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Earthquakes are intense shaking of earth’s surface because of movements in earth’s outermost layer. It happens when the earth’s two blocks slip past one another. There can be foreshocks, main shock, and aftershocks, one after another. Severe earthquakes can cause damage to buildings and injure people.

Palestine is an earthquake prone area and earthquakes shaped the Holy Land with valleys, mountains, lakes, and seas. The primary cause is the African Rift that runs through the Red Sea, Dead Sea, and the Jordan River valley. Some events in salvation history are associated with the earthquakes in this area that happened according to the divine plan on time. Scholars attribute the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the landslides from the mountains to form a temporary dam across the River Jordan for the Israelites to reach Jericho, and the fall of Jericho’s strong city walls to earthquakes that happened according to the divine plan.

The Bible mentions earthquakes that had significant roles to play in salvation history. The earthquakes in the Bible are associated with divine communication, deliverance, or judgement:

1. When God communicated with Moses, “Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because the LORD had come down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled violently. The blast of the shofar grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking and God was answering him with thunder” (Ex 19:18-19).

2. When Korah and his faction rebelled against Moses, “the ground beneath them split open, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their families and all of Korah’s people with all their possessions” (Num 16:31-32).

3. God saved Israel during their fight with the Philistines by means of an earthquake (1 Sam 14:15).

4. When Elijah was at Mount Horeb, the Lord appeared to him. “There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire–but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound” (1 Kgs 19:11-12). Hence fierce signs of nature, including earthquake, can be a sign of God’s appearance.

5. When Jesus died on the cross, “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Mt 27:51-52).

6. At the resurrection of Jesus, another earthquake or an aftershock happened. “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it” (Mt 28:2).

7. When the Christian community in Jerusalem prayed on the day of Pentecost for fear of the Jewish leaders, “The place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

8. God used an earthquake to release Paul and Silas from jail in Philippi. “About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose” (Acts 16:25-26). That event led to the conversion of the jailer and his family.

According to the prophesies of the Old and the New Testaments, the second coming of Christ as judge of the world will also have dreadful signs, including earthquakes. Isaiah described the appearance of God in the future: “You shall be visited by the LORD of hosts, with thunder, earthquake, and great noise, whirlwind, storm, and the flame of consuming fire” (Isa 29:6).

Zechariah prophesied an earthquake like a past one that would reshape the earth. “The Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west by a very deep valley, and half of the mountain will move to the north and half of it to the south. You will flee by the valley between the mountains, for the valley between the mountains will reach to Azal. Thus you will flee as you fled because of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all his holy ones with him” (Zech 14:4-5).

John’s Revelation gives details of the “Messiah’s earthquake” that will affect the whole earth. “The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. A loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, ‘It is done.’ Then there were lightning flashes, rumblings, and peals of thunder, and a great earthquake. It was such a violent earthquake that there has never been one like it since the human race began on earth. The great city was split into three parts, and the gentile cities fell. But God remembered great Babylon, giving it the cup filled with the wine of his fury and wrath. Every island fled, and mountains disappeared. Large hailstones like huge weights came down from the sky on people, and they blasphemed God for the plague of hail because this plague was so severe” (Rev 16:17-21).

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