On Wednesday, March 8, 2018 it was announced that Cape Town, South Africa may not face Day Zero this year. If you are unfamiliar with the crisis that the second largest city in South Africa has been facing, Day Zero is the designation given to an estimated day in the future when Cape Town will run out of water. The original Day Zero was April 22, 2018, but, thanks to significant conservation efforts, it appears that this day may be avoided at least during this calendar year.
Since 2015, the city of Cape Town, along with the greater Western Cape region, has been experiencing a drought. In fact, 2017 saw the lowest amount of rainfall in the region since 1933 and possibly earlier since comparable data prior to that time is unavailable. If and when Day Zero arrives, the four million residents of Cape Town will no longer have water pumped into their homes, but instead will be required to travel to water collection points around the community where they will receive daily water rations.
The situation in Cape Town is reminiscent of the pending “Day of the Lord” mentioned in Scripture, which also refers to this day as “the day of God,” “the day of Christ,” “the day of judgment,” “the day of God’s wrath,” “the day of redemption,” “the last day,” and sometimes simply “the day” or “that day.” What will happen on “the day of the Lord”? The Bible indicates that on this last day the trumpet will sound (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), Christ will descend from heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Acts 1:11), the dead will rise and the living will be “changed” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:52), all will be judged (Romans 2:6, 16; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12-13), the righteous will be rewarded while the wicked are punished (Romans 2:5-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 20:15), and creation will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1).
As we reflect on Cape Town’s Day Zero, it reminds us of two important biblical truths about the “Day of the Lord” that are worth mentioning.
First, we have been warned that the day is coming.
What makes Cape Town’s water crisis all the more frustrating is the fact that officials were warned that it would happen at least twenty-eight years ago. The Cape Times, an English-language newspaper in Cape Town, published an article on April 26, 1990 entitled “City Will Run out of water ‘in 17 years.’” The article quoted a report from the Water Research Commission (WRC) as saying, “It is estimated that known fresh water supplies for the Cape Town metropolitan area will be fully committed by the year 2007.” Apparently, similar warnings also appeared in a 2012 report by the same organization, but all of these warnings went unheeded by Cape Town officials.
In similar fashion, the Bible has warned us that a day of judgment is coming. Paul told the church in Thessalonica that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and Peter using similar language said, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). Both of these inspired authors indicated that “the day of the Lord” is coming and will arrive when everyone least expects it. They were simply echoing the words of Jesus. While answering a question posed by His disciples, which was “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3), Jesus said, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only…But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:36, 43-44). We have received an advanced warning regarding a pending day when the unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment” and the righteous “will go away…to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Now, it is up to each of us individually to decide whether or not we will heed the warning.
Second, we are expected to change the way we live in preparation for that day.
Another thing worth mentioning about Cape Town’s water crisis is the restrictions imposed on the water usage by its residents. At present, they are only allowed to use 13.2 gallons water per day per individual. As a result, they have to recycle bath water, convert to paper products for meals, only flush the toilet when necessary, use hand sanitizer instead of washing their hands, and only wash the dirtiest of clothes. In other words, residents of Cape Town have been forced to drastically change the way they live in order to prevent Day Zero from coming.
While there is nothing you and I can do to prevent “the day of the Lord” from coming, that does not mean that we are not expected to drastically change the way we live. After indicating that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief,” Peter posed a rhetorical question. In 2 Peter 3:11, he said, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” A couple of verses later he answered this question when he said, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14). In other words, we are expected to take extraordinary measures to live differently than the rest of the world. In fact, Scripture asserts that our kingdom inheritance status is contingent on whether or not we live a distinctively different life in comparison to the world (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-20; Ephesians 5:1-5). So, entering and inheriting the kingdom of God necessitates the constant pursuit of holiness—being set apart from the world.
I pray that Day Zero will never arrive for Cape Town, South Africa. However, I cannot and should not desire the same thing for “the day of the Lord.” It is coming and I am glad that it is; because, when it arrives those who are ready will be welcomed by the bridegroom to join Him for a grand, eternal wedding banquet (Matthew 25:1-13). So, may the situation in Cape Town serve as a reminder of our need to be prepared for the day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).