”And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:5-6)
The verses quoted above were part of Jesus’ response to the question, “What will be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)
The Lord’s reply to the question is known to Bible scholars as the “Olivet Discourse” because, 1) Jesus was standing ‘upon the Mount of Olives’ at the time, and; 2) His answer, which is contained in the three Synoptic Gospels, fills the entire chapter. It is one of the most lengthy teaching discourses in the New Testament.
The Olivet Discourse focuses its attention on events that take place DURING THE TRIBULATION, but begins by describing the events that conspire together to bring it about.
The period of wars and rumors of wars has been ongoing now since 1914 with the first truly global war in human history. It was followed by a second global war in 1939, whose conclusion brought about the ultimate ‘rumor of war’ between the West and the Soviet Empire.
There are two different entities under discussion, ‘nations’ and ‘kingdoms’. The word ‘nation’ is translated from the Greek word ‘ethnos’ and describes an ethnic state, like Israel or one of the ethnic states of the Arab world. Or North Korea.
The world translated ‘kingdom’ ‘basileia’ means “royal power, kingship, dominion, rule” and it describes a national entity bound together by economic/social interests, rather than ethnic relationships.
America would fit the Biblical understanding of a ‘kingdom’ in the sense Americans are not bound together by blood or ethnicity, but rather by common social and economic benefits. The same could be applied to the member/states of the EU. Individually, some European countries might be ethnic in origin, but the Common Market exists for economic reasons.
The collapse of the Soviet Union uncorked a new round of ethnic unrest and international conflict, but, as Jesus was careful to note, “the end is not yet.”
Ethnic or economic strife have been responsible for all the wars of modern times. The world wars were wars aimed at conquest for economic reasons. Hitler’s Nazis sought both ethnic purity and “liebensraum” (living space) for Germany.
Japan’s Imperial government set out to conquer Asia to ensure a steady supply of raw materials and to establish ethnic Japanese rule over Greater Asia.
Skeptics might argue that wars, ethnic unrest, even famines, earthquakes and pestilences, all have been part of the human condition since the Fall of Man at the Garden of Eden. (Or since the first amoeba turned into a person…for the skeptic who can’t bring himself to believe in God, but finds no conflict of faith in a frog turning into a prince).
Note that Jesus said “all these are the beginning of sorrows.” The word ‘sorrow’ first appears in Scripture in Genesis 3:16 when God tells Eve, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” “Sorrow” is translated from the Hebrew “itstsabown” and refers to labor pains.
The Greek word ‘odin’ translated as ‘sorrows’ in Matthew 24:8 also refers to labor pains.
Every parent who has ever lived could instantly grasp the meaning of this metaphor — that is why Jesus chose it. As the birth of a child approaches, the mother begins to experience labor pains, which, having once begun, continue to increase in both frequency and intensity as the moment of birth approaches.
Prospective parents in Jesus’ day did exactly what I did with each of my kids — timed the interval between the contractions. It was a carefully chosen metaphor designed to resonate with all people, of all cultures, in all generations. But, to the generation to whom those signs were addressed, the meaning would be unmistakable.
When one compares the accuracy of the Bible’s account of the unknowable future to the ever-changing scientific ‘explanations’ for the distant past, doubts melt away. The skeptic has multiple explanations for static events that have already happened.
The Bible gives a single explanation for a fluid, changeable series of events predicted to happen thousands of years in the future — the events that define our present day. Which is more convincing?
Bible prophecy proves Jesus was the Son of God, regardless of the latest scientific, archeological or historical discovery. No matter what else might be offered as ‘evidence’ to the contrary, there is no other explanation for Bible prophecy. It is our generation’s unique miracle.
It proves that He remains in charge of the affairs of men. Scripture records His Promise in all three Gospel accounts, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:35. Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33)
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:” (2 Peter 1:19)
Bible prophecy is proof positive that God remains on the Throne, that His Word will NOT return to Him void, and that all the chaos and terror of the world notwithstanding, all continues to go according to His plan.
Given the unbeliever’s explanation of uncontrolled chaos, Bible prophecy isn’t all that depressing, after all. What WOULD be depressing would be to be among the lost, not knowing what this world is coming to, and believing the world is in a state of uncontrolled chaos.
For the believer, Bible prophecy can be pretty encouraging, which is what the Lord intended for the last days’ Church all along:
“But these things have I told you, that WHEN THE TIME SHALL COME, ye may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:4)