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"4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains."- Matthew 24:4-8.

People tend to dismiss these prophecies by assuming that Jesus is only referring to "generic" wars, which have always occurred since the beginning of human history. But is this really the case?

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  • It is clear from the Revelation of Jesus Christ (The Apocalypse) that you are correct in your question. (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 9:13

7 Answers 7

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Are the wars meant to be global in Matthew 24?

People tend to dismiss these prophecies by assuming that Jesus is only referring to "generic" wars, which have always occurred since the beginning of human history. But is this really the case?

The Wars are meant to be Global.

True, since the beginning of human history, there had been wars, earthquakes, food shortages and epidemics. However, nothing previously to 1914 can be compared with what has taken place since then, for example, note the enormous number of deaths in WW1, WW2 and the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. (from Google) Other major conflicts were the cold war, the Korean and Vietnam wars. The figures do not include deaths from pestilences and food shortages that followed.

WW 1 Casualties

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I, was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians.

WW 2 Casualties.

An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion). The tables below give a detailed country-by-country count of human losses. World War II fatality statistics vary, with estimates of total deaths ranging from 70 million to 85 million.

Spanish flue casualties.

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide, about one-third of the planet's population, and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans.

The Apostle John who received the Revelation confirmed it, and was commanded to write about" the things which must soon take place."

Revelation 1:1(NASB)

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John.

In chapter 6 of the Revelation John confirms all the above in the account of what has been called the ride of "four horsemen of the Apocalypse."

The Rider on White Horse: (REV 6:1-2)

The rider of the first horse with a crown is Jesus and has been authorized to destroy his enemies.

6: 2 NASB "I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Psalm 2:1-12 (ASV)

The reign of Jehovah’s anointed.

1 Why do the nations rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying, 3 Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us.4 He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision. 5 Then will he speak unto them in his wrath, And [b]vex them in his sore displeasure:

6 Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion. 7 I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee. 8 Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. 9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. 10 Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: Be instructed, ye judges of the earth. 11 Serve Jehovah with fear, And rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, For his wrath [c]will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that take refuge in him.

The second rider on Red Horse.

This rider was given a great sword, a symbol of weapons and wars. 6: 4 NASB " And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him."

The third rider on a Black Horse.

This rider was given a pair of scales, representing famines and food shortages, and the scales to measure basic food supplies at inflated prices.

6: 5-6 I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A [d]quart of wheat for a [e]denarius, and three [f]quarts of barley for a [g]denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

The fourth rider on a Pale Green Horse.

This rider has been given authority to kill with the sword, famines, by means of deadly plagues, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (For the identity of the wild beasts read the prophecy of Daniel chapter seven)

6: 8 NASB " I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death;" and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

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IMHO, the question to your answer depends on the time frame of which Jesus was speaking. I take that time frame to be the current generation; that is, the time leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70. In that case, there were no "world wars." Others look at this as a prediction of the end of the world, in which case Jesus was talking about much larger conflicts, like those that we have experienced in the 20th century.

So, the answer depends on your interpretation of what "end" Jesus was talking about.

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I think the key to this question lies in the context of the chapter, and the surrounding verses you shared. Jesus is saying that in the end times, not only will there be wars (and rumors of wars), there will also be famine, earthquake, etc. Verse 9 speaks about persecution against believers. Verse 10 shows that many will fall away from the faith, verse 11 talks about false prophets rising to deceive many, and verse 12 notably states that many people who once loved the Lord will lose the “fire” and passion of that love.

When we see verses 6-12 together, we see that Jesus is not talking about any of these things in isolation (ex. wars alone), but rather an amalgamation of all these things coming together to create utter chaos, desperation, and despair. NOT just in the world at large (verses 6-8) but also within the church. Jesus is describing the hopeless state the world will be in — both physically, humanistically, and spiritually — before He returns.

It is supposed to be so bad that:

Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. — Matthew 24:22

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Are the wars meant to be global in Matthew 24?

Jesus was speaking here during the sixteenth year of Emperor Tiberius' reign. Tiberius had been victorious in the "final" war with the king of the South that was fiercely waged under Augustus. This left the Roman Empire mostly without adversaries capable of making war against this powerful "world order". At this time, there was instead, a world-wide period of calmness--no nation against nation battles. The Jews still had access to their City of Jerusalem that had been rebuilt, as prophesied, specifically for Messiah's entrance leading up to this conversation. They were admiring those "buildings of the temple" that they were so passionately proud of.

This message by Jesus was that soon--during their lifetimes--these very same disciples that He was speaking to would hear of "wars and rumors of wars." They were not at that time in a panic of war. They were not searching the city for 'bomb bunkers'--so to speak. They were simply asking the question, "when?".

Mat. 24:3: And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? KJV

On that very day of relative peace among the world order of nations, Jesus was telling them of a period of division and sorrows which would begin just "after two days." (Mat. 26:1-2):

And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

Jesus spoke to them about these wars and rumors of wars that, "ye shall hear of"--those men themselves would hear of. In Mark 13:5-8, this very conversation is also described as being, "the beginnings of sorrows", but, "the end shall not be yet":

And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

After Jesus was crucified, yet while those disciples--now apostles--were living, that old Roman Empire "world order" began to have cracks in its foundation. civil wars broke out among the several nations of that old world order and Rome's assault against the "church" increased greatly under Nero. The "three plucked up horns" prophesied in Daniel 7:8--Galba, Otho, and Vitellius--were each "plucked up" after only very short reigns--all three in total ruling between June of 68 A.D. and December of 69 A.D.

After these three horns were plucked up, in the days leading up to 70 A.D., Rome, under a "raiser of taxes"--Vespasian--used that "little horn"--Titus--to destroy the city and the temple that the disciples were admiring at the time of this question.

Yes, Rome continued on after that time, but never was a solid world order like it was under Julius Caesar and the first ten emperors of Rome (including the three plucked-up ones).

We have never had a true world order since that time being at relative peace as during the time of Matthew 24. This is what is so intriguing about Rome being the "resurrected" world order under the "resurrected" beast and "resurrected" false prophet (it is appointed unto man once to die, then after that, the judgment). That little horn became Romes eleventh horn of Daniel, being of the ten horns before him, yet was also the eighth horn of Revelation, being of the seven horns before him (when you exclude the three plucked up horns of Daniel that are now gone--plucked up).

Wars and rumors of wars between nations have occurred now for approximately for two-thousand years, but the end is not yet.

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An important addendum is often ignored in considering Jesus' end-time prophecies as expressed in Matthew 24, namely:

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

This confession of Jesus' personal ignorance is important for all Christians to keep in mind when attempting understand the when, where and how of the Second Coming and its precursors. His saying is an admonition to each of us to remain humble but watchful rather than to pretend to certain knowledge.

The OP asks: "People tend to dismiss these prophecies by assuming that Jesus is only referring to 'generic' wars, which have always occurred since the beginning of human history. But is this really the case?"

Given Jesus' self-confessed ignorance about "that day and that hour," it may be that we are not meant to know. But another saying in this chapter that is also often overlooked is vs. 34

I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.

It is pretty clear that Jesus referred here to the people of his own time. They are all long dead, so we are left in the same situation in which the Son found himself: ignorance. Unless we think we know more than Jesus did, it might be best to confess that we really don't know; only the Father does.

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In a world war, like the two world wars, the whole world was affected, although the heavy fighting was limited to a specific region. We have an example of this now. War in Ukraine has affect grain supply to big parts of the world. Even oil and gas prices have increased in many parts of the world.

In Rev 8:7 we read that a 3d of the world was burned up. So, Rev seems to indicate that the third world war will be most intense in a specific area of the world. And that it will be global only in food and power shortages, as well as climate change due to changes in weather quality and patterns. Incarceration of foreigners living abroad, like what happened during the earlier world wars will probably take place too.

Suffering will however be shortened for a selected few (Mat 24:22) who after the war will continue to live on a recovering Earth for at least another thousand year under the guidance of the resurrected heavenly priests (Rev 20:22) in Jerusalem. (Zech 14)

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Disclaimer: I don't speak for any sect.

"4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains."- Matthew 24:4-8.

It isn't hard to grasp the context here for those who are not wearing Futurism Glasses or Historicist Glasses or what have you. These are the verses that immediately precede the verses in the question:

[Mat 24:1-3 NASB20] [1] Jesus left the temple [area] and was going [on His way] when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. [2] But He responded and said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not [one] stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." [3] And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what [will be] the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

So when were those Temple buildings that they were admiring to be torn down? It was, we know from history, burned down and the stones dismantled c. 70 AD/CE. So now you have the immediate context.


So what wars did Rome wage in the first century?:

1st century 3–6: Revolt of the Gaetuli in Mauretania – revolt suppressed by Cossus Cornelius Lentulus Gaetulicus 6: Revolt of Judas of Galilee against Roman taxation – revolt suppressed Bellum Batonianum (6–9) – An alliance of tribes numbering more than 200,000 people in Illyricum rose in rebellion against Rome, but were suppressed by Roman legions led by Tiberius and Germanicus. 9: Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – Cherusci-born Roman commander Arminius defected to a coalition Germanic rebel groups, who jointly ambushed and annihilated three Roman legions under Publius Quinctilius Varus, prompting retaliation campaigns by the Romans. The revolt was eventually successful, and the Roman Empire abandoned all its holdings northeast of the Rhine. See also Roman campaigns in Germania (12 BC – AD 16). 14: Mutiny of the legions in Germania and Illyricum suppressed by Germanicus and Drusus Julius Caesar 17–24: Tacfarinas' revolt in north Africa – revolt suppressed by Publius Cornelius Dolabella 21: Revolt of Sacrovir – revolt of the Treveri, Aedui, Andes (Andecavi) and Turoni under Julius Florus and Julius Sacrovir in Gaul – revolt suppressed by Gaius Silius and Gaius Calpurnius Aviola 21: Revolt of the Coelaletae, Odrysae and Dii in Thrace – revolt suppressed by P. Vellaeus 26: Revolt in Thrace – revolt suppressed by Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus 28: Battle of Baduhenna Wood: revolt of the Frisii – rebel victory 36: Revolt of the Cietae in Cappadocia – revolt suppressed by Marcus Trebellius 38: Alexandrian riots 40: Alexandrian riots 40–44: Revolt of Aedemon and Sabalus in Mauretania – revolt suppressed by Gaius Suetonius Paulinus and Gnaeus Hosidius Geta 42: Failed usurpation of Lucius Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus in Dalmatia 46: Riots in the Kingdom of Thrace against the Romans after the death of King Rhoemetalces III – revolt suppressed 46–48: Jacob and Simon uprising in the Galilee – revolt suppressed 60–61: Boudican revolt[5] by Iceni, Trinovantes and other Celtic tribes in Britannia commanded by queen Boudica – revolt suppressed by Gaius Suetonius Paulinus 60 – Battle of Camulodunum – Boudica began her uprising against the Romans by capturing and then sacking Camulodunum, then moved on Londinium. 61 – Battle of Watling Street – Boudica was defeated by Suetonius Paullinus First Jewish–Roman War (66–73) – revolt suppressed[5] 66 – Battle of Beth-Horon – Jewish forces led by Eleazar ben Simon defeated a Roman punitive force led by Cestius Gallus, Governor of Syria 73 – Siege of Masada – The Sicarii were defeated by the Romans under Lucius Flavius Silva, leading them to commit mass suicide Year of the Four Emperors (68–69)[5] – Roman war of succession between various Roman pretenders following the death of Nero (AD 68). After Nero's suicide, the generals Galba, Otho, and Vitellius took the throne within months of each other. General Vespasian, who until that point had been fighting the revolt in Judaea, was victorious, and founded the Flavian dynasty. 68: Revolt in Gallia Lugdunensis under Gaius Julius Vindex – revolt suppressed by Lucius Verginius Rufus' army 69 – Winter – Battle of 'Forum Julii' – Othonian forces defeated a small group of Vitellianist auxiliaries in Gallia Narbonensis 14 April – First Battle of Bedriacum – Vitellius, commander of the Rhine armies, defeated Emperor Otho and seized the throne. 24 October – Second Battle of Bedriacum – Forces under Antonius Primus, the commander of the Danube armies, loyal to Vespasian, defeated the forces of Emperor Vitellius. 69–70: Revolt of the Batavi, Treveri and Lingones in Gaul – revolt suppressed 69: Revolt of Anicetus in Colchis – revolt suppressed by Virdius Geminus 79–80: Failed usurpation of Terentius Maximus, a Pseudo-Nero, in Asia 89: Revolt of Lucius Antonius Saturninus with two legions in Germania Superior – revolt suppressed

Daniel's prophecy of the 70 heptads (sevens) ends with the destruction of the holy People:

[Dan 12:7 NKJV] [7] Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who [was] above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that [it shall be] for a time, times, and half [a time]; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these [things] shall be finished.

Jesus said the same thing:

[Luk 21:20-24 NKJV] [20] "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. [21] "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. [22] "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. [23] "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. [24] "And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

So what are the "times of the Gentiles? They are the final 3.5 years years of the Jews' horrific Civil War/Revolt against Rome. Again, we must look to Daniel:

[Dan 12:7 NKJV] [7] Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who [was] above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that [it shall be] for a time, times, and half [a time]; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these [things] shall be finished.

All Futurism is hogwash.

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