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The southern prefecture Kumamoto in Japan was rocked by multiple severe earthquakes between 14th and 16th April.Having witnessed the recent catastrophes in Japan, many have intrinsically begun to fear ... I wonder how many among them see such a train of catastrophes as God’s judgment or warnings to the nation.
The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you. The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in obedience to him. …The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity – in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground – in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.
If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name – the LORD your God –  the LORD will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. The LORD will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the LORD your God. Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.
You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening, ‘If only it were morning!’– because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.
DEUTERONOMY 28:8-11, :58- 63, :66- 67.
Today, many Christians and ordinary people alike, are sensing that God’s judgment is at hand. The sharp rise in both natural and human disasters in recent years gives us the impression that God is judging the world. While God blesses man’s righteous activities, without a doubt He also judges man’s evil and immoral activities as He did in the past, by causing catastrophes of every sort. The verses quoted at the beginning about “blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience” from Deuteronomy are addressed at the ancient Israelites, God’s chosen covenant people. However, the principles of God’s law are applicable to all men. How to live on the earth now, is important because it determines our eternal destination after death.

The southern prefecture Kumamoto in Japan was rocked by multiple severe earthquakes between 14th and 16th April. Quakes measuring more than a seismic intensity of 1 have since continued, even up to the end of April, amounting to 1,000 quakes in total (of which 18 quakes measured an intensity of >5). The first magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck with a seismic intensity of 7 on the14th, and the second magnitude-6.4 quake with an intensity of 6+ struck on the 15th, and the third magnitude-7.3 (the biggest) quake with an intensity of 6+ struck on the 16th April. Seismologists now believe that the first quake was the pre-earthquake and that the third one was the main shock of this series of earthquakes. The three separate earthquakes arose from different but closely adjoining fault belts. According to them, this sort of chain reaction is very rarely seen.

One of the main daily newspapers in Japan, The Asahi Shimbun, expecting further possibility of the occurrences of mega-disasters in Japan, gives warning: ‘It was the first earthquake of such intensity to strike since the 2011 temblor in northeastern Japan that generated devastating tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear calamity. Many Japanese, with the exception of residents affected by the big earthquake five years ago, seem to be becoming less conscious of the risk of a major seismic event occurring. We need to remain keenly aware that nowhere in the Japanese archipelago is spared the danger of earthquakes. Any earthquake, even one in a remote area, should be taken as a warning not to take safety for granted. We urge everybody to pay serious attention to this latest event and carefully prepare for major quakes in the future’ (16th April’16).

Having witnessed the recent catastrophes in Japan, many have intrinsically begun to fear the possibility of further earthquakes or volcanic eruptions of a bigger magnitude. However, I wonder how many among them see such a train of catastrophes as God’s judgment or warnings to the nation. The seismic events in Kumamoto and Oita Prefectures have been analysed to be uniquely different from other seismic activity across Japan in recent years, in that they have occurred in a volcanic region of Mt. Aso, so many aftershocks are being experienced, and it is so rare to see multiple giant earthquakes strike in such close succession.

These abnormal events remind me of what is written in the Book of Revelation, where disasters caused by God will continue until all wickedness of this world and evil people would perish in the end of times:
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. … The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.  The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. … an eagle that was flying in mid-air call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” (Re.8:5-13)

According to the Bible, the only certainty in our lives is ironically our appointment with death and judgment, which is not only an unpleasant subject matter but also one which we avoid even discussing sincerely:
Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of the many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (He.9:27-28, Line added)
The latter part of these verses is exactly the message I would like to share with those who have been disheartened, bereft of hope or in utter despair by the latest earthquakes. Sooner or later, whether violently by man-made disasters or naturally by the power of nature, all living creatures are destined to die, by returning to dust from which they were created, with the exception of man’s spirit and soul, which belong to God.

After death, these exceptional parts of our being, i.e., representation of our personalities are to be directed either to the Lord Christ or away from Him. Those who believed in Christ and accepted His salvation through repentance when they lived on earth will be saved eternally, while those who did not accept Him as their saviour will be heading for hell via Hades, as clearly depicted in the parable of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” in Luke 16:19-31. In the ultimate end, both death and Hades are to be thrown into the lake of fire, i.e., “hell”.
Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Re.20:15)

The following article speaks of how a youth that miraculously survived the Kumamoto earthquake was motivated to live differently with a clearer purpose in the aftermath.
“Kumamoto youth gains new purpose after surviving quake” (24th April, 2016)
When the main magnitude-7.3 quake struck Kumamoto Prefecture early on April 16, college student Tomoyuki Washizu thought it was the end for him. The apartment building where he lived collapsed amid the tremors, and he found himself trapped and injured in the dark in his first-floor room. Thinking his family would read what was found on his smartphone, Washizu, 22, wrote what he thought was his final message, thanking his parents and older brothers for all that they had done for him.
Soon, his fellow students and friends would join a frantic search that eventually saved Washizu's life. He also received a greater appreciation for the meaning of life when he later learned that a younger member of his university tennis club had perished in the quake. Washizu is a third-year student at Tokai University's School of Agriculture, located in Minami-Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, one of the municipalities hardest hit by the recent series of quakes. Three students at Tokai University died in the quake on April 16.
Although Washizu was hospitalized for a week after his miraculous rescue, he felt that he could not remain in bed when about 50 students and graduates of the agriculture school gathered on April 23 in front of JR Hakata Station in Fukuoka Prefecture to solicit donations for quake victims. "I want to pass on what happened during the quake and also be of some help to the rebuilding process," Washizu said.
When the main quake struck, six dorms and apartments on the Aso Campus of Tokai University collapsed. Washizu was temporarily knocked unconscious when his apartment was hit. When he came to, he was in a pitch-black room, unable to move his trapped body. His left cheek and chest were being pressed on by the collapsed wall. Seeing a light fixture in front of his nose, Washizu realized the ceiling had caved in. The frequent aftershocks meant the ceiling pressed further into his face and chest. He heard cries for help and weeping.
Feeling the end was near, Washizu fumbled with the smartphone he held in his left hand to tap out his final thoughts to his family. The phone itself could not be connected to make calls, but Washizu felt he could leave behind a message, even if it meant using his unfamiliar left hand.
That was when he heard his friends calling out to him, asking him if he was all right. He replied in a soft voice, "I'm here." They shouted back, "Don't give up. Wait for us." He soon heard a chain saw cutting through the structure. Dawn had broken when he was finally pulled out of the rubble. Several of his friends cried as they found out he was alive. Although the pain prevented him from moving his body, Washizu smiled and said, "I want to drink a Coke."
His father came to get him from Fukuoka Prefecture, and Washizu charged his smartphone in the car while being driven back. He found 80 or so e-mails on the phone. Among the many that asked if he was OK was a longer one from the head of the tennis club. "Riku is dead." The message said that Riku Ono, 20, a second-year student had died. …Washizu entered the hospital upon his return to Fukuoka.
He was later told by a friend that Ono had died at the entrance to his apartment. That led Washizu to ponder the irony in his hospital bed. "Riku tried to escape because he wanted to keep living. I was prepared to die from the very beginning. Why was it me who is still alive?" Washizu sent an e-mail to an older club member telling about the conundrum he felt. He wanted to know why he was the one who survived. The response said, "No one is at fault. Riku's life expectancy was 20 years. But you were meant to go on living." His emotions welled up within him as Washizu cried. He is now determined to live his life to make up for the years that Ono will never have.  

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Japanese archipelago is crisscrossed with active faults. Some seismologists have argued that the Great East Japan Earthquake has ushered in a new era of increased and intensified seismic activity in Japan. Other experts say there are many active faults still to be discovered (The Asahi Shimbun on 16th April’16). Especially in Tokyo, earthquakes have become a daily occurence and we have been warned to make ourselves prepared for a big earthquake any time.

Last year, the Tokyo metropolitan government distributed a booklet on dealing with a disaster to 6.7 million or so households in the capital. It contains a broad range of information useful for the preparation for disasters, such as a safety checklist for homes and advice for responding to quakes. It also offers tips for post-disaster life, such as a list of goods that should be reserved for emergencies and which proved very useful in past disasters, even with an illustration of how to make diapers with plastic grocery bags. The booklet is indeed very practical and useful from the viewpoint of this world. However, as mentioned earlier, what is a must for us would be a preparation for death and the afterlife from God’s perspective.

When it comes to the matter of death, many seem to be affected by misconceptions and erroneous ideas. Many books have been published on the subject of death, recounting near-death experiences, for instance, that tends to encourage people and give a positive spin to death, but the majority of such publications are said to be less reliable, despite their good intention. However, we can find one or two passages in the Bible that are far more reliable:
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God”. (Acts 7:55-56)
While Stephen was suffering the process of death by stoning, he exclaimed his encounter with Christ. For those who believe in Christ’s words of promise, Stephen’s near-death experience showing how he was greeted by the Lord Himself in the end of his pilgrimage on earth is very encouraging. He died as a true witness of the Lord to the end, and came to be called a martyr.

Another example in the Bible is the apostle Paul’s terrible but miraculous experience in Lystra, in which he was caught up to paradise:
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows –  was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. (2 Cor.12:2-4)
At that time Paul was almost stoned to death by some Jews from Antioch and Iconium, or he may actually have died, as his body was dragged outside of the city. After his journey to the third heaven, Paul may have been miraculously raised up from the dead, as witnessed by his disciples. Paul had his wonderful experience of seeing and hearing what was in paradise while he was unconscious.

While the Bible presents such reliable evidence of near-death experiences and the certainty of the afterlife, we must not forget that a lot of information in the world conerning death originates from the ultimate deceiver, Satan, from whom all forms of demonic activities in the world stem, such as Ouija board, occult, channeling and necromancy. Satan’s deceptions are designed to eliminate any awareness of a coming divine judgment and accountability on an individual basis, and to impress people with the perception that all roads are wide and lead to the same pleasant ending, neither depending on how they lived nor what they believed in. However, the biblical truth is
‘For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it’ (Ma.7:13),
and ‘man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment’.