Note on Earthquakes

In connection with the outpouring of the seventh vial upon the earth, Rev. 16:18 speaks of a "great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, such an earthquake, so great." May it be gathered from these words that before men were upon the earth, there had been such an earthquake? Can the "without form and void" condition of the earth in Genesis 1:2 be explained by the previous occurrence of such a catastrophe? The words tohu and bohu used in the verse referred to are found also in Isaiah 45:18, and show that such was not the original condition of creation; and in Isaiah 25:11, as also in Jer. 4:23, the same words are employed as descriptive of judgment executed. That earthquakes are significant of judgment in its last development, is seen by their being also the outcome of the opening of the sixth seal and the sounding of the sixth trumpet, when God ariseth to shake terribly the earth. (Rev. 6:14; 11:13. See also Matt. 24:7.) In Zech. 13 there is an earthquake preceding the judgment consequent upon the return of the Lord Jesus to this earth, when His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives. In this case He is, at the same time, manifesting Himself as the Saviour and Defender of those who in man's day of rebellion and apostasy have been true to His name. These two facts - the shaking of that which is of the earth, earthy, and the remaining of that which is heavenly, and which cannot be moved - appear to be always involved in the occurrence of earthquakes.

At Sinai, in Exodus 19, the whole mount quaked greatly at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth, when, amid the myriads of angels, there went a fiery law for His people Israel. The mount then quaked, because the Lord was manifesting Himself in connection with that which was only for the while, and would be done away. There is no quaking in that which remains.

There was an earthquake when, in 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan and his armour-bearer overthrew the garrison of the Philistines. Jehovah was not ashamed thus to attest the faith and courage of those who were not afraid to own Him in the midst of universal cowardice and defection. In Psalm 18 David also speaks of an earthquake in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. Here, again, the Lord was showing Himself strong in behalf of those whose heart was perfect towards Him. In 1 Kings 19 it is by the incidence of an earthquake, among other tokens of the Lord's presence with His servant, that Elijah is made sensible of the power of the Lord whom he served, although he heard the voice of the Lord only in the still, small voice. For to such a one it is, "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."

Judgment on the presumptuous, and encouragement for all who would stand for Jehovah, is evidenced in the earthquake mentioned by both Amos and Zechariah, which took place in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah. There never has been the day wherein the Lord's people have had any cause to believe that He is unmindful of them; nor will it be so in the coming days of which the times of Saul and David, Ahab and Elijah, Uzziah and Azariah were a shadow. Although God bears long as to His own elect, in due time He will avenge them speedily. The Lord will not forsake His people for His name's sake, because it has pleased Him to make us His people.

In connection with the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus the earth quaked and the rocks rent (Matt. 27:51), surely in token of the judgment which God was then and there announcing upon the world which had rejected His Son. A great earthquake had also followed upon the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28:2), which would seem to be, as it were, a second testimony to the revolution that had been effected in the history of creation - the birth-pangs of the new order, as that in chapter 27 had been the death-throes of the old. This latter earthquake is in the sacred narrative associated with the appearance of the angel of the Lord. The service of angels has apparently to do with the world as it now is, rather than with the world to come, through which Christians have to pass with God's earthly people, rather than with those who have in Christ been made partakers of the heavenly calling.

The remaining instances of earthquakes that I note are those given in Acts 4:15 and 16:26. On each of these occasions the Lord Himself was pleased to signify by external tokens His presence and approval of the testimony which His servants were bearing in His name. The Lord Jesus was speaking from heaven. It was His voice, not breaking the cedars of Lebanon, nor dividing the flames of fire, but giving strength and encouragement to His witnesses, and blessing His servants with palpable tokens of His love and care. He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," so that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid what man shall do to me." W. C. C.-B.-C.