes a warning for those who try to time Christ’s coming and get caught up in this world’s ways. “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:48–51). 

Regrettably, a few come to the Feast to party, focusing only on having a good time. Yes, God tells us that we are to enjoy the fruits of our labor, to spend our “money for whatever your heart desires” (Deuteronomy 14:26), but that does not mean taking a worldly approach. The overriding principle is “that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always” (v. 23). 

Let us rejoice. Let us revel in the good things to come. But let us not forget that the storm that precedes those good things is also coming. “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:6–8).