Any time a major disaster happens, many people ponder what it would have been like if they had gone through the terrible misfortune they see victims going through. For many believers, they also consider whether the tragedy is a reminder that the Biblical end times are that much closer.
A friend of mine from church sent an email yesterday that centered on the recent earthquakes recorded in Haiti, Chile and Taiwan. He referred to Matthew 24:7, one of numerous mentions of signs God said we could look for in advance of His coming:
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences and earthquakes, in diverse places.”
The Haitian quake, on January 12th, measured a magnitude-7.0. On February 27, an 8.8-magnitude quake hit near Concepcion, Chile, the country’s second-largest city. The same day, there was a 7.0-magnitude quake off the coast of Okinawa. Earlier this week, a magnitude-6.4 quake hit southern Taiwan.
This cluster of major quakes is certainly enough to make anyone wonder if there’s something bigger brewing, either geologically or spiritually.
But earthquake experts caution that a little calm is in order: the National Earthquake Information Center spots an average of 50 quakes per day.
And even “major” earthquakes, those measuring at least a magnitude-7.0 on the Richter Scale, aren’t as rare as they seem: experts tell USA Today that what makes these recent quakes so striking is that they’ve occurred in more heavily-populated areas. If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, a sound is still produced, but no one notices; if it falls in the middle of a town picnic, it gets a lot of attention.
There’s also this interesting tidbit:
“According to long-term records (which exist since about 1900), the [United States Geological Survey] expects that about 17 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.0-7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) will affect the world in any given year.”
Believers who insist that the recent quakes signify that God’s return is nearing will point out that people scoffed at Noah when he assured them that God had instructed him to build an arc because of a coming catastrophic flood.
I think we miss an important point in focusing on the symptoms and warning signs: if we’re really living a life that honors God, the timing of His return shouldn’t matter. We should be ready at any time, as if no notice at all will be received.
And let’s face it, given the number of earthquakes that normally occur, if quakes are a warning sign, how are we supposed to know which is just a normal one that would have occurred anyway and which is one God is sending specifically as a sign?
Put yourself in God’s place for a second. (If that makes you gasp, get over it: it’s for a good reason!) You tell Your people You love them, You send Your Son to die on a cross for their sins, and You then watch them continue to not take their salvation seriously until they see what they think might be a sign that You’re coming a little sooner than they expect?
That would tick me off. I’m just glad God’s infinitely more patient than I am.