Death in August

Death in August

Featured in the August, 2009 Issue of the Ashburn Baptist News

On August 24, 79, the Italian city of Pompeii was buried under 19 to 23 feet of volcanic debris.

Death came suddenly to this Roman city, located on the beautiful Bay of Naples.  The ruins were first discovered late in the 16th century by architect Domenico Fontana when tunneling for a water channel.  Archeological excavations began in 1748, and continue at the present time with about one-fourth of the city yet to be exhumed.

Classical scholars have been fascinated by Pompeii because of its near perfect preservation by the sudden volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The city had not been emptied by plague, nor devastated by war, nor abandoned because of famine, but the clock was stopped suddenly by the volcanic eruption.  Scholars now have a complete picture of life nineteen-hundred years ago, not only its architecture but also its business activities, customs and habits.

It is now evident that Pompeii was but a miniature picture of the Roman Empire in its heathenism and perversion, overripe and rotten, awaiting its fall.

Pompeii was a city given to lust and sexual perversion.  Through the years, guides would not allow mixed groups of tourists to see certain of the “art works” because of the depraved scenes depicted.

The sudden destruction of Pompeii made the entire city a time capsule and its excavation has revealed that pornography was accepted as art by the heathen citizens.  In addition to lewd wall paintings, there were ornamental household knickknacks in the shape of sex organs.

Being aware of the lust and sexual perversion in Pompeii one is led to exclaim, “No wonder God destroyed this city with a fiery volcanic catastrophe.”  However, there is no indication that Pompeii was any more sinful than any other city of the Roman Empire.

At the time of Jesus, some bystanders reported to Him that Pilate had killed some Galileans but Jesus answered them, “Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things?  I tell you, Nay:  but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2, 3).

We lead ourselves to believe that if someone is in a terrible auto collision he is a worse sinner than the rest of us.  If someone’s house is swept away with a flood, that he somehow had it coming more than others.  If someone’s dwelling burns, that he was some sinister and evil person.  But Jesus does not go along with this kind of thinking.  We are all lost, we are all sinners, and He says, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.”

Jesus cites another instance, “Those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, Nay:  but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4, 5).

Was pornography worse in Pompeii than it is in Chicago?  Was sexual perversion more degrading in Pompeii than in Chicago?  Were the people in Pompeii more given over to laziness, luxury, and lust than the people of Chicago?  Hardly so, and just because we are out of reach of Mount Vesuvius does not mean that God cannot deal out His judgments.

God is good and always acts in a loving way.  Mercy always precedes judgment.  Grace always comes before an outpouring of wrath.  Before the Roman Empire fell, it had been evangelized by Christian people. 
Before Pompeii was buried by God’s judgment, the Gospel had traveled throughout Italy.  The Apostle Paul himself had passed within sight of Pompeii when he landed in the Bay of Naples at the town of Puteoli (Acts 28:13).

The people of Pompeii did receive a warning in the earthquake that shook the city seventeen years before the final destruction.  That earthquake was so severe that the city had not completed its repairs when Vesuvius spewed out its fiery death upon the people.

Pompeii is history, art, architecture, archeology, a haunt for classical scholars, and a curiosity to tourists, but most of all it is an awesome warning that judgment does fall and God does settle His accounts.  And Jesus still says, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.