The island of La Palma is the westernmost one in the Canary Islands, near Morocco, off the west coast of Africa. The island is apparently of volcanic origin. It is not currently active, but in recent history there were eruptions in 1470, 1585, 1646, 1677, 1712, 1949 and then in 1971. All of these eruptions are associated with the Cumbre Vieja (Old Summit) rift zone. There are about 120 volcanic vents distributed along the crest.

Several years ago, Dr. Simon Day of the Benfield Greig Hazards Research Centre, University College, London and Dr. Steven Ward of the University of California issued a report that claims that the western flank of Cumbre Vieja is unstable and that a volcanic eruption would see a huge 20 cubic kilometre block of rock, weighing hundreds of billions of tons, slide into the Atlantic Ocean. They carried out computer modelling that shows this would create a tsunami that would radiate outwards hitting the eastern seaboard of the USA, the Caribbean, Brazil, and those areas of Britain and Europe with Atlantic coastlines. To understand the principle involved, without needing to understand a computer model, just drop a rock into a pond and watch the ripples or waves radiate outwards.

The scientists claim that the destruction and loss of life would be enormous. As an example, much of New York City is built on a mud-flat. Anyone in an aircraft flying over Manhattan and Long Island can attest to that.

Many are highly critical of the report and show that it is based on flawed assumptions and some outright falsehoods, and is just scare-mongering. The two scientists were sponsored by the insurance industry. The critics claim that La Palma is stable, and point out that even if a huge mountain of rock were to slide into the sea, the wave so generated is likely to dissipate quickly, based on examples in recent history. Such events are unlike the tsunamis created by undersea earthquakes. These begin at the epicentre with small amplitude [wave height], travel at high speed and become massive as the sea depth decreases at the shore.

The island of La Palma goes down into the sea for about 3 Km, and its highest peak is 2,400 metres, or 8,000 ft. Any higher and the critics admit that it could become unstable. But it is said, at present rates of growth, this is unlikely to happen for a long, long time. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was based on Lyell’s Theory of Uniformity – everything is gradually changing, just as we now observe it, without any violent change. This of course can be shown to be nonsense. In the last 6,000 years there have been cataclysmic events that have changed the world.

I understand the critics’ point of view. And of course they want to retain the tourist trade to that popular place. However, in spite of the flawed assumptions, the scientists’ exercise is worthy of consideration. The conclusion may be correct despite some bad assumptions.

Let us see what the Bible tells us about a great mountain cast into the sea. Before we go on, I admit that it does not necessarily refer to La Palma! However, the principles are the same whether it is that island or something similar in Iceland or other volcanic location.

In Revelation 8:8-9 John was shown a great mountain burning with fire cast into the sea – “And the second angel sounded his trumpet: and as a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea, and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures that were in the sea which had life died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed”. Several things are indicated – one, a volcano, and secondly the mountain is “cast into” the sea; it falls into the sea with some force, not just sliding quickly into the sea as the scientists assumed. The sea becoming “blood” indicates the colour, and of course the contaminant is poisonous. Finally, a great number of the world’s ships are destroyed. All this suggests an immense volcanic eruption where a poisonous substance is spewed into one of the large oceans. Furthermore, the waves are of immense magnitude in that many ships are destroyed. When a tsunami is created by an undersea earthquake, the safest place is in a ship well away from the shore.

What then are we to do? To anyone reading this and is not sure of eternal salvation, who has not put his or her trust in the person and work of Christ, we say: “Flee from the coming wrath” (Matthew 3:7). Run – where to? To the cross of Christ. It is there that he bore the sins of many. Can you say he bore my sins there? “He died the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). We who deserve the judgment can be set right with God – justified. And that is without any works on our part. If it depended on our works, we would never have peace or certainty. How can we know that Christ’s work was sufficient? He was raised from the dead. He “was delivered [suffered and died] for our offences and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The resurrection is the witness to God’s complete satisfaction in Christ’s work of redemption. Do not put faith in either computer models or critics. Rather, the answer lies in “repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

Those then who by faith belong to the Lord Jesus Christ will be spared the coming judgments as described in The Revelation. There is a sense in which the church at Philadelphia can be viewed as representing the whole church of God on earth. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will keep thee out of the hour of trial which is about to come upon the whole habitable world,” Revelation 3:10. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, He who raised Lazarus from the dead, will raise those who belong to Himself - both the dead and the living - before the tribulation on this earth.

Nor should anyone think there they can wait for these things to unfold and that there will be a second chance for those “left behind” at the rapture. For any who hear the good news now and refuse it, they have this to expect - “at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven, with the angels of His power, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God, and those who do not obey the glad tidings of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall pay the penalty of everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord”.

MM July 2008