Day 208: Matthew 24:6-8

You are going to hear the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away; but do not be troubled. Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come. Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be famines and earthquakes everywhere. All these things are like the first pains of childbirth.

[This is the one of 15 scriptures in which Jesus provides his disciples with some details about the Second Coming of Christ.  For more on the Second Coming see Day 150.  For more on the Messiah see Day 145.  For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]

For some reason people in America are fixated on the “end of the world.”   Every time there is a war, famine, or earthquake I hear someone predicting that it’s a sign the end is at hand.  But here Jesus says, “Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come.”  He says that these things are like the first pangs of childbirth, which can start well in advance of the actual birth of the baby.  He is not saying that these things are signs. He is saying that they are NOT signs.  They are like false labor.

So this is the third clue: Clue #3:  There will be wars, famines, and earthquakes.  This means nothing.  Jesus says these things are normal and should be ignored.

One thing that jumps out at me is the part about wars and famines.  These go together like peanut butter and jelly.   In ancient times famines were usually caused by weather conditions.  Nowadays weather may be a contributing factor, but to get a really bad famine going you have to have war or social upheaval.  Here are some examples:

  • 1998-2004    3.8 million die of starvation during Second Congo War
  • 1998            70,000 die in Sudan War and ensuing famine
  • 1991-1992    300,000 die in Somalia famine caused by drought and civil war
  • 1984-1985    400,000 die in Ethiopian famine caused by drought and civil war
  • 1975-1979    2 million Cambodians die of famine and murder during Vietnam War
  • 1967-1970    1 million civilians die of war and starvation during Biafra’s war with Nigeria
  • 1959-1961    As many as 45 million Chinese die of famine when private agriculture is abolished during the “Great Leap Forward” initiative.
  • 1947  Soviet Famine of 1947 during the Communist takeover results in over a million deaths
  • 1944-1945    2.4 million die of starvation in Java during World War II
  • 1941-1944    1 million die of famine and war during a 900 day blockade by German troops

These are just a few examples.  War results in the disruption of agriculture, transportation, and commerce.  And starvation ensues.   A country can’t produce food if everyone is fighting or running away from the fighting.  It can’t produce food if the farmers are dead.  The first year they eat the seed, and the next year there is nothing to plant.  The next year there is no food so they starve.

So anyway Jesus says that there will be wars and famines and earthquakes.  These are horrible events, but Jesus says not to panic.  These are not signs that the end has come.  He says that this is not what the end of the world will look like.

YarmoukIt may not be the end of the world, but it certainly must feel like it to the people who have to suffer from these things.  I just saw a report a couple of weeks ago that 18,000 people at the Yarmouk refugee camp are starving because fighting related to the Syrian civil war has interrupted food deliveries.  I haven’t seen anything about this on the news because it’s not news.  It’s too normal to be on the news.

This may be normal but it shouldn’t be.  I repeat, this should NOT be normal!!  Earthquakes aren’t preventable but war and famine are.  Maybe if we actually start to show some sign that we are capable of resolving our differences sensibly it will be a sign that the end is coming.  The end of barbarianism, that is.

Jesus’ disciples have asked him how they will know when Jesus is about to return after his death and usher in the new age.  So far he hasn’t given them any specifics.  Tomorrow he will make a more specific prediction, but it’s probably not what they want to hear.

What does this scripture say to you?

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