Earthquakes: God’s Announcement of Judgement

“Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth” (Ps 18:7).

Last week, we read about the latest earthquake to hit the country of Chile on 27 Feburary 2010. Its power—8.8-magnitude—caused great damage. Since the massive 26 December 2004 earthquake (9.1-magnitude) in Sumatra Indonesia which triggered a tsunami that killed about 250,000 people all over the world, the world has been getting more and more earthquakes that are close to cities or populated areas taking many lives and destroying many properties. For example, the October 8, 2005 Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan (7.6-magnitude) took 80,000 lives. Then there was the earthquake in Sichuan China (8.0-magnitude) on May 12, 2008 which killed 70,000 people. A couple of months ago on January 12, 2010, there was a terrible earthquake in Haiti (7.0-magnitude) which killed 200,000, and flattened Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.

Do you think these earthquakes happen by chance? I really do not think so. They have been sent by God. God is speaking to the world. He is making an announcement, that the world is being judged and the final judgement—the judgement of judgements—is going to come soon. In Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt 24:3). One of the signs the Lord gave was that of earthquakes, there shall be “earthquakes, in divers places” (Matt 24:7).

Announcing Judgement

In the Scriptures, we find God displaying His anger and announcing His judgement by using the earthquake or other loud and forceful phenomena of nature like storm and tempest, thunder and lightning. The Prophet Isaiah for instance announced the impending judgement by saying, “Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire” (Isa 29:6). The Apostle John in the Apocalypse , “And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake” (Rev 8:5). Like what Jesus said in Matthew 24:7, earthquakes are God’s way of telling people that He is angry with them for all their evil and wickedness, and that He is ready to judge and punish them if they refuse to repent.

In the world today, we are hearing and seeing more and more earthquakes. Is God not telling us something, that the world is ripe for judgement? Skeptics deny this. They say that earthquakes have been commonplace throughout history. People think they are becoming more frequent but actually the frequency is not due to more earthquakes but to vast improvements in news reporting and communications technology, and so we find ourselves getting more informed about such events. Although that may be so, yet it must not be ignored that in the last decade, we find an increasing number of earthquakes hitting big cities or highly populated areas, the Haitian earthquake for example, and The Straits Times on Tuesday 2 March 2010 reported that the Chilean quake has affected no less than two million people in one way or other.

Divine Judgment Itself

God had used earthquakes to judge and punish those who sin and rebel against Him. One example in found in Numbers 26:1-33 where we find the sons of Korah, namely Dathan and Abiram, rebelling against God’s anointed servants Moses and Aaron. Dathan and Abiram served in the temple for they were levites and made a name for themselves among the people. Seeing that they have become strong and powerful, they became proud and challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron and charged them falsely and maliciously.

What did God do to these proud and rebellious men? In Numbers 26:23-33 we read, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram… And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that the LORD hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then the LORD hath not sent me. But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that  swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods…”

Incidentally, the greatest earthquake ever recorded occurred in Chile in 1960. It registered a 9.5-magnitude. Actually the earthquake of all earthquakes occurred during the Genesis Flood. We read in Genesis 7:11-12, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.” Note that global deluge involved not just the bursting of the water canopy that enveloped the earth causing the waters from above to rain down upon the earth but also the waters from below through the eruption and disruption of the earth’s surface that altered the whole face of the earth. The very first earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis occurred in the days of the Genesis Flood. The cosmic disruption of the earth’s pre-Flood surface led to the high mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, continental shorelines, and deep undersea trenches that we see today (Ps 104-6-9). Dr John Whitcomb commented in his book—The World that Perished, “A third supernatural aspect of the Flood was the uplift of oceanic waters through the breaking up of ‘the fountains of the great deep’ (Gen. 7:11). The Bible excludes the possibility of a mere fortuitous combination of natural geologic causes here, for we are told that this involved ‘all the fountains of the great deep,’ and that they were all broken up ‘on the same day,’ namely, the seventeenth day of the second month of the six hundredth year of Noah’s life. This was indeed a noteworthy day in world history, for in that day God completely upset the delicate balances of the primeval continents and oceans (cf. Isa. 40:12) and initiated a catastrophe so gigantic that the ‘world [cosmos] at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water’ (2 Peter 3:6).

“This uplift of ocean  basis, accompanied by enormous explosions of suboceanic and subterranean magmas and steam, together with a corresponding sinking of continents, continued for six weeks until the Flood attained its maximum, mountain covering depth” (p35).

Judgement to Come

The earthquakes today point to the great and final earthquake to come which is spoken of in Revelation 16:18, “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.” Our late founding pastor—Rev Timothy Tow—called this the final E-Bomb. In his commentary on Revelation—Coming World Events Unveiled, he wrote, “As six plagues from six vials are still resisted by wicked men, God has to press the final button of punishment. This triggers the E-Bomb, an Earthquake that brings down not only the great city which is Jerusalem, splitting it into three parts, but also the cities, surely the capital cities of the nations. From West to East, all the superficially glittering cities, but filled inside with the filth of homosexuality, drugs, murders, fornication, abortion, cheating, etc. etc. like Sodom and Gomorrha, are brought down by God’s E-power in heaps. A look around ASEAN will see Bangkok, Manila, Brunei, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur all flattened. Beware, ugly Singaporeans also!” (p89). Singapore is living up to its international airport code which is SIN. It is fast catching up with other first world cities to become a premier City of Sin. The new temples of moneytheism and materialism in Sentosa and Marina Bay will only fuel more and more the sins of lust and greed, and many lives will be destroyed and many families will be broken up because of the love of money, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:10). Gambling is a curse. Say No to Casino!

The immense destructiveness of that final apocalyptic earthquake is recorded in Revelation 16:20-21, “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.” Rev Tow commented on how this can happen, “In the super earthquakes, blocks of masonry can be easily thrown skywards for them to fall on men scattered in the open. Blocks of masonry from skyscrapers crashing and splashing downwards are even worse. Volcanoes can erupt sending sheets of lava to crash on fleeing men.” How terrifying! As Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Knowing the terror of God, we better confess and repent of our sins now, and make peace with the thrice holy God before it is too late. The Lord Jesus Christ will one day judge this earth with all His might. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18).

When such disasters befall others, do we quickly pass judgement on them thinking that they must be terrible sinners and so deserve such a punishment from God? If you think in such a self-righteous way, Jesus has a word for you, “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-5). Such catastrophes should cause us to wake up to our sins and cause us to examine ourselves. Unless we repent, our turn will come.

(Sermon by the Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo at True Life BPC on 7 March 2010)