“Yet once more 1 shake not the earth only, but also Heaven. And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of those things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:26-27).
September 11, 2001 was a dark day for me, and not for me only, but for the whole world! At the very hour of the terrorist attack on America, Darlene and I were on a plane in Africa, loaded and ready to depart for home in the USA. While awaiting takeoff, the pilot took a seat next to us, and because we were the only Americans on the flight, he took great care to inform us of the terrible attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
We were allowed to continue on to London where we were stranded for an additional five days. Aside from these personal concerns, I wondered, “Is this the beginning of the end?” “Is the stage being set for the revelation of the Antichrist and Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16)? I wondered what prophetic significance there might be, if any, in this war with the terrorists of the world? I wondered what warning or lesson could be gained from this conflict? We know the Apostle Paul told us that the closing days of this dispensation would be “perilous.” And indeed they are! The opportunity to get our lost friends and loved ones saved may be very short.
I believe these are legitimate questions that need to be asked regarding the current events. Whether or not there is a link to prophecy or a Divine warning here can well be debated. I strongly believe that there is, hence, the reason for my concerns and this Bible Brief.
I confess, like Amos, “I am no prophet, neither am I a prophet’s son” (Amos 7:14). I do not claim any special expertise or insight into prophecy. I do not have all of the answers (nor do I know anybody who has). You can ask me a legion of questions about the prophetic future that I cannot answer. However, I am not going to allow that to keep me from being bold and forceful in proclaiming what is obvious and applicable.
God has a prophetic purpose. That purpose, this side of the cross, is His dealings with the nation of Israel after the departure of the Church (1 Thess. 4:17). This seems to be clearly spelled out in 2 Peter Chapter 3. Here God identifies three special prophetic days: the Day of Judgment (vs. 7); the Day of the Lord (vs. 9); and the Day of God (vs. 12). The purpose that underlies God’s revelation of these dreadful days in the future is fourfold:
1) They are a plea for the unsaved to get saved (vs. 9).
2) They are a challenge for believers to live lives that are characterized by godliness (vs. 11).
3) They are a warning to be unwaveringly committed to the truth and strengthened by growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ (vss. 17 & 18).
4) They are a reminder of impending judgment on a Christ-rejecting world (vss. l & 2).
This purpose will be consummated at earth’s final explosion (vss. 7, 10, 12)! It is co‑terminal with the shaking of the heaven and earth that is mentioned in our text (Heb. 12:26‑27). It is at this point that time will surrender to eternity and the heavens will “vanish away like smoke,” and the earth will “wax old like a garment” (Isa. 51:6). Earth’s power, pride and pomp will disappear in the sea of flames. The world’s cities of stone, brick and steel, along with its forest and mountains will all melt away like wax. The heavens will burn with fury. Everything will perish in preparation for the “new heaven and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).
CAN THE EARTH BE SHAKEN?
There has always been a great interest in earthquakes. As a natural phenomenon, earthquakes have no equal when it comes to destructive capacities. I recall, in 1989, spending the night in a motel that was within sight of the devastation of the big San Francisco earthquake. I recall people up and down the west coast predicting, “The big one hasn’t come yet.” I remember, too, in 1990, Iran suffered an earthquake that left 50,000 people dead. That same year the people of the Philippine Islands lost some 6,000 of their citizens to an earthquake. Some years ago, Darlene and I were in New Zealand where we had the privilege of preaching the Gospel. However, we were a little unsettled by the fact that the New Zealanders call their homeland the “Shaking Islands,” because of the frequency of earthquakes. Most recently (2010) there was a devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed tens of thousands of people. Two others followed in Chile and Turkey. Homes, buildings, etc. were left in ruins and rubble. It is not hard to believe that an earthquake could bring down some Chicago or New York City skyscraper. But, can you bring yourself to imagine the intensity of an earthquake that could reduce a small, one-story dwelling to rubble? It happens! The earth can be shaken!
Besides the devastating forces of nature, man, too, has the destructive capacity to shake planet earth! In WW II much of Europe was leveled by the infamous “Block Buster” bomb. Today, we are told, it would take a 200-mile-long railroad train with each of its “boxcars” filled with TNT to equal the death-dealing damage of a one megaton nuclear bomb!
Several years ago I preached several times on the flagship of the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific. I was shocked, when given a tour of this battleship, to find that this one ship had the nuclear capacity to destroy the combination of three cities the size of San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles!
When I was a boy, nuclear warfare sounded like something you read about in a fifty cent, science-fiction novel. Now we know that it’s not make believe! We know that it is all too true! Mankind has the ability to shake planet earth and rock it on its axis.
Is it possible that this new war on terrorism could turn the whole Middle East into a nuclear wasteland? Or worse yet, will America be devastated by something more than plagues of Anthrax or Small Pox? Does Armageddon lie just around the corner? Dare we ask, “Is America in line for judgment?” Is there a reason why America in recent years has gone from crisis to crisis? Is it possible that America is reaping what she has sown? As God used the Assyrians as the sword in His hand to judge and discipline Israel, is it possible that the Moslem Millions could become a disciplining sword upon America? Will we as Americans, while thinking to punish the Moslem Terrorists for their sins, be judged by God for our many sins? Is God a respecter of persons or nations? Did God mean what He said in Psalm 9:17, “the nations that forget God will be turned into Hell”? Can we possibly believe that God will wink at the sins that have brought America such national disgrace? Is there no reckoning day for the abortion, drunkenness, drug addiction, sexual immorality and perversion? Or, are we Americans the only ones that are exempt from national discipline? Can the corrupt, self-seeking, money-grabbing, immoral, political leaders be excluded from judgment? Is it possible that America, the greatest nation in history, is not mentioned in Bible prophecy because she will no longer be around when the end-time prophecies of the Middle East, Israel and the world are fulfilled? Does Christ’s warning to Israel, “Except ye repent, ye shall likewise perish” (Lk. 13:1‑5), have any application to America – or can we hide that away in some convenient dispensational pigeonhole?
HAS GOD EVER SHAKEN THE EARTH?
History and prophecy meet in our Hebrews 12:26‑27 text. “Whose voice then shook the earth” . . . that’s history. “Yet once more I shake not the earth, but also Heaven” . . . that’s prophecy. Here a lesson about the future is taught by the past:
1) To have refused Moses (history) was to perish, as illustrated in the fury of the shaking mountain. At this time, even Moses did “exceedingly fear and quake” (vs. 21).
2) To refuse Christ is, likewise, to perish in eternal judgment. This, too, is illustrated by God’s promise (prophecy) to so violently shake both earth and Heaven as to result in their removal.
The fact that God has shaken the earth in judgment, is proven both by nature and geology.
The account of creation proves it. The very first verse in the Bible says, ‘In the beginnng God created the Heaven and the earth.” It was perfect! The very idea that a perfect God would create anything less than perfect is, to say the least, unthinkable and not compatible with His essence! And yet! The very next verse says that the earth “was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The Biblical and geological evidence is that, at some point between verses 1 and 2, the earth was struck with some stupendous convulsion! This is especially significant when the Bible expressly states that God did not create the earth “without form and void!” We have God’s Word on it:
“For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else” (Isa. 45:18).
Vain = The Hebrew word translated vain is tohuw (to’‑hoo) and comes from an unused root meaning to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e., desert; figuratively, a worthless thing; in vain! See further Scriptures in Isaiah 45:18 and 2 Peter 3:56. How can this disparity be explained?
I believe the answer is found in the Biblical account of Lucifer’s career and fall. When we are first introduced to him early in the Book of Genesis, he is already a fallen creature! I am compelled to ask, “When did he fall, what were the consequences, and what do we know about it?” For that information, we must go well beyond application to the kings of Tyre and Babylon and directly to Lucifer and a pre-Adamic testing of rebellious angels that resulted in a divine judgment (Jude 1:6; 2 Pet. 2:4) which “wasted” the original earth. God shook the earth – Genesis 1:2!
The account of Noah’s flood proves it. Divine wrath strikes again, only this time it is man that was tested and judged. When we consider that the “windows of Heaven were opened” and that the “fountains of the deep were broken up” (Gen. 7:11), it is not hard to imagine that an earthquake and violent shaking of the earth must have played a major roll in the destruction of the planet and the human race; with the exception of Noah and his family. Again, one of God’s chosen weapons against sin and rebellion is water and earthquake.
If the “fountains of the deep” refers to the oceans, then consider that:
1) The oceans have an average depth of two miles;
2) The dry land averages a height of one-half mile;
3) The earth’s surface totals 198 million square miles, of which only 56 million square miles is dry land, and that 142 million square miles is water; then,
4) It takes no imagination to know what would happen when God shook the earth, rocking it on its axis in Noah’s day.
There can be no doubt that God, in judgment, has shaken this planet violently in the past. The evidence is all around us. This is compatible with reason and Scripture.
Why do we find seashells and the evidence of ocean life on the top of our highest mountains? Why do we find abundant deposits of oil and coal (called fossil fuel coming from living organisms/animal and plant life) buried sometimes four and five miles deep in the earth? Why do we find the layers of the earth’s strata often lying upside down and in the opposite order of the geological ages? The answer is: this earth has been cursed by sin! God will not compromise His holiness! God has promised to do it again!
WHEN WILL GOD SHAKE THE EARTH AGAIN?
It is safe to say that it will occur after the Day of Christ (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; 2 Thess 2:1…NOTE: verse 2 is the Day of Lord – not the Day of Christ; 2 Tim. 4:8). This is a future day of comfort, joy, reunion and glory! This day stands in bold contrast to the Day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment, and the Day of God – days filled with God’s wrath, conflict, confusion and judgment! The Day of Christ is very special and exclusively identified with the Church, the Body of Christ, and the Dispensation of the Mystery/Grace! It is mentioned only by Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles and only in the Pauline Epistles! It is in this context that believers, in this present dispensation, are comforted by our gathering together to meet the Savior in the air (1 Thess. 4:18) and promised that He has “not appointed us to wrath” (1 Thess. 5:9)!
It is after the Day of Christ that earthquakes become a sign of the “last days” (in reference to God’s dealings with Israel and the nations … not the Church; see: Acts 2:17‑20; Isa. 29:6; Ezek. 38:19; Mt. 24:5‑8; Mk. 13:8; Lk. 21:11; Rev. 6:12; 8:5; 11:13‑19; 16:18). These earthquakes will increase in number and intensify in the scope of their destruction. All of these will have their message to both the saint and the sinner in those “last days.” To the sinner it is a message of warning to repent and to trust Christ. To the Tribulation saint it is a message of cheer to “look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Lk. 21:28). The ultimate and final earthquake, after the Millennium, will usher in eternity and will be a prelude to the New Heaven and the New Earth (2 Pet. 3:1-18; Heb. 12:26‑27)!