Earthquakes of Scripture
Jeff Brown, Heath, Cardiff, Wales. [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
In the last article we looked at the first three of the five tribulation earthquakes. 1 This article will consider the next two earthquakes recorded in Revelation, before studying the earthquake associated with the coming of the King in power and great glory.
The earthquake associated with the seventh trumpet, Rev. 11. 19
The storm clouds are now gathering and the ultimate storm is about to break, yet John is permitted to see the temple of God opened in heaven, and within was ‘the ark of his testament (covenant)’. What a reassurance to John in the dark scene before him! God is in absolute control, and still with His people in all their changing circumstances, and about to manifest Himself on their behalf!
Perhaps it would be a good thing for us, as the people of God today, to remember that despite the circumstances in our lives, circumstances which will never bear comparison to events in this tribulation period, that God is still on the throne and still for us. We, like John, should look up!
The three phenomena, lightning, voices, and thundering, associated with the seventh seal earthquake, Rev. 8. 5, are also experienced at this seventh trumpet earthquake, but with the addition here of great hail. Exodus chapter 9 verses 22-35 speak of the judgement of hail on the land of Egypt, with the word ‘hail’ being used twelve times. Utter devastation was the outcome there, vv. 24-25, yet here we read of great hail. The intensity of events increases by the time the next earthquake occurs, 2 for there we read of great hail ‘every stone about the weight of a talent’. A talent is about the weight that a man can hold, or approximately 250kg. The largest hailstone ever recorded on Earth was about 55kg, larger than a tennis ball! This plague of hail is now termed ‘exceeding great’. 3
The greatest earthquake experienced on Earth – the seventh bowl, Rev. 16. 18-21
This earthquake is unprecedented in its greatness; no earthquake event in human history can be remotely compared to it. Today we measure earthquakes in two ways: the Mercalli scale measures the observed effects on a relative scale of 1 to 12, 12 being ‘extreme catastrophe – total damage’; the Richter scale measures the magnitude of the earthquake, and the energy released. The observable effects of this earthquake will be as never seen before, and the measured effects will go off the scales of human instruments. 4
Atmospheric and terrestrial effects of divine judgement on a rebellious humanity will now intensify. 5 Verse 19 describes widespread urban devastation, ‘the cities of the nations fell’. Further proof of this increasing intensity of judgement is seen in verse 20, continuing and almost completing the process begun in Revelation chapter 6 verses 12-14. There, in the first tribulation earthquake, ‘every mountain and island were moved out of their places’, here ‘every island fled away, and the mountains were not found’. The closing verse of the chapter seems to indicate a recognition that God is behind all these happenings, yet we read of men blaspheming God. No mention is made of repentance, just absolute and utter defiance! 6
The earthquake caused by the coming of the King to the Mount of Olives, Zech. 14. 4-5
Chronologically, this earthquake appears to the present writer to be the last one mentioned in scripture. In its context, the scene is set right at the very end of the tribulation period. The nations will be drawn by God against Israel, 7 infected through the centuries with the virus of hatred for the ‘people of God’. The opening verses of Zechariah chapter 14 give a picture of defeat. Surely, there is no reprieve from this situation: property is confiscated; womanhood violated; and the population scattered and demoralized. Yet everything is under divine control, and, in God’s time, there is divine intervention. All nations may be against the people of God, v. 2, but, at the last moment, the Lord intervenes to fight against those nations, v. 3.
The Mount of Olives
The Mount of Olives is ‘split in two’ by this earthquake, as the King Himself descends from heaven. The words of verse 4 clearly indicate the personal, visible, and bodily return of Christ to Earth. Here the very last place His feet trod in His first coming 8 will be the first place He will touch at this second phase of His second coming.
The cleaving of the mountain will initially create an escape route for the people of God in that day; they will fear for their lives because of the presence of the Beast, the signs of the great battle looming, and also because of the earthquake. This newly created valley will remain a witness to divine deliverance and power.
The cleaving of the Red Sea 9 was another witness of divine deliverance and power to the people of God when under great duress. That cleaving, or dividing, lasted less than twenty-four hours, 10 but the cleaving of Olivet will be permanent. The reference in verse 5 to the historical earthquake in the days of Uzziah, Amos 1. 1, and to the fear it produced, again gives evidence that this earthquake, and everything associated with it in the passage, must be taken literally.
This earthquake and the coming of the King to Olivet will be associated with great tectonic, natural, and topographical/physical changes.
Tectonic, vv. 4-5.
A great east-west fault and a massive north-south displacement of the mountain will occur. Recent geological studies have confirmed an enormous east-west fault line in the region, which runs right through the Mount of Olives. Yet the God who created the existing world from nothing in six days, hardly needs a pre-existing fault line to move a mountain! God can use nature, but He needs no help from nature to achieve His purposes. Nature itself depends on God!
Natural, vv. 6-7.
That day will be marked by a distinctive character, and the presence of the Lord. It seems there will be an evening-like twilight, ‘not day and not night’, which will then brighten at evening. These disturbances of the laws of nature will be a forerunner of coming days of national restoration, and an end to the nation’s mourning. 11
Topographical/physical, vv. 8-10.
Living waters will flow continually out of Jerusalem, v. 8, and a fountain will flow out of the house of the Lord, Joel. 3. 18. Verse 10 speaks of great physical changes to the immediate landscape, creating a vast plain, and elevating the city itself above all the land around. 12
There are some interesting comparisons and contrasts between the Lord’s ascent from Olivet and His descent to the same mountain. We have listed some in the Table below.
Conclusion and Spiritual Significance
What can we learn for our present spiritual benefit?
Earthquakes are all demonstrations of divine power and sovereignty, while some specifically relate to judgement, deliverance, and the immediate presence of God. These natural phenomena cause great fear to those affected by them in our day, as they will in the tribulation period, but with greater intensity. But will this draw men to God and lead men to repentance? The lessons from past earthquakes, and the biblical record of future tribulation earthquakes would suggest not. It is easy to acknowledge the ‘hand of God’ in a vague sort of way in a natural event and to view God from a distance, rather than acknowledge Him as near in a personal and intimate relationship.
These great forces that rock the Earth put man into perspective, and show his utter weakness and helplessness. In days of uncertainty and constant change, the God of heaven is in absolute and final control, and soon will fully manifest the eternal victory over human power and evil. Ultimately world-dominating powers and confederacies will be overthrown. All levels of society will be affected, whether great or small – none can evade God’s judgements. Reality will begin to set in and men will eventually realize that there is a God in heaven. Atheism, humanism, agnosticism – indeed any ‘ism’, will have no answer; neither will religion!
What ensues from the Olivet earthquake shows that Israel has, and always will have, a special place in the heart of God and in the furtherance of His purposes on Earth. God’s name will be vindicated, His glory served, and His Son manifested. When divine grace and mercy are spurned, man will soon feel divine justice and retribution.
Take heart, fellow believer; the wicked will not triumph for ever, even though present-day events seem to point that way. The persecution, despising and hatred for the people of God in that day, as in our present day, will only last for a limited time. God’s definite prophetic programme on Earth has finality in view. As believers, when part of this programme is being worked out on Earth, we shall have already been raptured. God’s programme also encompasses an eternal home in heaven for us. Let us live our daily lives now in the glorious anticipation of that coming day!
|Acts 1. 8-12||Zech. 14. 4-6|
|Historical: 2,000 years ago||Prophetic: at least seven years from now|
|The Lord’s last time on Earth in the first advent||The Lord’s first time on Earth in the second advent|
|The Lord was taken up; ascended||The Lord came down; descended|
|A cloud received Him out of their sight||He will come on and with clouds|
|He went into heaven||He came from heaven|
|A few of His own saw Him go up||Every eye shall see Him|
|He ascended to heaven alone||He will return with a great company of saints and angels|
1 Rev. 6. 12-15; 8. 5; 11. 13.
2 Rev. 16. 18.
3 Rev. 16. 21.
4 Seismometers measure earthquake amplitude/magnitude.
5 Hag. 2. 6; Isa. 24. 17-21; Joel. 3. 16.
6 The reader might want to make a further study of Revelation chapter 16 by noticing the occurrence of the word ‘great’. It occurs eleven times in the chapter, describing eight separate subjects. The references are vv. 1, 9, 12, 14, 17, 18 (x2), 19 (x2), 21 (x2). These certainly will be ‘great’ and memorable times!
7 Zech. 14. 2.
8 Acts 1. 8-12.
9 Exod. 14. 21; Ps. 136. 13-15.
10 Exod. 14. 21; cf. 14. 27.
11 Isa. 60. 18-22; Joel 3. 12-16.
12 Micah 4. 1-2.