- Pastor Steve Conley
As I See It
We are at present beginning to experience those evils that Jesus called "the beginning of sorrows" (Matt 24:4-8). In Christ's answer to the disciple's question concerning the sign of His parousia (coming) and the end of the age, He said that there would be rumors of war, wars (nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom), pestilence, famine, and earthquakes in various places. Concerning these, He said the end is not yet, signifying that some other precursor signs would follow these and manifest before Christ's parousia (parousia) would take place. Another important statement that Jesus makes involving these "beginning of sorrows" judgments is that a single generation will witness them all along with Christ's coming (Matt 24:34). While some believe these will not take place until the seventieth week begins, the Scriptures actually never say that. They only say that a single generation will see all these things.
Three of the evils that Jesus called "the beginning of sorrows" are represented by the first three horsemen that John witnessed at the opening of the seals. These are pestilence, war, and famine respectively. They are three of the Lord GOD's four sore judgments spoken of by Ezekiel the prophet (Ezek 14:21). John, in Rev 6:8b, lists the four judgments as the way by which the horsemen, having been given power over 1/4 of the earth, kill.
The fourth judgment is the beasts and is consistent with the unprecedented violent persecution (thlipsis) that Jesus began to speak of in Matt 24:9 thru vs 29 and that He called great tribulation. This fourth judgment is a more significant sign of Christ's soon return than the beginning of sorrows is. Jesus identifies the initiating event of this unprecedented persecution as being the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel. The abomination of desolation is when the man of sin stands in the rebuilt temple and shows himself to be God thereby defiling it in the eyes of those who have reinstituted the daily sacrifice and oblation. Making a reference to Daniel lets us know that this initiating event (the abomination of desolation) takes place in the middle of the seventieth week (Dan 9:27). Paul also references the middle (mesos) for this event in 2Thes 2:7.
However, there is another sign that Christ's parousia is nearing that comes after the beginning of the great tribulation that Jesus mentions. It is this sign that Paul calls the "apostasia", a notable falling away from the faith (2Thes 2:3). Jesus said that due to the severe violent persecution many would be offended (Matt 24:9-10), that is, forsake Him. He also said that due to the supernatural lying signs and wonders done by false prophets and false Christs that many would be deceived (Matt 24:11, 24). He says that the level of deception will be so great that if it were possible even the truly elect would be deceived.
But there is still more in the way of signs of His coming [parousia]. Jesus mentions that just prior to His revelation (the opening event of His coming) that there will be a recognizable cosmic disturbance and the sea and waves would be roaring (Lk 21:25-28). To the surviving believers on that day, He says, when you see these things begin to take place lift up your heads (be encouraged) and look up for your redemption is nigh. While the saints will be joyful because Christ will arrive at any moment, the lost among the nations will be perplexed, fearful, and in distress. This scene is what John witnessed at the opening of the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-17). First, there will be a great earthquake, one that moves islands and mountains out of their places. Then the sun, moon, and stars will go dark. At that point, Jesus will appear at any moment to gather us to Himself and begin to unleash a recompense of vengeance upon our persecutors.
That is how it all will play out. But for the present, we should be preparing for world war next because it is the next sore judgment to fall.