The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake.[Revelation 16:17-18]
In my last post, I established that the Day of LORD will be accompanied by signs and wonders on earth and in heaven.
Today I want to focus in on another great sign that is associated with the Day of the LORD — the great earthquake.
The Lord Jesus prophesied that the beginning of birth pains in the last days will be characterized by a growing frequency and intensity of earthquakes in various places throughout the earth, but He clearly said that “the end is not yet.”
But the Scriptures are clear that there will be a great earthquake associated with the return of Jesus Christ that will shake the very foundations of the earth. It is THE EARTHQUAKE of ALL EARTHQUAKES — the likes of which this world has never before seen. There is no Richter scale on earth that will be able to measure the magnitude of this monster quake.
As we dig into the prophetic Scriptures, we can begin to put pieces together that will help determine when this great earthquake will hit.
In my introductory passage above [Revelation 16:7-8], this great earthquake is connected to the 7th bowl judgement, in connection with the return of King Jesus from heaven to fight the battle of Armageddon. Let’s see what else we can learn.
Islands Removed and Mountains Thrown Down
“And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found.”[Revelation 16:20]
The first think I immediately pick up on is the language used to describe the aftermath of the great earthquake on the Day of the LORD. When interpreting Scripture, especially the prophetic and apocalyptic, it is imperative that we draw from comparative language throughout the Bible to gain a comprehensive picture of the event.
The 7th bowl judgment clearly says that the magnitude of this earthquake is so catastrophic that the islands “fled away” and the mountains were not to be found. Now this language could be hyperbole — using extreme exaggeration to make a point — or it could be literal. Either way, the message is clear. This quake is so devastating that the topography of the earth is permanently changed.
But this isn’t the only place we find this language depicting extreme devastation?
The Great Quake in the Old Testament
The Old Testament is riddled with language about such a great earthquake — an utter shaking of the earth — and these accounts are always connected to the Day of the LORD.
“Then the earth reeled and rocked;[Psalm 18:7-12]
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.”
THe Prophet Isaiah
“Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger.”[Isaiah 13:13]
“Behold, the LORD will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants … For the windows of heaven are opened,[Isaiah 24:1, 18-21]
and the foundations of the earth tremble. The earth is utterly broken, the earth is split apart, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunken man; it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. On that day the LORD will punish the host of heaven, in heaven, and the kings of the earth, on the earth.”
The Prophet Nahum
“The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.”[Nahum 1:5-6]
The Prophet Joel
in the valley of decision!
For the day of the LORD is near
in the valley of decision.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining.
The LORD roars from Zion,[Joel 3:14-16]
and utters his voice from Jerusalem,
and the heavens and the earth quake.
But the LORD is a refuge to his people,
a stronghold to the people of Israel.”
The Prophet Jeremiah
“I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,[Jeremiah 4:23-26]
and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.”
“But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.”[Jeremiah 10:10]
The Prophet Ezekiel
“But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord GOD, my wrath will be roused in my anger. For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground.”[Ezekiel 38:18-20]
The Prophet Zechariah
“Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.”[Zechariah 14:3-5]
Of course these Scriptures are not exhaustive, but I wanted to show how the Old Testament prophets all predicted a great shaking of the earth in association with the Day of the LORD and His fierce wrath upon the wicked. All of these prophetic passages are describing the same GREAT EARTHQUAKE that will devastate the earth when the Lord Jesus returns in power and glory to wage war.
But as we will see, there are several other passages in the book of Revelation that describe this same great earthquake.
The Great Quake in Revelation
When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”[Revelation 6:12-17]
The 6th Seal in Revelation ties everything together.
Notice how the language of the 6th seal is identical to the language in Revelation 16 and the 7th bowl judgment, as well as the Old Testament passages describing the Day of the LORD. Clearly these are the same events. Both refer to a “great earthquake,” which causes the mountains and islands to be removed from their place.
Furthermore, this language is repeated through the book of Revelation to give us a key to interpretation. Again, when the same language and description is repeated verbatim in the Scriptures, it is an interpretive clue to understand that those Scriptures are describing the same event. For example …
- The 6th Seal = the great earthquake, every mountain and island removed, day of God’s wrath
- The 7th Seal = “and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” [Revelation 8:5]
- 7th Trumpet = “There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” [Revelation 11:19]
- 7th Bowl = “And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake … And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe” [Revelation 16:18, 20-21]
Now I’m not the brightest man, but I am at least simple enough to understand that all of these Scriptures above are describing the VERY SAME EVENT. Just in case you missed it, I will recap.
When we put the 6th & 7th Seal, the 7th Trumpet, the 7th Bowl and all the Old Testament prophecies together, it is clear that they agree in the following details and provide an outline of the sequence of events leading up the final Day of the LORD and His return.
- The Great Earthquake
- Lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder
- Severe Hail (Also See Ezekiel 38)
- Mountains thrown down
- Islands removed
- Heavens opened — sky rolled back like a scroll
- Jesus coming back on the clouds in glory
- Host of heaven coming with Jesus
- Jesus waging war on the nations at Armageddon
- Final Wrath of God poured out on Antichrist and his evil armies
- The wicked try to hide from the fierce anger of the LORD (see Isaiah 2:19-21 and Luke 23:29-30)
- Jesus establishes His kingdom
There is only one GREAT EARTHQUAKE, and it will occur on the Day of the LORD when Jesus comes in wrath to judge the nations and wage war at the Battle of Armageddon. The Scriptures agree.