Having considered the first two major divine purposes revealed in the Scriptural record of earthquakes, today we will pay attention to the third and final divine purpose.
Earthquakes that Betokened God’s Wrath and Judgment against People’s Wickedness
- David’s song to the Lord in 2 Samuel 22 recognises that the earth shook at His wrath – “Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth” (v. 8). Cf. Psalm 18:7 – “Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.”
- During Israel’s wilderness wandering, when Korah and his followers rebelled against Moses, God destroyed them with an earthquake: “And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:31-33; cf. 26:10; Deuteronomy 11:6-7; Psalm 106:16-17).
- The prophet Amos pointed to an earthquake that occurred in his day (760 B.C.), when King Uzziah of Judah reigning. It is also mentioned by the prophet Zechariah.
- “The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1; cf. Zechariah 14:5).
- The Jewish historian Josephus connects the quake with the events of 2 Chronicles 26:16-20 (Antiquities of the Jews 9. 10. 4), which refer to the LORD’s striking of the prideful King Uzziah (who transgressed by burning incense in the temple, a duty that belonged only to the priests) with leprosy. Many think the earthquake (mentioned by Amos and Zechariah) could have occurred following Uzziah’s transgression. Archeological excavations at Hazor and Samaria have uncovered evidence of a violent earthquake in Israel about 760 B.C.
- Outpouring of Divine Wrath/Judgment through Eschatological Earthquakes
- While Jesus was narrating to His disciples the end-time signs, He spoke of earthquakes: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (Matthew 24:7; cf. Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11). These predicted earthquakes are those which will occur during the Tribulation period as the outpouring of God’s wrath on earth. Such earthquakes are predicted in the Old Testament prophetical books, as well as in Revelation:
- “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth” (Isaiah 2:19). This is a description of God’s vengeance on the wicked in the Tribulation days before Christ returns. The earth will shake and people will try to escape by fleeing into caves (cf. vv. 10, 21), carrying their idols of silver and gold (v. 7). However, the people will toss them aside to rodents and bats (v. 20). Isaiah’s words here present a strong irony: things highly valued will be thrown aside to detestable creatures that people hate. In v. 21, Isaiah again spoke of people hiding in caves away from God’s terror when He will shake the earth (cf. v. 19).
- “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible… Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger” (Isaiah 13:11-13). The day of the Lord, expressing His wrath (cf. Isa. 13:3, 13) against sin, will destroy sinners (v. 9) and punish the world for its evil and its proud attitude towards God (v. 11). Some see the dislodging of heavenly bodies [stars, sun, moon (v. 10)] and the trembling of the heavens and earth (v. 13) as a figurative description of the total turnaround or destruction of the political structure of the Near East. Yet, those descriptions resemble other Scriptural references to end-time judgments on the earth and celestial luminaries (Isaiah 24:18; 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15-16; Haggai 2:6-7, 21-22; Zechariah 14:6-7; Matthew 24:29).
- The Book of Revelation mentions earthquakes as a frequent occurrence during the seven years of Tribulation as an outpouring of God’s wrath against the wickedness and blasphemy propagated by the Satanic rule of Antichrist:
- As part of the seal judgments, there will be a massive earthquake when the sixth seal will be opened. “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood” (Revelation 6:12).
- As part of the catastrophes that will follow the opening of the seventh seal, there was an earthquake. “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” (Revelation 8:5).
- After the resurrection and ascension of the two assassinated witnesses, there will be a great earthquake, which will destroy a tenth of Jerusalem and kill 7,000 men. “And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven” (Revelation 11:13).
- In association with the blowing of the seventh trumpet, the temple in heaven was opened as a token of God’s promise of His unbroken fellowship with believers. As the ark of covenant was dislcosed, “there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail” (Revelation 11:19). Truly, God’s heavenly throne is the source of vengeance on unbelievers as well as covenant blessing on His people.
- When the seventh vial judgment is poured out on the earth during final stages of the Tribulation period, there will be a global earthquake which will severely affect the great city of “Babylon” and many cities of the world. “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. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath” (Revelation 16:18-19).
There are those who maintain that God has no part in the cause of earthquakes. From all that we have examined in this four-part series, Scripture declares that God, the supreme Governor of the World, is the Author of such great events as earthquakes for the purposes which we have learned. Beyond a doubt, as we have learned today, earthquakes are also tokens of His just displeasure. When God is wroth against the wickedness of the world, He shakes the Earth and causes its foundations to tremble.
God can produce earthquakes through natural causes, such as underground shifting of tectonic plates or seismic waves. Though God would make use of second causes, He would also work without them. Being Omnipotent, God can cause earthquakes either by natural causes or by His supernatural power. We must therefore confess, like Job, that it is ultimately God who “removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger. Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble” (Job 9:5-6).
God’s active role in the earthquakes is indisputable, as testified by scores of passages, including Isaiah 29:6 – “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.” Let us also be reminded of Jesus’ prophetic words that in the last days, there will be “earthquakes in divers places” (Matthew 24:7c)!