If you click on the image, you’ll see that the “10-degree Map Centered at 40°N, 140°E” (generated Saturday, March 12, 15:22:22 UTC) says, “255 earthquakes on this map.”1 First, imagine having lived through the original estimated 8.9 magnitude quake—one that appears to have shifted Japan’s main island by 8 feet and the earth’s axis by 4 inches.2 Depending on where you were in Japan when the quake hit, you watched anything from books falling off shelves to a 30-foot high tsunami “that swept across rice fields, engulfed entire towns, dragged houses onto highways, and tossed cars and boats like toys.3
Then, as you continue to listen to the news of evacuations around nuclear power plants (and of a large explosion in the building that houses the reactor at one), 5.57 million people without power (and 1 million without water), “the coastal city of Rikuzentakata…virtually destroyed by [the] tidal wave,” four missing trains (with an unknown quantity of passengers), 3,400 buildings either completely or partially destroyed, and 200 fires…4
As you continue to listen to reports of destruction and misery (or experience it first hand)…at seemingly random times the ground under your feet continues to move, sometimes at levels that would be considered significant primary quakes (instead of just aftershocks). If you have any kind of apocalyptic belief, then the original quake, the devastation around you, the news since, and the fact that the ground won’t stay stable for a significant period of time may make you wonder.
Is this the beginning of the end?
Additionally, if you are one of Japan’s 3.5% Christian minority,5 these famous words of Jesus could come to mind:
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains (Matthew 24:7-8, English Standard Version).
Then you might ask yourself, “Is this the beginning of the end?”
This is the end / Beautiful friend
This is the end / My only friend / The end
Of our elaborate plans / The end
Of everything that stands / The end
No safety or surprise / The end
I’ll never look into your eyes / Again6
When you think that your number is up, will you accept it as calmly as Jim Morrison does in that song? How meaningful will all your “elaborate plans” seem then? Will you be wishing you heeded these words from James?:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15).
We are but “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”—and most of us will depart this planet not knowing when that vanishing time will be. Returning to Japan, there are at least 900 whose vanishing time already arrived, with many more unaccounted for (including 9,500 in the town of Minamisanriku alone).7 Hundreds, maybe thousands, are no longer worrying, “Is the beginning of the end?”…for them, the end arrived.
Although I hope news like this will cause you to pray for (and to donate money for) the Japanese who (as I write this) might be experiencing earthquake number 256…I have a stronger desire that you consider whether you have made any “elaborate plans” for eternity, since your vanishing time could be just after you read this. The good news is making it to heaven doesn’t actually require “elaborate” plans—just for you to listen to (and to put into action) the words Jesus spoke to a woman who was mourning the passing of her brother:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
Before your vanishing time, please respond (in word and in heart) as Martha did:
“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is [came] into the world” (John 11:27).
And then it won’t matter if “This is the end…”
1 10-degree Map Centered at 40°N,140°E. (2011, March 12). USGS. Retrieved March 12, 2011, from http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Maps/degree10/140_40.php
2 Voigt, K. (2011, March 12). Quake moved Japan coast 8 feet; shifted Earth’s axis. CNN. Retrieved March 12, 2011, from http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.earthquake.tsunami.earth/index.html
4 Damage from mega quake increasing, death toll feared to top 1,700. (2011, March 12). Kyodo News. Retrieved March 12, 2011, from http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2011/03/77158.html
5 Religion in Japan. (n.d.). WolframAlpha. Retrieved March 12, 2011, from http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=religion+in+japan
6 “The End” by the Doors (written by Jim Morrison) off their album, The End
7 Lah, K. (2011, March 12). Rescuers scramble to save lives as aftershocks jolt Japan. CNN. Retrieved March 12, 2011, from http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.quake/index.html?hpt=T1&iref=BN1