Causes of the Christchurch Earthquakes

In September 1010, Christchurch was struck by an earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale. Although many buildings collapsed, no one was killed and very few were injured. A second serious earthquake struck Christchurch in February 2011, causing serious damage to buildings and took nearly two hundred lives.

Christians have made various suggestions about the cause of the earthquake. I will discuss these in light of the categories defined in

Discerning the Season on Earth, and

Prophetic Events

You will need to read these articles to understand what follows.

1. Sign of the Second Coming

One notion that we have to get out of the way first is the common idea that earthquakes are a sign that the second coming is near. This view, which is widespread among Christians, is based on Jesus big prophecy.

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains (Matt 24:7,8).

There are several reasons why the usual interpretation of this passage is wrong.

2. Judgment from God

Many Christians are suggesting that the earthquakes were a genuine act of God. This takes different forms, but the most common view is that God has judged Christchurch and is punishing its wickedness.

There are two problems with this view.

3. God is Shaking Christchurch

A related view is that God is shaking the people of Christchurch to open hearts to the gospel. This view is wrong.

4. God is Shaking the Church

Some Christians have attributed the earthquake to God by suggesting that he is shaking the church. They draw attention to the name of the city and suggest that God is shaking Christ's church. There are a couple of problems with this view.


This earthquake could produce a dangerous complacency amongst God's people. In a few years, the impact of the earthquake will be mostly gone. The worst affected will still feel the pain, but most people will have returned to life as usual. Many Christians will heave a sigh of relief and think,

I have come through the worst earthquake
to strike this country.
It was scary, but we survived.
We can cope with anything that life throws at us.

Having survived a serious earthquake, Christians could easily slip into a risky complacency about the future. This is not the time to be complacent. God is trying to get his people prepared in advance. He is trying to build a spiritual army of hard-core Christians, who can work together with the Holy Spirit to release his kingdom on earth. It would be sad if our experience during the earthquake lulled us into believing that things will be fine, if we carry on as we are.

5. An Act of Nature

A view taking hold among many Christians is that earthquakes are just an act of nature. "The earth is doing what the earth does. Twisting and shaking from time to time". This view makes me uneasy, for the following reasons.

An act of nature is not a moral or spiritual event. It is just something that happens.

6. Work of the Devil

The broken roads and past smashed houses of Christchurch do not look like God's handiwork. The destruction looks much more like the deeds of a destroyer. More accurately, it looks like a destroyer lashing out violently, but being cramped up an unable to strike out with full force.

The signs of a destroyer are evident everywhere. The only destroyers in the scriptures are the devil and his evil spiritual forces.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

In John's Revelation, the devil was called Destroyer.

They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon (Rev 9:11).

Abaddon and Apollyon both mean "Destroyer".

In one sense, all earthquakes are caused by the devil, because they are the consequence of the fall. The emergence of human sin had a huge, as it placed the earth under a curse.

Cursed is the ground because of you (Gen 3:17).

This curse gave the devil authority to mess with God's beautiful creation. He went to work with a vengeance and released terrible destruction on earth. The way it functions was totally changed. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunamis, tornados and volcanoes appeared on earth for the first time. Animals, insects and plants changed into dangerous forms that had not existed when the world was good. Bacteria and viruses the cause sickness and disease emerged and began to spread. All these were the work of the devil.

The fall changed God's good earth into a place in which earthquakes, volcanoes, storms and droughts are normal. It became a dangerous place to live.

Creation Groaning

Paul describes the effect on creation in his letter to the Romans.

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time (Rom 8:19-21).

Creation was subjected to futility by the horrendous effects of the fall, and up till the time of Paul was groaning under the strain. However, Paul has a message of hope for creation. The "children of God revealed" is not a reference to the second coming, but to those who are called by Jesus coming to faith in him.

As more and more people are born again, creation will be liberated from bondage to decay and brought into the same glorious freedom as those who follow Jesus. As increasing numbers of people submit to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is released to restore creation. As the authority of God on earth expands, the effects of the fall are pushed back and the decay of creation is reversed.

The opposite is also true. If the gospel goes backwards and the number of people obeying God declines, creation goes back under bondage to decay. If the Holy Spirit is squeezed out of society, the groaning of creation increases. Therefore, when a nation rejects God, the severity of earthquakes is like to increase.

Direct Intervention

The devil is not a deist. He did not mess up the world and then sit back to watch what happens. Just as God is active to work all things for good, the devil is active in the world to work things for evil. He intervenes in the world to do harm whenever he gets the opportunity.

Our struggle is... against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12).

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8).

The devil is always active, looking for ways to destroy God's people. He often uses other people, as when Saul attempted to kill David. At other times, he uses animals, as when a lion and a bear in an attempt to destroy David as a boy. At other times he uses the forces of nature. The devil and his evil powers have far more power to work through nature than most Western Christians understand. The Bible does not highlight this fact, because the Holy Spirit does not want to give him glory, but there are hints for those who search carefully.

Many earthquakes are just the usual working of fallen creation. However, sometimes the Devil releases an earthquake to do harm in a place that he hates. The evil spirits are not strong enough to create a huge earthquake, but they do have enough power to release and earthquake in fault where pressure has built up. They determine the timing and direction of the quake to do as much evil as possible.

Attack on Christchurch

The forces of evil hate Christchurch, and not just because of its name. The reason is that God is building his Kingdom and Christchurch has a special role in his plan. The Kingdom of God will emerge in a unique way in this city and will shine as a bright light for the nations.

Christchurch will be a centre from which the Kingdom of God is exported. The city will demonstrate a model of the kingdom that can be copied in other nations that turn back to God. The revelation of the Kingdom that emerges in Christchurch will be copied all over the world, as nations see what God had done and want it for themselves. Christchurch will have a key role in displaying the glory of the kingdom. The devil would like to destroy Christchurch to prevent this from happening. He has not succeeded, but the earthquakes are a sign of what he would like to do.

7. A Warning Event

The Christchurch earthquakes were a Warning Event. The Christian influence in New Zealand has declined rapidly in recent years, so it is too late for a Shaking Judgment. God's authority has been squeezed out, so he has much less influence on what happens here. The earthquake was not sent by God, but it was a sign that we are now getting close to the tipping point. Those who can discern the times will understand that the forces of evil were showing off their recently gained authority.

The effects of the earthquake were constrained, because God still had sufficient authority in New Zealand to clip their wings. That is why no one was killed and few were seriously injured by the first earthquake. God limited its effects.

The number of deaths in the second earthquake was relatively low given the huge damage to buildings. At 12.51pm when the quake struck, many city workers had gone out of their high rises to get their lunch.

Although many tourists were in the cathedral, before it collapsed, they all escaped. This is because God has more authority in the cathedral than elsewhere, due to the faith of the people controlling it and the many prayers offered there.

If Jesus were here, he would say that Christchurch is no more sinful than any other city in New Zealand, but if the people of this nation continue on the current path and do not turn back to God, the influence of evil will continue to expand until we cross the tipping point. The earthquake is a sign of what the forces of evil could do, if they get sufficient authority to have a free hand.

New Zealand is in the process of forgetting God. It is not that people are hostile, but more that they have lost interest, because being a Christian no longer seems like a very attractive option. Unfortunately, this gradual forgetting has a serious consequence. This world is engulfed in a spiritual war. When a society ignores God, it loses his protection and become vulnerable to evil attack. We have casually allowed evil to make a home in our society and the cracks in our foundations are now being exposed.

As more and more people choose to ignore God, his ability to protect us is being diminished. As the number of people of faith declines, evil has greater freedom to work. There may still be sufficient residual faith in Christchurch to restrain the worst of evil, but, if the decline in faith continues, the last restraints on evil will gradually fall away.

This should not seem strange. When the prodigal son left his father's house, he lost the provision of his father.

The younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything (Luke 15:13-16).

The prodigal son was in danger of starving to death, but he was not starving because his father was weak or bad. The father was still wealthy and he still loved his son, but he was powerless to help his son, because the son had freely chosen to leave his father's house and had wasted the money that the father had given to him. He was responsible for his situation and could not blame his father. In the same way, when a city that shuts out God, it eventually loses his protection. It is not that God has lost his power, or stops caring. He just cannot protect people who have rejected him and placed themselves outside the scope of his protection.

A man involved organising disaster relief noted that people are shocked that it could happen here. He said that his staff working all round see disaster as normal and suggested that we need to start seeing the world the same way. That raises a question. Why is disaster normal in other countries, but abnormal here. If we are losing God's blessing and protection by rejecting him, then disaster could become normal here too. If that is the situation, we should be getting prepared.

Future Fulfilment

Being predictable and uncreative, the forces of evil will do more of the same when they get the chance. Unless there is a change in our spiritual situation, we can expect to see serious earthquakes striking in the night in other parts of New Zealand. However, there will be a big difference. If we cross the tipping point, God will no longer be able to restrain the political-spirits and government-spirits (principalities and powers). Fuller freedom will allow them to wreak far greater death and destruction.

I do not know when this will happen. Spiritual climates change slowly, so it may be a number of years before we see this warning event fulfilled. Or the Church might rise up and cut off its fulfilment, by preaching the gospel in power. If the number of Christians increases significantly, God's authority in New Zealand will be expanded, and the political-spirits and government-spirits will be squeezed out. That is one of the purposes of Warning Events. By overstepping the mark, the powers of evil often stir up the church to push back against them.


The second serious earthquake was a continuation of the previous warning event. The repetition of the earthquake is interesting. When interpreting warning dreams, Joseph said that the doubling of a dream means that its fulfilment is "certain and soon" (Gen 41:32). I presume that the same principle applies to Warning Events. The doubling of the earthquake emphasises the warning and confirms that we will be at the tipping point soon.

8. Endgame

God's plan and purpose for Christchurch have not changed. The forces of evil are flexing their muscles in the city, because they hate God's purpose for the city and want to prevent them from being fulfilled. They will throw a few more economic tantrums, but they cannot prevent the Holy Spirit from fulfilling his plans for Christchurch.

The founders of Christchurch made many mistakes, but they gained a strong sense of God's purpose for the city. They aspired to build a society based on faith and obedience to God, where Christian civilisation could be preserved from the forces destroying their world.

The Canterbury Settlement appears likely to further the efforts already made to extend the blessed influence of the Redeemer's kingdom, not only throughout New Zealand, but also in the surrounding islands of the Pacific Ocean.

They believed that the city would leaven the whole mass of the earth with the light and glory of the gospel of the Kingdom.

This is God's destiny for Christchurch. He wants Christchurch to be a model to the nations of a city living under his government and being a light to the nations. As evil spreads, he is preparing people who can be a light shining in the darkness. He wants to give Christchurch his kingdom, so it can be copied in other nations and continents, as they turn back to God. The Kingdom of God is central to God's purpose for Christchurch.

We must be careful not to let the earthquake set our agendas. Reacting to events is always limiting. Reacting to enemy's actions can be really distracting. We should be actively led by the Spirit into all that God has planned for us. If we just respond to what the enemy is doing, we could miss our goal. All our plans should be checked against God's agenda for his kingdom.

The Lord is saying to the people of Christchurch,

Do not be distracted by the earthquake.
Do not be impressed by the earthquake.
Compared to the power of my Holy Spirit,
the power of the earthquake is nothing.

Do not let the earthquake set your agenda.
My plans and my purpose for Christchurch have not changed.
My people should be shaped by my word and my Spirit.
Commit yourself to obeying my will
and fulfilling my purposes
and you will see the Kingdom of God revealed.

Warning events are a sign that the spiritual climate is heating up. Herod responded to the wise men by killing all the baby boys living in Bethlehem. The enemy knew that Jesus was important, but did not understand how, so he lashed out wildly. The earthquake is a warning sign. It shows that the enemy is aware that God is up to something here, but does not understand what, so he is striking out with violence. He tried to destroy the central city and the large church buildings, because he assumed that is where God is working, but he is wrong.

God will use an Invisible Army to accomplish his purpose for Christchurch. Many have been called and equipping smaller groups of people all over the city. Most people do not see them, because they are looking in the wrong places. They are hidden to those without the eyes of the Spirit, but they will be ready when God decides to move. The earthquakes will make them stronger, so the enemy's plans have backfired.

The enemy has always been afraid of what God is doing in Christchurch. In the early days, he used deception and manipulation to fight back, but now he is really scared, because he senses the time of fulfilment is close. We do not need to be afraid, but should press into God's purposes, knowing that the time when the glory of the Kingdom of God will fill the earth is near.

Return to Christchurch.

Return to Discerning Seasons

See also Why Did Christians Die?

See also Christchurch Earthquake (Sept 2010)