Wars and rumors of war
6 You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. (Matt. 24:6-8 NASB)
The other day I drove by the Guelph cenotaph, our memorial to fallen soldiers of the first and second world wars, and the Korean war. Three wars and the lives lost were commemorated at this location. In my mind I started to recount all the wars that Canada has been part of. Since I have family members who were in the armed forces, I knew of places like Afghanistan and Kosovo, but I just had to research and find out. So, I found myself on the government of Canada website, where there is a list of 400 hundred different missions in which Canada has assisted in some capacity in the last 70 years or so…FOUR HUNDRED!!!
The scripture for today, spoken by Jesus to His disciples, reminds us that people have a hard time getting along with each other. Political unrest, national turmoil, and disputes between nations is commonplace in a world of sinners who are greedy for power and wealth. No one knows this better than Jesus, the One who created the world and the people in it. Remember the very beginning, where two brothers ended up in a fight and Cain killed Abel - the human heart is deceitfully wicked. We are selfish creatures full of envy, always jealous of what our brother has. This is at the heart of every war – even the war in Ukraine. Lest you think I am hyperbolising, let’s bring it down to our local level. We have a war on drugs, a war on terrorism, gang wars in our major cities, wars between family members, bitter feuds between husbands and wives who once loved each other, and dare I say it…wars between “Christians” over doctrinal issues and the color of church carpet. Every denomination started out of a dispute over doctrine.
So the words of Jesus are true - wars and rumors of who is angry with who are and will always be….but this is NOT the end! Actually, the existence of wars and rumors of war is not a good indicator of the return of Christ…this is what is meant by Jesus’ words. What Jesus is really saying in this passage is that these “false messiahs” He just finished talking about, will mislead you to believe that every war is a sign of the return of Jesus. But Jesus says that this is not a sign since there are always wars going on all the time, everywhere. Verse 6 is so clear – because of the amount of self-proclaimed doomsday prophets and false christs that exist and will always exist, “you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars”. Actually, all through human civilization there have been “nations rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom” and there have been “famines and earthquakes”. I was not around in 1918, nor have I spoken to anyone who was, but I can just imagine the religious scene and the prophets out on the streets preaching the return of Jesus, due to the fact that there was the global first world war happening, plus a global pandemic in the Spanish flu, plus a looming economic depression only a few years away. Remember how Jesus starts the answer to the questions the disciples ask Him in verse 3, “Watch out that no one deceives you” (vs. 4 NIV). There is the potential to be misled by the false christs who capitalize on world events, causing fear and alarm for believers. Jesus actually says, “see that you are not frightened” (vs.6). The reality is it has been two thousand years since the first advent of Messiah Jesus. In this period there have been thousands of wars around the world, thousands of earthquakes and famines, even 2,000 years of Christian persecution. There are more pertinent signs of the return of Christ, like when the gospel is finally preached in the whole world…then the end will come (vs. 14). We really need to focus on the things we are sure of, like the necessity of “enduring to the end” (vs. 13), and being faithful to preach the gospel of the kingdom. We are to “be alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (vs.42); and we are to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not think He will” (vs.44); we are to be “faithful and sensible slaves serving our Master till He comes (vs. 45-46). Finally, the “beginning of birth pangs” are a sign that the baby is coming, but they do not tell you when. Many have gone into the hospital thinking the pains were a sign the baby was on its way, only to find out that it was a false alarm and delivery was yet days and even weeks away. What Jesus wants for His disciples is that they remain calm and not get wrapped up in the claims of the false prophets. When that happens, our focus comes off of Jesus and His mission, and unto an unhealthy focus on His return. Friends, as His return approaches…we will know; not by wars and rumors of wars, nor by earthquakes and famines, but by other sure signs we will look into in the coming weeks. Till then, let’s be occupying till He comes!
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