104 End of the Age: Wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes

Part 4 of a Bible study course on End Times

(Jesus continued:) Matthew 24:6 And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.   8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

Historical fulfillment – Wars: the Roman Empire was at peace since Augustus inaugurated an Age of Peace in 17BC. But when Nero came to power, this all changed. A series of events began which fulfilled Jesus’ prophecies made about 36 years earlier to the letter. There was war with Parthia, war in Britain, and the Jewish rebellion started 66AD.

Famines: Immediately preceding Nero’s reign many died in a huge famine affecting the whole Roman Empire.

Earthquakes: During Nero’s reign there were earthquakes in Laodicea, Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Hierapolis, Colossae, Campania, Judea itself, and Rome.

Persecution: the early church historian, Eusebius, wrote “First they [the Jews] stoned Stephen to death; then James the son of Zebedee and the brother of John was beheaded; and finally James, the first after our Saviour’s Ascension to be raised to the bishop’s throne there, lost his life in the way described, while the remaining apostles, in constant danger from murderous plots, were driven out of Judaea.” (Eusebius) The Book of Acts gives the history of persecution suffered by the early Christians. [1]

Modern-day fulfillment – Wars: it may seem the world has been largely at peace since WWII but research shows that the number of conflicts between pairs of states rose steadily from 6 per year on average between 1870 and 1913 to 17 per year in the period of the two World Wars, 31 per year in the Cold War, and 36 per year in the 1990s (Harrison). So in fact there are ever-increasing wars and rumours of wars today.

Famines: many of us in the developed world may think there is no need to worry about hunger in today’s modern, technological world, but we would be mistaken. (See Box 6)

Diseases: with modern travel, and the growth of cities with huge populations, the potential for massive world pandemics grows ever greater.                     

Earthquakes:  many reports suggest increases in the level of earthquakes in recent years.

Persecution:  In our time, which is considered by many as an age of religious toleration, many are being persecuted for their Christian faith. Christians are being persecuted or killed in 68 countries today (Global report, 2017) according to data from Voice of the Martyrs, an advocacy organisation for persecuted Christians. For example, in India Christians have been murdered by extremist Hindus. On average, more than 15 Christians were physically attacked every week in India in 2016 (Open Doors UK, 2016).

“Since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came into power in 2014, radical Hinduism has increased steadily. There are anti-conversion laws to prevent people from leaving Hinduism in five states, and there have been efforts to impose such a law at a national level. Some of those who have left Hinduism to follow Jesus have been attacked and even killed by their own parents”. – Open Doors report

The Middle East has been a hotspot for persecution of Christians recently. Many of us will remember the TV footage of 20 Egyptian nationals in red jumpsuits lined up to be executed by black hooded jihadists, who killed them by slitting their throats. The final moments were not shown on our TV screens, but videos including the final barbaric end were obtained by Egyptian Christians. These Christians told us what the world’s press did not: all 20 died proclaiming the name of Jesus, and expressing confidence in His eternal salvation. Persecution and killing of Christians is alive and well in the 21st century.

 

Questions

  1. List the five scriptural signs of His coming that Jesus spoke of here.
  2. What are some ways we can see these signs in the world today?
  3. Are there any more ways you can see these signs in today’s world that are not listed in the lesson?
  4. What are some ways the signs were fulfilled in the first century?
  5. How do you feel about the signs of His coming in today’s world? Joyful? / Anxious? / Don’t believe the signs are there at the moment? / Other?
  6. What will you do as a result of doing this study?

 

 

References                                  

2015, Stevens. [Online]

Eusebius. The History of the Church 3.5.

Global report. 2017. Global report. Voice of the Martyrs. [Online] 2017. http://www.persecution.com/pdfs/Global_Report_2017.pdf.

Harrison, Mark. [Online]                          

Open Doors UK. 2016. World watch list. Open Doors UK. [Online] 2016. [Cited: Feb 26, 2017.] http://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/worldwatch/india.php.



[1] See Acts 4:3; 23-30; 6:11-15; 7:54-60; 8:1-3; 9:23-25; 12:1-5; 13:45-46; 14:5-6, 19-22; 16:20-24; 17:5-9; 13-14; 19:28-34; 21:27-36; 22:22-24; 23:12-22; 26:21-23