This year a movie will be released about the ancient city of Pompeii. From the previews, it looks to be an epic thriller cataloguing the devastation and destruction that instantly enveloped a beautiful Italian city. But I doubt the movie will tell the entire story.
And Pompeii’s story is one we desperately need to know today.
If you are familiar with Pompeii, it is probably because you have seen the images of the body cavities that were instantly and perfectly preserved by the hot ash that fell from Mount Vesuvius when it erupted in 79 AD. The body cavities were formed when hot ash enveloped people trying to escape the destruction. They huddled together, mostly in fetal positions and often with loved ones and children, as the ash covered them. The heat of the ash killed them and eventually decomposed their bodies, leaving behind an empty cavity in the ash. When the cavities were discovered, they were filled with plaster so that we could see what they looked like after everything was excavated. They are striking, terrifying and sobering reminder of what “mother nature” can unleash upon her inhabitants in an instant.
But that is not the entire story of Pompeii. Not by a long shot.
In a Roman world caught up with sexual immorality, Pompeii was the beacon, shining its light to lead the way. The Roman world was filled with promiscuity, divorce, homosexual acts with minors, orgies and every other imaginable debauchery, but Pompeii was the city to rule them all for sex.
From 79 to 1599 AD the city lay forgotten. For all that time humanity only had the writings of Pliny the Younger to attest to its existence. But when Pompeii was discovered in 1599, its discoverer walked away from it. Domenico Fontana was so shocked by what he saw, he didn’t believe it was fit to release upon the world. He wasn’t shocked by any body cavities he found, but the images he saw on the walls of Pompeii’s perfectly preserved buildings.
Pompeii was the manufacturer of pornographic pleasures unlike any time in Western history until…now. The artifacts and perfectly preserved fresco paintings in Pompeii rival and even surpass any Eastern notions of sexual depravity preserved through history. Pompeii was apparently the Western world’s play place for sex. The level of depravity they lived under was perfectly preserved by Vesuvius’ eruption for all the world to see today.
The Judgment of God
And that begs the question, why did the eruption so quickly and completely envelope Vesuvius?
Sometimes it is difficult, and even ridiculously vain, to try and uncover the judgment of God from events that it simply doesn’t exist in. Some things happen and the Lord doesn’t give an explanation of why. Thornton Wilder wrote The Bridge of San Luis Rey about just that. We must not seek to find the judgment of God when it is not there.
But Pompeii’s situation screams for attention to be paid to it. Pompeii was more than a few people who died on a bridge—it was a city wholly devoted to one thing: sexual immorality. There are far too many biblical passages to list that show God’s hatred for sexual immorality (Ephesians 5, 1 Thessalonians 4, Galatians 5, Romans 1, Revelation 2-3, etc.). And it is not that sexual sin makes you any more a sinner than any other kind of sin. The devastating problem with sexual sin is that it defiles us more than anything else we can engage in.
18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Defiling And Destructive
Sexual sin defiles us like nothing else. It wreaks havoc on our tender souls and puts a wedge between us and God. That wedge is not because God is angrier at us, but that we are less apt to run back to God for forgiveness. It causes us, like Adam, to run and hide from God instead of run to Him for forgiveness. It warps our view of God faster than anything else.
When God judges, He does so for two reasons. He proclaims judgment against those who fight against His people, as is clearly evident in the book of Revelation, and He also proclaims judgment against the sin waging war within His people to purify them. At times that sin becomes so grievous that He actually removes people from planet earth just to rid the earth of their sin. God refused to give the promised land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants until the sin of the Amorites had reached its full measure (Genesis 15:16).
In Pompeii’s case, it stands as a warning to all on the earth who would seek to walk in such a level of depravity. It is hard to look at Pompeii and not see the judgment of God. The problem with that is that it is always easier with hindsight. We today are at a loss to see our own depravity in the same way the Pompeiians were even up to the point of their demise.
A Warning To Heed
As this movie comes out this year, will America choose to see itself as a depraved nation in need of God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace, or will we continue to harden our hearts against our maker. Will we choose to submit to Him, or will we continue to redefine what God calls good and bad to suit our whims?
Now is the time to open our eyes and see our moment of visitation before it is too late. Please, America, wake up and return to your God.