As I write this (March 14, 2011), the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan dominate the news, not to mention the nuclear reactor/radiation concerns. It seems Japan has been hit with a triple whammy. The quake itself is reported as the largest one to hit Japan in recorded history, though it appears most of the damage has been caused by the following tsunami. The question may arise, was this quake predicted in Revelation? Does Revelation have anything to say about earthquakes in the end time?
The short answer to the second question is yes. Earthquakes are mentioned five times in Revelation. The worst one is discussed in chapter 16:18-20. Is this the Japan earthquake? Short answer–not likely. First of all it says this one is the worst ever to happen in earth’s history. That is not true of the Japan quake. There have been several of greater magnitude and others more deadly. The one in the Bible is so bad even the islands and mountains disappear. That has not happened yet. It appears that it is virtually global in extent, whereas so far what we have seen are more regional quakes. They can be devastating, but still don’t measure up to the one in Revelation 16, which is still future–probably happening in conjunction with the actual coming of Christ to this earth. This is probably the same one referred to in chapter 6:14 where people are crying for rocks and mountains to fall on them to hide them from Jesus on His triumphal return to earth.
What can we expect for the future? Likely more of the same. Does it mean we are at the end? Earthquakes by themselves don’t indicate the end per se, but they certainly are part of what we can expect in the end times. In Matthew 24:6-8 Jesus predicted the following: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” And for 2000 years earth has seen these things take place. We are fortunate that the major catastrophes that have occurred in recent years have been spaced out so the world could bring adequate resources to assist in each instance. If we were to have a period of calamities with several happening at once, we could be in more dire straits. Certainly, Christians should take these events as wake-up calls. We need to be ready to meet Jesus all the time, whether we are alive when He comes or whether we die before then. Often the end comes unannounced. How much we need to know Jesus personally today!
A few years ago in the LA Times there was an article about an emergency training session in August of 2001 conducted by FEMA. They tried to determine what the three most likely catastrophes in the US were that they might have to cope with. Their final conclusion was: 1) A terrorist attack in New York City 2) A super-strength hurricane in New Orleans, and 3) a major earthquake on the San Andreas fault in California. It is interesting to note that the first occurred a month after that meeting. The second took place in 2005. The third has not yet happened and of course no one can predict that. Experts simply say it is inevitable, but can’t say whether it will happen next week or years from now.
This morning on NBC Today a guest being interviewed suggested that most earthquakes happen in clusters. He likened the Pacific Ocean to a large square. He then noted the earthquake in Chile (8.8 February 27, 2010) in the southeast area. Then came the quake in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month (6.3, 7.1 earlier, February 22) in the southwest area of the square, followed by the Japan quake (8.9 March 11) in the northwest part of the square. His suggestion was that the next one would be in the northeast area, though he of course could not give any reliable time frame. He mentioned the San Andreas fault (from LA to northern California), the Hayward fault (Oakland, east of San Francisco), and the Cascadia subduction zone off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. He said if a 9.0 should take place at the Cascadia location, it would not only create quake damage, but would also stir up a large tsunami (perhaps 80 foot wall of water on the west coast) that would also cross the Pacific.
The Bible doesn’t give specific predictions about the time for the final global earthquake, nor does it predict particular quakes before then, other than to say they will happen in many places, so we shouldn’t be surprised. The important thing is that we know Christ as our personal savior and friend and are growing daily in Him. Then it doesn’t matter when He comes as far as our salvation is concerned. But we can have confidence in Him and His presence with us no matter what happens, and we can look forward to a better place without the danger of all the disasters we experience here.
I stated above that Revelation doesn’t predict any specific quakes before the last one at Christ’s coming. However, in Revelation 6:12 there appears to be an exception to that. It does talk about a great earthquake at the time of the sixth seal. I will have more to say about that when I come to that chapter in the revelation for beginners category. But just a brief note about it for now.
We have noted in the past that Revelation follows a generally historicist pattern, that is, it is a continuous unfolding of prophecy from the prophet’s day to the end of time. We can see it also in the book of Daniel and will see it in the seven churches of Revelation. Following that paradigm, then, the sixth seal should be sometime near the end. History supports that idea. The earthquake here listed can’t be the final one mentioned in Revelation 16:18-20 because there is still another quake to come as stated under the seventh seal in chapter 8:5. Here is the text in question (6:12, 13): “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind.” The next verses refer to the coming of Jesus, so these events must precede that appearance. Historicist interpreters see at least an initial fulfillment of these events as follows: the great earthquake referring to the great Lisbon earthquake in 1755 which affected much of Europe, including a deadly tsunami in Lisbon (they used to call them tidal waves); the notable Dark Day and moon to blood (in appearance the following night), May 19, 1780, primarily in the New England area; a spectacular meteor shower November 13, 1833, which some thought was indicating the end of the world. These are seen as ushering in the time of the end, a means of drawing the attention of the world to the fact that the coming of Jesus again to this world was nearing.
Other than this one and the final one at the coming of Jesus, there is no evidence from Revelation that any other earthquake is specifically predicted. They are simply reminders that we do live in the end times and may well see more such quakes in the future. May the tragedies of this old world create in us a longing to see Jesus and live with Him eternally in a re-created new earth (see Revelation 21).
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