There have been many
times in my life while living in South America that
a family member or friend has turned to me and
asked, "Did you feel that tremor?"
There was an earthquake
that shook Calvary the moment Christ died. It was
like a gigantic exclamation point written by the
finger of God. It pointed to the magnitude of the
death of Jesus Christ. It was as if God were saying,
"Wake up! Pay attention!"
The sudden shaking of the
earth was at the exact moment that Jesus shouted the
victory cry, "Finished!" and gave His spirit back to
POWERFUL EARTHQUAKE AT
The Gospel of Matthew
says, "And behold, the veil of the temple was torn
in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and
the rocks were split" (27:51).
The location of the
"The earth shook" does
not tell us the extent of the earthquake that day.
It may mean no more than the land and may have been
limited to Jerusalem and Judea. But at the cross the
ground shook and frightened the battle seasoned
soldiers. We are led to believe by the context the
epic center was at the cross. The location of the
quake was Calvary. Our text simply says, "the earth
shook and the rocks were split."
Was this a natural
Earthquakes are frequent
in the Middle East. Why should we pay particular
attention to this sudden shaking at Calvary? The
timing of the event is what grabs our attention and
the fact that eyewitnesses "became very frightened."
It was no small tremor, but there was no extensive
Matthew is suggesting to
us that this was another supernatural event. God was
involved; God shook the earth. By an act of His
will, at a precise timing, God touched the earth and
The earthquake was
miraculous. It was the result of divine involvement.
This was not a normal natural occurrence. This
earthquake was independent of the natural movement
of the plates in the earth. It was by an act of
God's will that the earth shook at the moment of
When we keep in mind the
other miraculous events taking place at precise
timing that afternoon, we cannot but come to the
reasoned conclusion that this earthquake is a part
of the larger picture of that cosmic event. The
supernatural three hour darkness, the tearing of the
huge curtain dividing the Holy Place from the Holy
of Holies, the victorious shout and the manner in
which Christ died, the splitting of the rocks and
opening of selected graves all reinforce the sound
conviction that God did it.
The rocks in the tombs
split open. But the important thing we must keep in
mind is only certain graves were opened by the
earth's shaking. This strange violent earthquake did
not disturb anything else that day.
Response of the
The trembling earth
caught the attention of the Roman centurion at the
foot of the cross of Jesus and he "became very
frightened." Matthew records, "Now the centurion,
and those who were with him keeping guard over
Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things
that were happening, became very frightened and
said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'" (Matthew
Luke tells us the
centurion "began praising God saying, 'Certainly
this man was innocent (lit. righteous)'" (Luke
Our response to the death
of Jesus for our sins should be one of praise,
thanksgiving, trust, worship and love for Him.
We do not know the full
effect of all these combined miracles at Calvary on
people who experienced them and their families until
perhaps the day of Pentecost when 3,000 people
believed on Christ as their Savior (Acts 2:41). They
must have been a powerful witness to God's
redemptive act at Calvary. The book of Acts tells us
in the months after Pentecost many priests put their
faith in Jesus the Messiah.
GOD SPOKE IN THE
Calvary reminds us of
another powerful earthquake. God spoke at Mt. Sinai
and the earth shook in a way Moses tells us "the
whole mountain quaked greatly." "The mountain quaked
at the presence of the LORD" (Judges 5:5). God spoke
at that scene and communicated His law to a fallen
and depraved people.
God answered Sinai
When the LORD God made
His covenant with His chosen people, He came down on
Mt. Sinai and spoke in an awesome manner.
"So it came about on the
third day, when it was morning, that there were
thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon
the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that
all the people who were in the camp trembled. And
Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet
God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now
Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD
descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended
like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain
quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew
louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him
with 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"
In that meeting with His
people God gave specific details of what He required
of His people. The only problem is no one could live
up to the exacting demands of the law because of
man's depravity as a result of the Fall. The law
points its finger and says you are guilty. You must
pay the penalty for your sin. Yes, God spoke at
Again, it is the exact
timing of the earthquake that draws our attention to
the details. Judgment came upon Korah at the command
of God, and the earth opened up and swallowed up the
rebellious (Numbers 16:31-32). "As he finished
speaking all these words, the ground that was under
them split open; and the earth opened its mouth and
swallowed them up, and their households, and all the
men who belonged to Korah with their possessions."
suggests, "Calvary was answering back to Sinai.
There had been an earthquake on Sinai; there was now
an earthquake on Calvary, and the wrath of the
former was now hushed in the mercy of the latter."
The Law at Sinai
magnified our human depravity. It pointed its finger
and said all have sinned and the wages of sin is
death. Calvary answered that condemnation and
declared publicly that God has paid the penalty in
full by placing all our sins on His divine
substitute and dying. The apostle Paul said, "Now
that no one is justified by the Law before God is
evident; for 'the righteous man shall live by
faith.' . . . Christ redeemed us from the Law,
having become a curse for us—for it is written,
'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'" (Galatians
3:11, 13). Then Paul adds, "But when the fullness of
time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman,
born under the Law, in order that He might redeem
those who were under the Law, that we might receive
the adoption as sons" (Romans 4:4-5).
Calvary's earthquake was
saying the Lamb of God died and paid the full wages
on our behalf. Christ secured our release from the
demands of the death penalty by His death. It was a
substitutionary death, the just for the unjust. The
Holy One died for the depraved sinners.
Again Nicolson expresses
beautifully, "Sinai was the prophecy of Calvary;
Calvary was the fulfillment of Sinai. Sinai was the
sinner's wretchedness and ruin; Calvary is the
sinner's recovery and blessedness. Sinai was God's
inexorable voice of condemnation; Calvary, God's
fatherly voice of pardon and peace."
God spoke at
The earth quaked at the
resurrection of Jesus. "And behold, a severe
earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord
descended from heaven and came and rolled away the
stone and sat upon it" (Matthew 28:2).
Once again, the timing of
the event is crucial. God was involved. God was
doing something that morning in the tomb. He was
calling the attention of the soldiers to the tomb
Paul and Silas were
praying and singing
Acts 16:26 tells us,
"suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the
foundations of the prison house were shaken; and
immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's
chains were unfastened."
Note the significance of
the timing of the event. The missionaries are
praying and singing hymns of praise to God "and
suddenly there came a great earthquake . . . and
immediately all the doors were instantly opened and
everyone's chains were unfastened." It was not just
an ordinary earthquake in nature. It was
supernatural because God did it according to His
will. It happened at His specific timing for a
specific purpose. God was sending a message to those
prisoners listening to the Gospel in their cells.
There is a greater liberation and release found in
the death of Jesus Christ.
EXPECTATION OF REDEMPTION
The apostle Paul also
suggests to us in Romans 8:19-22 the earth quaked in
response to the victory shout of Jesus. He suggests
creation is an anxious scout scanning the horizon
with head thrust forward eagerly searching the
distant horizon with a throbbing, vivid expectation
that something marvelous is going to be fulfilled.
"For I consider that the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be
compared with the glory that is to be revealed to
us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits
eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For
the creation was subjected to futility, not
willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in
hope that the creation itself also will be set free
from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of
the glory of the children of God. For we know that
the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of
childbirth together until now."
Paul is referring to the
non-rational creation, both animate and inanimate.
The material heavens and earth is on tiptoe in
"earnest expectation" waiting for "the revelation of
the sons of God." True, there is personification. It
brings out the truth and makes it clearer and easier
to comprehend. God has great designs for "the new
heavens and new earth." Not until we see the glory
in Christ revealed at the second coming will the
children of God understand the plentitude of their
status and privilege. "When Christ, who is our life,
is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him
in glory" (Colossians 3:4). Doesn't that prospect
make your heart cry out, "Come, Lord Jesus, Come!"
"Lord, Jesus, will I see You today?"
Jesus said, "Truly I say
to you, that you who have followed Me, in the
regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His
glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve
thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel"
(Matthew 19:28). Again He said, "But when the Son of
Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him,
then He will sit on His glorious throne" (25:31).
This creation was marred
by the rebellion of Adam and suffered terrible
consequences as a result of man's disobedience.
However, man's redemption at Calvary had its
redeeming effect upon all of Creation. Since Adam's
fall had such a disastrous affect on all creation,
should not its redemption also be involved? The fall
of Adam had a cosmic affect on all of creation even
though we do not understand all the implications for
creation. It is obvious that all of creation was
Then to Adam He said,
"Because you have listened to the voice of your
wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I
commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it';
Cursed is the ground
because of you;
In toil you will eat of
All the days of your
Both thorns and thistles
it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the
plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the
Because from it you were
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall
return" (Genesis 3:17-19).
Who subjected the
creation to this bondage of corruption? God did. And
only God could give the creation "hope" because only
God has power to affect this kind of change over His
created world. Darwinism and evolution cannot do
this. The subjection of the non-rational creation to
evil corruption was a part of God's design. The
present state of the universe is not permanent.
Everything is not going to rust out, wear-out and
self-destruct. God is going to bring a cosmic change
at the revelation of the sons of God in glory. The
"hope" is that creation itself will be delivered.
The Scriptures never give
man or Satan the power to bring about the
far-reaching changes that the world experienced at
the Fall. Only God could bring about this subjection
about. Man and creation did not fall up; it fell
down when Adam disobeyed God.
What if creation could
speak for itself? What would it say? What if the
rocks could shout? What would they say? Upon the
triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem "the
multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully
with a loud voice for all the miracles which they
had seen saying, 'Blessed is the King who comes in
the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in
the highest!'" (Luke 19:37-38). They were caught up
in a great act of worship of the Creator who stood
before them. Some of the Pharisees immediately began
to tell Jesus to calm down the crowd. Jesus said, "I
tell you, if these become silent, the stones will
cry out!" (Luke 19:40).
I sometimes wonder why
they don't today because rational humanity has
become irrational. God must receive praise. If man
will not praise Him the mountains will! It is as if
at Calvary they shouted the moment Christ died!
Creation is impregnated
with an earnest expectation of the revealing of the
sons of God because its freedom from bondage comes
when we too receive our "freedom of the gory of the
children of God." The apostle Paul says, "For the
anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for
the revealing of the sons of God. . . that the
creation itself also will be set free from its
slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory
of the children of God. For we know that the whole
creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth
together until now" (Romans 8:19, 21-22).
Creation is involved in
both our bondage to sin and our hope of redemption.
The creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the
sons of God in glory (v. 19). It is subjected by the
will of God (v. 20). It will be set free and share
in the redemption of God's people (v. 21), and it is
still groaning and suffering for that glorious day
What a grand prospect for
the child of God and for all of creation (cf. Rev.
21-22; Acts 3:19-21). The LORD God is a redeeming
God. The apostle Peter was referring to these same
happenings in Second Peter 3:13 when he speaks of
the final eschatological events. The apostle Paul
has in mind the deliverance that all of creation
will enjoy when the children of God are revealed in
glory. The great day of redemption will arrive in
all of its glory.
The liberation for the
sons of God is accomplished. Paul sees the freedom
and liberation of the creation also consummated.
Creation will share in the glory that will be
bestowed upon the children of God.
It is easy for us to see
the fading glory of a dying creation because of
decay. But how different it is when we focus on the
coming glory of God. We wait because our redemption
draws near. There is a coming state of glory on the
One of my favorite
perfectly snow cone shaped snowcapped volcanoes has
been belching up volcanic rocks the size of small
cars the last couple of years. The snow cone has
been completely destroyed. It groans and suffers,
but one day it will be even more radiant and
beautiful than the day it was created by the LORD
God. The day of redemption is coming.
The time is coming when
the total effect of sin will be done away and
creation will have all the glory God intended for it
when He created it. It will be as Paul declares, be
set free from "the slavery of corruption."
Today death, decay, rust
and corrosion is all around us. But there is a day
coming when the creation will be liberated, and its
full glory will be revealed.
Both the Old and New
Testaments speak of the coming glory of God's
creation. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah saw that coming
glory (Isa. 11:6; 32:15-16; 35:1-2, 6ff). The
apostles John, Peter and Paul also spoke of it (Rev.
21; 22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Col. 1:20).
Just as the whole
creation was affected because of the Fall, the whole
creation is involved in the affects of redemption.
The entire creation sighs and throbs with pain now.
But remember, it is the pain of birth pangs. God
will produce something completely new. "The creation
itself will also be set free from the bondage of
decay into the glorious freedom of God's children"
(Romans 8:21 NET).
Creation groans and
suffers pains for the day it can shout the praise of
God in the new creation. Phillips translates v. 22,
"The entire creation, as it were sets up a grand
sympathy of sighs." Come, Lord Jesus. We join in
with inward groaning in our hearts as believers in
Christ "waiting for the adoption, the redemption of
the body." Do you long for that today? I do.
Final shaking of
Calvary's shaking is also
a portent of another day when the Lord God "will
shake not only the earth but also the heaven"
(Haggai 2:6). The whole created order, the totality
of creation, will shake in that coming day. It will
be the terrible final shaking with judgment and the
consummation of our salvation.
That which is temporary
and transitory will be removed, but the
unshakable—the kingdom of God—will remain. God will
inaugurate the permanent, the new heaven and the new
earth. It will be in answer to the Fall in the
Garden of Eden. At that time all of God's eternal
purposes in creation will be brought to their
eternal fulfillment. Our redemption purchased by
Jesus at the cross will be consummated in glory in
Christ (Rev. 21:1ff; 2 Peter 3:10-13). Christ will
return in His majesty, power and gory (Rev.
19:11ff). It is the shaking of the second coming of
Christ and the whole universe will be transformed.
The Law like Abel's blood
cried out to God appealing for judgment, but the
blood of Jesus Christ brings a message of cleaning,
forgiveness and reconciliation with God for all who
believe on Him (Heb. 12:24). Instead of cursing us
and calling for judgment, the blood of Jesus pleads
our case and cleanses us (1 John 1:7-9; Col. 1:20).
Abel's blood cried; Jesus' blood cleanses.
The blood of Jesus is the
blood of a better covenant. His blood speaks of our
eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12) instead of
condemnation and judgment. His blood is the final
putting away of our sins (v. 26) which purges our
evil conscience (10:22), sanctifies all who believe
in Him (10:10, 14). Instead of rejecting us, it
reconciles us (10:19), instead of blighting us, it
brings blessings. His blood brings cleansing instead
Just as in Moses' day,
people still fail to pay heed to God's Word and they
suffer from their disobedience. When God spoke at
Sinai, "the whole mountains quaked" (Ex. 19:18; cf.
Ps. 68:7f). And when Jesus Christ comes a second
time it will be as Isaiah spoke of the coming of the
day of the LORD. "When He rises to shake mightily
the earth" (21:9, 21). But He is not only going to
shake the earth, but the heavens, too. He says in
"Therefore I will make
the heavens tremble,
And the earth will be
shaken from its place
At the fury of the LORD
In the day of His burning
God will shake the
heavens and earth at the end of the present
world-order (Rev. 20:11; 21:1; 6:12ff; 16:18f; 2
Pet. 3:10). The writer of Hebrews said, "And His
voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised,
saying, 'YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE
EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN'" (12:26).
God reveals His eternal
purpose in the earth shaking events. God will
vindicate His sovereign will. As Revelation clearly
teaches He will exalt the throne of David and all
will worship Him.
Revelation chapters 20
and 21 tell us when the LORD God does the shaking
all of the material universe will disappear and only
the eternal will survive.
All created things will
pass away (Ps. 102:25), but the kingdom of God is
The purpose of this
ultimate shaking is to reveal the unshakable. The
people of God, who belong to Him, who have been
redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, are
unshakable. When He comes with His purging fire,
will you be unshakable? The Lamb has purified the
"But the day of the Lord
will come like a thief, in which the heavens will
pass away with a roar and the elements will be
destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its
works will be burned up. Since all these things are
to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people
ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of
God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed
by burning, and the elements will melt with intense
heat! But according to His promise, we are looking
for new heavens and a new earth, in which
Are you investing in the
kingdom that is unshakable? "Our God is a consuming
fire" (Heb. 12:29); don't mess with Him. He consumes
in the purity of His holy fire all that is unworthy
of His holiness.
Today He speaks in a
still small voice to all who will listen to Him. He
speaks with probing authority of His Word and the
quickening of His Spirit that on the cross He shed
His blood to give life to all who will call upon His
name. We all stand guilty before a righteous and
holy God. Jesus Christ died as our substitute,
paying our sin debt, so we may be a part of His
unshakable kingdom. Will you repent and turn to Him
by faith right now? "Believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ and you shall be saved."
27:51 Did You Feel the Tremor?
Series: Life of