SIGNS OF GOD?
There is no one with whom I have spoken, who has not been affected by the spate of earthquakes that have rocked our planet in recent months. Turkey, Greece, Taiwan, Mexico — all have suffered severe damage and horrific loss of life. Altogether, about 20,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless.
For those of us who have never experienced an earthquake, it is almost impossible to imagine what it would be like: when the ground rolls like the sea, and the earth screams as the bedrock tears. The ancient Greeks were so much in awe of the power of earthquakes that they attributed them to one of their most mighty deities — Poseidon the Earth Shaker. Earthquakes are among the few things that can strip a human being of everything — including, and especially, his self-confidence.
Signs of the end?
Many doomsday advocates are saying that the number of earthquakes have been drastically increasing. They interpret this as the fulfilment of part of Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24:7. They see this as a major sign that the Second Coming, and the end of the world, is at hand.
Jack Van Impe, an Evangelist preacher, claims that 24 major earthquakes took place from the time of Christ to 1950, but that over 31 major earthquakes have come since 1950. Prophetic writer Robert W. Faid claims the number of deaths caused by earthquakes increased by 900% in the twentieth century.
Dr. Gary Fisher, an Evangelist for Lion of Judah Ministry, posted an article on the internet simply called "Earthquakes Increasing". In it he produced alleged proof (in the form of graphs and statistics) that earthquakes have been increasing in number and severity in recent years.
Fisher affirms the reliability of his facts, "One need only to check with the National Earthquake Information Service of USGS to verify this" (USGS reference 1). So I did.
On the National Earthquake Information Service of USGS website, I came across this statement, "Earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater have remained fairly constant throughout this century and, according to our records, have actually seemed to decrease in recent years" (USGS reference 2).
Proving that some Christian writers do their homework, B. J. Oropeza (a research associate at the Christian Research Institute [CRI] in Irvine, California) confirms the above statement, "But reliable statistics show that earthquakes have not increased in the twentieth century. The only thing that has increased is our ability to detect them (Oropeza, 1994)".
As you can tell by studying Tables 1 and 2, earthquake figures proclaimed by doomsday advocates do not agree with the actual facts.
Table 1. Frequency of occurrence of earthquakes based on observations since 1900
|about 1000 per day
about 8000 per day
Table 2. Dr Fisher's statistics compared to those found on the NEIC website
|Year||Fischer (6 or greater)||NEIC (7 or greater)|
Signs of God?
In relation to the above, a documentary was aired on 24 August this year called: Signs of God: Science Tests Faith. It was produced by Mike Willesee following seven years of research. It investigated alleged miracles (weeping and bleeding icons and statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, etc.) and alleged messages from our Lord Jesus Christ. Top scientists were interviewed and requested to perform all possible experimentation to determine whether or not these phenomena were fraudulent. Mike Willesee (a former skeptic) is convinced that there was no fraud involved, and now has become a devout Churchgoer.
From God or Satan?
Now, we know that the devil can perform miracles too, and he can disguise himself as an "angel of light." Therefore, it is important to "test the spirits" as the Bible advises us. One way is to compare these messages with Scripture. Do these messages teach, or say, anything that is contrary to the Word of God? It does not appear so. They speak of repentance, of turning back to God, of Christ’s love. But, only time will tell what fruits they will produce.
One constant theme of the messages worldwide, over the last 10-15 years, has been that if humankind does not turn back to God, there will be a steady increase in natural disasters in our time. "Is it just coincidence, then," the program asks, "that the last decade in our century has been the most punishing of all?"
The program produced the following statistics:
True or false?
In the light of the earthquake situation, can we trust the above statistics? I honestly cannot answer that question. I have not yet been able to find any sources that could confirm or deny them.
There are two factors, however, which I personally believe lend some credence to the film’s claims.
One factor is that, unlike most doomsday advocates, the film makes no obviously inaccurate statements regarding earthquakes. The other is that Mike Willesee (who, as far as I’m aware, has always had a high reputation in the field of journalism) began his research as a skeptic. He did not set out to prove any of this film’s claims.
If these statistics are correct, then they are certainly a powerful wake up call to humanity. Only the most self-deluded person would bury his head in the sand and ignore such warnings.
On the other hand, as we have seen by our study on the earthquake issue, we cannot believe everything we hear. We need to think critically and examine the evidence ourselves.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if earthquakes (or other natural disasters) are increasing in numbers or not. (In fact, there were more large quakes last year, but they were in unpopulated areas). It does not matter if Christ is coming back next year or in a hundred years. What does matter is: Are you ready to meet Christ now? For it is at the moment of our death that we come face to face with God.
Natural disasters happen for a reason. God is not sadistic. He is only trying to catch our attention before it is too late. As St. Basil states, "All tribulations in life are allowed by God and sent by Him, in order to wound man and thus prevent mankind from sinning …" (Grube, 1996) for it is sin which destroys us. St. John of Damascus concurs, "God, in His very benevolence, often allows misfortunes to befall even the righteous, so that He may, in this way, manifest to others the latent faith hidden in Him" (Grube, 1996).
In other words, the death, or suffering, of a saint may lead to the salvation of others.
"So what room is there for anxiety and worry? Who in the midst of life’s troubles is sad and trembling - except for him who is without hope and faith? To fear death and suffering is only for those who are not willing to go on to Christ. And who is unwilling to go on to Christ? It is none other than those who do not believe that they are someday to reign with Christ in His Kingdom" (Grube, 1996).
Therefore, Brothers and Sisters, take St. Cyprian’s words to heart. Do not fret about what manner of doom might befall you in this fallen world. But place your trust, your hopes, your life, into the loving hands of Him who can preserve you from the evil one, and grant you life eternal, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Oropeza, B.J., 1994, 99 Reasons why no one knows when Christ will return: InterVarsity Press, p. 78.
Grube, G.W. (ed.), 1996, What the Church Fathers Say About...: Light and Life, p. 5-6.
Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George, Brisbane QLD
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