Earthquakes are the strange incidents when, suddenly, the ground begins to shake. They are quite frequent in some parts of the world, and they can be very frightening. A severe earthquake will cause buildings to fall and it may cause many deaths.
Many of the first readers of the Book of Revelation had recent experience of earthquakes. For example, an earthquake destroyed Laodicea (3:14) in 60 AD (years after Christ) Ė perhaps just a few years before John wrote his book.
John describes a future earthquake that will be truly terrible. Even the mountains and the islands will move away from their present places. Nothing whatever will stand firm.
Earthquakes can only shake the earth. However, John saw that the sky will shake too at the time of that future great earthquake. Even the stars will fall. The sun will become dark for a time; the moon will be red.
Such things can happen to the sun or moon during eclipses. An eclipse is the rare event when the earth, moon and sun are in a straight line. However, eclipses do not cause earthquakes and they certainly would not cause the stars to fall.
In Haggai 2:6, God says that he will shake the heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry land. His purpose is to remove the authority from foreign nations and from their evil kings (Haggai 2:21-22). He will do this in order to establish his rule upon the earth.
We may ask whether John considered this to be an actual future event, or a word-picture. When John uses word-pictures elsewhere in the Book of Revelation, the fact is usually very clear. This passage seems much more like a description of future events. However, they are events with a meaning. Powerful people rule the world; powerful evil spirits even rule the sky (Ephesians 2:2). However, God will disturb their rule; he will show his authority over everything and everyone. Soon afterwards, he will remove all their power.
Next part: The day of Godís anger (Revelation 6:15-17)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.