Between 1990 and 2002 there were 25,404 earthquakes worldwide. Of these, 11 were in the 8-9.9 category on the Richter Scale. The average number of quakes during this period was 2117 annually, 176 monthly, and 5.8 daily. During this same 12-year period, 2391 quakes occurred in the United States, none in the 8-9.9 category on the Richter Scale. The average number was 199 yearly, 16.6 monthly, and .55 daily. While most quakes are minor in nature, some are extremely destructive. For example, the Chinese government listed 255,000 deaths from an earthquake in 1976. Bangladesh cited more than 300,000 in 1970, and the deadliest earthquake known caused 1.1 million deaths in Egypt and Syria in the year 1201.
The oceanic crust makes up 60 percent of the earth’s solid surface. This crust is thin and dense and is constantly being produced beneath the ocean at mid-ocean ridges. These ridges are volcanic mountain chains that form at the tectonic plate boundaries where build-up occurs. Since the build-up does not increase the size of the earth, the material produced must be recycled or consumed. It is believed this crust is recycled back into the earth in subduction zones where one plate sinks beneath another and melts back down into the earth. The oceanic crust averages between three and six miles thick. Scientists believe there is a close relationship between the formation of volcanoes and the movement of tectonic plates. Nearly 80 percent of the earth’s volcanoes are located near tectonic plate boundaries. Volcanoes can also be found at boundaries where tectonic plates diverge and split (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library, 1993-2002, Microsoft Corporation).
The explanation for earthquakes is sought in the physical make-up of the earth. The cause is generally linked to stress that is set up in the strata of the earth’s crust. When the strata becomes too ridged to bend, a break occurs. The shock caused by the break, which usually occurs several miles below the surface, generates an earthquake. Shock waves emanate from this break and are picked up by seismograph machines worldwide.
Some earthquakes, especially those under the oceans, are believed to be caused by water seeping through the crust and finding its way to the heated interior of the earth. Steam is formed, and since there is no escape for it, an inevitable explosion occurs. The force of this explosion is felt on the surface.
A common cause of earthquakes is believed to be linked to volcanic activity. While this relationship has not been fully traced, there was a substantial amount of volcanic activity beneath Mount St. Helens when it erupted in 1980, and again in 2004. Explosions of steam or gasses may be the origin of both volcanoes and earthquakes. The information in the above three paragraphs was gleaned from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Electronic Database, 1996 Biblesoft.
What Is Overlooked?
Consider what took place in the seventh century BC. Historians tell us that up to that time the length of the year was 360 days. But in the seventh century BC, it suddenly expanded to 365 1/4 days. The earth’s orbit around the sun slowed down. No one knows why, but there is a biblical event that gives an indication. It is recorded in Amos 1:1 and Zech. 14:5. “The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah [about 763 BC], and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). “And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech. 14:5). These two passages recall this earthquake more than 200 years after it occurred.
Scientists tell us that the Asian earthquake and tsunami that occurred at the end of 2004 caused the earth to wobble on its axis. This was due to the massive amount of energy exerted and the sudden shift in mass. The geology of the surrounding area was permanently changed. Also, the earth’s axis shifted slightly. When a subduction occurs, the shift brings about a change in the shape of the globe, generally causing the rotation of the earth to slow down. A tremendous earthquake, much larger than the Indian Ocean quake that created the tsunami in 2004, would likely have a much greater effect on the earth’s rotation. So the question is: Does the rotation of the earth have an effect on the length of the year? Was it the quake that occurred during the reign of Uzziah that brought about a change in the length of the year? We may never know. What we do know is that because of the 2004 Asian quake, the earth is still vibrating and is likely to continue doing so for some time. Newsday.com, December 28, 2004, reported that the earthquake that occurred in Chile in 1960 was rated at a magnitude of 9 plus, and if the instruments we have today had been used then, it would have shown that the length of the day was changed by such a large amount that we would have been able to see it.
The earthquake mentioned in Zechariah 14-a prelude to God’s displeasure-is what Amos had foretold. Amos states he saw God’s wrath manifested because of the sins of the nations. Two years after he saw the vision, the earthquake struck. While this is not the only reason for quakes, this cause is what has been largely overlooked.
The Awesome Power of God
Aside from the Flood that destroyed the Earth in the days of Noah, let us consider Bible examples of earthquakes past and yet to come. At the time of the Flood, the fountains of the great deep opened up along with the windows of heaven, completely inundating the Earth. Great gaps in the land surface opened to unleash the fountains of the deep. Later, many of the earthquakes that God caused were limited in scope. We read that when the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai, ” . . . 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 quaked greatly” (Ex. 19:18). Psalm 68:8 states: “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.”
The events surrounding the Exodus are related in Psalm 114.
When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion. The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs? (vv. 1-6)
Awesome is the power of God when He chooses to manifest it. The prophet Nahum wrote: “The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him” (Nahum 1:5-6).
Earthquakes Often a Sign
At times earthquakes are a sign from God. During the reign of king Ahab, the prophet Elijah had fled for his life. He was discouraged with the results of the reformation he was trying to effect. At Mount Sinai God manifested Himself to Elijah: “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12). What was God telling Elijah? He revealed to Elijah that he needn’t fear and that He had plans for him. In manifesting His power, God revealed that He is not in nature, but makes nature do His bidding. He uses His great power over nature to warn and punish nations for their sins. An earthquake can be one of these manifestations.
New Testament manifestations include what took place when Jesus died on the cross. “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the [spirit]. 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; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matt. 27:50-53). There is no indication that this resurrection granted anyone eternal life. It obviously was given as a witness to Christ’s death and the great power of God. Those resurrected at this time lived for some period of time but obviously died later, though the Bible makes no comment about what happened to them following this resurrection.
When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother of James and Joses) came to the tomb early on Sunday morning, ” . . . 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” (Matt. 28:2). This was another sign of God’s omnipotence, that He was very active in what had occurred with Christ.
Another example of God manifesting power to serve as a sign is recorded in Acts 16. Paul and Silas had been placed in prison. “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 one’s bands were loosed” (vv. 25-26). The prison guard panicked, thinking that all the prisoners had escaped. Under Roman law, if a prisoner escaped from a guard, the guard was executed. Instead, this event served to lead the guard and his family to accept Christ, as they believed and were baptized. See verses 28-34.
Earthquakes to Come
All earthquakes up to now will be paled in comparison to what is prophesied to come. Consider various natural disasters that have already occurred. BBC News, January 17, 2005, reported that in the past ten years natural disasters have increased 60% over the previous decade. More than 478,000 were killed by such disasters as earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; the most vulnerable people have been living in developing nations. Floods and earthquakes are the deadliest of these disasters. Asia is the most affected area of the world, accounting for half of the casualties and 90% of those injured, left homeless, and needing emergency assistance.
Anyone who has experienced an earthquake knows the fright. Yet earthquakes, up to this point, have been limited in area. What does the Bible say will take place in the future? Here is what the prophet Haggai wrote: “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag. 2:6-7). As human beings we think of time only by our limited understanding. With God it is another matter. What is “a little while” with God. Peter wrote: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). This prophesied earthquake may not happen during our lifetime, or the lifetime of our children, but it will come. It will occur shortly before the Second Coming of Christ. We simply cannot imagine what it will be like when the entire earth shakes! The Bible tells us that when Christ returns, it will occur at Jerusalem. ” . . . 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. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zech. 14:4-5). This quake will be so awesome that the people will flee as they did during the great quake in the reign of Uzziah.
Jesus foretold of many earthquakes. He said: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matt. 24:7). “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). Think of tsunamis when reading “the seas and waves roaring.”
The book of Revelation describes the time when the armies of the earth will be gathered against Jerusalem. “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon . . . . And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great” (Rev. 16:16, 18).
God’s Wrath Upon the Earth
The great earthquake of the last days will occur during the Day of the Lord-the result of God’s wrath upon the earth. The Day of the Lord is not Sunday. Rather, it is that time period when God will begin to deal directly in the affairs of man. Many professing Christians harbor the belief that a loving God does not punish people. Obviously, they have not read their Bibles thoroughly, and know little or nothing about Bible prophecy. They even ignore what the Apostle Paul said: “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (Rom. 2:8-9). These misguided Christians insist God forgives all people who profess Christ. Little do they realize that forgiveness comes as a result of repentance, and repentance requires one to stop sinning. And what is sin? Here is the Bible definition: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). In brief, repentance means to stop breaking the Ten Commandments!
What does the Bible say about God’s punishment during the Day of the Lord?
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it(Isa. 13:9). …And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the [ruthless]. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. (Isa 13:9, 11-13)
A number of prophetic warnings are given concerning the great and terrible Day of the Lord.
Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low . . . . And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. (Isa. 2:10-12,17-19)
The above event is also described in the book of Revelation. It is called “the day of God’s wrath.”
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Rev. 6:14-17)
Again, notice this dire prediction: “The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again” (Isa. 24:19-20).
Today we stand in awe at the destruction that results from earthquakes and in some cases the tsunamis that follow. But what we have seen so far on this earth will pale in insignificance to what is prophesied yet ahead. We do not know when these events will take place, but we do know they will come. God is sending Christ to take control of this world. Evil men will be destroyed.
For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.” (Isa. 66:15-17)
It is time to learn what sin is and to truly repent before God. He does promise to deliver the righteous. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19). Those who are righteous are those who respect and obey God’s Law. “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172).
How valuable is God’s Law?
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:7-11)