Matthew 24:3-5: As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
As we continue to look at the signs of the end of the age that Jesus gave us in Matthew chapter 24, let’s review the first two signs. First, Jesus tells his disciples that many false teachers will appear and deceive many people. Jesus warns that many of these false teachers will come “in my name” (Mt. 24:4), which indicates that many of these false teachers will be those who pretend to preach the Gospel message of Christ. This danger is clearly observed in those teachers and ministers today who water down the Gospel message in order to not offend anyone or those who believe that prosperity is somehow linked to faith. Jesus clearly teaches that the Gospel message is counter-cultural, and as followers of Christ, we should not compromise our beliefs in order to be accepted by the world that we live in.
Matthew 24:6-7a (NIV)
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
The second sign was that of wars and rumors of wars occurring across the globe. Jesus teaches that such things must occur but it should not cause us to worry excessively or to try and predict that a certain war points to the end of time. There are other prophecies or conditions that must exist before the “end will come” (Mt. 24:14). Christians must remain level-headed and committed to leading others to faith and salvation through Christ.
Matthew 24:7b-8: There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
The BBC reported in an article from February 1, 2014 that a third of South Sudan’s population is in urgent need of food, according to the UN. The ongoing civil conflict/war there has resulted in 3.7 million people trying to avoid starvation. There is obviously a connection between war and famine, especially in South Sudan and many other countries around the world.
These numbers however, pale in comparison to some of the largest famines in world history, some of which number between 20 and 36 million people dead of starvation. As Christians, our efforts and focus should be on how to best help those people in need. Remember the commandment of Jesus from Matthew 24:35? “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
The following link is to a map of world famines in the 21st century. Countries such as North Korea, Somalia, Burma, Guatemala, Niger, Darfur, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan are mentioned. We also again notice the connection between war and hunger.
While we can certainly point out large numbers of deaths due to earthquakes and tsunami’s in recent years, we also must realize that these things have been occurring throughout time and we must be careful to not read too much into events of the present day. Just today for example, 54 earthquakes have already been logged around the world ranging from a magnitude of 1.6 to 6.0.
Are famines and earthquakes increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same during our present day and age? I could cite different statistics that could make an argument for both sides but I don’t think we really need to concern ourselves with any of those arguments. There were earthquakes and famines in Jesus’ day, in Antioch and Palestine. Luke writes about a famine during the reign of Claudius in Acts 11:28: One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) There are also references to earthquakes in AD 37,42, and 115 in Syrian Antioch, where Matthew may have written his Gospel. (Source: Matthew: A Commentary, Frederick Dale Bruner, p.481)
Are famines and earthquakes increasing in intensity? If they are, it should serve as a reminder to Christians to be even more urgent in declaring the Gospel message of Christ to a lost and dying world. While we will never to able to end all of the world’s suffering, we must be resolved to lead others to the saving grace of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation through Christ will lead to eternal life – a blessed life free from war, hunger, pain, and suffering.
Matthew 24:8: All these are the beginnings of birth pains.
This statement from Jesus helps us to understand that wars and other natural and social disasters are going to occur throughout the course of time. It becomes dangerous to read too much into any one event as a sign of the end of time. It seems to me that Jesus is trying to give us the encouragement and comfort that we need to face such things. Although things may get worse before they get better, Jesus wants us to know that there will eventually be a day when all things will be brought under God’s control. There will be a day when God’s kingdom will be the only kingdom left and peace will reign forever – throughout all eternity.
Our faith in Christ and our willingness to profess our belief in Christ are the most important actions that we can undertake as believers. The Church must continue to teach, preach, and live out the Gospel message of Christ. We must remain true to Christ in every aspect of our lives as we carry the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. Will you be ready to meet the Lord at that unexpected moment of his Second Coming?