On pestilences – the beginning of sorrows

by Arlen Chitwood

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 rumors 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 PESTILENCES, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:4-8).

“False Christs, wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes are ever in the news today. But the reference in Matthew 24 is specifically to events in days ahead, events during the Tribulation. The stage is being set today for events which are about to occur, as revealed in the opening verses of the Olivet Discourse. The end of the age is the matter at hand throughout these opening verses, in keeping with the disciples’ questions (v. 3); but the sign of the end of the age is not given until near the conclusion of the Jewish section of the discourse (vv. 29, 30). The “end” in verse 6 is the same “end” referred to in verses 13 and 14 – the end of the age, or the end of the Tribulation. This is synonymous with the “end” or “consummation” in Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Dan. 9:26,27). Although verses 4-8 describe events which will actually exist throughout the Tribulation, the specific reference is to events during the first part of this period only. Note verse 6: “… but the end is not yet.” The specific events described here will occur at a time during the Tribulation which precedes the actual time of the end. Verses 9-14 then continue from this point and provide information concerning events throughout the remainder of the Tribulation. Note the concluding statement in this section: “… then shall the end come.” Here we have events which not only occur during the Tribulation but lead up to the end of this period, the end of the age. Actually, verses 4-8 depict events which will occur during the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation, and verses 9-14 depict events which will occur during the last three and one-half years of the Tribulation. The expression “the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8), as will be shown, is peculiarly related to Israel during the Tribulation, pointing to climactic events which will occur both in the middle and at the end of this seven-year period. Verses 4-8 carry one to the time of the first of these two climactic events (in the middle of the Tribulation), and verses 9-14 pick up at this point and carry one through to the time of the second of these two climactic events (at the end of the Tribulation). Verses 4-14, thus, cover major related events pertaining to Israel from the beginning to the end of the Tribulation. The entire scope of the matter is revealed in these verses, but with very little detail. Then, verses 15-26 drop back and cover the same time period as verses 9-14, providing additional details concerning a number of events which will occur in the middle and during the last half of the Tribulation.

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