It seems to me, according to Revelation 16:16 and following, that sometime after the gathering of the armies of the world, this great shaking will begin, followed by all the results of it. I suppose we can’t be certain when exactly it will begin, but I would guess that it will be sometime around the beginning of the Armageddon war and will continue at least until Christ appears in the sky (Matt. 24:30). For just before He appears, verse 29 tells us that “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
I don’t think we can be absolutely sure that this so called “great earthquake” is in fact what we know of as an earthquake. The Greek word seimos, translated in verse 18 as “earthquake,” literally means “a shaking.” And when “great” is added it means “a great shaking,” or a great shaking of the earth.
But what else could it be besides an earthquake? Well, Hal Lindsey said that this shaking could be the result of “a fullscale nuclear exchange.” He said, “I believe that when these powers [of the world armies] lock forces here, there will be a fullscale exchange of nuclear weapons, and it’s at this time that ‘the cities of the nation’s fall.’”1
Now we can’t be sure that there will be nuclear weapons used; however, I think it is more likely than not that they will be used. And it is my guess that they will use them earlier rather than later. In fact, why would they shoot nuclear rockets at each other if they are going to battle anyway. Hence, it would make more sense to use them before they gather for a battle. Also, I have a feeling that it is likely that a nuclear attack will trigger an earthquake—the large earthquake mentioned in verse 18. And then, as the Scripture indicates, the cause of it will be the destruction of all cities (and all buildings), and the shifting of the land masses, so that all islands and mountains will plunge beneath the earth.
And while this destruction is happening, there will be thunder and lightning and hail like people have never seen before—hail about three feet in diameter, weighing up to one hundred pounds each. My question is: how in the world will the military forces be able to manage battling each other with all of this commotion and destruction all around them?
1 Hal Lindsey, There’s A New World Coming, p. 214.