Before reading this brief study, please read the previous articles in this series,
- The Meaning of Eschatology
- Flashback to the Prophecy of Jesus Christ
- The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 1
- The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 2
- The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 3
- The Wedding Feast
- The Temple – Old and New
- The Questions
- The Beginning of Signs
- Misleading Sign 1 – False Messiahs
- Misleading Sign 2 – Wars and Rumours of Wars
- Misleading Sign 3 – Nation against Nation & Kingdom against Kingdom
- Misleading Sign 4 – Famines
- Misleading Sign 5 – Pestilences
Matthew 24:7 — “…and earthquakes in various places.”
Mark 13:8 — For nation will rise against nation, and Kingdom against Kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Luke 21:11 — There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
Amid the global pandemic the world is facing, there was an earthquake in Greece last week. Doomsday preachers quickly latched onto that saying these are the last days and Christ is coming to rapture the Church very soon. The notion is that there is an increase in earthquakes, therefore, we are in the last days.
However, we must realize with many evidences that there were an astounding number of earthquakes between AD. 30-70. Jesus was not speaking of “world-wide” earthquakes but quakes in “various places” during those days. Jesus did not also prophesy of an “increase” in earthquakes, but quakes in various places during that time. Not only were the disciples but the whole church was a witness to these events. Some of the biblical records of earthquakes are,
An earthquake recorded at the Cross in AD. 30
Matthew 27:50- 54 — And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
A great earthquake at the resurrection in AD. 30
Matthew 28:1 – 3 — Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.
Matthew records “a great earthquake,” when the angel of the Lord descended from heaven.
After the church prayed for Peter and John between AD. 30 and AD. 70.
Acts 4:31 — And when they had prayed, the place in which they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they continued to speak the Word of God with freedom and boldness and courage.
Paul and Silas in prison
Acts 16:25 – 26 — But about midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the [other] prisoners were listening to them, Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the very foundations of the prison were shaken; and at once all the doors were opened and everyone’s shackles were unfastened.
Luke records “a great earthquake” that shook the foundations of the prison house.
Earthquakes in the Roman Empire between AD 30-70.
According to Kik,
“There were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judea. It is interesting to note that the city of Pompeii was much damaged by an earthquake occurring on February 5, 63 AD.” [Kik, p. 93]
The Roman historian Tacitus recorded earthquakes:
- Earthquake during the reign of Caligula (AD. 37-41)
- Earthquake during the reign of Claudius (AD.41-54)
- Earthquake during the reign of Nero in Laodicea.
“Several prodigies occurred in that year. Birds of evil omen perched on the Capitol; houses were thrown down by frequent shocks of earthquake, and as the panic spread, all the weak were trodden down in the hurry and confusion of the crowd.” [Tacitus, The Annals, 12.43]
“Apamea, too, which had been shaken by an earthquake, had its tribute remitted for five years.” [Tacitus, The Annals, 12:58]
“One of the famous cities of Asia, Laodicea, was that same year overthrown by an earthquake…” [Tacitus, The Annals, 14:27]
“An earthquake too demolished a large part of Pompeii, a populous town in Campania.” [Tacitus, The Annals, 15:22]
He reported earthquakes in Hieropolis, Colosse and Laodicea (AD.61)
He reported an earthquake during the reign of Galba.
He writes in the Wars,
“…they lay all night before the wall, though in a very bad encampment; for there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continual lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake.
These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men when the system of the world was put into this discord, and anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.” [Josephus, Wars, 4.4.5 ]
We must understand that Josephus was speaking of coming destruction by observing these signs. Something major was about to happen to the Jewish people. Josephus goes on to write that the Judean earthquake was “no common” calamity indicating that God Himself had brought it about for a special purpose.
E. H. PLUMPTRE
He writes in his commentary on this passage of scripture:
“Perhaps no period in the world’s history has ever been so marked by these convulsions as that which intervenes between the Crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem.” [Edward Hayes Plumptre, “The gospel According to St. Matthew,” Vol 6: 146.]
The major earthquakes occurring between this prophecy and the destruction of Jerusalem were,
- A great earthquake in Crete, AD. 46 or 47;
- One at Rome on the day when Nero assumed the manly toga, AD. 51;
- One at Apamaea in Phrygia, mentioned by Tacitus, AD. 53;
- One at Laodicea in Phrygia, AD. 60;
- One in Campania.
He quotes Seneca who wrote in the year, AD. 58,
“How often have cities of Asia and Achaea fallen with one fatal shock! How many cities have been swallowed up in Syria, how many in Macedonia! How often has Cyprus been wasted by this calamity! How often has Paphos become a ruin! News has often been brought us of the demolition of whole cities at once.” [Henry Alford, The new testament for English Readers (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, n.d.), 163]
ROMAN HISTORIAN SENECA ON POMPEII
“Pompeii, the famous city in Campania, has been laid low by an earthquake which also disturbed all the adjacent districts. The city is in a pleasant bay, some distance from the open sea, and bounded by the shores of Surrentum and Stabiae on one side and of Herculaneum on the other; the shores meet there. In fact, it occurred in days of winter, a season which our ancestors used to claim was free from such disaster.
This earthquake was on the Nones of February, in the consulship of Regulus and Verginius. It caused great destruction in Campania, which had never been safe from this danger but had never been damaged, and time and again had got off with a fright. Also, part of the town of Herculaneum is in ruins, and even the structures which are left standing are shaky.
The colony of Nuceria escaped destruction but still has much to complain about. Naples also lost many private dwellings but no public buildings, and was only mildly grazed by the great disaster; but some villas collapsed, others here and there shook without damage.
To these calamities others were added: they say that a flock of hundreds of sheep was killed, statues were cracked, and some people were so shocked that they wandered about as if deprived of their wits. The thread of my proposed work, and the concurrence of the disaster at this time, requires that we discuss the causes of these earthquakes. It is necessary to find solace for distressed people and to remove their great fear. Yet can anything seem adequately safe to anyone if the world itself is shaken, and its most solid parts collapse? Where will our fears finally be at rest if the one thing which is immovable in the universe and fixed, so as to support everything that leans upon it, starts to waver; if the earth loses the characteristic it has: stability?
What hiding-place will creatures find, where will they flee in their anxiety, if fear arises from below and is drawn from the depths of the earth? There is panic on the part of all when buildings creak and give signs of falling. Then everybody hurls himself headlong outside, abandons his household possessions, and trusts to his luck in the outdoors. What hiding-place do we look to, what help, if the earth itself is causing the ruin, if what protects us, upholds us, on which cities are built, which some speak of as a kind of foundation of the universe, separates and reels?” [Seneca, ‘Quaestiones Naturales’, VI]
WIKIPEDIA ON POMPEII
The inhabitants of Pompeii had long been used to minor quaking (indeed, the writer Pliny the Younger wrote that earth tremors “were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania”), but on 5 February 62, there was a severe earthquake which did considerable damage around the bay and particularly to Pompeii. [“Patterns of Reconstruction at Pompeii”, Iath.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2010-02-01.]
The earthquake, which took place on the afternoon of the 5th of February, is believed to have registered between about 5 and 6 on the Richter scale. On that day in Pompeii there were to be two sacrifices, as it was the anniversary of Augustus being named “Father of the Nation” and also a feast day to honour the guardian spirits of the city. Chaos followed the earthquake. Fires, caused by oil lamps that had fallen during the quake, added to the panic.
Nearby cities of Herculaneum and Nuceria were also affected. Temples, houses, bridges, and roads were destroyed. It is believed that almost all buildings in the city of Pompeii were affected. In the days after the earthquake, anarchy ruled the city, where theft and starvation plagued the survivors. In the time between 62 and the eruption in 79, some rebuilding was done, but some of the damage had still not been repaired at the time of the eruption. Although it is unknown how many, a considerable number of inhabitants moved to other cities within the Roman Empire while others remained and rebuilt. [ Wikipedia, Pompeii, sub section AD. 72-79]
Since the generation between AD. 30 and AD. 70 has passed, there is no reason to attach prophetic significance to earthquakes in our day as a fulfillment of Matthew 24:7.