Every time something tragic occurs the ghouls gather to howl at the moon, calling us to heed, for it is yet another token of the End of the Age.
Thus has it ever been. A recent book, The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin, and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, recounts the awe and horror that impacted on the cultural world of the West following the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. It was widely believed to herald the End, and was immediately factored in to the prophetic fantasies of the time. A example can be found here. Seventh-day Adventist guru Ellen White was one who, by the peculiar "gift of prophecy," discerned special importance in the disaster for the great scheme of the Last Days.
The Lisbon Earthquake is a lesson in caution and humility. A great city was devastated, but the sun rose the next day. Christ did not return "on schedule" with the hosts of heaven. Its relevance to the book of Revelation? Absolutely zero.
The wonder is that we - citizens of the twenty-first century - can still be suckers for the same sick misuse of tragedy. The self-anointed prophets now, as then, do little or nothing to provide relief for the suffering. Instead they play a game of "told you so," and solicit funds for their own ministries. Among the more crass examples is Roderick Meredith's LCG, but there is much worse on offer including, I'm ashamed to say, a newly launched COG publication produced (badly!) in New Zealand.
Lisbon has a lesson for all of us: human suffering is meant to be relieved, not exploited.