Earthquakes—Does God Cause Them?
“Firm ground becomes like jelly under your feet. You take three or four steps forward and you are yanked back like being on a carpet ride. You fall down and find it difficult to get up because you are being pulled in every direction. Trees whip, their tops touching the ground—first one side, then the other—some splitting into two. You try the road for escape; it moves as a snake twisting before you. On the ground—everywhere—you see crevices opening and snapping shut again. Terror grips you. There is no safe place. You think: ‘It’s the end of the world!’”—Sarah Burn Plunkett, 1964 Alaskan earthquake survivor.
HAVE you experienced the shuddering of an earthquake? Even if you have not, earthquakes affect your life. How? In at least two ways. First, they indicate that, regardless of where you live, the very ground beneath you is in constant motion. Second, and, more importantly, modern earthquakes are symptomatic of “the end” of this global “system of things.” In this connection a famous prophecy states: “And there will be great earthquakes.” (Luke 21:9-11; Matthew 24:3-8) The Bible predicted that literal earthquakes would be part of a “sign” pointing to the time when God’s heavenly Kingdom would end evil and establish a peaceful Paradise on earth. (Psalm 37:10, 11; Matthew 6:10) This may prompt some to ask: “Is God responsible for those earthquakes?”
Earthquakes in Bible Times
Are all earthquakes caused by God? In brief—No! Earthquakes are a natural process of the earth, just as wind or raindrops are. Tremors have been rippling through the earth for aeons. On the average, the earth experiences one tremor every 30 seconds.
In a few specific cases earthquakes have been initiated by Jehovah God. For what reason? These earthquakes served a definite purpose and were selective in destruction—never freakish. Consider these examples:
Twenty-four centuries ago, during the inauguration of one of God’s covenants, the people of Israel assembled at the base of Mount Sinai and “the whole mountain was trembling very much.” As one demonstration of his unmatchable power, Jehovah thus used an earthquake to stress the seriousness of the covenant. The trembling of the mountain also served as a memory aid for the Israelites. They would not easily forget their pledge, for Jehovah linked this important agreement with awe-inspiring events that included an earthquake.—Exodus 19:7-19.
Another earthquake occurred a short time later. Rebellion against Jehovah’s appointed leader developed among the households of Dathan, Abiram and Korah. After ample counsel was given and ignored, Jehovah used an earthquake to rid his people of these rebels. “The ground that was under them began to split apart. And the earth proceeded to open its mouth and to swallow up them and their households and all humankind that belonged to Korah and all the goods.”—Numbers 16:31, 32.
However, God has not been the cause of modern-day earthquakes. Why, then, does the Bible include them as part of the sign of “the end”? And are we really living at “the conclusion of the system of things”?