Recent Earthquakes and Other Disasters

This question gets asked – a lot.  Not only does it get asked now, but it has been asked in every generation.  History shows that each generation of Christians sensed that they are living in the final days.  Each generation that witnessed some remarkable occurrence drew the conclusion that the stage was being set for Jesus to return.  But, each generation has come and gone, and Jesus has not returned.

This present generation is no different.  Like those before us, we see remarkable events and assume that God is choosing our generation to herald His Final Visit.  Like our faith-ancestors, we might be a little egocentric.

But what about these natural disasters and wars – are they not signs of Jesus’ return?  After all, He’s going to return sometime – perhaps it will be in our generation?

When most people think of the answer to this question, they think of Matt 24, and Jesus’ famous “Olivet Discourse,” as it is called (the parallel accounts are found in Mark 13 & Luke 21).  There, Jesus uttered these words …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.

Jesus’ words are not unclear.  He predicted – among other things – earthquakes and wars.  That should settle the matter, yes?  Well, not so fast.  If you made a statement that was later written down; would you think that your statement is best understood within or without the context in which it was made?  Within, of course.  So, what of Jesus’ context?

Matt 24 begins with Jesus predicting the destruction of the Jewish temple.  His disciples were amazed and asked when this would happen, and what would be the signs of the coming destruction.  Jesus gave the signs first, and then answered their initial question in verse 34.  There, Jesus said that “this generation” would not pass until all these things take place.  Therefore, the prediction of wars and earthquakes were expected to be fulfilled in the lifetime of the people to whom Jesus was speaking.  Indeed, the temple was destroyed about 40 years later, when most of Jesus listeners were still alive.  Historians such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Luke in Acts record for us stories of earthquakes, wars, and other disasters that occurred before the destruction of the Temple.

So, are the current natural disasters a sign of Jesus’ soon return?  I don’t know.  They might be.  But, since the Bible doesn’t say so, there is no way to know for sure.