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, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 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 24:3-8
Apocalypse has two primary definitions: one, the complete final destruction of the world as described in the biblical book of Revelation, and two, an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale. Certainly, we have not seen the complete final destruction of the world. However, the destruction caused by a category 7 or above earthquake in populated areas has cost thousands upon thousands of lives, especially when you consider that the earthquake caused tsunamis that wreaked such cataclysm on Japan and Indonesia in recent years. Clearly, the use of the word “apocalypse to describe the devastation is not far off. In Matthew 24, the Lord lists the early warning signs that will be the precursors of His second coming, including the increase of earthquakes.
The two earthquakes that struck in Nepal left over nine thousand dead and nearly two million suffering and homeless. The suffering and loss of life in Nepal, Japan, and Indonesia is astounding even for us not directly affected by the “apocalypse of these events. The reported increase of earthquakes has been scoffed at by many people who claim that the only reason there appear to be more is because of increased reporting due to the number of seismographs located all around the world. Yet, despite the fact that accurate record keeping did not begin until 1900, approximately 31 earthquakes of 7.0 or higher occurred between 1801 and 1900. This equated to one major earthquake every 3.2 years. From 1901 to 2000, with accurate record keeping, there were 222 earthquakes of 7.0 or higher. This equated to one major earthquake every 6 months. From just 2004 to 2008, there were 127 major earthquakes, one every 23 days. Then in 2009, there were 17 major quakes, one every 21 days. And in 2010, there were 22 major earthquakes, one every 16 days. Do these statistics indicate a rise in major earthquakes of 7.0 or higher? You decide.
The advice from the Lord is that we are not to become alarmed, but rather to be alert to the signs he gives his church that these are indications that the last days are beginning, including the persecution of Christians and martyrdom, which we are now seeing. Jesus says that all nations will hate believers, and even many will turn from the faith and betray and hate each other. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:12). How long these last days are is not for us to know. Jesus tells us this knowledge is only the Father’s, not the angels’ or the Son’s.
But the warning is for us who live in these days and who claim to be the Lord’s. The intent of the Lord is that you may be strengthened for what lies ahead, no matter how long or short it takes to unfold. The graciousness of Jesus in giving us indicators is not to alarm or bring fear, but to increase trust in himself to preserve his elect through the storm (vs. 22 and 24). Consequently, we know and believe in his warning that we should keep watch, though we do not know on what day he will come. The parables which follow his warning (Matthew 25) are about watching and investing his gifts to you in others’ lives right up to the day he returns.
Watching, with your hand on the pulse of the Scriptures, and investing your gifts in others’ lives appear to be the stance which the Lord desires of you in perilous times. Invest in your children’s and grandchildren’s lives, invest in your neighbors’ lives, invest in the lives to whom God has called you. There is no way to know what time there is left, but one thing is certain: You have a grasp on your own time. Make it count for eternity.
“Rejoice, all ye believers, and let your lights appear; the evening is advancing, and darker night is near. The Bridegroom is arising, and soon he draweth nigh; up, pray, and watch, and wrestle. At midnight comes the cry.
(1st verse of Laurentine Laurenti’s hymn, “Rejoice, All Ye Believers, 1700)
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and weekly devotional