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And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:6–8)


It is not uncommon to hear Christians saying that we are living in the end times. World news is full of wars and rumors of wars, and Christians often will mention Matthew 24:6 when talking about these wars as if this passage predicted such. Whenever the news reports famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, Christians knowingly think of verse 7. But, in these three verses Jesus is not making predictions about our times or the time just before His Second Coming—wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes have been with us for the past 2000 years; this is nothing new.

Jesus told His disciples these things must come to pass, but they do not signify the end. In Matthew and Mark the words of Jesus are “but the end is not yet;” Luke writes, “but the end will not come immediately.” These things are only the beginning of sorrows. So, of what time is Jesus speaking that will be concerned with wars and rumors of war, etc.? Luke writes in 21:12, “But before these things [that wars and rumors of war, etc.] they will lay their hands on you and persecute you.” There must be a persecution of the church before the things Jesus predicts. Jesus prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem beginning in verse 15 of Matthew 24 (Mark 13:14, Luke 21:20), so we are given to understand that these wars and rumors of war, etc., take place between the beginning of the persecution of the church and the destruction of Jerusalem.




The persecution of the church began shortly after the Day of Pentecost with the death of Stephen as recorded in Acts 8:1, “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

The martyrdom of Stephen happened approximately 36 a.d. and a general persecution of the church by the Jews immediately followed. The things of which Jesus speaks in verses 6–8 of His Discourse take place during the 34 year period between the beginning of the persecution and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d.




Where there wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes during that 34 year period? Dr. Albert Barnes comments on these events in his Notes on the New Testament.


Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. At Cæsarea, the Jews and Syrians contended about the right to the city, and twenty thousand of the Jews were slain. At this blow the whole nation of the Jews was exasperated, and carried war and desolation through the Syrian cities and villages. Sedition and civil war spread throughout Judea; Italy was also thrown into civil war, by the contests between Otho and Vitellius for the crown.


And there shall be famines. There was a famine foretold by Agabus, Acts 11:28, which is mentioned as having occurred, by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius; and which was so severe in Jerusalem, Josephus says, that many people perished for want of food, Ant. 20, 2. Four times in the reign of Claudius, (AD 41–54,) famine prevailed in Rome, Palestine, and Greece.


Pestilences. Raging, epidemic diseases. The plague, sweeping off multitudes of people at once. It is commonly the attendant of famine, and often produced by it. A pestilence is recorded as raging in Babylonia, AD 40, (Joseph. Ant. 18, 9, 8) in Italy, AD 66, (Tacitus, 16, 13.) Both of these took place before the destruction of Jerusalem.


Earthquakes. In prophetic language, earthquakes sometimes mean political commotions. Literally, they are tremors or shakings of the earth, and often shaking cities and towns to ruin. The earth opens, and houses and people sink indiscriminately to destruction. Many of these are mentioned as preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. Tacitus mentions one in the reign of Claudius, at Rome; and says that, in the reign of Nero, the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse, were overthrown; and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed, and almost destroyed by an earthquake, Annales, 15, 22. Others are mentioned as occurring at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos.


In addition to the wars and rumors of wars mentioned by Matthew and Mark, Luke adds in verse 11 “and there will be fearful signs and great signs from heaven.” Again, these signs are in advance of the fall of Jerusalem. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus made a record of some of the strange happenings that took place in Jerusalem during that time. Dr. Barnes relates some of these strange and ominous things as he quotes from Josephus.


Josephus, who had probably never heard of this prophecy, and who certainly would have done nothing designedly to show its fulfillment, records the prodigies and signs which he says preceded the destruction of the city. A star, says he, resembling a sword, stood over the city, and a comet that continued a whole year. At the feast of unleavened bread, during the night, a bright light shone round the altar and the temple, so that it seemed to be bright day, for half an hour. The eastern gate of the temple, of solid brass, fastened with strong bolts and bars, and which had been shut with difficulty by twenty men, opened in the night of its own accord. A few days after that feast, he says, “before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.” A great noise, as of the sound of a multitude, was heard in the temple, saying, “let us remove hence.” Four years before the war began, Jesus the son of Artanus, a plebeian and a husbandman, came to the feast of the tabernacles, when the city was in peace and prosperity, and began to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegroom and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” He was scourged, and at every stroke of the whip he cried, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”—This cry he says, was continued every day for more than seven years, till he was killed in the siege of the city, exclaiming, “Woe, woe to myself also.”—Jewish Wars, B. vi. ch. V.


In verses 9–14 of Matthew’s account (Mark verses 9–13; Luke verses 12–19) Jesus tells His disciples of more things pertaining to the coming persecution and how they should respond to it. These things, which are clearly seen in the Book of Acts, include such things as more tribulation and persecution, betrayals by false brethren, more false prophets, an increase in lawlessness and the love of many growing cold.

People often make reference to what Jesus says here as proof that we are reaching the end of time in our days. However, these signs are not new to our days; they have existed throughout the past 2000 years of the church age and up to the time Jesus does return.

Jesus gave His disciples good counsel in Luke 21:19 concerning these things; He said, “By your patience possess your souls.” The Amplified Bible has: “By you steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls.” Do not be distracted by these events or any importance a false prophet may place on an event. Events such as these will happen. Our responsibility is to stay true to the gospel of salvation Christ brought, live a holy life, and be sure to make heaven in the end.

The news is full of terror, wars, plagues, and all sorts of things; and, whenever something happens in the Middle East, hordes of prophecy teachers jump on the bandwagon almost with delight in spreading waves of fear and doom. They couch it in millennial terms and in a manner as to imply they have a special gift of prophecy from God. “Listen to me; I am the one who has figured this out!” And then they add that they need you to send them money so they can continue this Holy Ghost ministry and spread the word of warning.




Jesus said the persecutions and the wars and rumors of wars are only the beginnings of sorrows. He ends His remarks in Matthew at verse 14 with a statement of what will actually be the last sign before the end comes. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Again, this statement is often taken in the context of the end of the world rather than the end of Jerusalem.  After His resurrection, Jesus commanded the church to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15). This has been the missionary cry throughout the church age, and we have heard it proclaimed loudly in our lifetimes. The Wycliffe Bible Translators take this command most seriously and have translated the Bible, or portions of the Bible, into all but very few languages and dialects. There is not a people on the face of the earth that cannot have God’s word in a language they can understand. However, our world is rapidly approaching a condition where the gospel is being rejected and missionaries are no longer able to work in foreign lands. While mission work still is being done, the days of free access to unchurched lands may be passed. Are we, then, approaching the end?

The end of which Jesus speaks in His Discourse is not the literal end of the world, but the end of Jerusalem. When was this prophecy of preaching the gospel to all the world fulfilled so that the end came? The answer is found in Acts 2:5, on the Day of Pentecost when “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.” The first act of the church upon its empowerment by the Holy Spirit was to preach the gospel of the kingdom to devout Jews that had come to Jerusalem from across the world. Many would receive the gospel and take it home with them. In Acts chapter 8, we see that when persecution came on the church in Jerusalem, the saints scattered and went everywhere preaching the word. The Book of Acts records the rapid growth of the church and the spread of the gospel across Asia Minor to Europe as far as Rome. History continues the marvelous record of that growth. In Acts 17:6 we read that in Thessalonica, the charge was made against the church, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”




The things of which Jesus speaks in verses 6–14 of Matthew 24 are certainly evident in our time, and it is not unusual that they should be. But let us keep them in the context of the Olivet Discourse and understand that the end of which He speaks is not the end of time, but the end of Jerusalem. The things He mentions are merely the beginning of sorrows; sorrows, not just for the disciples and the church, but the great calamity that soon falls on Jerusalem and Judea.