There was an earthquake at Vanuatu on Saturday afternoon 1:00 pm local time. Its magnitude is classified as 7.5. Vanuatu is in the southern Pacific halfway between Fiji to its east and Queensland Australia to its west.
Any quake over 7.0 magnitude is considered 'major'. On average, the USGS states that we can expect about 15 quakes of that magnitude each year. So far in 2011, the world has had 11 quakes of that magnitude. It is my estimate that due to the rate of strong and major quakes' occurrence over these last five years (with those averages being regularly exceeded), the average will once again be exceeded this year as well.
As a matter of fact, the average amount of quakes in the 6.0-6.9 range is 134 and we have already had 140 so far this year in that magnitude, thus crushing the USGS average once again. In short, earthquakes are on the rise. Let's take a look at the facts:
Source: USGS (United States Geological Survey) Where annual averages are met or exceeded the number is in red.
Magnitude / Average Annually
8+ = 1 (in 2011 we have had 1)
7 - 7.9 = 15 (in 2011 we have had 11)
6 - 6.9 = 134 (in 2011 we have had 140)
5 - 5.9 = 1319 (in 2011 we have had 1697)
Frequency of Occurrence of Earthquakes
These numbers have been recently updated, based on data from the Centennial catalog (from 1900 to 1999) and the PDE (since 2000).
² Based on observations since 1990.
So the USGS even updated the averages and STILL are they exceeded annually. Here is a chart I generated and updated today through Aug 20. Source USGS data.
Earthquakes have long been one of the ways God gets our attention. "An earthquake is a great teacher. It doesn't make any suggestions; it's making commands. It doesn't ask for our attention, it demands it. It doesn't just hope we'll contemplate and act, it brings about almost instant obedience." (source).
God is in complete control. The bible teaches that everything that happens is under His control. Nothing that happens, happens without His permission, knowledge, and sovereign plan. Satan cannot make an earthquake. But God can. All that He does is for the good.
For the Christian, we know that our eternal destiny is settled. If we die in an earthquake, it is to the good, for we will be with Him. If we do not die in an earthquake, than nothing that we have lost is of eternal value. Our possessions? We won't need them in heaven. Our health (if we are injured in a quake) will be restored. Since we live on the earth, we are flesh and therefore not impervious to sin's effects nor remain untainted by calamity. But what we lose is nothing. Enduring a disaster means we have an opportunity to become dependent on God. That is always a good thing because He is the source of all good things. We can fellowship with the afflicted. We can grow and mature through hardship.
If a person is not saved and endures an earthquake, they learn that life is fragile. They learn that the time to settle the earthly accounts and eternal destiny is now. Also, though living in a place where quakes are common means likely that there are strong codes for buildings, there are limits to how far one can go to protect one's self from calamity. If a quake is big enough, the place will be razed, codes or no codes. Witness Japan. Life is fragile and there is nothing like an earthquake to reveal that to puny humans.
All this to say, that though earthquakes are in the rise and will continue to be so (Luke 21:11, Rev 6:12, Rev 8:5, Rev 11:13, Rev 16:18), the saved should fear not. That link is to a search result where 'fear not' is stated 63 times. There are many more ways He tells us not to fear, just not in that particular phrase. Therefore, we should not fear.
"Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not." (Lamentations 3:57)