The Eschatological Earthquake1
In Hebrews 12:25-29 the author of this epistle harkens back to what happened on Mt. Sinai and sees in it a prophetic picture of what will occur when Christ returns to this earth to consummate his kingdom. Continue reading . . .
In Hebrews 12:25-29 the author of this epistle harkens back to what happened on Mt. Sinai and sees in it a prophetic picture of what will occur when Christ returns to this earth to consummate his kingdom.
“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).
According to Exodus 19:18, when God spoke to Moses and the people of Israel, “the whole mountain trembled greatly.” This was such a momentous event that the people of Israel spoke of it often, as we see in Judges 5:4-5; Pss. 68:7-8; 77:18; 114:4-7.
But it would appear that the earthquake that occurred at Sinai was prophetic of what will occur at Christ’s Second Coming. In other words, God has promised that there is yet to come a shaking not only of the earth but of the heavens as well, in other words, a cosmic shaking that immeasurably exceeds anything that has come before. We often hear seismologists speak of the “big one” that they believe will strike California. Well, this is the really, really, really big one, one so great that everything that is not properly related to God and devoted to his glory will crumble in the dust.
Humanity is quite proud of its accomplishments, be they economic, political, governmental, educational, military, philosophical, or financial. Know this for certain: Everything will be shaken. Only the Creator himself and those who are united to him by faith in Christ shall remain firm and unmoved. He’s talking about a purging of this world of all its sinful and peripheral elements so that only what God has approved will last.
That which is to be shaken and removed is here described as “things that have been made” (v. 27). But he doesn’t mean that the creation is evil. Let’s not forget that we are also a part of that creation. The distinction he has in mind is based on one’s relationship to God. In other words, the “things that have been made” is not necessarily a reference to merely physical objects. And “the things that cannot be shaken” is not necessarily a reference to what is spiritual or immaterial. He means that whatever is devoted to God and reflects his glory and is consecrated to his service will remain while everything that is defiling and corruptible, whether physical or spiritual, and stands in opposition to God and is outside the domain of his kingdom reign will be removed.
I have an app on my I-Phone called Quake Feed. It’s free and you ought to try it out. I downloaded the app last year as the frequency of earthquakes here in Oklahoma began to capture my attention. Within one minute it will list the most recent earthquake anywhere around the globe. You can read of the place, the intensity, and the time of every quake. It’s odd, I must confess, to see Guthrie, OK, or Medford, OK, or even Edmond, OK, listed repeatedly alongside Indonesia, Alaska, Chile, and other hotspots around the world.
But there is something incredibly instructive and challenging about these earthquakes, especially ones that occur in our own state. They are a constant reminder from God that everything in which we put our trust is fragile and subject to destruction. Everything that I count on for happiness and prosperity can be shaken and crumble in a pile of dust in a matter of seconds. Everything other than God and his kingdom is precarious, volatile, and insecure.
It doesn’t matter what the immediate cause of such earthquakes may be, whether from fracking or waste-water disposal or whatever other theory seismologists come up with. The ultimate cause of all such quakes is the sovereign Lord over heaven and earth. And we need to listen closely to the message he’s sending us.
Until now, such earthquakes appear to be indiscriminate and random. You can’t predict them and when they hit everyone is affected, both the righteous and unrighteous. But there is one final quake that will differentiate between what is of eternal value and what is of only temporal use. And this “final, eschatological earthquake is designed precisely to differentiate between what loves God and serves God and exists for his glory as over against all in creation that opposes him. Simply put, everything that is righteous will remain and everything that is unrighteous will be destroyed” (John Piper).
And what should be our response? “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).