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What the Bible says about Earthquakes
(From Forerunner Commentary)

2 Chronicles 26:19-21

Josephus relates an interesting story, although there is no telling how true it is. He writes that the earthquake mentioned by Amos in Amos 1:1 (where the prophet writes that he prophesied two years before the earthquake), occurred when Uzziah entered the sanctuary. Further, he says that the roof of the sanctuary was torn or rent by the quake, and a ray of sunlight drilled into the Temple, striking Uzziah in the forehead. The shaft of light was quickly obscured, but the leprosy remained. Tradition says that this was the hand of God, showing His displeasure at the presumptuous pride of this man, whom He had blessed so greatly and who now felt infallible, above doing wrong, and that his word had become law.

Again, we see a man who started out marvelously, but when confronted late in life with the truth and told to repent for turning away—God was trying to save him from his destructive course—Uzziah refused.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1

Ecclesiastes 11:3

Many unanticipated things will occur in life. When a cloud passes overhead, we do not know if it is going to rain or not. If it dumps all its water on us, it may wash the farm away, something we did not plan for. Solomon is giving a warning: "Risk what you have and give your all to living a life by faith. Be generous and enthusiastic in doing it, but also be aware that there will be adversities. Things are not always going to go the way you would like them to go."

Unanticipated events will occur. We cannot control the difficulties of life. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and huge thunderstorms happen. We have to be ready with the right kind of mind to anticipate and deal with these events.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)

Amos 4:6-11

God's people were very busy making money, accumulating things, and practicing their religion. But God was also very busy—sending famines, droughts, blights, locusts, epidemics, warfare, and possibly earthquakes in judgment for their unrighteousness (Amos 4:6-11). He hoped that they would heed these "minor" warnings before He sent the rod of His anger against them (Isaiah 10:5).

Rain fell on one part of the country and not on another. When it rained, it rained too much, causing floods. In other places just enough rain fell to deceive the people into feeling a sense of hope—that it was not so bad after all.

We see this in the United States. Natural disasters—insurance companies call them "acts of God"—are growing more frequent and more intense, killing many and causing billions of dollars in damage. Floods ravaged the Midwest in 1993, while drought killed crops in other areas. After a year or so of good rainfall, California fell back into drought conditions—only to suffer from floods a year later! Fires rage over thousands of acres after periods of drought, destroying forests and homes. Sudden earthquakes, storms, tornadoes, and extreme temperatures destroy homes, businesses, and lives.

It never seems to get quite bad enough to send the nation into a real tailspin, but it is just enough that, like the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Exodus (Exodus 7:13-14), we continue to harden our hearts. We fail to repent. If the unrepentant attitude continues, the "natural" disasters will intensify, bankrupting the nation economically. Since money seems to be the nation's foremost god, the true God will hit where it hurts most.

The vast majority of Americans have become so far removed from God that they lack the eyes to see and the ears to hear the warnings He sends. Educated in a system that fundamentally denies God, they lack understanding. They interpret God's warnings as natural events—just nature running her course. An earthquake or flood or drought is viewed as "nature doing her thing."

Rather than heed the warning and repent, Americans turn to their other false gods—science and technology—to bail them out. "Design better levies to protect us from floods," they cry. "Seed the clouds to produce more rain." "Engineer stronger buildings to withstand more powerful earthquakes." "Science will someday give us the ability to predict—even stop—earthquakes." Americans have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15).

In these disasters, God is saying something quite different—something vitally important. He is warning the people that they have a responsibility, and if they fail to live under their covenant with Him, He has the power to correct them so that they will repent. So, in fairness and mercy, God lays a simple choice before them: "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). Their choice is either to face their sins and repent, or face the wrath of a just God.

To bring about His purpose, God is active in His creation, especially among His people, whether physical or spiritual Israel. "If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?" (Amos 3:6). Is God involved in our lives? Do things happen by chance to the people of God? This world would have you believe that God really is not aware, that He does not care or even exist! But He says, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

Is God involved? "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29-30). Do we see God working in our lives? Events do not happen accidentally to God's people, of whom God is very aware. He is very concerned and thus very involved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)

Amos 8:7-8

In Amos 4:2 God swore by His holiness, all of His moral integrity, His very nature. He also swore by Himself (Amos 6:8), indicating everything that He is and His sovereignty over all creation. Israel was not impressed. So God says, "Look, I have sworn by My holiness and by Myself, and that didn't carry any weight with you. So now I will swear by something so great—your own pride—that you can't refuse!" What irony! God says if He swears by something of theirs, it may mean more to them than if He swears by something of His!

This passage also shows that when man gets out of step with God, then nature too begins to suffer. Beauty begins to be replaced by ugliness. We begin to see huge piles of slag, polluted rivers, foul-smelling garbage dumps, expanding deserts, and denuded forests. Finally, when the land begins to vomit the people out (Leviticus 18:24-28), they may show a belated interest in God and His truth, but it will be too late to stop the destruction. The time is right—the fruit is ripe, so God will punish them.

Consider what is currently happening in our Western nations of Israel. God shows a connection between nature and human morality; "natural" disasters are acts of God in response to the moral condition of the people. If men will treat other men, created in the image of God, in an immoral way, how will they treat the land, forests, rivers, lakes, and oceans? Because these things seemingly cannot fight back, man will abuse them with no fear of reprisal. But God says that the environment will fight back and vomit them out!

Instead of rain falling in a gentle mist, it will roar like an avalanche until the inhabitants cannot cope with it. The rivers will swell and flood the land in anger, washing the topsoil into the sea. In other areas, fire will sweep over forests and farmlands, destroying everything in its path. Windstorms like hurricanes and tornadoes will devastate the cities and countryside, endangering the lives and livelihoods of the people. Earthquakes will increase in both frequency and power, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars of damage. These disasters will mount to such an intensity that the people of modern Israel may seek repentance, but it will be too late. God will not pass by anymore.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)

Amos 8:9-10

These are subtle signs of a "ripe" society. When an earthquake strikes, one feels very unstable because he is not sure if the building will collapse and kill him. A similar type of instability occurs when society is rocked by crime, violence, immorality, and injustice. Amos describes the insecurity, bitterness, and death that result from failing to hold to the absolute standards of God.

One of the first signs of ripeness that society shows is instability. Just a few decades ago, most of us could leave our houses unlocked, but when society began to become unstable, we had to start locking our doors. In the recent past, we did not read a great deal about violence on the streets. Now society is so unstable that violence fills our news reports, and this constant source of worry produces more instability.

Within such a nation, all kinds of unstable factors constantly increase because everyone is running here and there in confusion. The confusion results from the lack of absolute standards of what is right and wrong, moral and immoral, ethical and unethical. Thus, everybody does his own thing. Violence, divorce, suicide, and mental illness increase. We see this in our societies every day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)

Revelation 6:12-17

Unlike the other five seals, the text of the sixth seal is straightforward and uncomplicated. Only a few of the details in the description require more than a brief comment in explanation. Far more important to understanding this seal as a judgment is the effect the signs have on the people of the earth.

The seal opens with "a great earthquake" (Revelation 6:12), a common indicator of God appearing (see Judges 5:4; Psalm 68:8; 77:18; 97:4; Habakkuk 3:10; Haggai 2:6-7), working out His purpose (see Exodus 19:18; Matthew 27:51-54; 28:2; Acts 16:26), and/or striking out in displeasure and judgment. In terms of anger and punishment, God caused an earthquake to open the ground in the wilderness and swallow Korah and his fellow rebels (Numbers 16:31-32). In Psalm 18:7, David writes, "Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry" (see Isaiah 5:25; Nahum 1:2-5). God prophesies in Isaiah 13:11, 13, "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. . . . Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger."

Earthquakes occur frequently in Revelation, of which this one is the first. Seismic activity accompanies the seventh seal (Revelation 8:5), the resurrection of the Two Witnesses (11:13), the seventh trumpet (11:19), and the seventh bowl or vial (KJV) of God's wrath (16:18). Evidently, massive earthquakes—the kind that strikes dread and panic into every soul caught in them—will frequently punctuate the Day of the Lord.

Certainly, the heavenly signs that occur in tandem with the great temblor are astounding, especially if all of them should occur within a short span of time. Joel 2:30-31 describes the same event: "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD." In the Olivet Prophecy, Jesus repeats the warning: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25). Luke's rendition adds a few details:

And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)

The Sun Darkened: John describes the darkness of the sun as "black as sackcloth of hair" (Revelation 6:12), comparing it to the black goat hair used to make sackcloth and tents in his day. This may depict a solar eclipse or possibly a massive dust storm caused by a volcanic explosion. The Ninth Plague covered Egypt with a "darkness which may even be felt," a "thick darkness" (Exodus 10:21-22), and perhaps God will repeat it on an even grander scale. Whatever the case, visibility will be severely limited, even during the daylight hours.

The Moon Like Blood: This chilling sight presages calamity and death, particularly in war, as in the color of the second horse (Revelation 6:4). Sometimes lunar discoloration occurs naturally when unusual amounts of dust are suspended in the atmosphere, particularly after a volcanic eruption or an earthquake. Incidentally, many manuscripts read "full moon" rather than simply "moon."

The Stars Fall: John's imagery reflects countless late figs blown down by the violent winter wind (verse 13). This seems most likely to predict a meteor shower of immense proportions, possibly containing larger-than-normal meteorites, thus increasing the effect and making it seem as if the stars themselves are falling. Because stars are a biblical symbol of angels, some have suggested that this verse parallels Revelation 12:7-10, the casting out of Satan and his demons from heaven. However, for this to have any credence, the concurrent celestial events must also be taken symbolically.

The Sky Recedes: Of these four wonders, this event is the most puzzling (Revelation 6:14). The apostle compares it to a scroll rolling up, or we might think of it in terms of opening a spring-loaded window blind. Joseph A. Seiss, in his The Apocalypse: Exposition of the Book of Revelation, comments: "Great, massive, rotary motion in the whole visible expanse, is signified, as if it were folding itself up to pass away forever." Perhaps John saw clouds building to thunderheads, roiling, and flying at breakneck speed across the expanse of the sky. Such turbulence could make an observer on the ground think the sky was splitting apart. Isaiah 34:4 describes the Day of the Lord similarly.

The Mountains and Islands Move: As a result of the great convulsion of the earth, massive land transformations occur, shifting mountains on land and undersea. Obviously, such a violent shaking will create unprecedented destruction and loss of life. As the conclusion of the sixth seal's disturbances, this displacement of terra firma is the calamity that most terrifies earth's inhabitants. Suddenly, nothing is stable—not even the earth under their feet!

Finally, God has their attention!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal


Find more Bible verses about Earthquakes:
Earthquakes {Nave's}
Earthquakes {Torrey's}
 




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