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Geophysical Phenomena at Jesus' Second Coming

The Bible repeatedly predicts Jesus’ second coming, describing many geophysical phenomena that will occur at that time. Among the events referenced in Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah, Matthew, Luke, and Revelation are earthquakes, earth movements along geologic faults, displacements of mountains and islands, global-scaled fire and smoke, darkened sun, moon turning red, stars falling like figs to the ground, turbulent sea waves, and water in rivers and springs becoming un-potable.

These geophysical events are probably actual happenings, rather than symbolic in nature. They probably are related events triggered by a rare large-scaled event (or series of events) caused by high-speed impact of meteoroids, asteroids, and/ or comets with the earth.

Meteoroids and asteroids are part of many near-earth solid fragments in space that are continuously falling down to the earth, usually in smaller sizes and amounts. They are mostly broken up or destroyed by air pressure and friction in the atmosphere during transit. They may produce light and sound that can be seen or heard by people nearby. Larger fragments can reach the earth’s surface as meteorites and tektites, and the very largest ones make impact craters of different sizes on the ground. About 170 such craters have been discovered in the world, the largest being about 300 km in diameter.

Every millions years or so, the earth may encounter a super-scaled massive impact event of meteoroids, asteroids, and/or comets. When they enter the earth’s atmosphere at high speed, the smaller ones usually break up into pieces of different sizes, and generate loud noise and leave smoke in the air. The larger ones impact the ground/ water, splashing huge amount of water, dust, and rock pieces into the air. Some may generate seismic waves strong enough to trigger volcanic eruptions, spewing out lava, rocks, ashes, and smoke into the upper atmosphere, where a large amount of the products may remain suspended for a long time. Some may trigger earth movement along geologic faults at the brink of rupture, and generate large earthquakes. The earthquakes may in turn trigger tsunamis, if involving vertical crustal movements under oceans.

All these events together may destroy not only personal lives and properties, but also industrial and public facilities, such as nuclear reactors, oil refineries, and dams. They may also cause forest fires on a global scale, adding huge amounts of smoke, moisture, and debris into the atmosphere. The sunlight may be blocked for long periods, preventing photosynthesis from taking place and causing a long-term temperature drop. Thus the earth may become uninhabitable, and mass extinction may take place.

According to paleontological studies, five episodes of mass extinction and many smaller ones have occurred in the earth’s long history. The last massive extinction occurred about 65 million years ago, during the age of dinosaurs. The most likely cause for this extinction was an impact event involving an asteroid about 10 km in dimension, possibly falling into the southern near-coast area of the Gulf of Mexico, creating a crater about 170 km wide. The amount of energy released in this event is estimated to be equivalent to a magnitude-13 earthquake, or one million times larger than the energy of the magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan on 11 March 2011.

According to the Bible, before God created the present world, “The earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). Also, the atmosphere was filled with water/moisture until God divided the water to make the firmament (Genesis 1:6). This initial condition prior to the creation of the present world was probably the result of a massive meteoroid/asteroid impact event that occurred mainly in some oceanic area, and it may have been the means by which God destroyed the previous world. In contrast, the possible impact event at Jesus’ second coming may occur mainly in some land area, thus God may destroy the present world by fire (2 Peter 3:10- 12). However, the reason of both destructions is the same, to wipe out sin. The extent of the destructions is also the same; it is not the entire earth or universe, but the earth’s surface and atmosphere, where sin and the source of sin (Satan and evil spirits) exist. The Bible’s use of the analogy of “cloak, garment, and scroll” may refer to the future destruction of the earth’s surface and atmosphere at Jesus’ second coming (Psalm 102:25-27; Isaiah 34:4; Hebrews 1:12; Revelation: 6:14).

Fortunately, this destruction is not the end of mankind or the universe. It is in preparation for “the new heavens and new earth” where all who are saved by Christ will dwell in righteousness and glory with God forever, following the millennium kingdom and the last judgments (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 20:6, 11-15; 21:1). This is the glorious hope of all true Christians after their bodily resurrection or rapture. Thus, ultimately, God will overcome all of Satan’s rebellious and destructive activities throughout history. He will accomplish His original purpose of creating man in His image to rule over the earth for Him. He will restore order and harmony to His new creation.

With this understanding, we may ask how we should lead our lives in this world. For non-believers, the Apostle Peter admonished that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). For Christians, he gave the exhortation, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:10-13). Peter’s words should be heeded by all people today!

(Dr. Chi-Yu King has been a geophysicist and a Christian for about 50 years. He has a BS in EE from National Taiwan Univ., a MS in EE from Duke, and a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell. After postdoctoral research in seismology at Caltech, he conducted geophysical reasearch at UCLA, NOAA, USGS, Tokyo Univ., and Earthquake Prediction Res. Inc. He has also made dozens of short-term mission trips and written/tranlated scores of articles related to Science and Christian faith.)

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20120303
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Jul-Sep 2012. CCMUSA.