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Contemporary Issues
"A Biblical Appraisal of Recent Earth-Shaking & Earth-Shaping Events"

(Jan 2005)

by Rev Jack Sin 
(Pastor, Maranatha B-P Church)
 

Introduction

The whole world was recently convulsed when an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the richter scale sent gigantic tidal waves to more than 10 countries on two continents in the Indian Ocean, killing more than 150,000 people and caused widespread devastation on an unprecedented scale on Sunday morning, 26 Dec 2004. This was the worst earthquake in 40 years that shocked the whole world. We are talking about 40 feet mammoth tidal waves travelling at 400 km/h, hydrodynamic forces of a colossal proportion, hitting the shorelines of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, among others and many perished in the calamity (imagine what the global flood of Noahís time would have done in 40 days). It permanently changed the shorelines of some countries and some of the Nicobar Islands have disappeared forever. What are the spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from such an event from a scriptural perspective? The following are noteworthy.

The Word of God is replete with an infallible record of earthquakes that happened throughout the early history of mankind in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Earthquakes are often Godís megaphone which He used as supernatural calamities for divine announcement to mortals on earth. The English Puritans take a serious view of the natural disasters and saw it as having the consent of the sovereign God and is designed to speak to men as a timely awakening, a punitive measure, a bugle or clarion call to righteousness, revival and saving faith of the unredeemed and a warning or forerunner of impending divine judgment of the Christís second coming.

History of Giant Quakes

The first scientifically monitored earthquake occurred in Antioch on 20 May, 526 AD and left 250,000 dead. Another major quake occurred in Shenxi, China on 24 Jan 1556 claiming 830,000 lives and yet another mammoth earthquake occurred in Calcutta, India on 11 Oct 1739, leaving 300,000 dead. Portugal had her fair share in when an 8.6 on a richter scale earthquake occurred in Lisbon in 1785, with 60,000 killed.

From 1923-1994, earthquakes have hit Japan (Yokohama), China (Nanshan), Turkey, Afghanistan, Morroco, Iran, Chile, Yugoslavia, Alaska, Peru (7.7) Bolivia (8.2), Columbia (6.8), Indonesia (7.3), California (6.8), Papua New Guinea (7.0), Mexico (7.2), Guam (8.0), Fiji (6.7) and Greece (6.0) claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and caused widespread destruction to property and houses. In the past 50 years, we witnessed an increasing intensity and frequency of giant quakes in the world which are noteworthy. One of the signs that our Lord Jesus gave in the Olivet Discourse of Matt 24:1-24 was earthquakes in divers places or many places or countries at one time (verses 6 and 7). There were more earthquakes in the 20th century than the previous centuries. The Geological Society of U.S reported that in 1950 the number of earthquakes greater than magnitudes five occurred 1,095 times. In 1960 there were 9,680 earthquakes and in 1970 there were 15,360 earthquakes.

As for pestilences, the world had their fair share of the bird flu, SARS, the mad cow disease, the epidemic with pigs and fishes over the last few years that also killed many and is also a sign of the times.

Earthquakes: The Megaphone of God

Our Almighty God has often manifested his power, glory and greatness in earthquakes and humbled men by his great power and brought the divine message of judgment across to his creatures. We shall consider seven significant quakes in the Bible.

Firstly, consider the quake at Mount Sinai in Exod 19:18 where it is recorded, And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quakedgreatly. Ps 68:8 gave us the commentary on the verse. The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. God spoke with great authority and supernatural power when He gave the Decalogue to Moses and to all posterity today with a powerful earth-shaking quake to accompany it, so that none should forget these perpetual moral laws.

Secondly, consider Num 16:31-32 which read, And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.

The context is the rebellion by the sons of Korah, Dathan and Abiram against the God-sanctioned leadership of Moses and the Levites. They met with certain death when the earthquake caused the earth to open and swallowed them up, subsequently. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God when we do not repent of our sins! We must not take the grace and mercy of God for granted for judgment will come one day.

Thirdly, consider the quake at the crucifixion of our Saviour at Mount Calvary. Matt 27:51, 54 record, And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. An earth-shaking quake of a great magnitude (unknown to us) accompanied the vicarious, once and for all atonement of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ of Calvaryís cross on our behalf. Heaven recorded this event with a great supernatural calamity. It was God the Son who condescended to dwell among men and to die on the cross for the sins of many that no one should neglect nor ignore such an earth-shaking event.

Fourthly, the quake at the resurrection of Christ is significant. Matt 28:1-4 reads, In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. God sent an earthquake to announce it to the world, the triumph of the Son of God over death, hell and the grave and the angel proclaimed this good news as well to the disciples at the empty tomb. It was a glorious message of victory, great assurance and comfort to redeemed souls that Christ has risen and we shall rise one day! 1 Cor 15:57 says, But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fifthly, consider the quake after the day of Pentecost. Act 4:29-31 say, And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. This was a heavenly announcement of the outpouring of the Blessed Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit in all its power and glory and the disciples are empowered to speak in known languages in an unprecedented incidence, leading to the founding of the Church and the spiritual growth, widespread expansion and the increased vitality of the Christian faith in the first century.

Sixthly, at the deliverance of Paul and Silas from prison in Act 16:25-27, And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every oneís bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. God knows when and how to deliver his saints from testings and tribulations and He did it in marvellous ways. Paul and Silas were set free by God through an earthquake,a message of spiritual freedom and deliverance from the bondage of sin to all who chose to seek and believe in Christ.

Seventhly, before the coming of the Lord at the opening of the 6th seal, Rev 6:12 says,And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood. This time, it is not tidal waves but the celestial bodies, which will be affected by the righteous wrath of God. This will happen again in Rev 8:5 just before the 7th trumpet and in 11:13 and 11:9 at the opening of the seventh vial (Rev 16:18) Destructive and supernatural earthquakes will precede the Great Day of the coming of our Lord.

The sign of the numerous gigantic earthquakes in the last days is part of the Great Tribulation of seven years that will precede the coming of the Lord before the battle of Armageddon, a sober admonition to wake up a sinful mankind in the supernatural shake up of the world.

The Warning Heeded

Are you ready to meet your God if He comes today or take us home (Amos 4:12)? Will your lamps be trimmed and your garments washed white with the precious blood of Christ? If you ask the right question like the Philippian Jailor of old to Paul, the answer is still the same as in Acts 16:30b, 31 what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Be ye reconciled with God before it is too late! Isa 55:6-7 say, Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon and 2 Cor 6:2 says, (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation).

Do not delay in seeking Christ and do not take Godís grace for granted. Be vigilant and alert at all times. Mark 13:33 says, Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. The signs and symptoms of the second coming of the Lord are clear. Act 1:11 says, Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. There will be one more gigantic earthquake one day when Christ returns physically and visibly on Mount Olive in Zech 14:4 which reads, And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. The mountain will split into two and the Lord will land on earth to destroy His foes and rule and judge the world.

Conclusion

There will be the final destruction of the earth by fire and then the new heavens and new earth will be created (2 Pet 3:10-14). There was no advance warning before the tidal waves hit the shoreline and there will be none at the imminent coming of the Lord if we are not vigilant. Are you prepared and ready for the Lordís second coming? Now is the time to return to the Lord and sin no more! To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Be consecrated to the Lord, give up worldly pleasures and sin and take up the cross and follow Him daily (Luke 9:23).

The signs are clear but are we awakened and revived today? What should be our proper response to the recent regional catastrophe? Jesus answered us in Luke 13:1-5, There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Yes, except we repent today and return to Christ, we who are no better than those who died will likewise perish. This is the singular most important message from God on the tsunami and earthquake for the living today while souls are perishing into eternity daily. The Apostle John repeatedly says in Rev 2:29, He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

What are your priorities today? Repent of your sins, seek and serve God and be ready to leave this world anytime and face Him! Finally, may we be able to say like the hymn writer,

The Lordís our Rock,
In Him we hide,
A Shelter in the time of storm,
Secure, whatever will betide,
A Shelter in the time of storm!

Remember the sombre words of the inspired Scriptures from Ps 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom and Eph 5:16,17, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is."


 
 
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