Hellfire in Paradise
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry once again. Thank you for your prayers and support for our work. It is greatly needed and is most helpful to the cause of God. I hope and pray that our monthly messages encourage you in your walk with God. We are nearing the end of time and we need Jesus more than ever. I pray that you are drawing closer to Him every day.
I’d like to begin today with the following scripture. It’s from Matthew 3:7-12. This is about John the Baptist and what he said to the wicked generation of his time.
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Friends, this is a warning, not only to the people in John’s day, but to all of us. The Paradise fire is a literal warning to those who refuse to acknowledge God, and who continue their lives without regard to His commandments and His instructions. While all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and though He is merciful and gracious and longsuffering with all his subjects, He still allows the enemy to use the elements to destroy that which man has built up. Unfortunately, the innocent also suffer with the unrighteous, but God speaks to us through disasters and destruction.
Let me say as we begin this message that it is very graphic, so use your discretion particularly with young children. Let me read a scripture. It is found in Deuteronomy 32:20-24. Listen to these very powerful words. “And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith:
“I wonder if many of the people of this world are froward, which means to be perverse or brazenly corrupt. How many people ignore the claims of God on their lives and just live as sinfully as if they were in the beautiful valley of Sodom? They brazenly defy the God of heaven. His judgments mean nothing to them. Even many of God’s own people rebel and have no fear of His wrath. The leaders of God’s people continue to lead them in ways that God has forbidden. They preach smooth things to them. They do not warn them of their danger. The warnings of God to our rebellious hearts must be taken seriously dear friends. We need to see that the signs of the times are warning us of the wrath of God to come.
Similar to the firestorm that consumed Sodom, the unexpected fire in Paradise, California is a modern admonition to all of us. While we don’t know the spiritual condition of those that lost their lives in the fire last November, the power of nature under stress reminds us of God’s warning that one day the judgments of God will fall on all those that have turned from God and His truth. The Paradise fire, the Woolsey fire in Los Angeles County, plus the Carr fire and the Santa Rosa fire earlier last year, are multiple warnings from God about what to expect in the future. This is a sign of the times. These fires are “the destruction that wasteth at noonday” predicted in Psalm 91:6.
I’ll read on from Deuteronomy, “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God…” Are people today living as if there is no God? Or have they put their affections on earthly things and replaced God with them. Do they think there is no day of reckoning? Do they pursue only evil continually as it was in the days of Noah?
Friends, even so-called Christians are engaged in things that are not helpful to them spiritually. Yet they go to church every Sunday, or Sabbath, and sing the hymns, and say elegant prayers, and carry their Bibles. But their hearts are disobedient to the explicit commands of God. They excuse themselves as if they have a right to disregard his commandments because of their circumstances, our modern culture, or just because they can’t help themselves.
Reading on; “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Do you think this scripture is a warning? Paradise was in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. God is saying here that He will light a fire and destroy the earth and the wicked with it.
Moses goes on. “I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction:…”
These verses graphically depict how God will have to deal with those who turn from His mercies and go after strange Gods. God will not be silent forever. He will one day rise up and consume the wicked. But we don’t like to hear about the Day of Judgment. We don’t like to hear that God will punish. We only want to hear smooth things and most pastors, in almost every church obligingly do what is expected of them. They are trained in the seminaries that it is too controversial to preach the warnings of God’s word against sin. They are taught that they are not to frighten the people by explaining the punishment of the wicked. They have mostly, with a few notable exceptions, become dumb dogs that will not bark, teaching only about the cross, love and unity.
Do I sound like I’m being critical of church leaders? Brothers and sisters, it is not I, but God who says these things. Let me read it to you. Isaiah 56:10 says that “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.” God’s messenger to the Remnant takes it even further. Testimonies to the Church, page 337 says that “Men and women are in the last hours of probation, and yet are careless and stupid, and ministers have no power to arouse them; they are asleep themselves. Sleeping preachers preaching to a sleeping people!”
Does this describe the conditions of today? While not all pastors are dumb dogs, how often people have said to me how they wish that they could hear the plain, cutting truths for this time. Listen to this from the first volume of Testimonies for the Church, page 321. ”In this fearful time, just before Christ is to come the second time, God’s faithful preachers will have to bear a still more pointed testimony than was borne by John the Baptist. A responsible, important work is before them; and those who speak smooth things, God will not acknowledge as His shepherds. A fearful woe is upon them.”
What does “a still more pointed testimony” mean? That’s pretty serious my friends. I don’t want to be like one of those dumb dogs that will not bark. So I hope your ears and heart are open as we study. And may I say to the pastors that are listening to this message, please let God inspire you to take up the warning message if you haven’t done so already, and fearlessly preach the message in love that the people need to hear. Don’t be afraid to use the Spirit of Prophecy in the pulpit in conjunction with the Bible. Don’t ignore any of the messages that God has sent in spite of what it might cost you.
Listen to this interesting statement from the pen of God’s messenger to the Remnant. It is found in Last Day Events, page 111. “The Lord gives warnings to the inhabitants of the earth, as in the Chicago fire and the fires in Melbourne, London, and the city of New York.” That’s Manuscript 127, 1897. Apparently, this is not the first time there have been fires in the populated areas. This was written a little over 120 years ago. But no one living today would remember those fires. There have been many wildfires since then, but not very many of them are as serious as the one in Paradise, California on November 8, 2018.
In 1864, so the story goes, at the end of a hot and dusty day of travel, a settler climbed up the side of the foothills of northern California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. As the oak land gave way to pine, he took a deep breath of the cool mountain air and said, ‘This is paradise.’
Paradise, California was a sleepy little town of 27,000 people. In 1979 it was incorporated. The quiet community was nestled on a wide ridge with deep canyons on either side. Chico is 12 miles to the west and Oroville, 25 miles to the south and Sacramento, which is also to the South about 90 miles.
On Thursday morning November 8, 2018 “Parents had already dropped their small children off at Paradise Elementary School. Seniors were eating scrambled eggs and taking their prescription pills at assisted living facilities. The five town council members had already driven to their offices. Normal tasks on what seemed a normal day.”
But a long spell of hot, dry air had been drying out the soil, brush and pine trees for months. Now the pine trees were explosive. The usual rains for this time of year had not materialized, so fire danger in this pine-studded terrain was especially acute in this beautiful, remote community.
Only two paved roads snake in and out of town, but Paradise had everything including motels, name-brand grocery and hardware stores, hobby and craft shops run by retirees, fast food joints like Taco Bell, and plenty of gas stations. There was a small Seventh-day Adventist hospital and about 20 churches of various denominations as well. People from the nearby, unincorporated towns of Magalia and Concow would come to Paradise to shop and do other business.
Paradise was the place to be for elderly retirees. It was cooler than the Sacramento valley in summer, and not as much snow as you’d get in the Sierra Nevada’s whenever snow would come in these drought-ridden hills. And a lot of them had lived there for a long time. But younger families had moved into Paradise too, because of its affordability.
Every one knew that a blaze could come to Paradise, but nobody expected it would be now. After all, there had been so many hot, dry seasons without any fires in Paradise that it just didn’t seem likely. But the conditions on November 8, which included, years of drought, many extremely flammable pine trees, very low humidity, tinder dry underbrush with plenty of fuel, deep canyons, and a hot, dry wind, created the deadly “perfect storm” that everyone feared, but never wanted to talk about.
The residents of the town did everything they always do on that fateful morning with no idea that within the blink of an eye their lives would change dramatically and that their quiet little town would be destroyed within a few hours. For some, their earthly probation would close.
About 6:30am near Camp Creek Road, a fire sparked from what is now thought to be a fault in the PG&E electrical company’s grid. The sky turned yellow first, which was alarming, but residents in Paradise were used to smoke. Northern California had been on fire all summer in various other places. In fact, at the same time as the Paradise fire, there were 14 other fires burning. There had been other devastating fires. In July, darkness had cloaked the sun for days as the Carr Fire roared in and around Redding, about 85 miles to the northwest.
The Camp Fire struck with a ferocity that even shocked wildfire experts. It burned so hot that cars melted and houses exploded into flames. It was the most destructive blaze in California history, toppling all previous records. The raging inferno, fanned by high, dry winds with gusts up to 72 miles an hour, throwing flames hundreds of feet in the air, raced into Paradise and overtook the entire town in minutes, it seemed, leaving few buildings unscathed. “The fire moved so fast — faster than emergency officials grasped, faster than evacuation orders could be acted on — consuming entire neighborhoods before people could flee,” said Pr. Tom Bolin of the Providence Alliance Church in town. The wind blew the flames from house to house, sometimes, even skipping the trees in between. The entire Town Council was suddenly homeless, and so was half of the police and fire force. The place is a ghost town and its reservoir has even dried up. Everywhere you would look, it was on fire. There was fire everywhere.
“My brother called me and said, Get out now, the town’s burning,” Pastor Tom Bolin of the Providence Alliance Church recalls. He and his wife barely had time to gather their family pets and leave. “We grabbed what we could,” he said, “and fled.”
“This event was the worst case scenario,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a press conference in Chico. “It is the event we feared for a long time.”
The Butte County Sheriff’s Office issued a red-alert to 23,682 contacts over email, text and phone call. As the Camp Fire roared into Paradise, the California Highway Patrol reversed the in-bound lanes on Skyway Road and Highway-32. Officials had planned for this — 11 evacuation zones and more alerts. But the Camp Fire moved faster than humans can, burning nearly an acre per second. That’s 80 one-hundred-yard football fields per minute.
Chaos and panic ensued. Cell service cut out in much of the town as fire rained down upon it. Headlights barely pierced the midnight smoke. Residents sheltered in the Walgreens and K-Mart parking lots, waiting for county buses to rescue them. Some drivers abandoned their cars in the gridlock of traffic, running down Skyway Road or pushing their loved ones in wheelchairs down the sidewalk. Bulldozers pushed aside cars abandoned by terrified residents who then fled on foot, so emergency crews could get through.
At the Feather River Hospital, patients waited to be safely evacuated. They clustered around the helipad as flames rapidly licked closer and closer. Doctors and nurses set up buckets as temporary bathrooms, because the building’s water was cut off.
In the hospital parking lot, probation officers and sheriff’s deputies waited with vans, until the roads cleared and they could evacuate the patients. At least one patient died there, waiting, said Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter.
The devastating fire was so hot, and so ferocious that the fire fighters could not effectively fight against it. They had to resort to rescuing people, and that’s about all they could do. One first responder told residents to run down the canyon and into the creek, and stand there neck deep in water. Several took his advice and survived as the fire raged all around them. Their biggest fire hoses were like little dribbles of water compared to the size of the fire. They couldn’t save any thing! They could only retreat as the fire raced toward them.
Friends, this is the kind of thing that describes what to expect in the last days when God’s wrath is poured out on the much bigger and much more wicked cities than Paradise.
Dean Strait is a friend of mine. Before the fire he was a surgical nurse at the Feather River Adventist Hospital that fateful morning when the firestorm ripped through Paradise. His harrowing account of escaping the intense, relentless fire is nothing short of astonishing. Here is his edited story.
“First I need to take you back to my days in Southern California as a Surgical Intensive Care nurse. One of the assignments while working in that position was floating to the Burn Unit. Caring for burn victims is one of the most mentally painful jobs I have done as a nurse. The sights, sounds and agony of the patients is beyond description. You never forget. I’ll come back to that thought…
“I arrived at work a little before 7:00 am on Thursday morning, November 8. I parked my Honda in front of the Quality Department, where my office is located on the outskirts of our campus in a small building on the rim of the canyon. The north fork of the Feather River runs through the bottom of the canyon, hence the name [Feather River Hospital]. I had a beautiful view of the tall Ponderosa pines and oak trees just below my window. The hospital is located about 400 feet to the west of my building where I share the office with about 7 others.
“I gathered my computer and headed for the day’s first meeting at 7 am over in the main hospital. On my walk to the hospital I noticed the pine needles all over the road, the result of the previous night’s high winds. I also noticed that at that moment it was very calm, no wind at all to speak of. I had just witnessed two ominous signs and didn’t know it.
“While in the meeting I checked my email and noticed that the daily early morning humidity checks for the operating room were low, in fact below the 20% mark, meaning that a fire could be easily sparked in that low a humidity. This meant that the outside humidity was also very low… The low humidity was another clue I had overlooked.
“At around 8:00 am I walked up to the main lobby and noticed to the south a plume of smoke arising about 1000 feet away from the edge of the hospital campus. An associate came up next to me and we started discussing how amazingly close this smoke was to us. Then I walked into the cafeteria. People were gathering at the windows looking at the smoke, which was now glowing orange, concerned that they thought they saw flames. I walked down the hall. The command center was being activated. I decided to run back to my office. Several of my colleagues were outside asking what the plan was as the fire was moving toward us rapidly. “I think they’re planning on evacuating. I gathered a few items from my office and drove back to the hospital and parked near the generators.”
I ran down the hall to the surgical unit, grabbed a gurney with another person who was struggling with it, and pushed through the Emergency Department and out into the ambulance bay. Since there were no ambulances we directed staff to pull their cars around and begin loading cars with the ambulatory patients.
“The difficult question was how to transport the non-ambulatory patients that had to be lying down. We put one fresh knee replacement stretched across the back seat of a Subaru wagon. I connected with him later the next day and he described for me his harrowing ride and how he ended up on the floor of the car two times as the driver had to stop abruptly to avoid the fire. We also put patients in police cars. Someone pulled up in an Excursion SUV. I pulled the back seat out and discarded it to make room for a patient on oxygen. Finally two ambulances pulled up and we loaded the critically ill. One of those ambulances later caught on fire.
“In less than an hour we had successfully evacuated all of our approximately 70 patients out of the hospital. The time was now 9:00 am.
“This was no ordinary fire that marches along, advancing like an army upon an enemy position, giving the opposing force time to retreat. The fire started in the middle fork of the Feather River. The wind blew the fire over the hills that separate the two forks and into the town of Paradise. It exploded like a bomb or a grenade.
“The wind blew embers that must have ignited hundreds of fires simultaneously on all sides of the hospital for several miles in each direction and deep into the town. Around 8:30 these hundreds of fires became a massive firestorm with walls of fire on both sides of the two paved roads leading out of the town. Many different routes were taken because the roads were becoming impassable and vehicles were having to turn around and retreat. Some of our patients vehicles made it to a K-mart in town and fire trucks sprayed them down to keep from burning for many hours until the firestorm had subsided and late in the evening they were finally escorted out of Paradise.
“From about 8:30 am the cars bearing patients now had to drive through miles of fire on either side. The last cars we sent out of the Emergency Department parking lot were forced, eventually, to retreat back to the hospital as the roads became blocked with burning vehicles and downed poles. The patients were later airlifted to other hospitals.
When the last patient was loaded and driving away from the ambulance bay, someone said the obvious, “alright that’s it, let’s go!” At 9:01 my colleague pulled out and was immediately stuck in gridlock on a side road leading out to the main road. I got out of my car and ran to the corner where a police car was trying to direct traffic and asked which way do we go and he responded that he didn’t know and that both directions were gridlocked. I ran back to my car and drove to the back of the line and looked around me. I watched as all the shrubs and grass in the planters ignited on fire all around my car. I looked back toward my office and it was still standing but all the area around it was ablaze.
Then I remembered my days working on the burn unit. BIG MISTAKE! I began to panic! The fire was now all around me and I was going to burn. I put my car in reverse and backed up into the parking lot. I decided to abandon my car and start running. I love to run, so, I am thinking I will run down the road until I get out of town only a couple of miles south.
This plan might have actually worked because 3 other staff actually did run down another road when their cars either caught on fire or the road became blocked and they abandoned them. They all survived!
“I grabbed my computer and opened the door of a random car and it was someone I knew. I asked him to take it with him as I was planning to run. He implored me to join him, but my panicked mind said it didn’t want to die in a car. So I went to the road and looked at the inferno gauntlet I was about to enter. But then the southbound lane from of the hospital started to move. I abandoned the running man plan and ran back to the parking lot, jumped in my car and headed back into traffic.
It was now about 9:30. I called my wife but she did not answer. I called my daughter, just as I was about half way between the hospital and the first intersection. I told her I loved her and that I was probably going to die in a massive firestorm and to tell her mother I loved her and to take care of her.
The car now started to heat up and it was so intense it felt like I was standing IN a campfire not next to one. And this was with my air conditioner on full blast. The cars were creeping along agonizingly slow. At the first intersection I decided to go straight and that probably saved my life. Soon after I passed that particular intersection I was later told that it was blocked off and personnel directed traffic in towards town, which became a death trap!
Several of our hospital staff were injured and barely survived that route. I know other people who died there. A few days later I was escorted on that road and I saw first-hand the very disturbing aftermath! Those who went this way had the most harrowing stories of the ordeal. All of them had to return or were picked up and returned to the hospital.
I continued on for another mile or two through the raging fire as we inched along. Homes were completely engulfed on all sides. It seemed like every single house was a roman candle. The explosions were sounding off all around the entire time. I guessed that the explosions were propane tanks. The traffic was so slow but we were moving and that meant we might make it.
Around 10 am I finally broke out of the firewall and it was over. Just smoke now. Surprisingly my car was not melted and I had just a slight cough from all the smoke. It took me another 50 minutes to drive around to Chico.
Epilogue: I cried when I got to hug some of my friends that I last saw in the ambulance bay. It feels good to heal.
Some of the hospital buildings caught fire and were damaged but the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, was one of the rare buildings that was not destroyed.
Here is another testimony.
Teeter, who waited at the hospital to be evacuated along with other residents, could barely think. Shortly before, he had watched a bulldozer push aside a line of cars abandoned by terrified residents who then fled by foot. The bulldozer needed to open the road for more evacuees.
“The power was off in the hospital, and there was so much smoke,” Teeter said. “No one wanted to be there. We had 75-year-old people shoved three-across in the back of probation vans. Hospital workers were bringing out snacks and triaging people. I didn’t know my own family’s fate. It was very somber.”
A mile away, on Rockford Lane, Teeter’s house — the one his grandfather built — went up in flames.
Residents described fleeing their homes and then getting stuck on gridlocked roads as flames approached, sparking explosions and toppling utility poles.
“Things started exploding,” said resident Gina Oviedo. “People started getting out of their vehicles and running.”
Many abandoned their cars on the side of the road, fleeing on foot. Cars and trucks, some with trailers attached, were left on the roadside as evacuees ran for their lives, said Bass, the police officer. “They were abandoned because traffic was so bad, backed up for hours.”
Thick gray smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away.
“It was absolutely dark,” said resident Mike Molloy, who said he made a split-second decision based on the wind to leave Thursday morning, packing only the minimum and joining a sea of other vehicles.
Concerned friends and family posted frantic messages on Twitter and other sites saying they were looking for loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes, or alone.
Chico police officer John Barker and his partner evacuated several seniors from an apartment complex.
“Most of them were immobile with walkers, or spouses that were bed-ridden, so we were trying to get additional units to come and try and help us, just taking as many as we could,” he said, describing the community as having “a lot of elderly, a lot of immobile people, some low-income with no vehicles.”
Some residents were later found dead in the woods, where they fell, trying to outrun the flames.
Everyone in Paradise knows each other, and that made it both better and worse. There was comfort in recognition and fear in understanding.
Butte County Sheriff Honea, 47, was helping direct traffic near Skyway and Elliott roads with his 26-year-old daughter, Kassidy, who had joined the Paradise police force six months ago. A call crackled over his radio. Some of his deputies were trapped.
“I’m gonna go, people are trapped,” he told his daughter, wanting to say so much more. Would he see her again? he wondered. “I love you, kiddo.”
“I love you, Dadd-o,” she said.
Soon after, the wife of town council member Zuccolillo pulled into the intersection where her husband was helping direct traffic. His three small children were sobbing in the backseat.
“What do I do?” she plead.
“Keep going downhill,” Zuccolillo said. “Get out.”
Her taillights flashed as she crested the road, and vanished, leaving Zuccolillo behind.
The estimates of the devastation are massive. They started out small: Only several hundred homes. Maybe a thousand. No — more than 6,000. The people of Paradise knew it was going to be worse with each new report. They saw their town burn. But the total fire consumption of homes is almost 14,000, plus more than 1500 other buildings and businesses.
“This is really a wipe-out,” Zuccolillo said. “I can’t describe it any other way. I don’t know how to quantify it. How do you quantify everything being gone? Restaurants are gone. We have lost half of our grocery stores. Where will people eat? Where will people get gas? How do you live in a place like this? I don’t know how else to put it.”
As he left for the last time, dodging downed power lines and trees on Skyway Road, he saw Paradise for one last time. Building after building, every structure was on fire.
But the town lost more than its buildings. It lost people; eighty-five of them. The Camp fire was the deadliest fire in California history, and the second deadliest fire in U.S. history. The Cloquet fire in Minnesota killed 450 in 1918.
But Paradise has sustained other human losses than those that died that day. Many of its residents, turned escapees, will never come back. Which means town lost its essence too. On Johnny Appleseed Day, the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce baked one thousand pies, and on Gold Nugget days, they celebrated the discovery of a 54-pound gold nugget, the largest in California’s gold rush history, with costumes. How everyone is friendly and knows each other, in that way that seems clichéd, but is actually true. But, it isn’t paradise anymore, and probably never will be.
What is worse — losing everything? Or owning one of the few homes that survived, and moving back to a place where virtually nothing exists? Local leaders keep coming back to that question.
“Ninety-five percent of the town is gone,” said town council member Michael Zuccolillo. “The remaining 5 percent of buildings are barely standing. I felt like I was living in a bad dream. It was unrecognizable. I had to keep asking, ‘Where are we?’ All the landmarks are gone. Block by block, nothing. Anybody who had a house in Paradise probably doesn’t anymore.”
The horrific fires that roared through one of the most beautiful regions of California with break neck speed and devastating ferocity in November of 2018 have spoken in a powerful way to me. Most people didn’t think of the prophetic implications of the havoc and devastation as more than 153,000 acres were destroyed by the spectacular Paradise fire. But it is both a powerful warning and a symbol of the impending destruction coming upon this wicked world. We truly live in perilous times.
Listen to this powerful statement from Christ’s Object Lessons, page 179. “God will cleanse the earth from its moral corruption, not by a sea of water as in Noah’s day, but by a sea of fire that cannot be quenched by any human devising.”
Also from the same page, we read the following, “The time is near when He will say, ‘Come, My people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.’” Isaiah 26:20, 21.
But listen to this warning. It is from Manuscript Releases, Vol. 1, page 307. “We are now to seek God most earnestly. I have been instructed by the Lord that calamities of every description will come upon the world. The end of all things is at hand, and the very things that have been presented to me will take place. Satan is powerful in carrying out his plans. Some are awaking to a realization of what will be in the future.
The calamity that stormed through Paradise was quick, relentless and devastating; impossible to quench even with planes dropping water, or fire retardant could hardly effect the inferno. It roared overhead like a jet engine. Paradise was transformed into a hell on earth. Hell in all its fury has visited the people of Paradise. Ferocious fire holds a great terror – its power, its speed, its roar, its relentless destruction, its capricious shifts in course, its want of mercy, all point to that fact that nature can cause enormous loss.
Think about what the Psalmist says in Psalm 91. If you are under the protection of Jehovah, you will experience His power to save you from an inferno such as the Paradise fire. Listen to the promises in verse five through eight. “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day. Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come night thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.”
My friends, the violent fire was a terror to all who were caught in it. The wind blew the embers like arrows ahead of the fire to start new fires. In other words, the fire was moving so fast that it could not be outrun. And lastly, it brought great destruction throughout the day and destroyed almost everything in its path. What a lesson!
What happened in the Paradise fire is described in the book Maranatha, page 37. “Fires will break out unexpectedly, and no human effort will be able to quench them. The palaces of earth will be swept away in the fury of the flames.” Perhaps we would not classify all those homes as palaces, though many of them were, no doubt, quite beautiful. But compared to the way most of the population of the world actually lives, they would certainly qualify.
The following warning from God’s last day messenger is also pertinent. It is from Fundamentals of Christian Education, page 356-357. “There will soon be a sudden change in God’s dealings. The world in its perversity is being visited by casualties,–by floods, storms, fires, earthquakes, famines, wars, and bloodshed. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power; yet He will not at all acquit the wicked. ‘The Lord hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet.’ O that men might understand the patience and longsuffering of God! He is putting under restraint His own attributes. His omnipotent power is under the control of Omnipotence. O that men would understand that God refuses to be wearied out with the world’s perversity, and still holds out the hope of forgiveness even to the most undeserving! But His forbearance will not always continue. Who is prepared for the sudden change that will take place in God’s dealing with sinful men? Who will be prepared to escape the punishment that will certainly fall upon transgressors?”
Eighty-five people died in the flames of Paradise. Imagine the terror of trying to escape the fire, or the desperate agony of those overtaken by the flames, when they suddenly realized that they had no hope of escape, that the fire had overtaken them and that they would be burned alive. What shock and horror! What agony! Friends, this is the terror that the wicked will feel under the wrath of God. This is a solemn warning to all of us that God will not always strive with man. The day of God is coming when millions will experience the same overwhelming fear and terror. “We hear now of earthquakes in divers places,” wrote God’s messenger in Testimonies to Ministers, page 444, “of fires, of tempests, of disasters by sea and land, of pestilence, of famine. What weight do these signs have upon you? This is only the beginning of what shall be. The description of the day of God is given through John the Revelator. The cry of the terror-stricken myriads has fallen upon the ear of John. ‘The great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?’ The apostle himself was awed and overwhelmed.”
The fire in Paradise and its surrounding towns are only a small token, my friends, of what it will be like in the Day of the Lord.
Desire of Ages, page 636 says, “Everything in the world is in agitation. The signs of the times are ominous. Coming events cast their shadows before. The Spirit of God is withdrawing from the earth, and calamity follows calamity by sea and by land. There are tempests, earthquakes, fires, floods, murders of every grade. Who can read the future? Where is security? There is assurance in nothing that is human or earthly.”
Psalms 29:7 says “The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire.” While the raging and unquenchable fires warn us of God’s judgments, His protection of His faithful souls reminds us that if we are faithful to do His will, He will preserve. “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked,” says Psalm 91:8.
Though the fires burned all around them, God’s hand can overshadow his people and get them through the flames. Here is a wonderful promise to those who are in Christ. Isaiah 43:2 says, “when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”
Here is another statement from Manuscript Release No. 127, 1897. “The Lord had given evidence that by His power He could in one short hour dissolve the whole frame of nature. He can turn things upside down, and destroy the things that man has built up in his most firm and substantial manner… In fires, in floods, in earthquakes, in the fury of the great deep, in calamities by sea and by land, the warning is given that God’s Spirit will not always strive with men.”
And from Signs of the Times, December 15, 1881 we read: “In every age, God’s judgments have been visited upon the earth because men transgressed His law. What, then, have we to expect as we behold the wickedness which prevails at the present day? An ungrateful people, forgetful of God’s care, His long forbearance, and His unnumbered blessings, are showing contempt for His holy law. Many of the acknowledged leaders in the church and in the nation, break, and teach others to break that law, as sacred to God as His own throne and name. It is time for the Lord himself to assert His authority in the earth. And He is doing this, by fires, by floods, by tempests. He removes His protecting, providential care, and visits His judgments upon the children of men.”
Manuscript Releases, Volume 18, page 57 and 58 says. “Everything has been moving on just as the Lord has revealed in prophecy that it would. Something great and decisive is soon to take place, else no flesh would be saved. The character of God will not be compromised. Under the wrath of God universal desolation will soon reach all parts of the known world. There have been lightnings and earthquakes, fires and floods, calamities by sea and by land; but who reads these warnings? What impression is made upon the world? What change in their attitude is seen?
“No more than was seen in the inhabitants of the Noachic world. The people are just as ardent today in their games, in the horse racing, in their love of amusement, as were the antediluvians, who “knew not until the flood came, and took them all away.” They had heaven-sent warnings, but refused to listen. By their attitude they declared, “We want not Thy way, O God; we want our own way, our own will.”
My friends, Jeremiah 4:4 says “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.
This is an important appeal to us brothers and sisters. We are living in the last days when all around us is “only evil continually,” much like in the days of Noah. The fire in Paradise is a reminder that we are living on borrowed time and that the mercy of God will not linger forever. Don’t you want your life to be hid in Christ when His wrath is poured out without mercy upon a rebellious and unrepentant world? Don’t you want to be free of your sins so that you can walk with Christ in the new earth?
The world is in rebellion. Listen to this statement from Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, page 315. “The times in which we live are times of great depravity and crime of every degree. Why?–because men whom God has blessed and favored have reduced His holy law to a dead letter, making void the law of God by the traditions and inventions of the man of sin. A more-than-common contempt is put upon the commandments of God, while the representative men of the Colonies have exalted the first day of the week to be observed by all men. They would have men bow down and worship it, as did Nebuchadnezzar when he exalted the golden image in the plains of Dura. When wickedness comes to this pass, it is fast reaching its height. Well may the prayer go forth from the people of God, calling for His interference, ‘It is time for Thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void Thy law.’”
Do you think we are coming close to the time when the whole world will have made void the law of God? From the same volume three of Manuscript Releases, page 305 we read: “Let us turn our attention away from unimportant things, and give ourselves to God. We scarcely dream of the destroying angels that already are permitted to bring disaster and destruction in their path.–Letter 54, 1906. The fires are a warning that the end is near.
We don’t know whether the angels of God or the angels of Satan were the ones responsible for the dangerous conditions and the fire in Paradise. The book Great Controversy, page 614, indicates that it could have been either. “The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits. There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere.” Either way, my friends, I’m thankful that God is the One in control. If it was the enemy, we can be assured that God allowed him to do it, because he can do nothing unless permitted by divine permission. Man may think that he can explain away the fire as if it was merely a random act of nature.
But keep in mind, “Satan works through the elements also to garner his harvest of unprepared souls. He has studied the secrets of the laboratories of nature, and he uses all his power to control the elements as far as God allows. When he was suffered to afflict Job, how quickly flocks and herds, servants, houses, children, were swept away, one trouble succeeding another as in a moment. It is God that shields His creatures and hedges them in from the power of the destroyer. But the Christian world have shown contempt for the law of Jehovah; and the Lord will do just what He has declared that He would—He will withdraw His blessings from the earth and remove His protecting care from those who are rebelling against His law and teaching and forcing others to do the same. Satan has control of all whom God does not especially guard. He will favor and prosper some in order to further his own designs, and he will bring trouble upon others and lead men to believe that it is God who is afflicting them.” That’s The Great Controversy, page 589.
Now is the time, my friends, to prepare; not tomorrow, not next week, not next month. You have no time to lose. You can’t play fast and loose with your life if you want to get ready for the coming crisis and to meet Jesus in the clouds of glory. If you are not the kind of Christian that you know Jesus wants you to be, get on your knees and pray earnestly that God will open your eyes and show you how to overcome your sins and live in Christ. Whatever you do, don’t neglect your salvation.
Let us pray, our Father in heaven, You have shown us what is at stake. Our eternal salvation is threatened when we are not living with Jesus in our hearts. Lord, I pray that those who hear this message will yield their all to Jesus Christ and open their hearts to His presence. Please Lord, fill them with Your power and Your love for lost souls. And may they be overcomers by the power of Jesus living in them, I pray. In Jesus’ name, amen.