Monday, May 4, 2015

Are Earthquakes A Part of The Great Tribulation? How Should Christians Respond To Natural Disasters?

            The Bible foretells a seven year tribulation period prior to Christ’s second coming. This will be a time of unparalleled suffering for mankind.

            Earthquakes are a sure means to inflict this gory suffering, and the Bible includes earthquakes as a part of the tribulation period. Hence some Christians were quick to associate the recent earthquake in Nepal with the tribulation, thus implying the rapid proximity of Christ’s second coming.

            To be fair, one cannot blatantly ignore these voices, for ‘’1 reported 109 earthquakes today (4th April 2015), 680 during the past week, 2987 in the past month and 37, 655 in the past year. These large numbers could easily validate these voices (this report includes earthquakes of magnitude 1.5 or greater).

            Two pertinent questions could be raised in the wake of natural disasters such as the recent earthquake in Nepal:

            1. If these voices are valid, are we living in the tribulation period - are we experiencing unparalleled suffering now? If not, when do we expect the great tribulation?

            2. When earthquakes (read suffering) destroy many lives irreparably, should Christians shout loud to the world about the earthquake being a part of the tribulation period or God’s judgment upon mankind etc.?

            Are we living inside the tribulation period? Matthew 24 outlines consecutive tribulational events:

            1. Deceptive Messiahs: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many” (verses 4-5).

            2. Wars: “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” (verses 6-7).

            3. Famines & Earthquakes: “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (verse 7b).

            4. Persecution & Martyrdom: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” (verses 9-12).

            5. Cosmic Disturbances: “…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (verses 29).

            6. Christ’s Second Coming: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (verses 30-31).

            Various other passages speak about the tribulation period (Daniel 9: 24-27; Jeremiah 30: 3-14; Revelation 6-18; Zechariah 12: 2-3, 8-9, 14: 1-5, 7-9; 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-10). However, the first event of the tribulation period, as elucidated by premillenial scholars, is the arrival of antichrist.

            Until now there is no concrete sighting of the antichrist. Many rumors do circulate, but they are unconvincing. Similarly, there are wars, famines, earthquakes and cosmic disturbances, but is the unparalleled suffering of the tribulation period?

            Let us think this through by considering the factor of peace through the global peace index. In other words, is the world at peace now?

            Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) study2 reveals that only 11 countries in the world were not involved in conflict of one kind or another. Another significant revelation of this study is that the world is becoming less peaceful every year since 2008.

            Having said this, the world is not being traumatized by peacelessness. For instance, India ranks 143/162 in the global peace index (#1 ranked country is most peaceful and the 162nd ranked country is the least peaceful). According to this statistic, India is not considered a peaceful country. However in reality, barring instances of conflicts and violence, life is quite normal in most parts of India.

            If this is the situation in India, 142 other countries do seem to enjoy a relatively greater degree of peace. Hence a conclusion that we are not living in the tribulation period, since suffering is not at its zenith in this world, is reasonable.  

            When do we expect the tribulation period to commence? Tribulation will surely occur in the future, but since the Bible does not provide us with a specific date, it would be unwise to propose a specific time frame.

            When natural disasters augment our suffering, should Christians make damaging statements through social media forums equating natural disasters with God’s judgment or as indicative of tribulation period? What purpose does this serve?

            One blogger had this to say, “Yet we know in the Tribulation, all the mountains will be thrown down…. O, Nepal, your dead idols cannot help you now! Turn from them and repent to the True and Living God!”3

            A Christian preacher tweeted, “Praying 4 the lost souls in Nepal. Praying not a single destroyed pagan temple will b rebuilt & the people will repent/receive Christ.”4 As one would expect, there were a number of angry responses. This preacher then responded with greater hostility.

            Is this the need of the hour? I do not think so.

            Did the earthquake in Nepal kill only the non-christians? No, many Christians died and church buildings may have also been destroyed. 5

            When this act of God did not spare Christians, why make statements as if this was God’s judgment upon non-christians?

            How could we be certain that God has allowed a natural disaster as a means of his judgment? If we are not sure, then why make those statements? Wouldn’t we be better off without such demeaning statements?  

            Since we do not know the mind of God in the context of natural disasters, it is merely probable that natural disasters could be God’s judgment upon mankind. Natural disasters could include believers and unbelievers of Christ. Since believers of Christ who die during natural disasters would be heaven bound, natural disasters are not a mechanism of God’s judgment upon Christians. However, Christians cannot use natural disasters as a means to pronounce judgment upon non-christians. 

            Pronouncing judgment upon non-christians would not bring them to Christ. It is the love of Christ, made perfect by HIS perfect sacrifice that draws people closer to HIM.


1, last accessed on 4th April 2015, 10:20 AM, IST.   





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