by Les Young
When war, famine and even earthquakes are referred to as signs that the end-times are approaching, a common retort from the skeptic is, "These things have always been around." To this I would have to say, "You are right, but......" If there were no "but" it would make little wense to write this short article, but there is a "but."
Allow me to phrase it this way. In the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21) Jesus stated that there would be wars and rumors of wars, and that nation would rise up against nation. He also speaks of famine (sometimes caused by natural disaster; often a byproduct of war) and of earthquakes. In all three accounts of this discourse, Jesus allegorically compares these, and other events, to the birth pains of an expectant mother and/or the budding of a fig tree. In the one case, the baby is not far behind; in the other - summer is close at hand. So here's where the "but" comes in....
History tells us that these things have indeed happened on planet earth for thousands of years, BUT, it is only recently than man has been able to connect them to the birth pain/budding fig tree allegory. Jesus' words made little sense to the majority of the earth's population until the dawn of the last century. Record keeping and communications improvements have made it possible to: 1) record the frequency and intensity of these events, showing that indeed they are increasing; 2) communicate this information to the vast majority of the earth's population. These phenmomena can now be observed, as it were, within the context of Jesus' words. God is giving due warning.
As bad as these events have become, the bible assures us that they will get worse. There is a strong parallel between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6. When the first seal is opened, a false peace is ushered in by what appears to be a false Messiah. Immediately following that, there is war, famine and death. As the fourth seal is opened, we see that the death toll has reached 1/4 of the world's population. We have seen nothing like that yet. When the sixth seal is opened, nature seems out of control, and a "great earthquake" occurs.
These things are coming; the birth pain/fig tree allegory can be clearly seen; we have been warned. So what should we do? Peter says: 2 Peter 3:14, 17 (NIV)
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.