“Yet once more I 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).
When the newspaper’s headline reads, “EARTHQUAKE HITS THE CITY,” man’s attention has always been captured, thinking people everywhere will show great concern and curiosity. Most would not think a man strange if he were to ask, “Is this the beginning of the end?” Certainly, a believer would be justified for wondering, “Is the stage being set for the revelation of the Antichrist and Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16)? I personally wonder what prophetic significance there might be, if any. I wonder what warning or lesson can be gained from catastrophe. I believe these are expressions of legitimate curiosity or questions. Whether or not there is a link to prophecy or a Divine warning here can well be debated. I believe strongly that there is.
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 for the Church; namely, the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:16-17). After the departure of the Church, the prophetic future is spelled out in 2 Peter 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 of the future is four-fold:
(1) A Plea for the unsaved to get saved (vs. 9);
(2) A Challenge for believers to live lives that are characterized by godliness (vs. 11);
(3) A Warning to be unwaveringly committed to the truth and strengthened by growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ (vss. 17-18); and
(4) A reminder of impending judgment on a Christ-rejecting world (vss. 1-2). This judgment is 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 a 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. In 1989, I recall spending the night in a motel that was within sight of the big San Francisco earthquake and recall people up and down the West Coast, predicting: “The big one hasn’t come yet.” 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. In recent years, we have seen massive earthquakes in Haiti, Indonesia, Japan, Chili and here in the States in California. We have seen the devastation, rubble, and chaos everywhere. Thousands of lives were lost in these earthquakes.
I also recall the joy and privilege of preaching the Gospel in New Zealand; however, we were a little unsettled by the fact that the New Zealanders call their homeland the “Shaking Islands” because of the frequency of the earthquakes.
It is 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! Yes, 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 famous “Blockbuster” 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!
Some years ago, I preached several times on the flagship of the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific. I was shocked, when given a tour of the 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 would read about in a fifty-cent, science fiction novel. Now we know that it’s not make believe. We all 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 Armageddon lies just around the corner? Dare we ask, “Is America in line for judgment?” Is there a reason why America has, in recent years, gone from crisis to crisis? Is it possible that America is reaping what she has sown? Will we Americans 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, “…that 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 national disgrace, i.e., abortion, drunkenness, drug addiction, violent crime, sexual immorality and perversion, corrupt (self-seeking, money grabbing) political leaders and the like? 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 pigeon hole?
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:
(a) To have refused Moses (history) was to perish, as illustrated in the fury of the shaking mountain, at which time, even Moses did “exceedingly fear and quake” (vs. 21).
(b) And 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 beginning 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” (tohu = waste/ruin, Heb., see Isa. 45:18; 2 Pet. 3:5-6). 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 to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. These two passages 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 tops or 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 shaken this earth in judgment and 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. 2:1ff). Note: verse 2 is the Day of the Lord, not the Day of Christ (2 Tim. 4:8). This Day of Christ is a future day of comfort, joy, reunion and glory! This day stands in bold contrast to Day of the Lord, 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 which is the Body of Christ and the Dispensation of the Mystery/Grace. It is mentioned only by the Apostle Paul, 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 head for your “redemption draweth nigh” (Lk. 21:28).
The ultimate and final earthquake, after the Millennium, will usher in eternity and be a prelude to the New Heaven and the New Earth (2 Pet. 3:1-18; Heb. 12:26-27)!