Harmony of the Gospels

Mount of Olives
(12-4) Jesus Tells of the Future
Matthew 24:4-8 (Focal Passage), Mark 13:5-8, Luke 21:8-11

PART 4: Jesus Traces The Characteristics Of This Age 


Matthew 24:4-8 (Focal Passage)

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Mark 13:5-8

5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
6 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.
7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet.
8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.
Luke 21:8-11
8 And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore, do not go after them.
9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”
10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.


These verses are part of the great prophetic discourse we call The Olivet Discourse. It is found in the three synoptic gospels, but the three reports are not identical.  Once again, we should remind ourselves that the differences in the Gospels have a deep significance.

In this discourse, we find the Lord speaking alternately of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and then, of the conditions that will precede his Second Coming. His predictions were soon to have a partial fulfillment in the siege of Titus, but they will have a further and complete fulfillment at the end of the Tribulation Period. These verses must be placed in the first three and one had years of the Tribulation, after the church has been raptured. That period is called the  Seventieth Week of Daniel.

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

Alternate Translation (CEV): Jesus answered: Don’t let anyone fool you. Many will come and claim to be me. They will say that they are the Messiah, and they will fool many people.

The disciples had asked a question concerning what signs would signal His return—When shall these things be? Christ does not tell them the number of days and years that will pass until his prediction is fulfilled, for it is not for us to know the times (Acts 1:7); but they had also asked—What shall be the sign? He does answer that question completely, because we all want to know what is going to happen in the future. However, what our Lord says to His disciples here appears to be more of a caution than something meant to satisfy their curiosity. He knew the future and He wanted to prepare them for the events that would happen. First, He tells them about the deceivers—“Take heed that no one deceives you.” Deceivers are more dangerous enemies to the church than persecutors. Their presence will divide the congregation into parties and factions. There is a great deceiver that sometimes appears to be an angel of light (Satan), but he only wants one thing—to lead God’s people away from Him. Note: those who appear to be doing the greatest good, may be hiding the greatest evil. They may pretend to have received messages from God, to be on a mission, and to have a spirit of prophecy, but it is all a lie.

The first serious claimant to be Messiah was Bar Choba (132-135).

At the time when the Gospels were written it was more important than at any other time that no one should lead Christians astray,  for they eagerly desired to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and they might be easily led to follow a profit like Simon, who pretended to be Messiah or the great power of God ( Acts 8: 9-11). 

During the first half of the Tribulation, many false Messiahs will appear who will succeed in deceiving multitudes. The current rise of many false cults may be a prelude to this, but it is not a fulfillment. These false religious leaders will be Jews claiming to be the Christ. Therefore, His disciples must expect to hear about false Christs and false prophets appearing, and false prophecies given out.

“Many shall come in my name” does not mean that they come in the name of Jesus, although there were some deceivers who pretended to have received authority from the Lord Jesus to speak for Him. One such false teacher is found in Acts 19:13—“Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” A family of vagabond Jews composed of Sceva, a priest, and his seven sons had been watching Paul do his mighty miracles and decided to attempt an exorcism of their own. Traveling Jewish exorcists were common in the ancient world. Hearing Paul use the name of Jesus to command evil spirits to come out of people, they attempted to use the same name as a sort of magical charm. However, the evil spirit replied, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” Then the man who was demon-possessed jumped upon them, beat them up, and stripped them naked.

I am more and more convinced that we have many deceivers with us today.  One man established a “holy city” in northern California and expected at any minute to be called to Washington D.C., to solve the problems of the world.  There are no “holy cities” on the face of the earth, but someday the Lord will come from the Holy of Holies in heaven to earth and solve the problems.  It should be remembered that even now, there are many Antichrists, but at the end of the age, there will come one Antichrist who will oppose Christ and set himself up as the only authority. 

The Antichrist will appear as the greatest deceiver of all during the Tribulation.    Peter warns us in 2 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”  We do not have to worry about false prophets, because if anybody starts prophesying in our day, we Christians can pooh-pooh him right off the scene, because prophets are not for this period.  However, we are to beware of false teachers, and there are a great many of those around. We must test them by scripture. 

In the gospel of Mark, we find that Jesus gave His disciples a warning—“And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them” (Luke 21:8). This is how I would interpret this verse: You know the Messiah has come, and you are not to look for any other; and therefore do not so much as listen to them, or have any thing to do with them.” If we are sure that Jesus is the Christ, and His doctrine is the gospel, of God, we must be deaf to all insinuations that there is another Christ and another Gospel. Note: Jesus leaves them still in the dark concerning a date for His return; actually, He does not know, since the Father has kept that information to Himself.

6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

Alternate Translation (CEV): Nations and kingdoms will go to war against each other. People will starve to death, and in some places, there will be earthquakes. You will soon hear about wars and threats of wars, but do not be afraid. These things will have to happen first, but that is not the end.

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. It would be easy to think that this is being fulfilled today; we are fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is the threat of a terrorist attack, the possibility exists for some type of armed conflict with North Korea and Iran, and natural disasters are destroying lives and property. However, what we see now is mild compared to what is coming.

Sin initiates wars, and they come from men’s lusts. Christ was born into the world when there was a general peace, but soon after he went out of the world, there was an increase in the frequency and magnitude of wars.
There were wars before this departure, but here Jesus gives a prediction that war will be one of the signs that the time for His return is near. When wars take place, it will be heard; “For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise” (Isa. 9:5, KJV). The prophet Jeremiah knew how terrible war is—“O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, Because you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war. (Jer. 4:19). He is overwhelmed when he thinks of the approaching war, destruction upon destruction, and devastation. Even though the nations are at peace, you will hear the rumors of war. Those that will not hear the messengers of peace will be made to hear the messengers of war.

See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. It is not possible to hear such sad news, and not be troubled. However, the heart of those who are trusting in God, is at peace, and is not afraid of the evil news of wars, and rumors of wars. Note, it is important for every believer to be constantly watchful for trouble in the heart when there are wars overseas; and it goes against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts even in troublesome times. Matthew insisted that, no matter how dreadful the Jewish wars had been, Jesus had predicted that the end is not yet.  The end is the end of this age and the beginning of the age to come, as in Daniel 12:4. 

We must not be troubled, for two reasons.
1. For all these things must come to pass.
The Jews must expect that these things will happen, because they have been declared by the mouth of God. The Jews must be punished, and devastation must be brought to bear. The justice of God and the honor of Christ must be upheld; therefore, all these things must come to pass to accomplish His purposes; the word is gone out of God’s mouth, and it will be accomplished at the appointed time. Note, the unchangeableness of God, which governs all events, should calm our spirits, in spite of what happens. God is only carrying out the thing He has appointed for us to do. Therefore, we should accept these things, because all these things must come to pass; the old house must be taken down, although it cannot be done without causing noise, and dust, and danger, before the new house can be erected.
2. the end is not yet. We must expect the worst. The end is not yet; today is not the end of time, and, while time lasts, we must expect trouble, and that the end of one hardship will become the beginning of another. Therefore, do not be troubled, do not give way to fear and trouble, do not sink under the present burden, but rather gather in all the strength and spirit you have, to meet and endure what is coming. Do not be troubled when you hear of wars and rumors of wars. If this frightens you, then what will become of you when the famines and pestilences come? How will you feel when your body has been afflicted with pain? Moreover, if we were frightened at a little brook in our way, what shall we do in the swellings of Jordan? (Jer. 12:5).

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. When Christ was born, there was peace in the Roman Empire. But, do not think that Jesus Christ came to give peace on earth (Lu. 12:51); or to continue the peace. The work He came to do will be completed even in troublesome times and wars will not stop it. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword did never depart from their house, the sword of the Lord was never quiet, because he had given it a commission against a hypocritical nation and the people felt his wrath; He caused the ruin of that nation. There were bloody wars: Nation shall rise against nation, one part of the Jewish nation against another, or rather the whole against the Romans. Encouraged by the false Christs, they wickedly endeavored to throw off the Roman yoke, by taking up arms against the Roman powers; when they had rejected the liberty with which Christ would have made them free they were left to themselves, to grasp at their civil liberty in ways that were sinful, and therefore could not be successful.

And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. Jesus predicted that God would send other judgments right away—famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. Famine is often the product of war, and pestilence (deadly diseases) can be the result of famine. These were the three judgments from which David was to choose one out of; and he was in a dilemma, because he did not know which was the worst. But what dreadful misery they will cause, when they are all poured in together upon a people! Beside war there will be:
1. Famine, signified by the black horse under the third seal—“When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst 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” (Rev. 6:5, 6). We read of a famine in Judea, not long after Christ’s time, which was very impoverishing—“Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. (Acts 11:28); but the worst famine was in Jerusalem during the siege—“Those slain by the sword are better off Than those who die of hunger; For these pine away, Stricken for lack of the fruits of the field. The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people” (Lam. 4:9-10).
2. Pestilences, signified by the pale horse, and death upon him, and the grave at his heels, under the fourth seal—“When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.” I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:7-8).
There will be famines and pestilences, which are the common effects of war, and which destroys the fruits of the earth (farm animals and produce) and, by exposing men to bad weather (drought, floods, storms, etc.), and reducing them to eating whatever remains, leads to infectious diseases that kills without distinction, and in a little time, the dead lay in heaps upon heaps.
3. Earthquakes in divers places, or from place to place. In the book of Zechariah, there is the mention of earthquakes pursuing those that flee from them, as they did in the  days of Uzziah—“Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the Lord my God will come, And all the saints with You” (Zec. 14:5). There will be earthquakes, great earthquakes, in divers places, which will not only frighten people, but also destroy towns and houses, and bury many in the ruins of those cities. Earthquakes are responsible for the loss of life, the destruction of property and untold suffering and hardships, and they help to create famines, and both help to cause epidemics that take many lives.  However, they are viewed differently in the visions given to God’s prophets; God uses earthquakes to accomplish His purposes. When God shakes terribly the earth (Isa. 2:21), it is to shake the wicked out of it (Job 38:13), “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Hag. 2:6, 7). These “shakings” of the nations would prepare the way for the Messiah and His kingdom (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8). The first “shaking” took place when God gave Moses the Law at Sinai (Ex. 19:16). Another shaking, and this one was of cosmic dimensions would be coming at the end—“Whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:26–28). At Sinai God’s voice caused an earthquake. But when He speaks in the future, His voice will also produce a “heavenquake.” This was, in substance, predicted by the prophet Haggai (2:6): “Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land.” This shaking will take place during the period from the Rapture to the end of Christ’s kingdom. Prior to Christ’s coming to reign there will be violent convulsions of nature both on earth and in the heavens. Planets will be moved out of orbit causing raging tides and roaring seas. Then at the close of Christ’s Millennial Reign, the earth, the planetary heavens, and the atmospheric heavens will be destroyed by fervent heat (2 Pet. 3:10–12). When God said, “Yet once more,” He anticipated a complete and final removal of the heavens and the earth. This event will explode the myth that what we can see, touch, and handle is real and that unseen things are unreal. When God ends the sifting and shaking process, only that which is real will remain. Those who were occupied with the tangible, visible ritualism of Judaism were clinging to things that could be shaken. True believers have a kingdom, which cannot be shaken. This should inspire the most fervent worship and adoration. We should unceasingly praise Him with reverence and godly fear.

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Alternate Translation (CEV): But this is just the beginning of troubles.

The next great event in God’s time schedule is the Rapture of the church (John 14:1–6; 1 Cor. 15:51–57). There is no prophecy to be fulfilled before then. After the church is removed, God’s prophetic clock will begin and these conditions will become more severe and happen more frequently. Verse 8 clearly identifies this period as the beginning of sorrows—the onset of birth pangs which will bring forth a new order under Israel’s Messiah-King. Jesus’ words here are descriptive of the events preceding the Great Tribulation period when the Antichrist will enter a future Temple in Jerusalem to set himself up as God—“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the  man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (II Thess. 2:3–4).

First, there will be the falling away, or the apostasy. What does this mean? We can only surmise that it refers to a wholesale abandonment of Christianity, a positive rejection of the Christian faith.

Then a great world figure, called here, the man of sin will arise. As to his character, he is the man of sin or lawlessness, that is, the very embodiment of sin and rebellion. As to his destiny, he is the son of perdition; he is doomed to eternal judgment.

He will violently oppose every form of divine worship and will enthrone himself in the temple of God in Jerusalem. This description clearly identifies him as Antichrist, the one who is opposed to Christ and who sets himself up in the place of Christ. He will begin his career as a peacemaker, signing a covenant with Israel to protect her from her enemies (Daniel 9:27).  Israel will welcome this man, as their great benefactor (John 5:43). Birth quakes

Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15 show that this blasphemous action of the Antichrist takes place in the middle of the Tribulation Period. Those who refuse to worship him will be persecuted and many will be martyred.


As we approach the time for the Second Coming of Christ, there will be great cataclysms of nature—earthquakes, famines, and troubles. These are only preliminary birth pangs, ushering in a period of unparalleled travail. However, we should not think of it as if God has done his worst; no, he has more arrows in his quiver, and they are aimed at the persecutors. Do not be troubled by the wars you will hear about, because they are only the beginnings of sorrows, and therefore, instead of being disturbed by them, you ought to prepare for the worst, because there will also be earthquakes in various places, which shall bury multitudes in the ruins of their own houses. And, there will be famines that will bring death to multitudes of the poor, who can’t afford to buy bread. In addition, there will not be any peace in the world. The world will be full of troubles; without are fightings and within are fears, but do not worry. Note, the disciples of Christ, may enjoy a holy security and serenity of mind, when all about them is the greatest disorder.

Do you have any questions or comments?

 One of the most pronounced memories of 1997 was that of Princess Diana’s death. In the early morning hours of August 31, the princess died in a Paris hospital after a violent car accident. According to her psychic, this tragedy was not supposed to be part of her future. Just a few weeks before her death, Diana went with Dodi al-Fayed to see a clairvoyant on August 12. They spent almost two hours with Rita Rogers, a psychic in Chesterfield, England. The couple sought guidance on their future and it appeared they received some great encouragement. One witness said, “Di was grinning all over her face and looked like she had received good news.” Nineteen days later she was dead. Only God can truthfully declare, “I know the plans I have for you.”

Houston Chronicle, Aug. 14, 1997, p. 2A

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