October 13, 2013

The Earth Shook

One of the complaints of modern seismologists is that they can never predict with certainty the arrival of earthquakes. Even with all our technology we do not know the time or hour of the next quake. In other words timing a quake is a virtual impossibility for man. The best we can do is guess. God on the other hand not only knows when they will come, He can strategically place them at geographic places and also at points in time. We know this by reading the Bible. I will go as far as to state that His actual presence in the universe may actually cause them to happen. It is as if His presence actually causes creation to distort in His presence because a fallen universe (like fallen man) is not capable of passively being in the presence of a sovereign holy God without some type of profound reaction.

Exodus 19:16-20 ~ On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

As the Israelites waited before Mount Sinai, the Lord descended and the whole mountain quaked. Nothing says the presence of God quite like an entire mountain quaking from His glory and presence. It should also be noted that fire and meteorological phenomena accompanied the violent shaking of the ground like thunder and lightning. Many will attribute the shaking to the fact that a majority of Israel lies on a major fault line between the African and Asian continents never mind the fact that fire, lightning and thunder coinciding with an earthquake is virtually unheard of. The fact that they are also supplemented by a sound that was akin to trumpet blasts is clearly of divine origin. It should also be noted that God descends at the exact same time as none geological events. Coincidence? Hardly! It is the Creation reacting to its Creator that is more probable. All of this announced the appearing of the Lord on the mountain top where Moses would go up to meet Him.

The trembling of the earth in God’s presence caused the people to tremble and quake also from fear. The people were then station at the foot of the mountain outside the barrier set so that no man would cross except Moses.

Jonathan came against the Philistine garrison in 1 Samuel, and an earthquake accompanied his attack.

1 Samuel 14:14-15 ~ “And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow's length in an acre of land. And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.”

Although it is possible that the earth itself vibrated and shook from the cadenced march of Jonathan’s troops as many non-supernaturalists will claim, it is more probable that the Lord intervenes supernaturally here and a genuine earthquake is in view. This supernatural element in the clash of nations is not uncommon an parallels the wind in the parting of the Red Sea and the great hailstones killing the Canaanites. The human combatants cause trembling in the enemy but what appeared to be an immediate act of God sends them over edge into full-blown panic…it was a supernatural terror that we will see often with the presence of God is imminent.

In 1 Kings 19:11-12 we see the Lord passed by Elijah and an earthquake followed.

1 Kings 19:11-12 ~ And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

Again…we see God enter space and time as He is not normally part of it and we see the Fallen Creation reacting or being affected by His supreme holy presence. The irony here is that He was not in either of these two pronounced events: the wind or the earthquake. Instead, He is in the subtle wind. At the same time we see God’s ability to humble His glory by appearing as the sound of a whisper. We will see a similar humbling when the Lord Jesus Christ comes incarnate and literally makes Himself of no accord and divests Himself of the privileges of His divinity to be able to fulfill the will of the Father. He literally becomes functionally subordinate to the Father so that He will be crucified in passive obedience to the Father’s will (Philippians 2:5-11).

Elijah having probably basked in the heated glow of the spectacular was now going to appear to stand alone. This is juxtaposed against the events at Mt Carmel.  We see here a dramatic shift in how God was going to work in the lives of believers. It is a more forward-facing trajectory aimed towards the day when God would predominately indwell His believers and they would become the temple (Holy Of Holies/naos/ναός) of the Holy Spirit. There were still many miraculous things to come in the progressive revelation of God’s truth but we see a definitive turn towards a more low-key demonstration of God’s glory that would remain until the Day of the Lord arrived in the latter days.

In the New Testament there is more than one earthquake during Jesus’ death and resurrection. The first comes at the moment of Jesus’ death.

Matthew 27:50-54  ~ “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

In fulfilling the Feast of Passover, Christ was crucified on the fourteenth day of Nisan. To fulfill the Feast of Unleavened Bread Christ as buried on the fifteenth day of Nisan. On the Sabbath Jesus rested in the tomb. On the Seventeenth day of Nisan (Sunday) Jesus Rose from the dead fulfilling the Feast of First Fruits. Jesus then ascended to the Father as a presentation of First Fruits to the Father in Heaven so that the rest of the harvest would be acceptable in the eyes of the Father. A great high priest offering the First Fruits on the exact day that they would’ve been waved in front of the Lord at the throne of the Almighty.  Additionally, just like a barley sheaf contains many stalks of barley bundled together so to the Lord offered up Himself with others that day. The bodies of many of the saints also resurrected. These multiple resurrections are accompanied by moaning and reaction of the Creation. When these miraculous resurrections are witnessed by unbelieving Roman centurions, even they appear to be converted on the spot as their confessions of Jesus’ identity are the same as Peter’s, “Truly this was the Son of God!” What did Jesus tell Peter when Peter confessed Jesus’ true identity?

Matthew 16:16-17 ~ Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven.

Wouldn’t a Roman centurion who confesses the same be also blessed?

Regardless, Jesus’ cry is a poignant reminder that Jesus was in agony. It was at this very moment that he was experiencing the alienation from the Father and was being cruelly mocked by those he came to serve. The earthquake may be seen as the means of tearing the veil as well as opening
tombs since the temple Jerusalem area lies near a fault line. This begs the question though for all the skeptics that will say it wasn’t an act of God…what exactly triggered the quake (God obviously).

In the end Jesus’ victorious resurrection and vindication promise the final resurrection of those who die in him.

My last earthquake episode I’ll mention is at Jesus’ resurrection.

Matthew 28:2 ~ “There was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door”

Ah yes! The empty tomb! It is the culmination of the Gospel and the linchpin of the Christian faith and Christian theology. It should not surprise us that it would be accompanied with by supernatural phenomena such as the rolling away of a stone at a guarded tomb in the wee hours of the morning. We can tell it was the wee hours before dawn by the words Ὀψὲ δὲ σαββάτων or late on the Sabbath (Saturday night/Sunday morning). This of course is consistent with the Jewish tradition of counting days from sunrise to sunrise. Therefore the Resurrection clearly takes place early on Sunday morning. When we hit verse 2 the very first thing we are confronted with in the Greek grammar is the word “for” in the clause “for and angel of the Lord descended”. This either suggests that the violent earthquake came with the angel of the Lord or the earthquake itself was the means by which the angel rolled the stone from the tomb. Either way, the removal of the stone was caused by supernatural force that was directly related to the angel himself…not the quake. The quake is merely accompaniment. That implication in the Greek text is unavoidable. It was NOT moved by disciples looking to smuggle their Master’s body away.

What is also interesting in this is the guards reaction to the angel of the Lord...they faint dead away. It says they ἐγενήθησαν ὡς νεκροί/“became like dead men” because of φόβου/terror. What does this tell us? It tells us that the women at the tomb the next day are not the first witnesses to the opening of the tomb…the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb were. The women of course will be the first witnesses to the risen Savior. Perhaps the soldiers did not understand what they were seeing but the Bible is clear…they are the first witnesses to the opened tomb and it was not opened by human means. The account of their fainting in fear clearly follows the angel rolling away the stone. The soldiers would’ve still been conscious at this point. They would’ve been messing their undergarments but they were still awake during the rolling away of the stone. Their subsequent reaction is evidence to the profound supernatural origins of the One who opened it, they faint dead way in extreme fear of what they were seeing. Remember folks, these were most likely battle-hardened Roman soldiers. So in the end what we see is that the Roman soldiers were not at the tomb so much to guard people from stealing Christ’s body as much as they were put there by God Himself to bear Gentile unbelieving witness to the act of God to open the tomb.

We should not be surprised by the fact that God can control or cause earthquakes. He is the Creator of the entire known universe. Based on the scale of such an unfathomably huge expanse the earth is infinitesimally puny. It is like minute speak or marble that can easily be cracked like the blow of a divine hammer of judgment because of the sin of its inhabitants. We know for a fact that all of the known creation will eventually dissolve out of existence and an entirely New Heaven and New Earth will replace it (Rev 21-22). Earthquakes would therefore appear to be nothing more than birth pangs of the coming new creation.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...