Now that I have
looked into the first half of Matthew 24:7, I will consider the second half of
the verse. The passage says, " For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these
things are merely the beginning of birth pangs" (Matt. 24:7- 8). So what about famines and earthquakes?
Famines and Earthquakes
First, I have
previously noted and defended that Matthew 24:4- 14 covers the first half of the
seven-year tribulation period.
Since we know that the " abomination of desolation" (Matt. 24:15) occurs
in the middle of the seven-year period (Dan. 9:24- 27), thus, events prior to
verse 15 will take place in the first half of the tribulation. This is further confirmed by the
correlation of the major events of Matthew 24:4- 8 with the first four seal
judgments of Revelation 6:1-8.
This would mean that the famines and earthquakes of Matthew 24:7 speak
of a future time, which Revelation 6:5- 8 expounds upon, not of any events that
have occurred during the last 2,000 years nor of anything in our present day.
There have been,
no doubt, earthquakes and famines in the first century and during every
generation since. " It is hardly
necessary to add to this that not only false Christs and false prophets, wars
and rumors of war, earthquakes and famines occur in every age throughout the
history of the church," declares William Hendriksen, " but so do also
persecutions and defections, to which Jesus refers in verses 9, 10, 12, and
13."  The context of this passage is that of
a time of future tribulation in which these events will occur as part of God' s
direct wrath and judgment. The
earthquakes and famines of today and during the first century did not fulfill
this prophecy since the context of this passage is of a still future time
period. Now let us look together
at the passage.
The Greek word
for famine is limos and simply
means " hunger," and, thus, when used of " dying of hunger," connotes " famine."  This word is also used in Revelation
If Christ is
referencing a time during the first half of the tribulation, to what is He
referring? I believe that
Revelation 6:5- 6 is a parallel passage.
" And when He broke the third seal, I heard the
third living creature saying, ' Come.'
And I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair
of scales in his hand. And I heard
as it were a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, ' A quart of wheat for a denarius, and
three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the
wine.' " Even though the word
" famine" is not used, the passage is an apt description of such and it is one
of the earliest judgments of tribulation period. Arno C. Gaebelein says, " And the third seal reveals a rider
upon a black horse and he has a balance in his hand and what he saith indicates
clearly that he brings famines (Rev. vi:5- 6)." 
famines and earthquakes are governed by the phrase " in various places." Lenski says, " The distributive kata means, " from place to place."  Leon Morris also explains: " In many
places means that the disasters in question will be widespread."  This global perspective fits a future
understanding of the passage and cannot be limited to the first century and the
area of Israel alone.
says, " The putting of famines before earthquakes may indicate that famines
result from the ravages of the warfare just mentioned (cf. Rev. 6:3- 6)."  If we follow the order from Revelation,
then it is clear that famine is the result of war, as is usually the case.
preterists believe that Christ' s prophecy of famine was somehow fulfilled in a.d. 70 when the Romans destroyed the
Temple and Jerusalem. Speaking of
famines, Kenneth Gentry declares, " We may easily apply this also to the first
century scene."  Fellow preterist, Gary DeMar cites the
following as evidence for a first century fulfillment of famines:
with the book of Acts, we see that famines were prevalent in the period prior
to Jerusalem' s destruction in a.d.
70: . . . The famine was dramatic
evidence that Jesus' prophecy was coming to pass in their generation just like
He said it would. . . .
secular historians such as Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus mention other
famines during the period prior to a.d.
claims true? Since famines occur
in every generation, one can find some examples of famines. Just as those who believe that this is
a prophecy for our own day cite numerous contemporary examples. Craig Evans says, " Again, events in the
decades immediately preceding the Jewish revolt only roughly parallel this part
of Jesus' prophecy."  With famines always occurring, it seems
to blur somewhat the precision of such events as a distinct fulfillment of past
prophecy. Meyer rebuts the
preterist notion as follows:
Nor, again, is this feature in
the prediction to be restricted to some such special famine as that which
occurred during the reign of Claudius (Acts xi.28), too early a date for our
passage, and to one or two particular cases of earthquake which happened in
remote countries, and with which history has made us familiar (such as that in
the neighborhood of Colossae, Oros. Hist. Vii. 7, Tacit. Ann. Xiv. 27 and that
Like the details
of the other items that we have examined in this context, the famines of
Matthew 24 have yet to occur. They
will take place during the first half of the tribulation. These famines will take place at
various places all over the world, likely as a result of the preceding warfare.
Earthquake in the
original Greek is seismos. The basic sense of the word is
" shaking." It can refer to the
shaking of a storm on a sea.
However, it mostly occurs in the New Testament when speaking of an
earthquake. Our English word seismograph is derived
from this Greek root.
For the same
reasons noted earlier, I do not think that these earthquakes that will take
place at various places all around the world have already taken place in the
past, nor are they occurring today.
Just like the famines that have preceded them, the earthquakes in this
passage are parallel to the ones described as the fourth seal judgment in
Revelation 6:7- 8. " And when He broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of
the fourth living creature saying, ' Come.' And I looked, and behold, an ashen
horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with
him. And 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." Gaebelein further explains when he says, " The fourth rider
of the fourth seal is upon a pale horse.
His name is ' Death.' He
takes the fourth part of the earth away.
This corresponds to the Lord' s announcement that there will be
' pestilences and earthquakes in divers places.' " 
Luke 21:11, a
parallel passage to Matthew 24:7 says, " there will be
great earthquakes." So these are
not ordinary earthquakes that our Lord forecasts, but great or huge ones. So great, that they cause a great
number of deaths worldwide.
and DeMar also believe that this sign was fulfilled in the first century. DeMar said, " The historical record of
earthquakes that occurred before Jerusalem was destroyed in the first century
fulfills Jesus' prophecy to the letter. . . . Three earthquakes are mentioned [in Acts] prior to the
destruction of Jerusalem in a.d.
70."  Gentry adds:
A particularly dreadful quake
shakes Jerusalem in a.d. 67. . . .
mentions earthquakes in Crete, Rome, Apamea, Phrygia, Campania, Laodicea (of
Revelation fame) and Pompeii during the time just before Jerusalem' s
Once again, since
there are these kinds of earthquakes mentioned by preterists that occur in the
lifetime of every generation, it is only with great difficulty that one could
cite this as a past fulfillment.
As I have been going through these early parts of the Olivet Discourse,
we have found that there is little basis for many of the claims made by
preterists. When taken together
with the other signs of Matthew 24- earthquakes- as cited by the preterists,
prove nothing. Morison notes the
Scholars have busied themselves, and with wonderful success, in
hunting up historical notices of the earthquakes that occurred before the
destruction of Jerusalem, just as they have laboured to find out records of
famines and wars. . . . But there
is no special significance in such records, or in the occurrences
recorded. The role of wars and
famines and earthquakes is not yet finished.
The Beginning of Birth
I have already
dealt with this passage in a previous installment. Based upon the Old Testament use of
birth pangs in Jeremiah 30:6- 7, it appears that Jesus picks up on that theme in
Matthew 24, as does Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Birth pangs were a clear expression in rabbinic Judaism for
the tribulation. Thus, the time of
birth pangs commences with the beginning of tribulation period and culminates
with the second coming of Christ.
Therefore, the events of Matthew 24:4- 7 are described as events that
will take place during the first part of the tribulation and do not signal the
end, which is the second coming of Jesus (Matt. 24:27- 31).
Two important characteristics
of the first part of the tribulation will be the occurrence of famines and
earthquakes, which will likely follow a time of global wars between nations and
kingdoms. These cannot be
references to past or present events.
As Gaebelein notes:
Fearful have been the famines, pestilences and earthquakes of
the last twenty-five years. But
these are insignificant in comparison with those to which our Lord refers here,
the mighty events which tell all the earth that the day of wrath is rapidly
MacArthur echoes Gaebelein' s sentiment when he said, " The world has witnessed
many earthquakes, famines, plagues, and even some heavenly signs, but those
will be nothing compared to the calamities of the end times. They will occur in various places and apparently simultaneously." 
Even though there
have been famines and earthquakes in the past, they are just a warm-up for what
God will bring about during the future time of tribulation. When these miraculous events occur,
there will be no doubt about the fulfillment of the details of Matthew 24. We are building toward that day when
God will judge and remove evil so that He can establish His righteous rule for
a thousand years. May that day
come soon! Maranatha!
Continued . . .)