War, Famine, Pestilence, and Earthquakes

“FOR nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” (Matt. 24:7) These are the words of Jesus, answering a question asked by his disciples as they sat together on the Mount of Olives. It was toward the end of his ministry. He had informed his followers that he was to leave them and that he would later return. He was speaking of his coming again at the end of the Gospel Age. The disciples did not wish to have him come unrecognized, as so many had failed to recognize him at his first advent; so among other questions, they asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3) The Emphatic Diaglott translation gives a translation of the Greek text which is more easily understood: “What shall be the sign of thy presence, and of the consummation of the age?”

Our subject text is only part of the answer our Lord gave to the disciples’ questions, but in this text we are told some of the things which can be expected to occur at this time, for surely we are now living in the end time of the Gospel Age.

The story of the human family’s struggle for survival, of war, famine, pestilence, and earthquakes has been a sad one, reaching all down through the age. Now at this end of the social order of our world we have seen this prophecy of our Lord Jesus manifest its fulfillment in worldwide events.

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” is simply another way of saying that in the end of the age there will be world wars. Many who are alive today still remember the momentous events of the year 1914. While smaller conflicts had existed concurrently throughout the present dispensation, it was not until August, 1914, that a world war burst with all its fury upon the nations. Here for the first time airplanes were used in warfare to serve the military demands of both sides of the conflict. Ever since that time the airplane has been a destructive force in man’s inhumanity to man. The submarines also came into their own at this time as weapons of destruction. Both merchant ships and troop ships felt the wrath and destructive ability of this underwater foe. Thousands of ships were torpedoed, with great loss of life and material. On May 7, 1915, a German submarine sank the Lusitania. More than 1,100 persons drowned as an offering to the god of War.

The First World War did not prove, as the politicians had promised, to be “a war to end wars”; for nations have continued to “rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” with the development of ever greater power to destroy.

Famine has not been restricted to our day in history, but certainly it is still one of the sinister elements of our present time of trouble. Famine has helped spread the great enemy, disease. It is hard to separate famine, disease, and pestilence. These have united to give the Grim Reaper a big page in the fulfillment of prophecy. Those of us who live in a land of plenty, and who have the advantage of laws to protect us, in some degree, against the ravages of poverty, find it hard to believe what the statistics tell of the horrible loss of life by these three killers. Will food shortages in large areas of human population ever be overcome? And what about the disease that comes to so many through malnutrition? According to the Bible, the world has not yet seen the last of these cruel conditions, for our Lord prophesied that they will continue even until the end of the age.

It is true that these killers have been stalking the earth for centuries, but it is also true today that, in spite of great wealth and a superabundance of food in some areas, man has not been able to feed his brother man and properly share his abundance. And so Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, saw even worse times to come at the end of the age and told his followers, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”—Matt. 24:21,22

The recent earthquake in Guatemala, where thousands were killed and many thousands more were injured and disabled, reminded us again of the Lord’s prophecy concerning the shakings that will take place in various parts of the earth’s surface. In Guatemala not only were human lives snuffed out, but whole towns and villages were destroyed and the remaining populace left without sufficient food, water, or medical supplies.

The good people of the world unselfishly stepped in to supply needed aid, some at great personal sacrifice, and the others as a small token of gratitude for the blessings which they have received from a bountiful God. And people of good will are warmed in their heart when they see, or have a part in, the outpouring of unselfish desire to help those who are in need at times of great catastrophes. But whatever is done is only a drop in the bucket compared to the need that exists, not only in the case of Guatemala, but in so many places where war, famine, pestilence, and earthquakes visit the people of earth.

Who will feed the millions of hungry? The cause of hunger may be drought in Africa or famine in Bangladesh, an earthquake in Guatemala or the population explosion that makes more mouths to feed than there is food to do the job. A soaring demand for food is one of the great problems of the earth’s economy. The world’s food demand is straining the capacity of production for both farmers and fishermen. Certainly the United States has been able to export more than other food-exporting countries, but this has been possible because of mechanization in farming and hence bumper crops in this favored land. In spite of this, if we should have a year of severe drought, the lack of our ability to export would be felt around the world. Also, such a situation, which is easy to visualize, would put tremendous pressure on our government to make a choice as to which of the underproducing countries would get any surplus which may exist.

We are mindful of the fact that the hunger and increase of disease and pestilence which would accompany such a shortage in the world food supply could result in revolution and world disorder. So from the human viewpoint the future is not bright. But the human viewpoint is not the only viewpoint. There is also the divine viewpoint, and this presents to our minds a picture that is beautiful, for it is as bright as the promises of God. Our social order is sick because of the hatred and greed that has led to war and the rumors of war, sick because of the lack of desire of selfish men to meet the issues of famine and disease. Our economy is based upon seeking one’s own advantage and pleasure without regard to the well-being of others. The cure is not in the arm of flesh or in man’s wisdom. The cure for the grossly selfish conditions that exist in this end of our age rests in the hands of God.

God, our unselfish Father in heaven, has mapped out a procedure that will save the human family from going down to destruction. This procedure of recovery was planned long ago and has been well defined by the words “the divine plan of the ages.”

Our problems began in the Garden of Eden. Our first parents chose to disobey God. Father Adam, who represented us, ate of the forbidden fruit and heard those fateful words, “Thou shalt surely die,” and from Eden until now each succeeding generation has felt the effect of man’s fall from divine favor. Today, over six thousand years after his fall from the perfection of his original creation in the image and likeness of God, he is plagued with war, famine, pestilence; and besides these there are indeed earthquakes in various places.

But in the plan of God a Redeemer has been provided. Born in Bethlehem of Judea, Jesus was heralded as the Christ, the anointed of God. The report of his birth is recorded in Luke 2:9-14 and reads, “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The life, death by crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is indeed a promise that there will be “peace on earth”—a peace that will settle differences between nations and between individuals who have long been in conflict. But above the peace that will exist between these will be the greater peace that will be established when man will be reconciled to God to enjoy the fellowship with his Creator which he lost in Eden, and enjoy the peace which comes from being obedient to the laws of God.

Many prophecies tell us of the time when nation shall not rise against nation or kingdom against kingdom any more. The Prophet Isaiah saw a world without war, without the implements of destruction, and without men learning war any more. He said, “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”—Isa. 2:3,4

The psalmist also, under the inspiration of the power of God, saw a world society without war and prophesied in Psalm 46:9,10: “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen [nations], I will be exalted in the earth.”

But even with the success of stopping wars by the great “Prince of Peace,” how about the hunger and pestilence of the last days? If there is not enough food for earth’s millions now, how will we feed earth’s population when the dead return to life in the resurrection? These questions crowd into the minds of thinking people, and again the answer is found in the Word of God. Today, as man traverses the planet he sees vast areas of desert and unproductive stretches of land that have never been tilled.

Isaiah, too, saw much land; but with the eye of faith he wrote under inspiration and by the power of God, “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.” (Isa. 35:1,2) And in another place the same prophet said, “For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”—Isa. 51:3

The Prophet Ezekiel also saw the solution to the problem of hunger when he wrote, “The desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the Garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.”—Ezek. 36:34,35

Thus, the prophets tell of the whole earth, as in the Garden of God, supplying the food for all the willing and obedient of Adam’s children, even those awakened from their sleep of death in the resurrection. There will be enough food for all. The whole family of man will look over the expanses of earth’s surface that today are desolate and will see a land beautiful and bountiful, one that has been described as overflowing with milk and honey. The time for famine and pestilence will be no more.

And, happily for mankind, the prophets of God promise solutions for the other problems of man; for even if war and famine are removed by the power of God, but sickness and earthquakes and death remained to plague the human race, the outlook for the human family would not be bright. So these enemies must also be destroyed, and the Bible says they shall be. Again Isaiah, that man of God, in chapter 33 of his prophecy and verse 24 says, “And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.” But possibly the clearest statement of blessings to come is in chapter 35, verses 5 and 6, which tell us, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.”

In our text the Lord said that this age would come to a close at a time when there would be earthquakes in different parts of the world. Some interpret this to mean that great shakings will overthrow kingdoms and topple world governments which are opposed to the righteous laws of Christ’s kingdom. No doubt that is included in our Master’s words, but literal earthquakes have also done much harm to human life and property. The prophet of God tells how both unrighteous kingdoms and imperfect conditions of the planet will come to an end. Isaiah 11:9 reads, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

Only one enemy now remains, the Grim Reaper, Death. The one that has brought sorrow and bereavement to the human family ever since our first parents in the Garden of Eden heard God say, “Dying thou shalt die.” But Christ has died as a corresponding price for Adam’s transgression, and in God’s due time the condemnation placed upon Adam and his children will be removed. In I Corinthians 15:25,26 we learn a truth that should warm the hearts of all the human family; for, speaking of Christ’s millennial reign we read, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” What a wonderful plan God has for his human family! No wonder John of the Revelation rejoiced when he “heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new.”—Rev. 21:3-5

In summary, we find that wars, famines, pestilence, and earthquakes will all come to an end in Christ’s kingdom—even death will be destroyed! And we see that the time is not too far distant when God’s will shall be done in earth, even as it is in heaven.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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