During the end times, “there will be earthquakes in diverse (various) places” (Matthew 24:7).
Many writers and speakers who discuss end-times events will often say things like “we’re having more earthquakes lately.” Unfortunately, the lack of specificity in general statements of that type, as well as when such statements are inaccurate, undermines their credibility. However zealous they may be, an underinformed effort to match current events with Biblical prophecy is essentially misleading to believers. It also is ineffective in convincing those who disparage the Word of God or for anyone to change their minds if they are of the view that any reference to end-times events revolves around “myths.”
But there are connections that can be drawn between earthquakes, prophetic events (past, present and future) and spiritual truth – connections that don’t have to be forced, and that are more in keeping with some measure of science when appropriate. An overview of selected scriptures where earthquakes are mentioned may be helpful as a starting point. Matching scriptures to actual world events will need to be postponed in the meantime.
One analogy to think about is this: For a house to survive a serious earthquake, it must be bolted (connected) to the foundation. For believers, Christ is the only sure foundation of life. We must be connected to Him before attempting to draw connections to recent or current events. The scriptures help us with that because He is the Word.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
There are many places in scripture that refer to earthquakes and/or to “shaking.” Sometimes those references are literal, and sometimes they are spiritual, or even referring to a shaking and shattering of the veil between the earthly realm and the Kingdom realm. Here are just a few of the places where the importance of earthquakes is noted:
- They were prophetically foretold:
- “And in an instant, suddenly, you will be visited by the Lord of hosts, with thunder and with earthquake and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire.” (Isaiah 29:6 speaking of Ariel/Jerusalem).
- “Blow the trumpet in Zion…let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming, it is near… and… the earth quakes before them…” (Selected phrases from Joel 2).
- An earthquake happened at His death on the cross: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised….” (Matthew 27:51-52).
Notice that with the splitting of the veil in the temple, for the first time in all of creation, humans now had direct access to God without the intervention of a priest – priests that before had entered the Holy of Holies at risk of death! What was “before” was forever changed!
- A special earthquake happened at His resurrection: “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow… ‘He is not here; for He is risen, as He said’” (Matthew 28:2-6).
Note that in this case, it wasn’t just an ordinary earthquake, but a “great” one. In scientific terms, a great earthquake is one of 8.0 magnitude or higher. It is scientifically established that great quakes are so powerful they cause the entire globe to wobble on its axis and speed up the rotation of the earth. They also typically occur at subduction zones and wreak overwhelming death and destruction. This was not a subduction zone (not that they would have known that at that time), but more strikingly, only what was happening in the spiritual was recorded by the witnesses, and not the devastation a great earthquake would normally have caused.
Yet the quake was also quite real and was not just imagined or hyperbole. It can be documented in the geology and historic records to the point that some experts have said they can date the specific day of the resurrection. But in the face of something that would ordinarily be the one attention-getter – a quake strong enough to knock standing people to the ground – it was only Christ that they saw.
That is what Christ becomes to all who would believe—the absolute center of life, and the only life-giver to be found—the one who can still be found even during turmoil, strife, hardship and devastation.
- The next great earthquake occurs after Pentecost. It has both literal and spiritual dimensions: “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s fetters were unfastened” (Acts 16:25-26).
Note what this great earthquake also did and did not do. Again, surprisingly, it did not kill or injure anyone, as would be expected with a quake that size. Instead, it literally set the captives FREE!
“So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). We can be free from addictions, bad relationships, old wounds and more. Free from SIN!
- A great earthquake at the opening of the sixth seal during the tribulation. “…I looked and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale…” (Revelation 6:12-13).
There is more to ponder in the way this is worded beyond the reference to the great quake. Could the “gale” be like the rush of the mighty wind when the Holy Spirit came to the believers at Pentecost (Acts, chapter 2)? Taken together with the reference to the fig tree, which is a symbol of Israel, might this be the time when the Holy Spirit comes to the 144,000 out of every tribe of the sons of Israel, as described in the very next chapter? (Revelation 7:1-10).
- Another earthquake at the seventh seal, which is also the first of the trumpet judgments. “Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, loud noises, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:5).
- A great earthquake will occur at the sixth trumpet when the two witnesses ascend. “And in the sight of their foes they went up to heaven in a cloud. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of Heaven” (Revelation 11:12-13).
- Yet another earthquake occurs at the seventh trumpet. This repeats again the pattern of earthquakes at the beginning and end of each series of judgments. Most notable at this one, even though not described as a great quake, is a picture of God opening access from heaven to men below, just as when the curtain of the temple was torn in two at the crucifixion:
- “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant was seen within His temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, an earthquake and heavy hail” (Revelation 11:19).
- A “great” earthquake at the last of the judgments – the seventh bowl judgment. A voice from the throne is heard saying “It is done!” Notice this phrase is a repeat expression of the last words of Jesus on the cross (“It is finished!”) as depicted in John 19: 30. The resulting earthquake following the final judgment of the tribulation is “a great earthquake such as had never been since men were on the earth, so great was that earthquake” (Revelation 16:17-21).
- At the Second Coming, the Mount of Olives, the entire mountain will be literally spit in two. It will be split from east to west, with one part moving north and one part south. Read about it in Zechariah 14:3-5.
When large earthquakes happen, there is tremendous noise as boulders split and rocks are crushed. On the original Palm Sunday, the Pharisees asked Jesus to rebuke His disciples for praising him. He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).
His creation speaks! “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1-2).
There are purposes at work here that remain to be discovered.
Have some of the earthquakes, particularly the great earthquakes in recent years, matched up with biblical prophecies? Have they communicated anything about the end times? Stay tuned!