Tag Archives: natural disasters

Do natural disasters signal the end of the world as we know it?

Natural disasters are not unique to our time. Terrible losses of life and destruction from many natural disasters and epidemics have occurred for millennia.[1] So no one can say for certain that such events mark the end of this “present age.”[2]

Jesus’ disciples once asked Him what would “signal” His return and the end of the world as we know it.[3] In his reply, Jesus cautioned them not to assume that natural catastrophes such as famines or earthquakes or even man-made cataclysms such as wars meant the end of the age was just around the corner. Instead, He told His followers to view such catastrophic events as “the first of the birth pains, with more to come.”[4]

Jesus’ caution is as applicable for us today as it was for His first disciples. Every generation since the time of Jesus has had to deal with disasters of all types and scales. But there is no way for us to know when a recent disaster might signal the end of the world as we know it. Jesus Himself told His followers that only God knows for certain “the day or hour” when Christ will return.[5]

Natural disasters do show us that the earth is not the way it’s supposed to be. It is groaning and longing for the day when Jesus returns and all of creation will be renewed.[6]

[1] Earthquakes: Antioch, Syria, ad 525, 250,000 killed; Aleppo, Syria, 1138, 230,000 killed; Shaanxi Province, China, 1556, 830,000 killed.

Famines: “Great Famine” of Europe, ad 1315–17, millions died; Indian famine of 1896–1902, millions died; Chinese famine under Chairman Mao, 1958–61, 20-40 million died.

[2] In Jesus day, Jewish teachers, (including Jesus Himself) divided history into two ages; the “present age” and the “age to come”—the good news of God’s Kingdom coming to earth as it is in heaven that Jesus preached.  Many who read the New Testament believe that these two ages began to overlap when Jesus rose from the dead, and that the “present age” will come to an end and the “age to come” will come in its fullness when Jesus returns to our present earth. Others believe that the “age to come” will not begin until this “present age” ends at the time of Christ’s return.

[3] Matthew 24:3

[4] Matthew 24:4–8

[5] Matthew 24:26

[6] Romans 8:19–21; Revelation 21:1–5

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Do recent earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters indicate the endtimes?

There have been some powerful earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and other natural disasters recently, but they aren’t unique to our time. Because population density is much higher today than in past centuries, more people tend to be killed when natural disasters occur.

People of Jesus’ day were superstitious and believed that natural events contained clues about the future. When Jesus’ disciples asked him what the signs of the end of the age would be, Jesus gave them a careful response:

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 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. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:4-13 nkjv).

Jesus may have realized that the disciples would expect the destruction ofJerusalemand the temple to occur in close conjunction with His return and the end of the age. To make it clear to them that they shouldn’t linkJerusalem’s fall with His second coming, He told them specifically not to trust false Christs. He also warned them not to think manmade catastrophes such as wars or natural catastrophes such as famines, epidemics, or earthquakes meant the end of the age had arrived. Such catastrophic events should not be viewed as “the birth pains of the Messiah,” as the Jews sometimes viewed them, but as “the beginning of the birth pains” (v.8 niv) of events that would take place throughout history. Christians should be prepared for these things and for the severe persecution that would rise against the church from time to time.

What Jesus prophesied came true—Israelwas judged andJerusalemdestroyed in the Jewish-Roman wars. Yet, as He said, the horrors of siege and battle along with the natural disasters of that period were in fact only the “beginning of the birth pains.” Thousands of catastrophic events of all types—wars, famines, plagues, and earthquakes—have occurred in the intervening centuries, some of them apocalyptic in scale.

Earthquakes:

Antioch,Syria, ad 525, 250,000 killed;

Aleppo,Syria, 1138, 230,000 killed;

Shaanxi   Province,China, 1556, 830,000 killed.

Famines:

“Great Famine” of Europe, ad 1315–17, millions died;

Indian famine of 1896–1902, millions died;

Chinese famine under Chairman Mao, 1958–61, 20-40 million died.

Pandemics:

Antonine Plague (smallpox),Roman Empire, ad 165–180, 5 million died;

Plague of Justinian, 541–542, 25 million died;

Black Death, the Middle East andEurope, 1338–1351, 100 million died.

Wars:

Thousands of wars and armed conflicts since the time of Jesus Christ have caused millions of deaths.

People who lived during these times can be excused for suspecting that they were living in the end time. However, the wisdom of Jesus’ words of caution regarding the linkage of human or natural disasters with the arrival of the end time has endured.  His declaration that we cannot know the day or hour of His return (Matthew 24:36) is as applicable to us today as it was to the apostolic church.

(See Can we know if current events are the fulfillment of prophecy? How often have people misapplied prophecy? and How serious is false speculation about prophecy?)

 

 

 

 

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