In looking at ways God has spoken to us in the past and of the ways He has promised to speak to us in the future, we discover God’s vocabulary. Among other ways that He has spoken to us, part of His language included fire and brimstone, hail, lightning, and earthquakes. The writer of Hebrews wrote in verses 1:1-2, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
God has promised to speak to us again via earthquakes and this article explores the ways the LORD shakes us when He wants our attention. Previous entries in the series “Language of God” are here:
The Church Age is coming to an end. The trumpet will sound and believing Christians will disappear from the earth in the blink of an eye. The Tribulation will begin, signaling the last 7 years of this earth’s history will conclude. The Apostles asked Jesus three questions about this particular time in history. First, they asked when the Temple will be thrown down (something Jesus had made reference to immediately prior to the Apostles’ question.) They also asked what will be the sign of His coming and the signs of the end of the age. Jesus’ answer to these three questions is recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Note that the Apostles asked three questions, and though the main answer is considered to be in Matthew, that each of the other two Gospels offer slightly different information to complete the picture. Jesus’ response is called “The Olivet Discourse” because the conversation was held on the Mt. of Olives and Jesus spent quite a bit of time explaining, Therefore, we spent quite a bit of time asking the Spirit to lead us into understanding.
One sign Jesus said will occur is that there will be “earthquakes in diverse places.” Other translations spell it divers, or use the word various places. Jesus did not explicitly say that the number of earthquakes will rise in advance of the end. However, right after stating that there will be earthquakes, He said that the period of time the earthquakes & other signs will be occurring will be like birth pangs. Birth pangs increase in intensity and frequency as the new life approaches. This is a symbol that is easily understood and readily identifiable, therefore we can feel confident that the number of earthquakes will rise in number as the end comes near.
I read many, many interviews with United State Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, and other geologists, concerned about the number of earthquakes. The question is often put to them by Christians is: “Is the number of earthquakes increasing?” And to a one, they all say no. Now, intuitively, this does not make sense, because it seems that they are. But in searching the USGS site for quantifiable information, it got frustrating really fast. USGS changes the counting benchmark in the middle of a decade, making it impossible to compare apples and apples. Or the pages listing the number of “significant quakes” in a given year are missing. For example, the number of significant quakes over 7.0 had links to data for 1990-1998, but was missing ’99, ’02, ’03, and ’05-08.
All that aside, in searching diligently, there is still quantifiable data from USGS that shows earthquakes are on the increase. We see in the chart below, USGS source, that the number of times that the number of earthquakes in a given magnitude category has exceeded the average is quite frequent. (click to enlarge, and the number I inserted on the left is the number of times on average that that size quake occurs in a given year, again, by USGS source data.) In the last 11 years, the number of times the number of quakes has exceeded the average for 8.0+ is once, but it is an important once. See below for explanation. The number of times the average number of quakes has exceeded 7.0+ is also 1. But for magnitude 5 and 6, the number of times the average number of quakes in a year exceeded the average was 8 and 9 out of 11 times, respectively. So on the one hand, USGS says quakes are not increasing. On the other, their data says yes. Frustrated with attempting to quantify earthquake increases or decreases with any further specificity, it was then that I decided not to get lost in the details, and not to get lost searching for man’s confirmation of God’s word. So, let’s look at types of earthquakes.
The year 2007 was an important marker. For the 8.0+ sized quakes you note occurred in 2007, that there were 4. I searched back to 1900 for how often an 8.0 quake occurs in any given year. The average is once. Half the years since 1900, there were 0 of that magnitude. Then in 2007 the number of times an 8.0+ quake occurred quadrupled. Statistically, when there is this long-line of a trend data (110 years!) and suddenly the increase is that large, it is extremely statistically significant. Statistical significance means that you have reduced the possibilities that it has occurred by chance. In math, the bigger the sample size, spread out over the longer period, the more solid the baseline. Any anomalies at that point are statistically significant. So on the surface 4 for that year looks innocuous but it really is a huge jump that should make any statistician’s eyes pop out of his head.
In another case, we look to man’s activities around the time when unusual earthquakes occur. A 6.2 quake occurred in February 2008 in Norway. A 6.2 quake is not so huge and being sparsely populated, no significant damage occurred nor were there any deaths. However, this quake was highly unusual. Concerned with climate change, man endeavored to build a seed vault deep in the arctic rock far away on the remote Island of Svalbard, Norway, near the town of Longyearben. This vault contains seeds from all the nations and are stored in a protected cave so that is there is wild global change event or famine, man can go get these seeds and maintain himself. A few days before Prince Charles and other dignitaries arrived to visit the seed vault’s opening, also known as the Doomsday Vault, a 6.2 quake occurred. This location was chosen for the express reason that seismic activity rarely if ever occurs there. Earthquakes occur hundreds of miles away on the Norwegian mainland, but they are low in magnitude. The largest one on the mainland was 5.4 in 1904 and most eq’s on mainland Norway are less than 4.0.
“On Thursday, Svalbard was at the center of the biggest earthquake in Norway’s history, with a magnitude of 6.1. The shaking was felt at Longyearbyen. The quake occurred even though the vault’s feasibility study assured that “there is no volcanic or significant seismic activity” in the area.” (source) Another article concluded, “Earthquakes are not uncommon either on the Norwegian mainland or on its vast offshore continental shelf, but they generally measure less than 4 on the Richter Scale.” So in looking at what Jesus said about earthquakes in diverse places, we see that an area of rare of any seismic activity suddenly has the largest quake ever at the exact time man was celebrating his Tower of Babel. [Above, this map from research institute NORSAR shows earthquakes registered that Thursday morning in 2008 in red.]
In another case of man’s activity perhaps tying in with an unusual quake, the one this week in Ottawa is something to look at. It occurred in a diverse place, a place where seismic activity interrupting human activity is rare. It occurred at a time when the G8 and the G20 was about to open, another of man’s hubristic endeavors where he relies on himself to resolve the unsolvable – this time in global economics. It was felt by millions upon millions of people in an area from Montreal to Ohio to Vermont to New Jersey. That’s some quake. Immediately afterward, though, we were reassured that the Toronto quake was no threat to the G20. Hmmm.
Then there is the case of the Yellowstone quake swarm of Dec 2008 to January 2009. From December 26, 2008 and January 9, 2009 about 900 quakes occurred in rapid succession. Swarms are not unusual for Yellowstone, but this many are. And several of the quakes registered high-magnitude for Yellowstone, the highest being 3.9. An deviation from the pattern is what we look for, Jesus said that there would be earthquakes in “diverse places.” At the time Yellowstone was rumbling, it came to the attention of millions around the world that Yellowstone is actually a supervolcano. When the realization set in as to the magnitude of a potential supervolcano eruption, it caused worry and panic worldwide.
Unbeknown to many (who eventually become inured to the disaster potentialities and tune out) another quake swarm occurred at Yellowstone this year. According to this article, it was the second largest swarm ever (after the ’08-09 swarm). During the swarm of January 17-Feb. 22, there were 1,805 tremors – of which 22 were felt by people in the park as well as adjacent communities in Montana and Idaho. “Not only was the swarm the second-largest ever recorded at Yellowstone but it was longer in time and included more earthquakes than last year’s swarm beneath Yellowstone Lake, which occurred in December 2008 and January 2009, according to the scientists.” [emphasis mine]
Earthquakes are a sign of the end of the age, and not just numerical increase, but unusual locations, swarms, and impacts are part of God’s lexicon. We need not turn to USGS to prove or disprove God’s word. There will be earthquakes in diverse places. And today, there are earthquakes of different types and in different places. It is as simple as that.
God has used earthquakes to speak to His people in the past and will again in the future. In Acts 16:26, He used a quake to release Paul from prison. When Jesus died on the cross, a quake occurred, recorded in Matthew 27:54, “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” The quake was God speaking to humans … and they understood. A few days later as Jesus rises from the grave there is another earthquake. Matthew 28:2 records it. “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.” In Ezekiel 38:19 God promises to show Himself through an earthquake (among other things). “In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.”
During the Tribulation, an earthquake will occur in Jerusalem as described in Rev 11:13 where 7000 people will be killed. Later, in Rev 16:18, “Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.” Every mountain will crumble and every island will flee away.
God speaks in various ways. He spoke to Elijah when Elijah was fleeing Jezebel. God told Elijah to listen for Him. He sent the wind, but He was not in the wind (that time). He sent the fire, but He was not in the fire (that time). He sent the earthquakes, but He was not in the earthquake (that time). God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice, and it was that voice that awed Elijah more that the demonstrable ways God had usually spoken. I hope that His still small voice is speaking to your heart. I hope you listen, now, for we read in Hebrews 12:25-29 the echo of the promise in Haggai 2:
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”
I pray that you are in a place of spiritual acceptance to God, so that YOU cannot be shaken loose when the time comes. God speaks through earthquakes. Are you listening?