The sudden destruction of the ancient city of Pompeii is a reminder of the fragility and fleetingness of existence. An entire city and its population was wiped out in one afternoon and centuries later there are still lessons we can learn from this calamity.
In 79 A.D. the city of Pompeii, nestling on a giant plateau formed from an ancient lava flow near the Bay of Naples, was one of the most prosperous cities in the Roman Empire. Life was good. All the luxuries and conveniences of the age were available to the citizens living there.
Before the calamity wiping out the city and the surrounding area, there had been a couple of strange things happening like the water in the bay bubbling, but no one had taken much notice. Suddenly around lunch time on August 24, 79 AD Mount Vesuvius began to erupted with the power of a nuclear blast. The destruction, death and chaos lasted for days and is confirmed by the archaeological finds in the area.
From the ruins discovered seventeen centuries later it became clear that Pompeii was a very sinful society. Up to several dozen buildings have been identified as likely houses of prostitution, due to the explicit wall paintings and graffiti. Even in private homes, paintings and mosaics depict all kinds of sexual activity, and many common household objects such as lamps, dishes, vases and fountains have been found with sexual motifs. One citizen of ancient Pompeii got it right when he scribbled “Sodom and Gomorrah” on one of the city’s buried walls.
Compared to biblical standards we also live in societies abounding in material wealth and pleasure, as well as increasingly sinful behaviour and attitudes. The Apostle Paul warns us “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
While Paul was describing our day, he could just as well have been describing Pompeii. And like Pompeii, God will hold us responsible for our actions.
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The Good News Magazine