Earthquakes and Oil Spills: Signs of the End Times?
I’ve heard that the Bible says that one of the ways we will know that the end is near is a dramatic increase in the number and intensity of earthquakes, volcanoes and natural disasters. Tsunamis in Indonesia, earthquakes in Haiti, volcanic mud slides in Chile and droughts in Africa are killing people by the hundreds of thousands. Now, we have an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which threatens to be the greatest ecological disaster of all time. Marine habitat is being decimated; fish and birds are dying by the millions. Recent studies predict that so much oil is gushing unchecked from the ocean floor that the spill will travel along the Gulf Stream currents to foul the beaches of Ireland, England and France. In addition, the prospect of the devastating effects of global warming is frightening.
Do you believe that all these are signs from God that the end is near?
A whole lot of us Christians
Dear a whole lot of Christians,
The Bible has much to say about the natural signs that precede the destructive end of time. While these signs are scattered throughout the Scriptures, most of them are detailed in the Book of Revelation. We will focus our attention here. Three cycles of destruction are outlined in Revelation 6-16. The cycles are grouped in sevens: seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls of wrath. Some interpret the cycles as occurring one after the other in linear time-line fashion. Others view them as occurring simultaneously. Whatever interpretation we choose, we notice that some overlapping occurs.
Many view the opening of the Seven Seals as describing Man’s plagues upon mankind. The blowing of the Seven Trumpets corresponds to Satan’s destruction on mankind. The pouring out of the Bowls of Wrath is God’s judgment on mankind. Some evidence for this interpretation comes from the increasing intensity of destruction from the Seals to the Trumpets to the Bowls.
Let me summarize the devastation described by each seal, trumpet and bowl so that we can observe them all at once:
First Seal: The rider on the white horse offering temporary-deceptive peace
Second Seal: The rider on the red horse taking peace from the earth
Third Seal: The rider on the black horse of famine
Fourth Seal: The rider on the pale horse of death
Fifth Seal: Christian martyrs in Heaven pleading with God to judge the world
Sixth Seal: Great earthquakes, darkened sun and blood-red moon (volcanic ash?), the stars in the sky fall to earth, the sky recedes like a rolling up scroll (an intercontinental-ballistic-missile-nuclear holocaust?)
Seventh Seal: A period of stunned silence in Heaven for thirty minutes at the destruction yet to come on earth
First Trumpet: hail and fire mixed with blood hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth, the trees and all the green grass is burned up.
Second Trumpet: A blazing is thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turns into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea die, and a third of the ships are destroyed.
Third Trumpet: A blazing star falls on the rivers and turns them bitter. Many die.
Fourth Trumpet: A third of the sun, moon, and stars, are destroyed so that a third of the day and night turn dark.
Fifth Trumpet: A star falls from heaven and opens the door to the lowest Hell to unleash a world-wide demonic infestation of all who are imprinted with the “666” sign.
Sixth Trumpet: Two hundred million troops are released to kill one-third of mankind.
Seventh Trumpet: Heaven is unveiled to reveal lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm. Satan is cast from Heaven to earth.
First Bowl: Ugly and painful sores break out on the people who have the mark of the beast and who worship his image.
Second Bowl: Blood is poured out on the sea and every living sea creature dies.
Third Bowl: Blood is poured on rivers and streams and all the fish in them die.
Fourth Bowl: The sun becomes scorching hot (global warming? The increasing ozone hole over Antarctica).
Fifth Bowl: Darkness covers the earth.
Sixth Bowl: The Euphrates River dries up to allow a giant army to advance to Armageddon.
Seventh Bowl: God’s final judgment of mankind begins with the Battle of Armageddon and is accompanied by fire, earthquakes, natural disasters and destruction.
Some think that the signs can begin at any time preceding the return of Christ. Others see them commencing at the beginning of the last-seven-year period before the Battle of Armageddon when the Anti-Christ signs a peace treaty guaranteeing the security of Israel. Still others feel that proper Biblical interpretation places them at the three and one-half-year point when the Anti-Christ breaks the peace treaty and all Hell breaks loose in a time of “Great Tribulation” which leads up to the final battle.
As I peruse these twenty-one disasters, I have no trouble relating them to what we see occurring today: natural disasters, ecological turmoil, nuclear threats and accidents, unrelenting genocide, civil unrest, terrorism and civil war.
The idea that natural and man-made disasters will increase in frequency and intensity as the end approaches is enunciated by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:6-8).
The operative words here are “birth pains”. Birth pains increase in intensity and frequency until the baby is finally delivered. Wars, famine, earthquakes, global warming and man-made ecological disasters will grow in intensity and frequency as the end draws near.
It may be that the frequency and intensity are really not increasing at all. Earthquakes transpire daily at different places throughout the earth. Tsunamis and volcanoes are ongoing occurrences. In fact, eight to ten volcanoes are erupting with varying intensity on any given day. They are in remote places and simply pass unnoticed unless they are located in Iceland and affect air travel across the European continent. It may well be that the only reason these events seem more frequent and intense today is because the news media makes us instantly aware of things we never had access to know before.
The key to all of this may very well be found in the concluding verses of the Book of Daniel. Daniel is an Old Testament prophetical book which details the world’s governments from King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon to the Second coming of Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people — everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge (Daniel 12:1-4).
Two things stand out in these verses which summarize the end days. First, “seal up the words of the scroll until the time of the end,” means that the Book of Daniel will be an enigma until the events recorded in the Book are close to being fulfilled. I believe that the prophecies of Daniel are now understood in ways that they never have been before. In other words, one sign the end is near is that these verses are now easy to understand.
Second, “many will go here and there to increase knowledge” seems to me to refer to the fact that amount of knowledge doubles every five years. I think that, among other things, this refers to the media proliferation of knowledge dispersed world-wide. There are no more earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. than before. It just seems like it!
Do I think that the increase of devastations means that the end is near? Yes, but how near? Frankly, I really don’t know. But, I do know this, the end is closer than it has ever been before.