The nation of Japan is still reeling and trying to recover from the worst natural disaster in its history. The massive earthquake, which struck just northeast of Japan's main island on March 11, has been registered as the fifth most powerful on record. The entire main island of Japan is reported to have moved an incredible eight feet. Even the rotation of the earth was affected. The loss in human life and property from this 9.0-magnitude quake and the resulting tsunami waves that followed is almost beyond calculation.
A disaster of historic proportions
Many people around the world watched vivid scenes of massive destruction as walls of water carried away buildings, vehicles, boats and entire villages and towns. The knowledge that thousands of people were dying made it heart-rending to watch. This massive quake followed a similar one off the coast of Indonesia in 2004, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and a smaller one just three weeks ago that caused great damage in New Zealand.
Hundreds of smaller earthquakes occur around the earth every day, but most are deep below the surface and affect unpopulated areas. When large quakes occur near cities or send huge waves across the oceans, the results can be catastrophic. This latest one in Japan certainly classifies as a catastrophe.
Earthquakes to signal Christ's return?
When a disaster affects much of the world as this one has, people ask, "Is this a sign of the return of Jesus Christ and the end of our age?"
When asked about what to look for as a sign of his return, Jesus Christ spoke of "the sea and the waves roaring"(Luke 21:7 Luke 21:7And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
American King James Version×, 25). He was prophesying that there would be great storms and tumult on the world's oceans and seas. He was likely referring to hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis that unleash unusually destructive power on the earth. While there have always been storms and earthquakes, Jesus foretold that they would increase in magnitude and occurrence before the last days.
In response to the same question, Jesus warned that other causes of death and destruction—such as wars, famines and disease—would also increase during the end time.
"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7 Matthew 24:7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
Disasters to come at the time of the end
Are these the sign that the return of Christ is imminent? The answer is no. Jesus followed by saying, "All these are the beginning of sorrows" (verse 8). Far worse suffering and destruction will take place as the end of this age draws near, but most of the world will not be prepared for it and will be taken by surprise.
Speaking of this same time, the prophet Jeremiah warned, "Behold, a whirlwind [tempest in some translations] of the Lord has gone forth in fury—a violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly" (Jeremiah 23:19-20 Jeremiah 23:19-20  Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously on the head of the wicked.
 The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days you shall consider it perfectly.
American King James Version×).
He then adds, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Behold, disaster shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the farthest parts of the earth. And in that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth...'" (Jeremiah 25:32-33 Jeremiah 25:32-33  Thus said the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
 And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung on the ground.
American King James Version×). Jeremiah explains throughout his book that the reason for these disasters is that mankind has rejected God and has filled the world with evil and violence. Men will continue to defy their Creator (Revelation 9:21 Revelation 9:21Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
American King James Version×), so God will send additional plagues on the earth in order to convince humanity to listen to Him.
The heavenly sign of Christ's return
But are these the sign that Jesus is about to return? While they are indications of the times in which we live, the actual "sign" of the return of Jesus Christ to this earth takes place in the sky above the earth. Notice what Jesus told his disciples:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:29-30 Matthew 24:29-30  Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
American King James Version×)
If you would like to know more about the exciting times in which we live, please read or request our free publication Are We Living in the Time of the End?