Chapter 9: God Punishes With Earthquakes
Isaiah 29 has a definite end-time focus on the Millennium and the time just before (verses 17-18). We now get back to some temple language. “Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices” (verse 1). From year to year they killed sacrifices. The Hebrew can mean “let the feasts go around another year.”
“Ariel” means Jerusalem, the city where David dwelled, and in prophecy a type of all Israel. But it means more. “Ariel” also means hearth or altar of God (see A Commentary: Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old and New Testaments). It is the hearth of the great altar of God! It refers specifically to the highest tier of the altar, where the altar fire continually burned (see The Interpreter’s Bible commentary). Ariel also means the lion of God.
This all refers to the temple service. The temple today is God’s own Church. But God is very angry with Ariel, or His own Laodicean Church today. It was the “highest tier” where the spiritual fire burned brightly for over 50 years. Now the fire has gone out! There is no lion’s roar in the Laodicean Church today! If David were alive, he would not dwell there in these latter days.
Then God describes how He will punish the Laodiceans and Israel. “Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire” (verse 6). God said they would be punished by storms, fires and earthquakes.
Did I predict the California Earthquake?
A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck Northridge, California, on January 17, 1994, at 4:31 a.m. The area it rattled covered 2,192 square miles, including Los Angeles, causing an estimated $25 billion worth of damage.
I made some astounding statements about that earthquake—before it struck! Let me quote from a sermon I gave to our Church on December 21, 1991 (the tape was sent to congregations around the world): “Amos began to speak about his visions two years before the earthquake. And I mean they had a massive earthquake ….
“Well, I think it’s kind of interesting that the book of Amos is going to be put into the mail and I’m sure many people are even going to get it on January 16th , which is not something we planned, but still, we know that Amos is really a book that we’re fulfilling to a great extent in this end time. When you’re talking about duality, you never know in detail how much—to what extent—God is going to use you, let’s say as a type or a counterpart of Amos in this end time. But we know we are fulfilling much of what is in the book of Amos. What if there is another massive earthquake on this Earth—maybe from two years by the time this booklet goes out? I’m not saying that’s going to happen. I don’t know. But I know that the lion has roared, brethren! I know that the lion has roared! And when the lion roared in Amos’s day, they had a massive earthquake two years after he started [proclaiming his message]. … I just want you to be thinking about that. I tell you this, brethren, I wouldn’t even be surprised if within the next two years you don’t see a massive earthquake in this world, perhaps even in Pasadena, California. You read the book of Amos …. I don’t know in detail exactly what God is going to do. But I know that two years after Amos started prophesying there was a massive earthquake. So it is something to think about.”
Here is another quote, from an October 30, 1993, sermon: “The booklet on Amos will have been published two years at the end of this year. You could say a lot of people even got it around January 16th. Is it possible that God could strike with an earthquake the latter part of this year; maybe the first part of next year or maybe even on January the 16th, 1994? Is it possible something like that could happen? Well yes, I would say it’s possible, especially in the state of California.”
Here is one more quote, from my article in the December 1993 Trumpet: “Isaiah 29 is also an end-time chapter (verse 18). God does punish us with ‘natural’ disasters. ‘Thou shalt be visited [punished is a better translation] of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire’ (Isaiah 29:6). God says He visits, or punishes, us with ‘the flame of devouring fire’!
“Notice, God also says He will punish Israel with the earthquake. Will an earthquake be the next California disaster? When it strikes, will the people of Israel repent? Probably not. Still, we control our own destiny. The curses will continue until we repent. That is God’s plan, and nothing can change it.
“How much we suffer is in our own power to control. God help us to repent soon. Only then can we avoid the far greater curses that are prophesied to strike very soon!”
It just so happens that an earthquake was the next disaster to strike California.
God Backs His Work
Many people were deeply stirred by my bold statements along with the mind-numbing earthquake. Of course, I only said there could be a major earthquake around or on January 16, 1994. January 17 is the day the Laodicean Church officially began. So that date also is of great interest to God. The quake struck 41/2 hours after January 16 ended, or on January 17, essentially two years after January 16, 1992! That is a striking similarity to what happened to the Prophet Amos. Let me give you a little background on January 16 from a quote in my book Malachi’s Message: “Malachi’s Message was first received by many people on January 16, 1990, the very day of the anniversary of Mr. Armstrong’s death (January 16, 1986). We didn’t plan it, but we were happy it happened that way. You are going to see the date of Mr. Armstrong’s death take on more significance as time goes on. John Amos and I were disfellowshiped on December 7, 1989—40 days before the anniversary of Mr. Armstrong’s death. The number 40 is significant in the Bible. The third 19-year time cycle of the work of the WCG ended in January of 1991—the same month as the fifth anniversary of Mr. Armstrong’s death. In the original version of Malachi’s Message we asked this question: ‘Will we see some dramatic event in the world or within God’s Philadelphian and/or Laodicean churches then?’ The Persian Gulf War began on January 16, 1991! God considers the date of Mr. Armstrong’s death to be very significant” (emphasis mine throughout).
That was also a mind-splitting statement of a potential disaster! Are all these events that are occurring on or around January 16 just coincidence?
Reporters describe events such as the California quake as “natural disasters.” But if we take a closer look at the Bible, we’ll see that is not the way God views such disasters.
“And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness” (Isaiah 29:18). Again we see “in that day”—referring to the end time.
“Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire” (verse 6). The word “visited” would be better translated “punished.” God prophesies that He will punish Israel (mainly the American and British peoples, including Canada and Australia) in this end time with earthquakes!
After the Northridge quake, humorist Argus Hamilton wrote in the Daily Oklahoman, “Eighty percent of all porno videos are produced in the San Fernando Valley, most within a mile of the epicenter. These studios were flattened by the earthquake. God has such good aim” (Feb. 2, 1994).
Pornography has grown mightily since that time. It now seeps into every phase of our culture. It’s so common, journalists rarely even discuss it as the abominable sin it is.
Have we forgotten what God says about pornography? The Apostle Peter said if we live like Sodom and Gomorrah, we will die like Sodom and Gomorrah! (2 Peter 2:6).
When will we wake up and see that God is punishing us for our sins? God also says He will punish with the storm—like devastating hurricanes, tornados, droughts and floods. God also sends the flame of devouring fire—like firestorms that have occurred in several places around the world, devouring miles of land, including forests and farms. And don’t forget the fires caused by events such as rioting and earthquakes.
These disasters are not “natural disasters.” The only “natural disaster” is man! He just naturally hates God (Romans 8:7).
God is punishing Israel with these disasters, but He promises to protect His obedient people. Not very many people are being protected in these catastrophes. That ought to tell us something.
Former Sen. Barbara Boxer of California said, “California has gone through too many tragedies and too frequently.” I agree. But why? Why all these disasters?
God is wrathful with Israel because of our sins. We must come to see that.
After that 1994 quake in California, an article titled “L.A.’s Children of Fear,” with the subhead “‘Why Is God So Mad at Us?’ Girl Questions,” ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It said: “Three-year-old Oscar Abrago sleeps with his shoes on now, just in case another earthquake comes in the middle of the night, his family says.
“Each time a new aftershock rumbles through the San Fernando Valley, 6-year-old Aurora Ortega reaches for her aunt’s big white toy bear and hugs it until long after the ground has stopped moving.
“And little Julissa Laredo, 3, with long ebony hair and wide brown eyes, prays for God to stop shaking her family’s house. ‘Why,’ she asks her mother, ‘is God so mad at us?’
“They live in trucks on school playgrounds now, in tents made from bedsheets that sit in the middle of Little League fields, and inside a myriad of church shelters that have sprung up throughout Southern California.
“They are the children of the earthquake, and although there seems to be no good estimate of how many of them have been left homeless, the number easily could reach into the tens of thousands, an American Red Cross spokesman said” (Jan. 21, 1994).
That little girl may understand more about God’s anger than all of our worldly scholars. God tells us to “become as little children” (Matthew 18:3). We could prevent unparalleled suffering if we would respond as this little girl did! But most people in this world are blind. They refuse to hear and heed God’s warning!