By Merrill Olson
This world is experiencing different types of distress that are increasing in portion. With the virus crisis in China that has isolated it from the rest of the world to major earthquakes, volcanoes, and enormous wild fires in various places, it is leaving many in a mood of disarray. In China there is truly a sense of panic in finding a cure for the deadly virus that has attacked their country. Different agencies are, also, seeking to keep it from invading this country that can easily happen. There is a sense of urgency in how it can be eradicated.
Yet, God’s Word is not void in addressing the issue. Jesus spoke of wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences; these will be the birth pains presaging His return (Matt. 24:4-13; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-19). In fact, the characteristics that the Lord gives have taken place in every age including that of the church. There have always been upheavals in nature on a national and international level as well as strife between nations and false messiahs and religious persecution. They are nothing new since the fall of Adam and Eve when sin entered this world (Genesis 3; Romans 8:8-22). But these things are going to increase in intensity as the coming of the Lord Jesus draws near in His Second Coming.
However, the calamities Jesus mentions will take place during the seven year tribulation period when God pours out His wrath on the nations of the world. It will end when He returns to the earth as He defeats His foes and establishes His kingdom (Rev.19-20:6).
Therefore, as present catastrophes intensify and increase, they are merely shadows of the coming Tribulation period (Matt. 24:21) as the return of the Lord Jesus draws near.
For instance, in Matthew 24:6-8 Jesus speaks of “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8). Literally, it is “the beginning of birth pains.” They will include “wars and rumors of wars” along with “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (vv. 6-7). Many of these were familiar to the first century believers, and we are seeing their force today.
We are experiencing “wars and rumors of wars” in the Middle East as tensions escalate between Israel and Iran and Iran’s threats to destroy Israel. Recent tension has taken place between Iran and the United States. Nuclear threats are being made by North Korea. There have been earthquakes, floods, cyclones, tsunamis, and other disasters that have wiped out countless of people in a short time. We hear newscasts that reveal parts of Africa littered with starving men, women, and children. Mothers are pictured holding children lacking in food and dying of malnutrition.
We are also tragically seeing scores of believers being “deceived” as they follow false preachers and teachers (v. 24). Certain ones who once taught biblical truth are now falling away and teaching things that are counter to God’s Word. Are they really saved?
If all of these are mere shadows for the Lord’s Second coming, then the Rapture of His redeemed church first has to impart a sense hope and joy for His soon return. Even though dates must not be set, it still reminds us to keep looking up (Titus 2:13).
Merrill Olson served as a senior pastor for thirty-four years. He received a B.S. from Minnesota State University-Mankato, an M. Div. from Bethel Theological Seminary, and a D. Min. from Columbia Evangelical Seminary. He is currently involved as an interim pastor along with a teaching and writing ministry. His emphasis is on apologetics and training believers to defend their faith in Christ from God’s Word. He is well versed in Bible prophecy as it pertains to end times. He is a gifted speaker with the conviction that only by the Word of God can people experience inward transformation by the Holy Spirit. He and his wife, Jan, reside in Minnesota and have two daughters and four delightful grandchildren.
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