Mark 13:7,8: "And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains." These teachings took place by Jesus on the Mount of Olives. He had been asked about what will happen before the world ends. Yesterday, we saw Jesus' emphasis on false prophets arising. Many will claim that they are he. There will be great deception from people. Jesus' disciples will need to "test the spirits" to see if they will admit that Jesus is God to give evidence whether they are telling the truth or not (I John 2:22; 4:2,3). Then he continued with more signs that must occur before the end:
1. There will be wars and rumors of wars. They will always be present throughout history. But they will increase in frequency before his return. In the 20th century, there were more human wars than all human history combined! We can't open the newspaper without seeing more potential threats and rumors about more wars. Jesus said not to be alarmed when we hear or read about them. God is sovereign over them all. It's part of the plan. They must take place.
2. Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. This is a part of the "war" scenario. Nations will rattle sabres against other nations. One will become more powerful than the other and make threats of conquest and war.
3. There will be earthquakes in various places. Earthquakes have always been a part of human history. Jesus implied here that they will start to occur with even greater frequency during the end times. Contemporary people have seen this increase in frequency.
4. There will be famines. The amount of land worldwide that is slowly but surely becoming desert is alarming. The amount of poverty being caused by famine worldwide is causing grave concern among world leaders.
Jesus said that when you see all these signs, "These are the beginning of the birth pains." The end is not yet. But the increase in frequency and duration of these events, like a woman in labor delivering a child, signal the end is coming soon.
How should followers of Jesus respond to these events as they clearly unfold before our eyes?
1. We are to draw close to him. The One who created the world oversees the world. We should therefore fear nothing.
2. We are to live each day as if today is the day he will come. Should he come today, he will find us living in a way that is pleasing to him.
3. We are to live excitedly and joyously! The wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines will not last forever. They will end. Eventually the child comes. And, like a mother giving birth to a child, when the little one is placed on the stomach, she quickly forgets all the distress. We will quickly forget all our trials the moment we see Jesus face to face. All hurt, pain and conflict will dissolve into a glorious joy in his presence.
Jesus will return. The end of the world will come. But certain signs must first happen. As they do, we continue to worship the God who created all "in the beginning" (Genesis 1:1) and will end all at the perfect time he has already decided.
All praise and honor, glory and power to our risen King who is in charge of everything, the good and the bad!