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Revealing The Beginning of Sorrows

"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours 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 pestilence's, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the BEGINNING OF SORROWS." (Matthew 24:3-8.)

The twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew comprise what is commonly called by theologians the Olivet Discourse. This prophetic discourse by Jesus was prompted by two questions asked by His disciples as He sat down on Mt. Olivet. These two questions are:

(1). When shall these things be?

(2). What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

  The two questions asked by the disciples were the result of Jesus' reference to the destruction of the Temple, and the benediction of His Temple address, "...Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matthew 23:39)

There are only two question marks in verse 3, so there are only two questions. The signs of Christ's coming and signs of the end of the world mean the same thing. As far as the first question is concerned, we can all but eliminate it as far as the account of the Olivet Discourse recorded by Matthew is concerned. It is the general consensus of prophetic scholars that the first question is answered in Luke. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost wrote on page 376 of Things to Come: "The answer to the first question is not recorded by Matthew, but is given in (Luke 21:20-24.)" Dake's Annotated Reference Bible and many other sources I could quote give the same explanation.

The reason we do not find the answer to the first question in Matthew is that he was commissioned by God to record the ministry of Jesus from the Jewish covenant position. As far as the dispensation of grace is concerned from an Old Testament projection, it always appears as a gap when looking forward to the messianic age.

For example, in (Daniel 9:26-27), the order of prophetic events for Israel leading to the kingdom skips from the cutting off of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem to the Tribulation period, completely ignoring the dispensation of grace as though it would never be. This period is described as "the breach" between God and Israel during the Diaspora. (Isaiah 30)

Matthew, writing from a Jewish covenant relationship with God, does not infringe upon the church age. Luke had no such restrictions, so in his account of the Olivet Discourse he speaks of the "times of the Gentiles" and the treading down of Jerusalem. Therefore, we can consider all of the remarks by Jesus in (Matthew 24 and 25) to be directed specifically to the time of His second coming.

Jesus signified by word and deed that He would relinquish His claim to this planet for a time, but that He would come again to reclaim it. So the disciples asked Him to give the signs whereby it might be known that His coming and the end of the world was near. The word in the Greek for "world" used here is aion, which means the end of the age, or the end of a generation.

The second place we find the word "world" used in (Matthew 24:13-14): "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."

The word in the Greek for "world" used by Jesus here is not aion, but oikoumene, or "economy" in our English language. It includes the economic system of the world, but in the original text it means much more. The word "economy" in our text means all the inhabited world with all the systems of law, finance, government, and religion under which men live.

The qualification in verse 14 means that in the end of the age - when the gospel of the Kingdom is declared in all the world to all nations, races, and tongues, to men and women living under all kinds of governments and economic systems - whoever hears, believes, and endures to the end will be saved.

Jesus Christ was referring to the peculiar economies of the Tribulation, when every person in the world will be called upon to work, buy, and sell using the mark and number of anti-Christ. He who refuses this mark unto the end, even unto death, will be saved.

The third place we find Jesus referring to the world in the Olivet Discourse is in (Matthew 24:21): "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." The Greek word chosen here by our Lord to express precisely what He meant was neither aion nor oikoumene but cosmos. Cosmos means not only the world, but the ordered and structured universe, the entirety of God's creation, the basic unit of which is the atom.

This time of tribulation that Jesus spoke of will not suddenly come upon the world. The earth's inhabitants will not suddenly wake up one morning with the anti-Christ sitting in the Temple and his henchmen pounding on their doors demanding that they take his mark and number or be killed. This Great Tribulation is be preceded by a time in which the generation of that day will be given many signs that this judgement is near and the return of Jesus Christ is imminent.

Jesus called this time period preceding the Great Tribulation the "Beginning Of Sorrows." There are seven specific signs that Jesus said would be given to men on earth during this time period covered in our text. Seven is the number of completeness, and we shall consider them one by one in the order given.

Sign Number One - Liars and A Counterfeit Christianity

Jesus said in (Matthew 24:4), "...take heed that no man deceive you." This means that in the last days, men and women will distort the truth for gain, power, self interest, self promotion and self fulfillment. They are described in the Bible as false apostles, false believers, false ministers, false Christians -promoting a Counterfeit Christianity, perverting the word of God, by preaching a false gospel. This sign is also set forth by Paul for the last days of the church age. Therefore, the last days of the church age and the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows" overlap.

We read in (2 Timothy 3:1,13): "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come...evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

(2 Thessalonians 2:8-10) states: " And then shall that Wicked be revealed...Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved."

We read in (Revelation 13:14) that the False Prophet "...deceiveth them that dwell on the earth..."

God is truth; He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). Satan is a liar; he cannot tell the truth (John 8:44). The more sinful and satanic a generation becomes, the more the lie is accepted as truth. Truth becomes what people want to believe. Such is the norm today.

A government agency has been established to monitor truth in advertising. No profit making company is going to spend millions advertising a lie that a certain dandruff shampoo will make men sexy and attractive to women unless it gets results. Millions lie in filing income tax returns because it has become the smart thing to do. Government forms and thousands of investigators attempt to ferret out who is lying in order to receive medical benefits, tax refunds and welfare payments.

On the international front, good diplomacy involves which national representatives can tell the most believable lies. Since World War II, Russia is given credit for breaking sixty treaties with the United States.

In the 1998-99 investigations, court proceedings, and congressional investigations into the political and personal relationships of President Clinton, every congressman and senator acknowledged that he lied under oath, not once but many times. Yet, the Senate failed to confirm the impeachment action of the House of Representatives. Here was the leader of the United States and, as such, the most powerful man in the world, lying at will without any recriminations or consequences.

According to polls, if we can believe them, most Americans thought this was perfectly acceptable.

You might say, well, this was politics. However, in 1998 Broadman (the same as the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board) published a book by Richard Abanes. In this book there are  over forty lies and deceptions. There are many additional lies in the book about most well known pre millennial ministers and authors.

Even when we and others proved to the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board the specific lies in the book, no one at the organization was evidently disturbed. I have yet to receive an apology or a retraction. Southern Baptists are the largest non-Catholic convention of churches in the United States, and possibly in the world. Even in the religious spheres there is little, if any, distinction between a lie and the truth. Sign number One has appeared as Jesus declared, providing additional evidence that we are living in the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows."

There have always been liars, but Jesus indicated that at the time of His return the masses would rather be deceived by the lies of a Counterfeit Christianity rather than hear the truth. This general attitude by the unregenerate world is setting the stage for anti-Christ who will deceive the world with "lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9).

Sign Number Two - False Christs

In (Matthew 24:5), Jesus said: "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."

Referred to in Revelations as the rider on the White Horse a false Christ who comes to conquer and deceive.

There have always been world messiahs since the days of Nimrod, but why will there be so many in the last days? The answer is that as Jesus said, there will be wars, rumours of wars, terrorisms, crime, famine, disease, earthquakes, social chaos, environmental problems, etc. The New Age promises a Maitreya; Islam is looking for the Mahdi; and the Jews are still looking for their Messiah. Sign number two has appeared as Jesus declared, providing additional evidence that we are living in the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows."

Messianic fervour is sweeping Israel to the extent that religious leaders are worried that rabbis are concerned they will receive a false Messiah.

An article in the March 9, 1991, edition of the Jerusalem Post quoted Rabbi Schach as saying the Temple would be rebuilt by 2003 to be ready for the Messiah.

Louis Farrakhan says that Jesus Christ was only a shadow of himself. Farrakhan says that he is the real Christ. False messiahs are rising up in every religion today, but according to Jesus, they will increase in number during the period of pre Tribulation sorrows.

Sign Number Three - Wars

Jesus also said that during this period called the "Beginning Of Sorrows" "ye shall hear of wars...For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Matthew 24:6-7).

Referred to in Revelations as the rider on the Red Horse who comes to bring war to the earth.

In the course of human history man has fought 4,535 wars, up to the last count, and 600 million men have been killed in these conflicts. Some people say in regard to this particular sign of the end of the age, "Oh, we have always had war." However, Jesus was stressing that at the time liars and deceivers would increase, and an unusual number of false Christs and false Christians would arise, there would be a corresponding rise in the number and intensity of wars.

Keep in mind that in all of history, 600 million people have been killed in war, and compare this statistic with the fact that half of these - 300 million casualties - have been in wars which occurred in the twentieth century.

In other words, there have been as many people killed in war since 1914 as in the previous 5,500 years. World War I and World War II eclipsed all previous wars in intensity, scope, and destruction. Today, without success, our diplomats are working feverishly to prevent World War III.

It is evident that when Jesus spoke of nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, He was not simply declaring the obvious, but pointing to something that would occur at the end of the age. Sign number three has appeared as Jesus declared, providing additional evidence that we are living in the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows."

Sign Number Four - Rumours of Wars

Jesus said that at the end of the age there would be world wars, and He provided an additional sign by saying there would be rumours of wars. In other words, the minds of men would be continually on war, and war would be used as a psychological weapon.

In (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3), Paul said that when the Day of the Lord would come, and the Tribulation night would fall, people would be talking about peace and safety even as destruction from war fell upon them. Every time we turn on the television or see the latest newspaper, there are reports of a new war, or a new war rumour.

It would appear that man has spent more hours in peace negotiations since the United Nations was established than in all of history previous to that time. Think of all the hours spent in peace conferences in Geneva, Paris, Camp David, Peking, Moscow, Cairo, Jerusalem, and in almost every nation. In recent years the U.N. has been holding conferences in Istanbul, Beijing, Cairo, and major cities around the world on such subjects as women's rights, children's rights, environmental control, disease prevention, sustainable development, etc. The U.N. is supposed to bring peace but it has become involved in major political and economic world matters.

 By "peace", as the Bible warns, many are deceived. The United Nations was formed as a result of the fear of war and a world cry for peace, but there is no peace. The nations will surrender their sovereignty to a world ruler who will promise peace, but sudden destruction will come in accordance with God's Word.

There are new rumours of terrorism and biological warfare. One hundred and twenty major cities in the United States are being targeted for instructions on biological war. There are also concerns about atomic weapons being smuggled into major cities. The great fear of war, and efforts to bring peace in our generation, are just more signs Jesus gave that we are living in the "Beginning Of Sorrows."

Sign Number Five - Famines and Droughts

The fifth sign that Jesus gave concerning a definite time period in the last days which He called the "Beginning Of Sorrows," was famines and droughts. We agree that there have always been famines, but as with the appearance of all the other signs in the last days, Jesus was not speaking of the ordinary course of human affairs. He was referring to a time of world droughts and famines that would surpass anything known before.

Referred to in Revelations as the rider on the Black Horse who comes to bring drought and famine to the earth.

 Over half of the world's population today lives in cities, solely dependent upon transportation and delivery systems for food and water. Only about five percent of the population in the United States even bothers to plant a garden; therefore, they have to depend entirely upon the local supermarket. This fact should strike horror at the thoughts of a war that will interrupt communications and transportation.

Famine is claiming millions in Africa, India, Iraq, and now even Russia fears massive starvation. Sign number Five has appeared as Jesus declared, providing additional evidence that we are living in the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows."

Scenes on nightly television show relief teams attempting to get food to starving people around the world. Major food sources are often hundreds or thousands of miles away from large cities. Along with droughts, comes fires, forest fires, bush fires all sorts of ecological and environmental disasters walk hand in hand with drought. There is major concern about the terrorist and war problems. Even FEMA has encouraged all citizens to stock up on extra food supplies and water in the event of a terrorist attack panic. Such reports are increasing, and will increase, until Jesus Christ returns and the desert blossoms as the rose.

Sign Number Six - Pestilences, Diseases and Plagues

Jesus also said of the last days that great pestilence's would arise. Of course, there have always been plagues, such as the bubonic plague that swept through Europe during the Middle Ages; smallpox epidemics, and we could mention many other deadly diseases that have been the scourge of mankind. Many point to the terrible flu epidemic that killed thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands during World War I, as a fulfilment of this particular sign. Today we have the spread of venereal diseases a curse of God upon mankind for exceeding sinfulness.

Referred to in Revelations as the rider on the Pale Horse who comes to bring pestilences, diseases and plagues to the earth.

 But even so, there must yet appear disease epidemics of such proportions that they will eclipse all these plagues. Disease epidemics always follow in the wake of famines. What if 100 million people in just India alone die of starvation? This would be equal to all the people in the United States west of the Mississippi River starving to death. We cannot begin to imagine the carnage, the filth, the contamination, and the spread of deadly diseases that would result. There would not be enough doctors or vaccination serum in the world to fight it. When we consider thirty or forty nations that have been added to the famine prospect list, the end results become staggering.

We must also consider the possibility of bacterial bombs in the arsenals of the nations of the world that will spread diseases and death over the face of the earth. For example, there is one type of toxin called Bacterium Clostridium Botulinum-Type A. Just one of these bacteria organisms will kill a man, only fourteen ounces (less than one pound) would be sufficient to eliminate the entire population of all nations.

 There is also a secondary ominous message in the warning of Jesus relating to disease epidemics in the last days. Our Lord said that His return would be as in the days of Noah, and we read that only Noah was perfect in his generation. We know that Noah was not perfect in the sense of sinless perfection, because he required God's grace (unmerited forgiveness). There must have been an unholy contamination of all flesh, with the exception of Noah and his household. We get a glimpse of this probability in (2 Peter and Jude).

The virus that causes herpes came in the wake of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Then the HIV virus that results in AIDS appeared in male perverts in the wake of the homosexual revolution in the late 1970s. According to a recent U.S. Department of Health report, now twenty percent of all whites and sixty-eight percent of all blacks carry the herpes virus.

 On a world basis, estimates now run as high as 50 million with the AIDS virus. No one to this date has survived more than a few years with AIDS. According to UNAIDS (1999 World Almanac) there are 60,000 new cases of AIDS each day, and between sixty percent and seventy percent of the populations of the nations of Sub Sahara Africa have AIDS.

One must also consider the fact that other common diseases, such as tuberculosis, are now resistant to our modern antibiotics and every day the list of these diseases grows larger. The rush to find new antibiotics and treatments is falling way behind. These diseases continually become more resistant to antibiotics and are proliferating - out of control.

Today we have The West Nile Virus sweeping through America and Canada, many more pestilences, diseases and plagues are blossoming on the horizon, such as the New SARS or BIRD FLU virus now sweeping China, South East Asia, Canada, the US and various other countries of the world. There have been 35 new diseases and virus's appear in the last several decades. The last Sign number Six has appeared as Jesus declared, providing additional evidence that we are living in the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows."

No one can intelligently deny that in these days there are unheard-of disease epidemics.

Sign Number Seven - Earthquakes

The seventh and final sign that Jesus mentioned in the first division of the Olivet Discourse was earthquakes. He said "...there shall be ...earthquakes, in divers places..."

 According to published statistics, in the 15th century there were 150 recorded earthquakes; in the 16th century 153 earthquakes; in the 17th century 378 earthquakes; in the 18th century 640 earthquakes; and in the 19th century there were 2119 recorded earthquakes. Statistics further indicate that in the 20th and 21st centuries there will be more recorded earthquakes than in the past 5,000 years. There have always been earthquakes, but Jesus was referring to an outbreak of earthquakes all over the world.

We would readily admit that part of the rate of increase in recorded earthquakes is due to improvements in scientific methods of detecting and recording tremors. But this factor in no way discounts the statistics that earthquakes are increasing in both number and intensity. Since 1917 the earthquake rate per year has climbed steadily. In (Ezekiel 38 and in Revelation), we read of the great earthquakes that are yet to come.

(Revelation 16:18,20) says:   "...and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great...And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found."

We read also in (Hebrews 12:26): "...Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven."

Every earthquake of 7.0 intensity in 1970 was recorded world-wide. The National Earthquake Information Centre on October 29, 1998, issued a report proving that in just 28 years, earthquakes of 7.0 on the Richter Scale, had doubled. An AP report of November 28, 1998, stated in part: "Violent weather has cost the world a record $89 billion this year, more money than was lost from weather related disasters in all of the 1980s..."

Yes, Jesus said that in the last days there would be earthquakes in divers places, and He said that all seven signs mentioned in the first division of the Olivet Discourse would be warnings that the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows" was upon he world, and the Great Tribulation was at hand.

Jesus said of these signs, "...when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors" (Matthew 24:33).

On television we actually see wars. The Persian Gulf conflict in early 1991 was called the "television war."Even every rumour of war is reported. And, we actually see earthquakes like the World Series earthquake in San Francisco, and we actually see men and women dying of famine and AIDS. Sign number Seven has appeared as Jesus declared, providing additional evidence that we are living in the time of the "Beginning Of Sorrows."

Surely, all these things are warnings that this world is on the very brink of the approaching Great Tribulation.

What Are Your Chances?

Some may say that they have heard these things all their lives: there has always been war, famine, an earthquakes. But Jesus gave seven definite signs, and the chance for all these signs to appear at one time in the manner described by our Lord is only 1 in 823,543.

But consider this: in the entire Olivet Discourse, Jesus gave 24 signs, and the chances of their coming to pass within a generation and in the order given is only 1 in 191 quintillions, which is 191 followed by eighteen zeros. Thus, if you don't believe that we are the Final Generation living in the end of the age, and you are putting off your salvation, think of the odds against you.

In (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) we read that God will save, Rapture, all those who obey the True gospel and are True Bible Believers. He shall keep them from having to go through the Great Tribulation, and the way is to obey the True gospel and by believing that Christ died for sins, and receiving Him into your heart as Lord and Saviour.

Let Us Pray Together--

PRAY: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be Baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN! 


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