IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS?

Pastor James J. Barker

Text: MATTHEW 24:1-8




INTRODUCTION:


1.     The big news this week was the tsunami in Thailand, which has killed well over 100,000 people (probably many more than that).  Commentators and news reporters have been characterizing the tsunami as being of “biblical proportions.”

2.     Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute, likened the quake's power to detonating a million atomic bombs the size of those dropped on Japan during World War II, and said the shaking was so powerful it even disturbed the Earth's rotation.

3.     “All the planet is vibrating” from the quake, he told Italian state radio. Other scientists said it was early to say whether the rotation was affected by the earthquake.

4.     Note that in His Olivet Discourse, when our Lord was asked what the signs of His return would be, He mentioned “earthquakes in divers places” (Matthew 24:7b) – followed by famines and pestilences.

5.     Exactly one year ago today (January 2, 2004), World Net Daily posted an article on their web site entitled, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going on in 2004.”  I thought the article was so interesting I printed it and kept it in my files.  I will read part of it to you.


As global relief efforts were still focused on the devastating 6.6 earthquake that struck Iran last week, killing more than 30,000 and leaving some 40,000 homeless, seismologists were studying a new rash of temblors striking the planet's "ring of fire."

In Indonesia, a powerful earthquake shook the tourist islands of Bali and Lombok yesterday, injuring nearly 30 people and damaging dozens of buildings. On Lombok, 22 people were injured and one elderly man died, apparently of shock as a result of the quake, which the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said measured 6.1 on the Richter scale. The undersea quake struck shortly before dawn in the Straits of Lombok.

On Bali, at least seven people were hurt as they ran in panic from houses on the east of the island, a hospital spokesman said. The local hospital was also damaged.

Meanwhile, yesterday, a medium-intensity earthquake centered near Mexico's Pacific Coast tourist spots was felt as far away as Mexico City, but caused no reported injuries.

"The only thing was panic among tourists in Acapulco," officials of the Earthquake Alert System told local radio stations.

The quake, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, had its epicenter in the western state of Guerrero on the Pacific coast, the officials said.

Local radio stations said that poorly built homes suffered damage in Guerrero state and electricity was momentarily cut in the region. An aftershock reached 5 on the Richter scale. It was felt in the western and central parts of the country, including Mexico City, with 22 million inhabitants.

An undersea earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale rocked Taiwan yesterday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, seismologists said.

A quake with a magnitude of 6.6 jolted Taiwan Dec. 10 the most powerful one to have hit the island in 2003 but left only minor damage and injuries in some southern cities.

A minor earthquake struck California's central coast early today, the largest in a series of aftershocks in the last two days in the vicinity of last month's killer quake.

There were no reports of damage or injuries from the magnitude 4.2 quake.

Hundreds of small to minor aftershocks have struck since a magnitude-6.5 earthquake Dec. 22 killed two women in Paso Robles, about 25 miles to the east, and caused at least $200 million in damage.

Eight aftershocks recorded yesterday and early today have had a magnitude of 3 and higher, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The 4.2 quake hit at 2:48 a.m., following a magnitude-3.9 about three minutes earlier.

In Russia, seismologists have seen a 50 percent increase in the force of tremors hitting the southern mountains in the republic of Altay in the last few days. In September the area was hit by a 7.5 quake.

The new shocks hinder the reconstruction work that has started in Kosh-Agachskiy and Ulaganskiy districts, most badly hit by the first tremors. Over 1,000 homes were destroyed or damaged there, leaving homeless some 2,000 residents.

Five small tremors shook the Dead Sea area southwest of the Jordanian capital on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day but there were no reports of damage or casualties, seismologists said yesterday.

The first tremor occurred Wednesday afternoon and measured 3.3 on the Richter scale, Mohammed Gharaybeh, of the natural resources authority, told Petra news agency, adding that the Dead Sea area is subject "continuously" to such activity.

Four other tremors occurred in the evening and overnight, with the lowest measuring 2.5 on the Richter scale and the strongest 3.8, he added.

The Dead Sea is the lowest body of water on Earth. It currently lies at 1,366 feet below sea level after having dropped by three meters over the past three years.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there were at least seven earthquakes of a magnitude of 5.0 or greater around the world yesterday alone. Central California was hit by 21 quakes that day none of them reaching 5.0.

On Dec. 27, a 7.3-magnitude quake hit southeast of the Loyalty Islands, a sparsely populated area about 1,000 miles east of Australia.

The day before that, the 6.6 earthquake hit southeast Iran.

6.     Iran, Indonesia, Mexico, Taiwan, California, Russia, Jordan, Australia – what does the Bible say?  “Earthquakes in divers places” (Matt. 24:7).

7.     Sunday’s tsunami was caused by the fourth most powerful earthquake on record, an earthquake so powerful it moved the entire island of Sumatra 100 feet from its pre-quake position (cf. Rev. 6:12-17).

8.     I have read several articles about last week’s tsunami in Thailand but to me this one was the most disturbing.

Thailand's foremost meteorologists, meeting in a crisis session before the tsunami hit, decided not to issue a warning "out of courtesy to the tourism industry," according to a report in the Thai paper The Nation.

Minutes after the earthquake in the Indian Ocean Sunday morning, Thailand's top meteorological experts met to consider the danger posed to the coast. But the economic impact on the nation's tourism industry dissuaded them from warning those most in danger.

"We finally decided not to do anything because the tourist season was in full swing," a source told the paper. "The hotels were 100 percent booked. What if we issued a warning, which would have led to an evacuation, and nothing had happened. What would be the outcome? The tourist industry would be immediately hurt. Our department would not be able to endure a lawsuit."

9.     Notice that economic concerns were their first consideration.  “For the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10).

10.     I believe with all my heart that we are very, very close to the second coming of Christ.  Let us consider some of the signs of the times.

I.     RELIGIOUS DECEPTION (MATTHEW 24:4, 5, 23, 24).

1.     This year we saw fundamental Christian pastors promoting a Hollywood movie produced by an unsaved Roman Catholic movie star.  It did not seem to bother them that if a person follows Mel Gibson’s doctrine he will go straight to hell.

2.     The apostle Paul warned in II Timothy 3:13 that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”  So not only do these false prophets deceive others;  they themselves are deceived.

3.     Our Lord warned in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”  They look like sheep but are really wolves.

4.     The Lord Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd.  The Bible refers to His followers as sheep.  False prophets appear to be Jesus’ followers, but their true objective is to devour the sheep.

5.     The apostle Paul warned the leaders of the church in Ephesus: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29, 30).

6.     Going back to the Olivet Discourse, our Lord made an interesting statement regarding false prophets (Matthew 24:24).  They impress gullible people with signs and wonders, but they will not be able to deceive the elect (saved).

7.     If you are saved then God has given you some measure of discernment.  It is important to study the Bible carefully.  This new year make up your mind that you are going to read the Bible every day all the way from Genesis to Revelation (cf. Hebrews 5:11-14; 10:25).

8.     False teachers can be identified and avoided.  Our Lord said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16).

9.     Let me remind you that Satan has devised a counterfeit Christianity.  The world says, “It is OK to be a Christian, just do not be too serious about it.  Don’t be a fanatic.”  So many churches have decided that if they want to get a crowd they will have to compromise with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

10.This new type of Christianity is very popular with the masses.  It utilizes the world’s rock music.  It has replaced the authorized King James Bible with cheap, inferior (mis)translations.  It emphasizes entertainment and worldly, shallow preaching.

11.It calls itself Christianity but yet in many ways it is as foreign to genuine, traditional Christianity as is Hinduism or Mormonism.

12.Christ has His church.  The Bible calls it “the bride of Christ.”  Satan has his false church.  The Bible calls it “THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS” (Rev. 17).

13.Galatians 1:6 warns of “another Gospel.”  It is not the true Gospel which leads to repentance and salvation.  It is a false gospel which leads to deception and damnation.

14.Second Corinthians 11:4 warns of “another Jesus…another spirit...and another gospel.”

15.This same chapter tells us how Satan deceives people through religion (II Cor. 11:13-15; cf. Rev. 12:9).

II.     WARS & RUMOURS OF WARS (MATTHEW 24:6, 7).

1.     When I was a boy the newspapers and the politicians and world leaders were constantly referring to “the cold war.”  It was not a real war with guns and missiles and planes and battleships but it was a dangerous war nevertheless.

2.     We often heard talk of “mutually assured destruction,” with the appropriate acronym, “MAD.”

3.     But now the cold war has supposedly ended.  I say “supposedly” because there are still serious tensions with communist countries such as China, North Korea, and Russia.  And according to the Bible, these countries will play a big role at the battle of Armageddon.

4.     Now the cold war has been replaced by the “war on terror.”  We now face an enemy more dangerous and diabolical than Nazi Germany, imperial Japan and communist Russia combined – fanatical, Islamic terrorism.

5.     It is interesting to compare Matthew’s account with Luke’s account (Luke 21:9 – “wars and commotions…”).

6.     I believe “wars and commotions” describes what we are seeing today with all of the terrorism – suicide bombing, car bombs, the WTC attack, etc.  This is not conventional warfare.  This is “war and commotions.”

7.     Before the war in Afghanistan ended we were at war with Iraq.  Now there are rumors (“wars and rumours of war” – Matthew 24:6) of war with Syria, and with Iran. 

8.     We know there are plenty of hostile countries that desire to destroy us. All of these continual wars and rumours of wars, and commotions, and conflicts and skirmishes, and so on will lead up to the Battle of Armageddon (cf. Rev. 16:13-16).

III.     IS THIS “THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS”?

1.     After giving His disciples several signs of the second coming (Matthew 24:3-7), our Lord stated, “All these (signs) are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8).

2.     The key to understanding Bible prophecy is found in the book of Revelation.  Revelation chapter 6 describes four horsemen, whose shadows are even now being clearly seen by those with spiritual discernment.

3.     Revelation chapter 13 refers to the mark of the beast.  No one will be able to buy or sell without this mark.  Just read the newspapers and you will see that they have the technology for this mark right now.  A company called the Veri Chip Corporation is already implanting people with a small microchip.

4.     This small chip has all the information the government will need to control your life.  It also is equipped with global positioning satellite (GPS), enabling the government to trace your every move.

CONCLUSION:

1.     Jesus said that these were just the “beginning of sorrows" (Matt. 24:8).

2.     Bible teachers often describe these “sorrows” as “birth pains.”  As birth pangs (or labor contractions) get stronger and closer together as delivery approaches, so these trends would appear with increasing intensity and frequency as the end of the age approaches.

3.     Christian friend: the Lord is coming soon.  Is your house in order?  Are you ready to meet the Lord?

4.     Unsaved friend: the Lord is coming soon.  Are you ready? (cf. II Thess. 1:7-9).



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