Apocalypse Now: Floods, Tornadoes, Locusts

"After the first millennium, they thought the world would come to an end," he said. "The pope and the cardinals were in the old St. Peters and they were expecting Jesus to come back. It didn't happen."

The Book of Revelation was written at a time when the Romans were persecuting Christians by setting them afire and feeding them to the lions.

"You have to understand the historical context of the Apocalypse and the time it was written," said Reese. "They were trying to encourage Christians to have hope and to argue that their cause is just and God will not let the bad guys win."

"The central message is that sin is not good for people and it has consequences, but we wouldn't think hurricanes, tidal waves and locusts," he said. "We know enough about science today to look on natural events as natural and not coming from God to punish people."

Meteorologists say there is a natural explanation for all this catastrophic weather — Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Since the 1970s, the Pacific Ocean has been warming, but now it is going through a cooling phase, according to Jay Searles, forecaster instructor at Penn State University.

"But now, we are flipping, and these flips happen over decades," said Searles. "When we go through transition phases like right now, they tend to favor stormy more violent weather – everything we have been observing."

"We are not being punished, though it may seem like it," said Searles. "But there is a scientific reason behind what is happening and that makes sense."

Stephen B. Chapman, associate professor of the Old Testament at Duke University Divinity School, says the Bible has a lot to say about man's relationship to the eco-system.

"In the Bible there is an essential relationship between social justice and right worship and ecology," said Chapman. "The Bible has an intense interest in ecology."

Religious scholars are beginning to pay more attention to what the Bible has to say about man's destruction of the environment and its relationship to natural catastrophes

"The land bearing the cost of global warming is new, but the connection between what humankind does and what societies they form and the health of the land and agriculture is as old as the Bible itself," he said.

One of the great Bible stories – the flood of Genesis that destroyed the Earth – was caused by "violence," said Chapman. But when the floods subside and Noah step out of the ark, the Bible uses "one of the great symbols of hope" – the rainbow.

"The rainbow is explicitly a sign that God will not destroy the earth again and the hope that humankind can live in harmony with natural world."

But evangelists like Ken Han, founder and CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., believe God – not man – is at work in recent weather phenomena.

"There is earthly death payment for sin," said Han. "Because of sin, God doesn't hold the world perfectly together at times, and he uses certain events to judge a nation."

The Bible is filled with symbolism, poetry and parables, and Han says Revelation should not be taken "literally." Still, "just because it's apocalyptic literature doesn't mean there is no truth there."

When the world sins, "the whole of creation groans," according to Han's interpretation of a Biblical passage in Romans. Those groans are reflected in recent tornadoes and storms.

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