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I live in Chile, which is a country where 2 of the biggest 5 earthquakes occurred since humans measure earthquakes. The biggest occurred in 1960 and it was 9.6 in Richter scale(the soil cracked and big objects like houses were almost jumping) and the 5th biggest occurred in 2010 and it was 8.8 in Richter scale. The Tsunami produced after the earthquake of 1960 killed people even in other countries like Japan and Hawaii. So, when I read the Book of Revelation and see, for example:

12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, Rev 6:12

And others like:

5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. Rev 8:5

And:

13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Rev 11:13

Among others, I wonder about the magnitude of these earthquake, because I have experienced great and severe earthquakes here. The problem is small earthquakes here can be considered as severe and great in other countries.

Do any groups or doctrinal systems provide particulars on how strong of a quake or what kind of increase in quake frequency signifies the end times?

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Hi Charlie, and welcome to C.SE. I am doing a VTC for several reasons: 1. At a minimum, this would be hermeneutics, not C.SE, but more importantly 2. there really isn't a doctrinal position on which an answer could really be made to this question. This isn't meant as a slight against you - its just this question really doesn't have a way of being answered. Please don't take it personally, and Thanks! Welcome to C.SE! –  Affable Geek Jul 18 '13 at 3:09
    
If it helps, Turkey (where much of the NT was written) has bad earthquakes too. –  Affable Geek Jul 18 '13 at 3:10
    
I've closed this because I feel like it's largely calling for speculation, if someone is aware of a group or tradition that draws doctrine from even rough magnitude estimates ping me in a comment or flag this for reopening. Otherwise I'll see if I can grab a herm mod and see if they want this. –  wax eagle Jul 18 '13 at 3:35
    
@waxeagle Adventists have a historist view of eschatology. The do have a few opinions on particular earthquakes being "cosmic signs". I think this question is answerable for an Adventist. I will give it a crack if you reopen. –  fredsbend Jul 18 '13 at 17:49
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@fredsbend I changed the verbiage a bit to allow for an answer. –  wax eagle Jul 18 '13 at 18:36
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3 Answers

In the Seventh Day Adventist Church*, there is no shortage of making connections to real historical events and the seals and other events in Revelation. Particular to your question, the SDA church has made connections to real earthquakes (and other "cosmic events") and a few of the seals. With that, we can infer "how big" the earthquake should be, or rather, was.

Adventists have an historic view of eschatology. That means that they think the book of Revelation is a prophetic record of the entire history of the Church from its writing to the Second Coming of Christ. They also believe that seals represent an era in Christian history; they are not exact, shortly executed events (typically). So they do have some opinions on actual historical earthquakes being events that Revelation was indeed talking about. These events are often quoted to show that a certain point in history was in a particular seal era.see video Source 1

Among them are the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, New England's Dark Day of 1780, and A meteor shower in 1833. [Wikipedia source] see video Source 2

Now the Lisbon Earthquake is estimated at about 8.7 magnitude. The Lisbon Earthquake, by measure of how many people and lands were affected, was certainly no small event; countless people were affeted by it and tens of thousands perished because of it. It was a massive earthquake no matter where you live and what you are used to. With this in mind, you might infer that the SDA would say that a "massive earthquake" should be in this range. However, to SDA's, it is not necessarily the severity of the event itself that signal the event as a "cosmic sign".

A "cosmic sign" is better recognized by people's reaction to it. In general, they look to see if the event caused a turning to God (out of fear). The Adventists quickly recognize that the time frame they mark as the era of the 6th seal was also a time of heightened religious interest. Some of those eras are called by secular historians The Enlightenment and also the Great Awakening. see video Source 4 & 6


Video Sources

I was lucky enough to find this lecture on YouTube that supports what I have said about SDA doctrine and belief.

  1. Starting about 14 minutes in: "The seals are a countdown to God [The Second Comming]". He describes the seals as eras.

  2. Starting about 17 minutes in: He Justifies that the 6th seal cannot be an instanteaneou event.

  3. Starting about 20 minutes in: The speaker just finished reminding the listeners that the "time, times, and half a time" from Daniel is the Dark Ages Church, which they say officailly ended its reign in 1798 (according to SDA's) then says that they should begin seeing the signs described in the sixth seal. He then explicitly states the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 as on of the signs.

  4. Starting about 25 minutes in: Mentions that people ran to the Churches for protection during the Lisbon Earthquake, but perished anyway. He then begins to discuss New England's Dark Day.

  5. Starting about 30 minutes in: He beings to discuss the Lionid Showers in 1833.

  6. Starting about 32 minutes in: He says that the opening of the 6th seal was a time during which people's religious interests were excited and awakened (The Enlightment). Also, he states explicitly that the 6th seal was not an instantaneous event.

  7. Starting about 35 minutes in: He mentions an earthquake in Chile (thought you might be personally interested).


Additional lecture source


*Disclaimer: The SDA is quite unique in a great deal of it's doctrines, especially eschatology. The greater portion of Christianity would either disagree with the above or weigh in no opinion at all.

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I forgot to mention that in the last ten minutes of the video lecture he does talk about the frequency of earthquakes increasing. –  fredsbend Jul 18 '13 at 19:09
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In Matthew 24:7-8 Jesus mentioned earthquakes as one of the "beginning of sorrows" associated with his discourse on the end-times. The word for "sorrows" (Strong's 5604) denotes the sorrows of birth pangs and this is pointed out frequently by evangelicals who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture. The implication often drawn is that earthquakes and other signs like wars, famines, diseases, and astral phenomena will increase in frequency and intensity as the time of the end draws near, like contractions increase in frequency and intensity leading up to birth. There are quiet times in between the contractions which lead people to say that "all things continue as they were from the beginning" 2 Peter 3:4. I would also refer you to the Mercalli scale of earthquake damage which is a descriptive scale. As you read the description of quakes in Revelation you can compare them to it, and from the Mercalli you can estimate its Richter equivalent.

By this interpretation no specific earthquakes would be considered a sign by themselves until the events in context were clearly happening. But the overall pattern of increase in frequency and intensity coupled with other "sorrows" increasing would be considered a sign.

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The Church in Philadelphia The earthquake of (Rev 6:12 NIV) happened during the sixth seal, so it occurred in the area of the Church in Philadelphia.

The earthquake of (Rev 11:13 NIV) happened during the sixth trumpet, so it occurred in the area of the Church in Philadelphia.

The Church in Laodicea The earthquake of (Rev 8:5 NIV) happened during the seventh seal, so it occurred in the area of the Church in Laodicea.

The earthquake of (Rev 11:19 NIV) happened during the seventh trumpet, so it occurred in the area of the Church in Laodicea.

The earthquake of (Rev 16:18 NIV) happened during the seventh bowl of wrath, so it occurred in the area of the Church in Laodicea.

Severity I'm not sure exactly how sever it was, but if you look at the fault lines under Laodicea, there really are a lot of fault lines. So it could have been pretty bad. Philadelphia also has has some pretty severe earthquakes, one was even recorded to have destroyed the city.

Do any groups or doctrinal systems provide particulars on how strong of a quake or what kind of increase in quake frequency signifies the end times? The end times are not measured by the strength of an earthquake. The end is clearly defined here "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power." (1 Corinthians 15:24 NIV)

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