A topic recently reviewed in this Signs of the Times column was the prophecy of “earthquakes in divers places” (Matthew 24:7, KJV). Our conclusions with respect to their likely timing did trigger quite a few responses from readers. As such, we endeavored to publish a more in-depth study on the Bible’s portrayal and usage of earthquakes. It is an interesting subject. For instance, did you know that the earthquakes mentioned in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) are not the same as the 5 major earthquake events mentioned in the Revelation? Look for these articles in the Midnight Call issues of July and August, where they will appear first.
In the Olivet prophecies there are named several other phenomena. When the disciples asked Christ, “When shall these things be?” He said the following:
““And ye shall hear of wars and rumors 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: 6-8, KJV)
All three accounts of the Olivet Discourse or portions thereof (span style=”mso-font-kerning:14.0pt”>found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21) confirm the occurrence of earthquakes, war, rumors of war, pestilences and nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms. Crucially, we observe that war-related events figure very prominently. But just when will these times of strife occur?
Before answering this question, we must first outline two important points: To begin, it is essential to note that Christ clearly partitions his prophecies into three separate time periods: 1. That which is before the “end” comes (“the end is not yet”); 2. the beginning of the end, which is referred to as the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:9); and 3. the time that comes thereafter (events described from Matthew 24:9 and Mark 13:9 onwards).
These periods correspond to the time leading up to the Tribulation Period, the first half of the Tribulation (42 months) and the next 42 months, often referred to as the Great Tribulation.
Next, we must therefore notice that “war” is mentioned in two different contexts: Firstly, these occur as the “hearing of wars and rumors of wars” before the end comes (namely, before the Tribulation period starts) and also as “nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” during the time of sorrows, this being at a later time during the first part of the Tribulation.
Just what is the difference between “hearing of wars, and rumors of wars” and the advent of “nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”? Moreover, if wars always occurred down through history, just when do wars now become markers of the time before the Tribulation is to start? This all seems puzzling.
The main distinction that we can draw between the two periods is that in the first stage, wars and rumors thereof are mainly only being heard about. There obviously are wars and strife occurring, whether between individual countries or alliances, but these are mainly the subject of “hearing.” That suggests a period where international news has become the norm. At any one period of time, more people are hearing about wars than there are countries and people actually participating in them. Moreover, there is likely a higher frequency of the “rumors of war.”
Later, during the first half of the Tribulation, the situation changes markedly. Now, the general condition is that nations and kingdoms are rising against each other. These wars no longer need to be mostly “heard” about or reported because they are occurring everywhere, involving the entire world. This corresponds with the period of the second seal when the rider on the red horse takes peace away from the world. “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword” (Revelation 6:4).
It appears reasonable to conclude that the general state of all the nations of the world at that time will be “war.”
Obviously, the world has not yet entered the Tribulation period. While our newspapers around the world today are full of “rumors of war,” a general state of war involving the majority of nations does not yet exist.
But, can we deduce that “rumors of war” today are increasing, thereby signifying that the time before the Tribulation is ever shorter? A recent study of this topic indeed concludes that the incidence of war has been steadily rising worldwide, at least over the last 130 years or so. Published by Mark Harrison and Nikolaus Wolf of the University of Warwickand Humboldt University, respectively, the conclusion of this study is contrary to that of many other such studies in recent decades.
While the authors state that “many indicators of interstate conflict have been flat or declining for decades or longer […] there has been a steady upward trend in the number of bilateral conflicts over 130 years.” The chart on the front page of this issue of EVR has been reproduced from this study and shows bilateral wars increasing by an average rate of 2% per annum during this period.
Why is their conclusion so different? The analysts count conflicts between pairs of nations, not only wars that may involve multiple nations. As an example, World War II, will have accounted for many dozens of bilateral conflicts as nations declared wars against many others separately. The main reason, however, that wars have increased is because of the growth in the number of sovereign nations over the period of study (from 50 to more than 180). With the emergence of a globalized media industry, “rumors of war” have surely increased as no other time.
World affairs we observe today very much meet the condition of “hearing of wars and rumors of wars.” Not only are there today many more nations in the world that can have spats and taunts against each other, there is also a rising incidence of actual wars as well as a media explosion.