Good News of the Kingdom of God

“Earthquakes in Diverse Places …”

building a raft after march 11 Sendai earthquake (photo by chinapressphoto)The almost successive earthquakes felt in the Philippines and the entire Pacific region culminating to a destructive tremor that struck Christchurch, New Zealand last February 22, and the recent 8.9 to 9.0 magnitude quake that precipitated a massive Tsunami to hit Japan on Friday (March 11), left such  horrifying images and widespread destructions that it’s almost natural nowadays for people on the street to ask, “Is this the end?”

We humans often ask ourselves that question after some major disasters and/or natural calamities. Despite advances in technologies, most of these phenomena are hard to explain much less predict. We wonder whether these show God’s displeasure and wrath upon people or the much feared “sign” of the end of the world.

From Jesus’ Olivet discourse during the first century until now, most believers and keen observers of biblical prophecy talked about natural disasters such as earthquakes to be a precursor leading to “the end”. But do we have the proper understanding?

What do these earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and other natural disasters mean today?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was recorded to have warned His followers of the following events (also found in Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36),

“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying ‘I am Christ’ and shall deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows…” Matthew 24:3-8

Following the disciples’ line of question, Jesus responded by citing a number of signs that will precede his coming. Among the signs given were “earthquakes in various places”.  But quite interestingly, when Christ talked about earthquakes, famines and pestilences, He did not mean for some “end” to happen so quickly but merely a prelude to something more dangerous and insidious activities to occur.

Foremost among these is the rise of “false christs” or “saviors” leading to the massive deception not just of a few but of “many”(Matthew 24:5, 11).  Just like in any panic stricken community, confused and fearful to the seemingly insurmountable calamities around people, it is the tendency of many to believe and embrace promises given by would be “messiahs”. Thus, religious deceptions would be rampant and most people will be gullible to give in to some “false hopes” offered by them. These impostors will be using even the natural calamities to draw following for themselves.

“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matt. 24:24

Thus, Jesus’ emphatic advice is, “Do not believe it.” (v.26)

“Wars and rumors of wars” come second to Jesus Christ’s warning. Tribal and international conflicts will be common before His return.  Today we hear succession of unrests and the toppling of governments in Africa and the Middle East—Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, etc.

But is this the time to panic? Again in times like these, let Jesus’ own words give us some clear perspective. Referring to these scenarios of events He said, “for all these must come to pass, but the end is not yet (v.6).

There are still other intervening events that will happen before “the end of the age”, and these are actually more terrifyingly trying than the earthquakes and tsunamis.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another…And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24: 9-12)

"For know this, that in the last days perilous time will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power..." (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

These are the times that will indeed “try men's souls”. Are we all prepared to face such spiritual meltdown among people and even among our loved ones?

So that whenever we see or hear cataclysmic natural disasters occurring, rather than be dismayed, we need to be more circumspect.  It should be an occasion for us to strengthen our faith and in looking out for the needs of each one, especially those who are affected by it.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be saved. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16 Douay-Rheims)

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised; And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called’ Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)

Rather than admit our own shortcomings whenever tragedy strikes, most of us would rather find someone to blame and vent our anger.  Jesus showed us that this should also be an occasion for us to be more introspective.

“And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Gallileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners that all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5)

With the varying intensities of wars and high frequencies and magnitudes of earthquakes and calamities witnessed only during our century, indeed we are “at the very doors” (Mark 13:29). But no need to be worried too much (Matthew 24:6). What we are seeing are merely the beginning “birth pangs”—a successive and repetitive occurrence of events.

Consequently, Jesus’ overriding appeal for His believers and followers is to be on a constant state of preparedness.

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. ‘Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. ‘And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!’” (Mark 13:33-37)

Christ’s instructions to watch mean more than just being aware of events. His followers are to be spiritually prepared for His return. In Luke 21:34-35 Jesus says:

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. ‘Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” concludes Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:13

Thus, having done all, we can always take comfort in God’s assurance of deliverance whenever we are tossed in midst of these calamities,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help, in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.

Though its waters roar  and be troubled, though the mountain shake with its swelling.”

Psalms 46:1-3

Then comes the end.

“And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14

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