Part I of this series on prophesied natural disasters, focusing upon
earthquakes, we had reviewed the “earthquakes in diverse places”
mentioned by Christ. We also examined the first four of the five
apocalyptic seismic events mentioned in the book of Revelation.
Crucially, we had concluded that the earthquakes mentioned by Christ are
not the same as the ones mentioned in Revelation. We continue our review
of the apocalyptic earthquakes.
fifth and greatest earthquake of all time occurs at the time of the
seventh bowl (or vial) judgment. It most certainly is a global
earthquake, said to affect the “islands.” It again is accompanied by
“voices, thunderings, lightnings,” and again hail (this time,
precipitation the weight of a talent, which is the equivalent of 25.5
kilograms or 56 pounds).
the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a
great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is
done. 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
came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of
the fierceness of his wrath. 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 (Revelation 16:17-21).
final and most catastrophic earthquake of all history is also the
frequent topic of Old Testament prophets. It coincides with the final
judgment, taking place at the time of Armageddon (possibly also the
quashing of Gog) and the smashing of all the capital cities of the
nations, including Babylon the Great. It is just prior to the
restoration of Israel.
A number of prophets speak of this time. Says Joel:
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the
LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon
shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The LORD
also shall roar out of Zion, and utter
his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens
and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his
people, and the strength of the children of
Haggai also is given a vision of this time:
I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength
of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and
those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come
down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the LORD
of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of
Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have
chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts (Haggai 2:22-23).
last earthquake of judgment, positioned at the very end and at the time
of Armageddon, is also confirmed by Isaiah in several Scriptures:
Therefore the LORD’s anger burns against his people; his hand is raised
and he strikes them down. The mountains shake, and the dead bodies are
like refuse in the streets. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned
away, his hand is still upraised. He lifts up a banner for the distant
nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come,
swiftly and speedily! (Isaiah
5:25-26, NIV). Also, […] The floodgates of the heavens are
opened, the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the
earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels
like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is
the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again (Isaiah
have hardly exhausted the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets, not
to mention connecting them to the judgment of
the Great. See also these Scriptures: Isaiah 29:6-7 and Haggai 2:6-8,
Ezekiel 26:15, 31:16,
Having briefly reviewed the five earthquakes of the Tribulation period
mentioned in Revelation, we note that they are not the earthquakes that
Christ told us would happen. The first and fifth earthquakes—bracketing
the other three—in this
writer’s opinion, represent both the start and end of the Great
Tribulation period (the second period of 42 months), framing the time of
God’s wrath in the form of supernatural events.
As a matter of interest, this perspective on the timing of Revelation’s
earthquakes aligns with the opinion of a number of scholars, who view
the events of the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24) in parallel with
the first five “seal” judgments of Revelation. As such, the sixth and
seventh seals would then occur in the second half of the Tribulation.
Prophecy Keys to Earthquakes
It goes without saying that there remains much debate between scholars
that endorse the pre-tribulational view, as to the times of the various
judgments mentioned in Revelation (seals, trumpets and bowls). We can
hardly contribute to this debate. However, in the matter of earthquakes,
here are some of the “keys” that must be considered.
1. In the
book of Revelation, there
is no mention of earthquakes before the time of the sixth seal. All five
earthquakes mentioned occur from that point forward.
All earthquakes mentioned in Revelation are of “divine” or
“heavenly” origin. None are natural phenomena such as are occurring
today or as may be the “earthquakes in diverse places” that Christ
indicated. All are divinely enacted, either through Christ or angels.
All prophesied earthquakes in the Old Testament are specific to
the “day of the Lord” … in other words, those that are caused by divine
judgment, and clearly referring to the time of God’s wrath. (Possibly
there is one exception, this being the point where Christ’s feet alight
upon the mount of Olives, splitting the mountain in Zechariah 14:4.)
All the earthquakes prophesied in the Old Testament as part of
the time of wrath are all specific events, most of them global in scope.
They are truly apocalyptic and not part of a generic group of
earthquakes that occur in “diverse places” on the earth.
Next, we should note the differences between the earthquakes that were
prophesied by Christ (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and the specific
ones mentioned in the Old Testament, Revelation and the other New
The earthquakes prophesied by Christ are non-specific to location
and number, in that there are multiple earthquakes in various places. By
contrast, all five earthquakes mentioned in the book of Revelation are
singular and specific events.
The earthquakes mentioned by Christ occur during the period that
is called the “beginning of sorrows.” The three accounts of this
prophecy in Matthew, Mark and Luke are all in agreement on this point.
The earthquakes mentioned in Revelation, on the other hand, all occur at
the time of the sixth seal and thereafter. That period is not the
“beginning of sorrows,” but rather much later, likely (as in this
writer’s opinion) the Great Tribulation period (the second half of the
Several of the prophecies involving earthquakes in Revelation,
correspond to earthquakes prophesied in the Old Testament and elsewhere
in the New Testament; whereas the “earthquakes in diverse places,”
associated with “nations rising against nations, and kingdoms against
kingdoms,” along with pestilences and famines, do not.
Are Earthquakes Increasing Today?
Finally, let’s consider this most intriguing question: has the incidence
of earthquakes been increasing in recent years and decades? To be
scientifically valid—not going beyond what can be validly ascertained
from statistics—the answer is “probably not.” This conclusion may be
shocking to some. Indeed, this writer has received numerous aggravated
responses to this conclusion in the past.
Apparently, some Christians hold great comfort in the notion that
earthquakes are already increasing in severity and frequency today. To
them, this is seen as a sign that the Lord’s return is near. However,
the plain truth is that anyone using proper statistical methods (and, it
should be added, adhering to what the Bible actually says) cannot
conclusively state that earthquakes have increased in recent times.
Seismologists (who are experts in this topic, and other Bible students)
have come to the same conclusion.
Consider this quote from the website of the United States Geological
Survey (USGS), “In 1931, there were about 350 [seismograph] stations
operating in the world; today, there are more than 8,000 stations and
the data now comes in rapidly from these stations by electronic mail,
internet and satellite.”
As such, statistics gathering and reporting has served to increase the
earthquake counts as well as the perception of their incidence. In
reality, occurrences have not risen, just the reporting of earthquakes
of smaller size. Earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 (on the Richter scale) or
greater—the ones that historically were noticeably cataclysmic, and most
likely to be reported—have remained fairly constant. In fact, one
earthquake per year exceeding 9.0 on the Richter scale (as was the
strength of the recent seismic occurrence in Japan) is
considered normal. There are other independently corroborated studies
that have come to the same conclusion.
For those who are inclined to disregard statistical validity and to
interpret seismic data in a fashion more agreeable to their preferred
opinions on the matter of earthquakes, they will discover that similar
problems will arise with the other phenomena that Christ said would
occur “during the beginning of sorrows.”
We recall that along with earthquakes, there would also occur famines,
pestilences, and that nations would rise against nations and kingdoms
against kingdoms (Matthew 24:7). Of course, over history, the world has
always been subject to wars, famines and pestilences. Should we
therefore interpret Christ’s statements to indicate that these phenomena
during the “beginning of sorrows” will be much the same as usual? Such
an interpretation would not be reasonable either. If so, there would be
no need for Christ to give us these indicators to identify a period of
Then, can wars, pestilences and famines be said to be increasing in
severity and frequency today? The evidence would suggest no … at least,
not yet. In the case of wars, they can be shown to be decreasing in
recent decades. For example, a recent report of the World Development
Indicators (World Bank, 2011) concludes the following:
Interstate war has
declined dramatically since the two world wars of the first half of the
20th century. Major civil conflicts (those with more than 1,000 battle
deaths a year) increased during the postcolonial and Cold War era,
peaking in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1991–92, when there
were 21 active major civil wars, the number has steadily fallen to less
than 10 each year since 2002.
organizations have expressed similar opinions. In the case of
pestilences and famines, we can well point to reasons why these may
sharply increase in the future. However, the reality is that their
incidence around the world has decreased sharply over the past century
At this point in history, both for reasons of limited data and
statistical validity, a rise in the frequency and severity of
earthquakes cannot be proven conclusively. Confirming this view that the
time of “earthquakes in diverse places” is not yet, is the fact that
none of the other tandem phenomena of famine, pestilences and wars can
be shown as having increased.
Should this really be seen as a disappointment? Is prophecy therefore
invalidated? May that never be the case. For one, as we have shown, this
conclusion does not overturn Scripture. Our study to this point would
argue that the earthquakes that Christ mentions occur during the first
half of the Tribulation period … not before, nor after. Moreover,
Christ’s return and the Rapture are not delayed by this conclusion. Why?
Because the Rapture is “signless” and has always been imminent.
Points to Ponder – Part II
The Lord’s return is not delayed at all by the fact that earthquakes are
not yet increasing today. We must conclude that much greater earthquake
activity lies ahead for the world. If our interpretation of Matthew 24
and the corresponding accounts of Revelation is correct, a pronounced
increase—conclusively noticeable for all of mankind to recognize—will
occur during the first half of the Tribulation period. We can conclude
that there will be many all around the world. Moreover, these seismic
events are not specifically mentioned in the book of Revelation, nor are
they part of the “divinely” triggered earthquakes that are instruments
of Gods’ wrath in the second half of the Tribulation period.
disastrous and powerful as the recent Japanese earthquake may have been,
it will pale in comparison to the worst yet to come. Not only is the
heightened earthquake activity mentioned by Christ yet in the future,
but also the biggest earthquakes of all time have yet to occur. With
respect to the last one, John the Revelator tells us this: “[…] No
earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so
tremendous was the quake” (Revelation 16:18).
Most wonderfully for
and the remaining Christians at the end of the Tribulation period, is
the advent of one more earthquake. This is a local one, occurring on the Mount of Olives.
his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is
before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in
the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there
shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove
toward the north, and half of it toward the south (Zechariah 14:4).
occurs at the time that
Israel’s Messiah finally returns. As
his feet touch the Mount of Olives, the
hill splits in two. Water flows out of the temple mount, and the new
Millennial period begins (Revelation 22:1).
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About the Author:
Wilfred J. Hahn
is a global economist/strategist. Formerly a top-ranked global analyst,
research director for a major Wall Street investment bank, and head of
country’s largest global investment operation, his writings focus on the
endtime roles of money, economics and globalization. He has been quoted
around the world and his writings reproduced in numerous other
publications and languages. His 2002 book The Endtime Money Snare:
How to live free accurately anticipated and prepared its readers for
the Global Financial Crisis. His newest book, Global Financial
Apocalypse Prophesied: Preserving true riches in an age of deception and
trouble, looks further into the future.