The Johnstown Flood

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1-4)

The Johnstown Flood

Located about sixty miles east of Pittsburgh, the town of Johnstown was an industrious and booming coal-and-steel town in the late 1900s. It was a hard life for the people of Johnstown as the dawn of the twentieth century ushered in an industrial boom that would change the landscape of what was once a quiet town nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Like many communities across the land, Johnstown had its share of disasters in the form of floods, fires, and epidemics that seem hardest on the children. In 1879, diphtheria killed over a hundred children in a short time. Accidents at the mills and mines would always be a present danger. Located in the mountains above the town was a reservoir built in the 1850s with an earthen dam roughly 72 feet above the valley floor and more than 900 feet long. The locals called it the South Fork dam.

The purpose of the dam was to cater to the rich and privileged who built the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club on the shores of the lake. Members included men like Andrew Carnegie. Over the years the dam would suffer damage and breaks due to lack of maintenance and repair. This led to the complacency of the danger lurking above the town. Warnings would be sounded and when nothing happened, the residents would quickly return to the lives. Finally, an air of contentment settled among the citizens that few took to heart any warnings about the dam. Most turned a deaf ear to the impending disaster that never came. They believed the owners of the dam, who were powerful and wealthy industrial leaders of the day, would take care to make certain nothing would happen. On May 31, 1889, the people of Johnstown got their answer.

An unusually severe storm hit the area of east Pennsylvania causing rivers and lakes to swell in size. Warnings of the dam being compromised went out, but few heeded the message. At 3:10 pm, the dam broke sending a wall of water rushing through the valley. The water tore through Johnstown with a thunderous roar killing 2,209 men, women, and children. Destruction was everywhere. The town was nearly wiped off the face of the earth. Many lives would have been saved if only the warnings had been heeded but because of the complacency of those who lived in the shadow of the dam, those warnings were ignored.

The apostle Peter through the direction of the Holy Spirit penned an epistle warning of impending doom that will not be a local catastrophe but global destruction. There is coming a day when the world will come to an end in a conflagration of eternal consequence. Everyone will see the coming of the Lord and His holy angels. No one will escape the brilliance of the image of Jesus Christ as He brings the world to an end with a great noise. The heavens will pass away and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. God’s wrath will be brought upon the world against those who deny Him and His grace upon those who serve Him.

No one knows the time of the great day of the Lord but it will come. Sadly, most do not believe the world will be destroyed and that God would judge them. They go about their lives living in the shadow of death and the end of the world with no regard for their eternal destiny. That day will come. Unlike the Johnstown story where warnings were given of the impending failure of the dam, there will be no warnings of the coming of the Lord. When God sends His Son, there will be no second chances. Are you ready? There’s a great day coming.

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2 Responses to The Johnstown Flood

  1. margar8rbrts says:

    Another story that is similar is that of Pompei-warning were given, but no one heeded.
    Incredibly sad. We certainly need an awakening of the Lord’s presence in our world!


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