Friday night, Amanda and I were finishing up for the night when our house began to shake significantly. When any type of strange phenomena happens, Amanda repeatedly yells, “Trav? Trav? Trav!” This time was no different. With fear in her eyes, she began yelling my name and jumped out of her chair and said, “Trav, what is that?”
The primary dilemma in our home when an “act of God” occurs is that my wife repeatedly yells for me to do something about it.
Normally, I have a list of things that could be the possible source for whatever reverberations we are hearing in that moment, but this time I told her simply: “It’s an earthquake.”
“No. Seriously, what is it?”
“No, seriously – this is an earthquake.”
“Go, get the kids!”
As I made my way towards the stairs, it was already over. Our hearts were pounding. The 6-8 seconds we experienced of a 4.1 earthquake with the epicenter in Edgefield County 40 miles away had come and gone and caused this Valentine’s Day to be one to remember.
What made it even more interesting was how much snow and ice our relatively frost forbidden area had experienced in the last week. We had a lot of snow for this area, followed by an earthquake, and in a couple of days, its gonna be in the 70s. What does all this mean?
For the next hour after the earthquake, we found ourselves laughing uncontrollably at the phone calls we received and the Facebook statuses we read. We felt like we were on an emotional roller coaster (Since Friday night, Edgefield also experienced a 3.2 earthquake on Sunday afternoon. Amanda felt this one at the house, I was at the church and didn’t feel it).
One of the things we kept encountering were people mentioning the need to get ready because Jesus must be coming back due to this earthquake. People were claiming: “the end times are near.”
Well, are they?
I think we can all agree upon this: the end is closer today than it was last Friday.
Now, how close it is? That’s a different story.
Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
Most people where I live are thinking about the end times because the earthquake was close to where they live. They felt it, so therefore, they were affected by it.
It’s interesting that most of my community wasn’t talking about the end times when a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Balochistan, Pakistan on September 24th killing 825 people. No one ran to blow the dust off their Bibles to check out prophecies when a 7.2 earthquake hit Bohol Island in the Philippines on Oct. 15th killing 222 people. Americans weren’t running to church the Sunday after Lushan County in China experienced a 6.6 earthquake on April 20th killing 193 people.
Within the last 24 hours of writing this post, the experts tell us that 30 earthquakes have occurred in the world.
The earthquakes that you notice are the ones that you experience.
While there were a total of 1,545 earthquakes with at least a 5 magnitude rating reported in the world in 2013, we tend to focus on the 4.1 that we felt rattling through our homes and shaking the dishes in our cabinets and vibrating the pictures on our walls.
We tend to have selective eschatology. We talk about the end times when we experience something.
Are earthquakes a sign that the end is coming? Yep, they are. But we need to open our eyes to the rest of the picture.
The End Times
Since it is unfair to take notice of only the earthquakes we experience, we must learn to embrace an eschatology that can be accepted globally. Any doctrine concerning the end times should be able to be accepted in any culture in any nation at any time period throughout history.
Any end times doctrine should be able to be accepted in any culture in any nation at any time.
I will give you an example. Most American Christians believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. The belief is that before things get too bad, Jesus will rescue his Church. Before the great persecution, Jesus will rapture all true believers into heaven so that they don’t have to experience any great turmoil.
I will usually ask them, “Where is that in the Bible?”
“Well, it’s in there somewhere.”
Hmmm. We might want to have better basis than that.
If any eschatological doctrine worthy of adhering to must be able to be accepted anywhere at anytime, then there are some believers in the world today that are in trouble.
I wonder what the Nigerian Christians would think today about a belief that Jesus will rapture true believers from the possibility of experiencing any persecution as they weep beside the 106 killed yesterday by Islamic radicals. Targeted for being Christians, this tight-knit community just got decimated by Boko Haram Islamists because of their faith in Christ.
Can you imagine an American preacher believing in a pre-tribulation rapture going over to do mission work with this fishing village and encouraging them? “Brothers and sisters, fret not, Jesus has promised to take us away from any persecution! We will be called up to meet him in the sky before things get too bad.”
Sitting in disbelief, I would imagine one hearer would be bold enough to say: “Well then, Jesus is late.”
“Where was he when they burned my house? When they barred our church doors? When they killed my brother? When they kidnapped by wife and children? If he is supposed to come before persecution, then he is unfortunately and tragically late because we are experiencing it now.”
There’s a tension here. What does Scripture teach?
Right after the paragraph concerning earthquakes that people have alluded to over the last few days, Jesus continues the conversation concerning the end times:
Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Maybe I am crazy, but it sounds like Jesus expects his true followers to experience some hardships before they reach eternity.
Should that be shocking? A sinless Christ lived a perfect life and was murdered for crimes he did not commit. The early church built upon his example and many died a martyr’s death for proclaiming an unpopular message. 1 Peter and many other New Testament passages scream to the fact that true believers need to brace for coming hard times – stand firm no matter what comes your way! It’s going to get tough, but this is not the end! There is another chapter! I have read the end of the Book, and while we win, it is going to get harrowing before that time.
Also, if you read this passage, Christ shows that his patience towards this world (2 Peter 3:9) means that he wants to give the nations a chance to hear the gospel. In fact, if you want to speed up the Second Coming, the best bet is to spread the gospel to unreached people groups. So much of the world is debating Christ’s second coming when some of the world has yet to hear about his first coming.
I am not proposing that you adopt a specific eschatological view, but I am proposing that you study the Bible concerning it. I am challenging you to really look at the totality of Scripture on the issue and embrace what God teaches and not merely popular, extra-biblical traditions of what should happen. You need to read the New Testament more than fictional, Christian novels on the subject.
The Positive Effect of an Earthquake
I am not an easily rattled person. There are few things that gets my heart pumping and my anxiousness level up, but Friday night, I trembled. And I loved every fleeting second of it.
As the foundation of my home resonated through my temporal frame, I had this terrible and yet beautiful fear that came over me. For a moment, I remembered that there is someone more powerful than me. I realized that I am not as big, or as in control, as I think I am. And that was a very good thing.
What’s remarkable was how fleeting and how minuscule what we experienced is compared to what others around the world have experienced, and yet it still shook so many to the core. Everyone laughed at how big of news it was for our area and yet how little damage was done. The irony of the news can be seen in evidence by such memes showing a chair flipped over or a pillow overturned stating: “SOUTH CAROLINA EARTHQUAKE 2/14/14 – WE WILL REBUILD.”
And yet, it caused many of us to pray. It caused many folks to Google: “Bible verse about earthquakes.” It caused some of you to make sure you were in church yesterday.
None of that is a bad thing. I just pray it lasts longer than the aftershocks do.
Let the unstable nature of this world and the omnipotence of its Creator humble you.
Let the unstable nature of this world and the omnipotence of its Creator humble you. Let it keep you on your toes. This life is fleeting and we are unsure of what we will face even this very day.
And we are getting closer to that great day.
I do not know what I will face in this world but I know the One who holds it in his hand. And that gives me great comfort.
My trembling causes me to stand in awe of God and that, my friends, is a welcomed gift.