When I turned on the radio prior to the sermon I was going to listen to, another preacher was finishing up and mentioned natural disasters as "signs" from God. Now I know we've all heard this or that was a sign from God. 9-11 was a sign to America. Katrina was a sign to New Orleans. Even the Prime Minister of Japan mentioned that their disaster was a sign, that they had gone too far down the path of worshipping mammon or whatever. But were they?
My opinion is that MOST natural disasters are a sign, if the people affected believe it is and believe they needed one. Kind of in the way that Jesus said of John the Baptist in Matt. 11, " And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears, let him hear!" But as far as, did God cause, say, Katrina to hit an unmoving target because of its sinfulness? Let's reflect on this.
It seems tome that man's logic can take you two directions here. The first says that God is the cause of everything, and if it happened to you, there was a reason. Which may be true, but to think the only reasons are your sinfulness is to make the same mistakes as Job's three "friends" who said he HAD to have sinned because look at the mess he was in! The other side says that God made the world, but man corrupted it, and whatever happens is a result of man's fallen state and God just helps dig us out when it's over. Again, this is too simplistic by far; in that same book of Job, Elihu describes some of the many reasons God CAUSES- not "allows", causes- the storm: for correction, or for His land (to provide nature with its needs), or for mercy (Job 37:13). God does cause things, and He does have His reasons, and sometimes He allows it to correct you- and sometimes He does it to heal you, put you on a righter path, or to give you opportunity to serve- and sometimes He does it just because it is the natural course of the world He made.
So are all signs subjective? There is a whole lost of difference between the day to day, and God's clear signs. Take a look at Matt. 24. Jesus describes false teachers, earthquakes, and wars and rumors thereof. As well as famines and diseases. But those are not the signs of God's wrath. In v 9, Jesus says the critical word- "Then..." And when "then" occurs, it becomes a spiritual trial, with persecutions, lawlessness, and the rising of the true enemy.
Now look at the parallel to this in Revelations 8-11. The first four trumpets blew, and hail fell, nature was decimated, and a pall from the falling of what would seem to be meteors descended. But then 8:13- "And looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!" This tells us you are about to see the differentiation between the run of the mill disaster and God's wrath. And the the thing that separates them, is that there is no way to explain them except in the realm of the supernatural. The 5th horn brings the super-locusts of Abbaddon the Destroyer; the sixth brings a seemingly nuclear war with a demonically led 200 million-man army; and the seventh, the last thing the remaining people on the earth want to see- the opening of heaven.
As for myself, I'd love to sit here and expound all day on my theories of what happens next. But it misses my point. I have a hard time with preachers that say this or that is a sign. The world has turned many times and will turn many times more. And yes, the current world and its evils, its secularism, it sucks; but there's no sure sign telling us it CANNOT change. Nineveh repented, once. BUUUUT... the point is this- there are signs from God. Some of them are basically personal, if you have ears to hear. Some of them will be so big, so supernatural, that even those who turn their whole hearts against God won't be able to deny them. (So, I guess as long as we have atheists, we still have time.) But the biggest sign from God? Jesus told us that one:
“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here."
In other words, Jesus is the only sign to concern ourselves with.