For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Matthew 24:7-8, NKJV

In my last blog entry, we explored the name and nature of the world’s current health crisis, Covid-19.  This crisis is the perfect definition of one of our Lord’s signs above: pestilence.  The Greek word used for “pestilence” is λοιμός (loimos) which means a plague (literally, “the disease”).  While Covid is an obvious example of pestilence or disease, we have certainly had many other lesser known diseases throughout our world recently.  Our Lord’s warning about pestilence is certainly appropriate in our current world.  In this entry, we will explore two of his other signs: wars and “earthquakes”.

Mankind is by no means unfamiliar with war.  It is likely that there has never been a time, since the fall of man, when all of mankind was at peace.  We have been accustomed to war and conflict throughout history.  And this makes perfect sense.  As a fallen being, man has always been self-centered.  While many philosophers attempt to tout the “inherent goodness” of people, a simple look around us proves the opposite.  Children need not be taught the art of selfishness, it is well practiced from birth.  And the Scriptures rightly declare:

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9


The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.

Psalms 14:2-3 

Therefore, if people are self-centered, and their hearts prone to evil, then so much more are states and kingdoms made up of and led by fallen people.  War and conflict are, indeed, inevitable.  The following charts show the recent history and current status of state-sponsored wars and conflicts:

Courtesy of the International Crisis Group (Crisis Watch): https://www.crisisgroup.org/crisiswatch

Courtesy of Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP): https://ucdp.uu.se/downloads/charts/

Nations are indeed rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  But this, as already mentioned, is nothing new.  Although the Lord included war in His list of signs of the “beginning of sorrows”, and although the records show a steady climb, most of my readers are likely not to have noticed a significant increase in these.  However, it would be hard for my readers not to have noticed a marked increase in “earthquakes”.  Let’s examine this sign.

And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
Matthew 24:7b, NKJV

There have always been earthquakes, right?  Certainly, since the fall of mankind, earthquakes have plagued humanity.  We even read of major earthquakes in the history of the holy prophets:

​The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
Amos 1:1, NKJV

Before the earthquake?  This must have been some earthquake to be named “THE earthquake”!  This is confirmed by another prophet, who wrote about the same earthquake:

Then you shall flee through My mountain valley,
For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal.
Yes, you shall flee
As you fled from the earthquake
In the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
Zechariah 14:5, NKJV

Not only was this earthquake of great magnitude, the Jewish historian Josephus tells us that this same earthquake was the result of a great sin by King Uzziah of Judah.  Early in his reign, King Uzziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord.  However; as he became old, things changed in his heart. 

But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD—valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.”

Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.
2 Chronicles 26:16-20, NKJV

Filling in some interesting details, Josephus (in Antiquities of the Jews) tells us the following:

While Uzziah was in this state, and making preparations [FOR FUTURITY], he was corrupted in his mind by pride, and became insolent, and this on account of that abundance which he had of things that will soon perish, and despised that power which is of eternal duration (which consisted in piety towards God, and in the observation of his laws); so he fell by occasion of the good success of his affairs, and was carried headlong into those sins of his father, which the splendor of that prosperity he enjoyed, and the glorious actions he had done, led him into, while he was not able to govern himself well about them.

Accordingly, when a remarkable day was come, and a general festival was to be celebrated, he put on the holy garment, and went into the temple to offer incense to God upon the golden altar, which he was prohibited to do by Azariah the high priest, who had fourscore priests with him, and who told him that it was not lawful for him to offer sacrifice, and that “none besides the posterity of Aaron were permitted so to do.” And when they cried out, that he must go out of the temple, and not transgress against God, he was wroth at them, and threatened to kill them, unless they would hold their peace.  

In the meantime, a great earthquake shook the ground, and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it, and fell upon the king’s face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately; and before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs, and stood still at the east mountain, till the roads, as well as the king’s gardens, were spoiled by the obstruction.  

Now, as soon as the priest saw that the king’s face was infected with the leprosy, they told him of the calamity he was under, and commanded that he should go out of the city as a polluted person. Hereupon he was so confounded at the sad distemper, and sensible that he was not at liberty to contradict, that he did as he was commanded, and underwent this miserable and terrible punishment for an intention beyond what befitted a man to have, and for that impiety against God which was implied therein.  So he abode out of the city for some time, and lived a private life, while his son Jotham took the government; after which he died with grief and anxiety at what had happened to him, when he had lived sixty-eight years, and reigned of them fifty-two; and was buried by himself in his own gardens.

The Writings of Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 9.10.4

Our sins are not light things, my friends; they can have grave consequences!  Uzziah started out so well; but his pride overcame his Godliness and resulted in destruction and disgrace.

But we have more evidence of earthquakes in scripture.  The gospel records a great earthquake that occurred upon the death of our Lord:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:50-54

Whereas Uzziah’s sin produced an earthquake of destruction, Jesus’ perfect atoning sacrifice produced an earthquake resulting in new life to many saints that had previously died!  Selah…

These two earthquakes were, most assuredly, of spiritual origin.  But these are exceptions to the world around us – a world whose crust builds up pressures and, at times, relieves that pressure through slippage and quakes.  Indeed, earthquakes have been part of our history a long time; they are nothing new.  So why, then, did our Lord say that in the last days, there would be “earthquakes in various places”?  The author believes that the Lord was describing a time when earthquakes would become increasingly more commonplace, and possibly more catastrophic.  If so, has this happened?  Let’s examine the data.

There are several reputable scientific databases that capture earthquake data.  They all give roughly the same picture.  Among others, here is a list of some of the many databases that are readily available to the public for research into this topic: 

  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS),
  • National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI),
  • National Geophysical Data Center/World Data Service (NGDC/WDS). 

If we look at simply the number of earthquakes that have occurred throughout recorded history in each 50 year period since 2000 BC, we see the following:

Many of my readers may feel that this data is certainly faulty.  How can we be sure that an earthquake was recorded hundreds of years ago when that society surely didn’t have appropriate measuring and recording techniques?  And this is a fair question. The graph may indeed be misleading.  So instead, let us simply take the last 200 years of data and look at the number of earthquakes in each 10 year period.  Doing so gives this:

Note that there is a dip in the decade ending 2020; this is partially due to 2020 not being complete.   This graph shows a 1300% increase in earthquakes in the last 200 years.  And, remarkably, a 200% increase in just the last 20 years!  But again, my reader may feel that even this is surely incorrect, because earthquake surveillance technology has improved in the last 200 years.  So let’s examine the trend since 1950, year over year:

And lastly, let’s take a look at the same data, from 1900 until today, but only using significant earthquakes (Magnitude equal to or greater than 6).

Here, we see that even the most significant earthquakes (those greater than 6.0 magnitude) have doubled in the last 100 years.  These are earthquakes that do not go unnoticed, and are certainly not left out of the recent historical record.  The conclusion?  Yes, earthquakes have undeniably increased – both in numbers and in magnitude.

This morning, the area in which I live, New England, USA felt its strongest earthquake since 1976 – almost 45 years.  Earthquakes are on the rise.  But is there more to this word?  Was Jesus speaking of more than just earthquakes?  We will explore this possibility in our next entry!

May God richly bless your study of His Holy Word until next time!



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