EARTHQUAKES IN THE LIGHT OF PROPHECY
the late Rev. Norman Court, Lit.D., Ph.D., F.R.A.I.
THE LISBON EARTHQUAKE
IT was All Saints' Day, a holy day of obligation on which solemn mass was said and every devout Roman Catholic abstained from servile work. At twenty minutes to ten on the moming of Saturday, the first of November 1755, the stately city of Lisbon, proud capital of the ancient kingdom of Portugal , was placidly basking in the bright sunlight. Those earnest in religious exercises had been to the cathedral and to the numerous churches of the city; others, not so pious, refrained.
There were many in this class for it was an evil age - the epoch that marked the rise of rebellious, revolutionary movements which culminated in the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, the heyday of that evil genius Jean Jacques Rousseau, whose work "Du Contract Social" was largely responsible for the ideas and policy of the revolutionary leaders in 1789. Voltaire, the unbeliever, was prominent at that time and had reached the very pinnacle of fame as playwright and philosopher. The minds of many of Lisbon's citizens that moming were centred more on the glamour of the opera than on the thoughts of piety.
Lisbon was indeed a beautiful city and no one who trod its streets at twenty minutes to ten that day could have realised that within six minutes the city would be
destroyed by a mighty earthquake and sixty thousand persons would perish. The agitation of the earth's crust was felt over half the globe, distributed over nearly four million square miles, and nothing like it had ever before been recorded. In fact, the conflagration lasted a whole week, and that this catastrophe was one of the worst disasters on record is borne out by William Herbert Hobbs in his "Earthquakes." Its violence was such that according to Robert Searsin his "Wonders of the World," it pervaded the greater part of Europe, Africa, and America.
The famous British geologist, Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875), writing of this tragic event says:-
"The most extraordinary circumstance which occurred at Lisbon during the catastrophe, was the subsidence of the new quay, built entirely of marble, at an immense expense. A great concourse of people had collected there for safety, as a spot where they might be beyond reach of faIling ruins; but suddenly the quay sank down with all the people on it, and not one of the dead bodies ever floated to the surface. A great number of boats and small vessels anchored near it, all full of people, were swallowed up as in a whirlpool. No fragments of these wrecks ever rose again to the surface, and the water in the place where the quay had stood is stated in many accounts, to be unfathomable";
but Whitehurst says he ascertained it to be one hundred fathoms.
"In this case we must either suppose that a certain tract sank down into a subterranean hollow, which would cause a 'fault' in the strata to the depth of six hundred feet, or we may infer, as some have done, from the entire disappearance of the substances engulfed, that a chasm opened and closed again. Yet in adopting this latter hypothesis, we must suppose that the upper part of the chasm, to the depth of one hundred fathoms, remained open after the shock. According to the observations made in Lisbon in 1837 by Mr. Sharpe, the destroying effects of this earthquake were confined to the tertiary strata, and were most violent on the blue clay, on which the lower part of the city is constructed. Not a building, he says on the secondary limestone or the basalt was injured ..."
"It is said that the movement of this earthquake was undulatory, and that it travelled at the rate of twenty miles a minute. A great wave swept over the coast of Spain, and it is said to have been sixty feet high at Cadiz. At Tangier, in Africa, it rose and fell eighteen times on the coast: at Funchal, in Madeira, it rose full fifteen feet perpendicular above high water mark, although the tide, which ebbs and flows there seven feet, was then at half-ebb. Besides entering the city and committing great havoc, it overflowed other seaports in the island. At Kinsale, in Ireland, a body of water rushed into the harbour, whirled round several vessels and poured into the market-place."
OUR LORD'S PROPHECIES
Our Lord and Saviour tells us in Matthew 24, verse 7, that "there should be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places." There can be no
doubt whatever that the Lisbon disaster was one of the forerunners of the end of the age and the Coming of King Jesus. Tallentyre in his "Life of Voltaire," writes:-
"The earthquake had made all men thoughtful. They mistrusted their love of the drama and filled the churches instead." (p.319)
THE EARTHQUAKE BELT
The Lisbon Earthquake took place in the region of the Earthquake Belt. Several of these exist, one of which runs along the western seaboard of North and South
America from the Rockies to the foot of the Andes in Chile. We are here, however concerned with the danger zone that seems to include both the European and African Mediterranean areas as well as the sea itself. Greece and its islands, Crete, Sicily with Mount Etna, Stromboli, Algiers and Morocco are all included in this zone.
THE EARTHQUAKE BELT AND THE "GREAT RIFT"
I have spent some months on special research work connected with earthquakes and with two particular natural results of certain probably ancient catastrophes,
namely, the so-called Earthquake Belt and the Great Rift, the one an invisible but well-known line that goes right round the globe, the last-named a very great and vast incision in the crust of the earth which forms a complete line, very weak from a geological standpoint, which extends from the source of the River Jordan right down to Beira in Portuguese East Africa at the mouth of the River Zambezi, and which passed through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
This terrestrial cleavage is the result, we believe, of volcanic action and earthquakes in the past. There are several good reasons for this belief. The valley, as it appears in Kenya and other parts, is from 30 to 40 miles wide and its situation is some 1,500 to 2,500 feet below the level of the area on either side of it. Steam jets and hot springs actively operate on the sides of the extinct volcanoes, and in other places where its course is traced, Kijabe Mountain (8,758feet) is in the area, and Longonot (9,111 feet) a known extinct volcano, whose interior, where the crust has cooled and fallen in and is deep, is two and a half miles in width at the greatest point. According to a Colonial Report on Kenya for the year 1954, published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1955 (page 152), the depth of the Rift in the crust of the earth is in certain areas as great at 3,000 feet lower than the country bounding it on either side. This is great indeed!
We trace the Great Rift from the source of the River Jordan and it passes through the Dead Sea. Of this region it may truly be said:
"But here, above, around, below,
In mountain or in glen,
Nor tree, nor shrub, nor flower,
Nor aught of vegetative power,
The wearied eye may ken;
But all its rocks at random thrown, -
Black waves, bare crags, and heaps of stone."
Lieutenant W.F. Lynch, an American Naval Officer, led an expedition in 1847 for the exploration and survey of the Dead Sea. He describes the scene as "singularly wild and impressive." Looking out upon the desert, bright with reverberated light and heat, was, he says,
"like beholding a conflagration from a window at twilight. Each detail of the strange and solemn scene could be examined as through a lens. The mountains towards the west rose up like islands from the sea, with the billows heaving at the bases. The rough peaks caught the slanting sunlight, while sharp black shadows marked the sides turned from the rays. Deep rooted in the plain, the bases of the mountains heaved the garments of the earth away, and rose abruptly in naked pyramidal crags, each scar and fissure as palpably distinct as though within reach, and yet were far distant. Towards the south, the ridges and higher masses of the range, as they swept away in the distance, were aerial and faint, and softened into dimness by a pale transparent mist."
"fully sounded the sea, determined its geographical position, took the exact topography of its shores, ascertained the temperature, width, depth and velocity of its tributaries, collected specimens of every, kind and noted the winds, currents, changes of the weather, and all atmospheric phenomena. The bottom of the sea consists of two submerged plains, an elevated and depressed one. Through the northern, and largest and deepest one, in a line corresponding with the bed of Jordan, is a ravine, which also seems to correspond with the Wady-el-jeib, or ravine within a ravine, at the south end of the sea".*
* "Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea ," by Lieutenant W.F. Lynch, 1847. See also: "Our First Century," by R.M.Devons. Pages 496 and 498.
SODOM AND GOMORRAH
I would ask the reader to observe from the abov passage that the sea consists of two submerged plains. In the light of archaeological and geological evidence that the site of Sodom and Gomorrah was where the Dead Sea now is. The above information is important, and the further information culled from geological sources
that the volcanic highlands of Abyssinia and Kenya were cast up fairly recently and are not the result of that denudation of the earth's surface by the action of wind,
rain and flood, which we term Soil Erosion, but rather the result of violent and extended volcanic eruption accompanied by severe convulsions, leaving behind important modifications and changes in the crust of the earth, is significant. Have we any reason to believe that the judgment of the Cities of the Plain was part of an immense earthquake which either caused or widened the Great Rift? Before we can answer this question, there is much evidence to consider.
THE DEAD SEA OR THE LAKE OF LOT
The Dead Sea is 47 miles long and covers an area of 340 square miles. An interesting fact in relation to our topic is the fact that it lies 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea . As further evidence of its close connection with the cities of the Plain I would cite its Arabic name Birket-Lut, the Lake of Lot. The waters of this lake, reduced by evaporation, contain 25% alkaline salts, and asphalt, reminding us again of Abraham's struggles and the battles of four kings against five described so vividly in Genesis, chapter 14. Fish cannot live in the sea and the human body floats easily on it. Between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea on the Roman Road to Jericho lies the Mount of Olives , a limestone ridge. Rising about 300 feet above the city on its west side, beyond the Kidron Valley, it was very closely associated with many final scenes in the life of our Redeemer and Saviour. It was on one of its four summits that He wept over Jerusalem. At its foot, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He suffered much. Crossing the Kidron Brook after His Last Supper with His disciples, He came thither, and there, heavenly witnesses, unseen to human eyes, saw His agony and subsequent betrayal. Near in the wild, magnificent gorge, Wady-en-Nar, the "Valley of Fire ," known in Greek as Gehenna (Mark IX ), which is part of the Rift System. From another summit, probably not the one pointed out, Our Lord ascended to heaven. In like manner, note this, He will come again (Acts 1:11).
I am indeed grateful to my dear friend, Mr. F.H. Youlton, who spent some time with me discussing the terrain of Egypt, the Sudan and Palestine . Whenever I meet
him he talks about the notorious Habboub Ahmar, or as the natives call it El Habboub Shaatan el Ahmar (The Devil's Red Wind), which, tearing trenches in the earth, raged over Khartoum in 1916. Incidentally the Arabic term Habboub is the same as our English Hubbub. Mr. Youlton gave me much data on the Nile and the Suez Canal, and among other things, dealt with the importance of the Blue-White Nile Junction and the main railway line connecting Cairo and Jerusalem which extends, after the ferry crossing between Quantara West and East over the Suez waters, to Rafa on the boarder and Gaza . This whole area has been in the news lately, and in connection with it the Lord states in Isaiah 11:15, that He will
"utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with His mighty wind He shall shake His hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over drysbod."
We ask, will this prophetic statement be fulfilled as the direct outcome of a catastrophic earthquake and will nuclear fission play some part in it? It is a moot question, a mighty query.
The Lord has plainly stated that He is against Egypt: this is evident from a number of passages in Holy Writ. Nasser's arrogant attitude and the Suez affair are clearly indicated in the following:
"Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh King of Egypt, and prophecy against him, and against all Egypt: Speak and say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt , the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself." - Ezekiel 29: 2-3
Read this whole chapter and consider Egypt's destiny - utter desolation. We all know that the Red Beast of Moscow was at the back of Egyptian aggression and still is. Egypt's war equipment is entirely Russian. A fear of the Jewish State by Egypt is clearly indicated in Isaiah 19:17, where it states that:
"the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself .•.."
Once again read the entire chapter and note again in the light of this study how "the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up" (verse 5). Famine, pestilence and industrial chaos is implied in the verses following:-
"The paper reeds by the brooks, by the mouth of the brooks, and everything sown by the brooks, shall wither, be driven away, and be no more".
"The fishers also shall mourn and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish".
''Moreover they that work in fine flax, and they that weave networks, shall be confounded".
"And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make sluices and ponds for fish." (verses 6 - 10).
When the Great Rift is further split the valley of the Jordan will be covered with water in its entirety. The Suez Canal will be as dry as a bone. Read the thirtieth
chapter of Ezekiel where Egypt is included in the line-up of God's enemies together with Ethiopia, and Libya and Lydia, and all the mingled people (people of mixed ethnic origin).
"Thus saith the Lord: they also that uphold Egypt shall fall ...and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries" (verses 6 and 23).
I venture to suggest that you watch events in Libya and all Arabia. Great events are to be expected in this area - so great that as I write I feel very humble indeed.
I base my conclusion partly on personal experience as a missionary when for many years I constantly dug in those deep mysterious mines, the hearts and minds of
the Moslem and Hindu. Having jostled with the noisy mobs and quieter crowds in market places, and having shared their hospitality and appreciated the friendship of many kind and good families among them, I feel qualified to speak. Ahalan wa Sihalan (Home Sweet Home) means as much to them as it does to us. To them the presence of Allah who says, "Ana maakoom ain ma koontoom" (Lo, I am with you always) is as the presence of the Saviour Jesus Christ the Lord.
The devout Moslem knows Russia to be Gog-Magog. The Koran tells him so. More times than I can remember we have discussed this fact together. Here is the passage from Sura xviii (The Cave or Al Kahf):-
"And he (Dhu'lkarnein) prosecuted his journey from south the north, until he came between the two mountains; beneath which he found certain people, who could scarce understand what was said. And they said, Dhu'lkarnein, verily Gog and Magog waste the land; shall we therefore pay the tribute, on condition that thou build a rampart between us and them? He answered, The power wherewith my Lord had strengthened me, is better than your tribute: but assist me strenuously, and I will set a strong wall between you and them. Bring me iron in large pieces, until it fill up the space between the two sides of these mountains. And he said to the workmen, Blow with your bellows, until it makes the iron red hot as fire. And he said further, Bring me molten brass that I may pour upon it. Wherefore, when this wall was finished, Gog and Magog could not scale it, neither could they dig though it. And Dhu'lkarnein said, This is a mercy from my Lord: but when the prediction of my Lord shall come to be fulfilled, he shall reduce the wall to dust; and the prediction of my Lord is true. On that day we will suffer some of them to press tumultuously like waves on others; and the trumpet shall be sounded, and we will gather them in a body together. And we will set hell, on that day, before the unbelievers; whose eyes have been veiled from my remembrance, and who could not hear my words."
The wall mentioned was actually constructed. It immediately brings to mind the phrase "The Iron Curtain." The mountains referred to are in Armenia and Azerbaijan. This wall, parts' of which may still be seen, extended from the Caspian Sea at Derband almost to the eastern shores of the Black Sea. It is said that it was constructed in this way. The builders "dug till they found water, and having laid the foundation of stone and melted brass, they built the super-structure of large pieces of iron, between which they laid wood and coals, till they equalled the height of the mountain; and then setting fire to the combustibles, by the help of large bellows, they made the iron red hot, and over it poured melted brass, which filling up the vacancies between the pieces of iron, rendered the whole work as firm as a rock" (All Beidawi, quoted by George Sale).
The Arabs call Gog and Magog Jajui and Majuj, and say they are the offspring of Japheth. When I questioned leading Mohammedan imams and teachers as to the
identity of Gog and Magog, their reply invariably was " Russia, my friend. The Soviet will break forth from their iron curtain area some time before the resurrection in a violent irruption to attack the true believers."
At this juncture I would like once again to give you some geological information relating to rifts in general, and the Great Rift in particular. First of all, what geographically speaking constitutes a rift?
Philip Lake explains it all in his work "Physical Geography" (Cambridge University Press 2nd edition 1949):
"Occasionally a strip of country is let down between to faults and a long and narrow depression is formed. Such a depression, produced directly by earth movements and not, like most valleys, by erosion, is often called a rift valley. The Jordan flows in a valley of this type. Parts of the Rift Valley of Africa are now thought to result from the forcing down of a central block along reverse faults caused by fracturing of the strata under horizontal pressure". (Pages 249 and 250).
The Rift Valley chain is a single continuous system three thousand miles in length, roughly divided into sections. The first section is the Nyasa section and its divisions extend from Beira and the Zambezi mouth northwards. In this area is Sofala and the Mountains of the Moon which so fascinated early African explorers. It was the "Fons Nilus" of the ancients, and all about their eastern slopes, amidst deep, dark and almost untrodden jungle, are craters innumerable testifying to Arthur Holmes' statement that "the association of volcanic activity with the rift valleys is too plain to be missed".* The craters have become lakes hundreds of feet below the rim. Here animals and birds live in wonderful variety, armies of geese and waterfowl, parrots and other birds of gorgeous plumage vying with each other for notice, fly amidst the rich foliage of the forests.
Professor Arthur Holmes, D.Sc., F.R.S., Regius Professor of Geology and Minerology, University of Edinburgh: "Principles of Physical Geology." Thomas Nelson and Sons 1946 edition, page 435.
Another section of the Great Rift is its western section from Lake Tanganyika to Lake Albert . North of Lake Tanganyika the western branch of the rift continues for approximately seventy miles by gorges through which flows the Russisi connecting up ultimately with Lake Kivu , which was discovered by Count Gotzen as recently as 1894.Just north of the lake are the Mufumbiro volcanoes reaching a height of 13,547 feet and still active. The name "Mufumbiro" is a Bantu word meaning "the place of fire." This is the home of the Gorilla and here too are the very ultimate sources of the Nile.
The Gregory or Eastern Rift Section lies to the east of Lake Victoria . The Blue Nile, of course, rises in Lake Victoria. It is called the Gregory section because of the discoveries of Professor J.W. Gregory, F.R.S., which formed the subject of a lecture before the Royal Geographical Society on January 5th, 1920, which was reported in the Society's Journal of July, 1920. In the following year (1921) Professor Gregory embodied most of his data in a book entitled "The Great Rift Valleys and Geology of East Africa."
North-East of Lake Rudolf the rift is continued by the chain of Abyssinian lakes and by the basin of the Hawash to the Red Sea, from whence it passes through the Sinai and the Dead Sea to the Jordan valley. There is a branch up the gulf of Suez, all important to us in the prophetic study.
I must, of course, mention Megiddo before concluding my survey. Megiddo is a great plain very near the banks of the Jordan and is of course the literal Armageddon, the scene of the final conflict. How wonderfully it all fits in. Science is the handmaid of religion, of prophecy. God's Holy Word tells us that the purposes of the enemies of truth and righteousness will be thwarted. Lenin's curse-laden statement that "England's back will not be broken on the banks of the Thames, but on the Ganges, the Yangtze and the Nile", and Kruschev's old taunt "We will bury you," will recoil against the evil and godless system that Lenin and his satanically-inspired disciples set up in that momentous memorable year of 1917. And burying there certainly will be. The Lord plainly says so:-
''And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it the Valley of Hamon-Gog. And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land" (Ezekiel 39: 11-12)
THE GREAT EARTHQUAKE BEFORE OUR LORD'S RETURN
As we have seen, the effects of the Lisbon Earthquake were distributed over an area of about four million English square miles. It was without a doubt the greatest of recorded catastrophes of its kind.
The Word of God tells us that an earthquake even greater and more far-reaching in its effects is to take place at the time when the Rosh-Gog-Magog forces invade
the Holy Land. These Rosh-Gog-Magog forces mentioned in Ezekiel (chapter 38) have been identified by students of prophecy as the Soviet Union and her satellites.
Of the greatest earthquake this world has ever known, the Word of God says (vv.18-23):
''And in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken. Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;
So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall and every wall shall fall to the ground.
And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God; every man's sword shall be against his brother.
And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone.
Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am the Lord."
Again in Revelation, 16:16-18, we read:
''And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne saying, It is done.
And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there wasa great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great."
The Mount of Olives, we are told in Zechariah 14: 4-5, is to be the scene of an earthquake that will make the Lisbon catastrophe look insignificant. It will have far
reaching effects indeed. The Lord, going forth, shall fight against the enemies of truth and righteousness.
"And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof towards the east and towards the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove towards the north, and half of it towards the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee."
We are not to fear as the unbelievers do, but as we see these things come to pass look up for our Redemption, even our Lord and our God, draweth nigh.
"Even so, Come, Lord Jesus"
''And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth ". - (Isaiah 2:19)
''Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." - (Hebrews 12:26)
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