Earthquakes: A Message From God?
As a resident of Oklahoma in the year 2011, I’m never too surprised when our state makes the national news. We’ve had record-breaking snowstorms, the nation’s hottest weather, extreme drought conditions and swarms of destructive tornadoes, but this week Oklahoma made the national news because we’ve experienced several earthquakes. The largest one measured 5.6 on the Richter scale, followed two days later by an aftershock of 4.7 which happened while some areas were under a tornado warning.
As we heard the rumbling sounds of these unexpected earthquakes and saw the walls shake and the floor beneath us move, we seemed more alarmed about this geological phenomenon than any of our state’s harshest weather events. There was no loss of life, and very few experienced any property damage, yet there was a sense of unease and insecurity among many of us. Why was this happening? Was God trying to get our attention? Are these earthquakes a sign for us?
A study of earthquakes in the Bible (there are 17 references) shows that God “shakes the earth” for either judgment, deliverance or as a means of revealing Himself. The most well-known quakes are those surrounding the revelation of Himself. The first instance of this is found in Exodus 19:18 where the people of Israel are camped around Mt. Sinai, and God speaks directly to them so they will know Him for themselves and also to authenticate Moses as His spokesman. The Scripture says, “the mountain trembled greatly” when this revelation happened. Psalm 68:8, in describing the same event, says, “the earth quaked” at the presence of the Lord.
The second example happened immediately after Jesus took his last breath on the cross and Matthew 27:51 records, “the earth shook and the rocks were split.” In the third example, Matthew tells us in 28:2 when Mary and the other women arrived at the tomb on the third day, “there was a great earthquake.” God seems to emphasize some really momentous events with earthquakes.
There are at least two future “great earthquakes” coming which John writes about in Revelation 6:12 and 16:16-20. Enormous geological changes will occur as a result of these upheavals, and I doubt there will be a seismograph in existence which will be able to measure their intensity.
The fact that God seems to mark important events with earthquakes is probably one of the reasons we sensed our recent rumblings could “mean something.” But another more obvious reason is that Jesus, when asked about the sign of His coming and the end of the age in Matthew 24, declared that a number of ongoing circumstances, including wars, famines and earthquakes, would be present and could be thought of as “labor pains” to His return. Since a woman’s labor pains begin slowly and continue to increase in frequency and intensity until the birth, most Biblical scholars believe Jesus meant that wars, famines and earthquakes would be happening with more frequency and intensity when His return was about to happen.
Jesus also specifically stated that the earthquakes would be in “various” places. Some translations have “different” places for the Greek word He used here. It would seem natural to assume He meant that the earthquakes of the latter days would not just be occurring in Israel, but would, in fact, be happening all over the world, perhaps even in different places not known for earthquakes.
While I cannot begin to know or understand the mind of God in moving the Teutonic plates in the earth’s crust in Oklahoma this week, I do know this trembling intrusion into my life caused my heart to turn toward Him, to pray for those who seemed so unsettled by them, and to realize if these movements were indeed harbingers of His coming soon, I had nothing to fear. The Psalmist said it for me in 46:2, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”