FAMINES & PESTILENCES & EARTHQUAKES
MATTHEW CHAPTER 24
presented by M Simpson, R Paterson and www.returnofelias.org
The Lordʼs great prophecy recorded in the gospels of Matthew24, Mark 13 & Luke 21 outlines significant events throughout the Christian Era even to the Second Coming of Christ. Johnʼs gospel does not contain this prophecy because he got the expanded version in the Book of Revelation.
Summary of Matthew 24.
OVERVIEW Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 all record this same prophecy which outlines significant events for the Church throughout the Christian Era beginning in apostolic days and reaching to the Second Coming of Christ. This prophecy is conspicuously absent in Johnʼs gospel. The book of Revelation is an expanded version of the prophecy of Matthew 24.
Matthew 24 has two applications, one spanning the enire Christian Era and another covering the end-time. This first study will explain the historical fulfilment of the prophecy. The future application will be given below.
verse 1 The Temple The temple was the pride and joy of every Jewish heart. Some of its stones - 45 by 5 by 6 cubits (about 20m by 2.1m by 2.7m.) Flavius Josephus, celebrated Jewish historian (c. A.D. 37-100), War, v.5.6 
verse 2 Thrown down “The buildings of the Temple” were to be totally destroyed.
verse 3 When shall these things be Jesus describes events leading up to the destruction of the temple which occurred in AD70. He then describes certain significant events in history culminating in the second coming.
verses 4-5 Deceivers Before the temple was destroyed many deceivers arose.
verses 6-7 Wars, pestilence, earthquakes and famines These occurred before the temple was destroyed. Jewish and Roman writers de- scribe the period from AD31-70. as a time of great calamities. A particularly severe famine in Judea about AD44. is alluded to in Acts 11:28. There were four major famines during the reign of Claudius, AD41-54. There were a series of earthquakes between AD31. and AD70. The worst were in Crete (46 or 47), Rome (51), Phrygia (60), and Campania (63).
verses 8-10 Betrayed Stephen, the first Christian martyr was stoned in AD34. Peter & John were im- prisoned (Acts 4:3-7). Paul was accused before Felix as the ringleader of a sect (Acts 24:5). Everywhere Christianity was “spoken against.” (Acts 28:22). Christians were falsely accused of the most dreadful crimes and declared to be the cause of great calamities. As they became objects of popular hatred and suspicion, informers stood ready, for the sake of gain, to betray the innocent. They were condemned as rebels against the empire, as foes of religion, and as pests of society.
verse 11 False prophets False prophets arose before the temple was destroyed.
verse 12 Iniquity Because of widespread sin the love for the truth and love for each other faded.
verse 13 Endurance But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
verse 14 Gospel to all the world The gospel was preached to the known world before the temple was destroyed. In Paulʼs day the Christian faith was “spoken of throughout the whole world.” Rom 1:8. The gospel went “unto the ends of the world.” Rom 10:18, and was “preached to every creature which is under heaven.” Col 1:23. Then the end came for the Temple...
verse 15 The Abomination of Desolation in the holy place Comparing Luke 21:20-21; Mark 13:14 and Matt 24:15 show that the “abomination of desolation” was “Armies” “compassing” or surrounding “Jerusalem,” standing in the holy grounds which surrounded Jerusalem. Jesus prophesied that the Jews enemies would surround them (Luke 21:43-44). Because of Jewish rebellion the Roman armies under the command of Cestius surrounded Jerusalem in AD66. An assault was made but unaccountably Cestius with- drew. The Christians, recognizing the sign, took the opportunity and fled to the city of Pella. See Josephus, The War of the Jews, Book 2, Chap. 19, part 7.
Spoken of by Daniel the prophet In Dan 9:27 Daniel prophesied that Jeru- salem and the temple would be destroyed. Through their rejection of Christ the Jews were given up to the Roman armies. In this way the Jews, the people of Messiah the Prince, destroyed their own city & sanctu- ary.
verse 16 Flee Judea Eusebius the ancient historian wrote: “But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come thither from Jerusalem, then as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men.” Eusebius, Church History, book 3, chap. 5, sec. 3, in NPNF, 2nd series, Vol. 1, p138.
verses 17-18 Immediate flight Those on their flat roofs in the city or working in the field fled immediately.
verse 19 Woe to the rebels The rebellious non-Christian Jews, including their suckling infants, would suffer horribly when the Romans returned. (Luke 21:23; Deut 28:15 -57).
verse 20 Winter or Sabbath Fleeing in winter would have been difficult. Neither did Christ want His people fleeing on the holy sabbath day which He had called His own (Mark 2:28; Exo 20:8- 11; Isa 58:13). The fleeing occurred on a Wednesday, Oct 7. Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed In AD70. the Romans, having made their way through Judea crushing all Jewish resistance, returned to Jerusalem. God had warned the Jews that if they were disobedient they would suffer terribly, even foretelling that the tender and delicate women would eat their own children. See Deut 28:15 -57. This was fulfilled when Rome laid siege to Jerusalem and starved multitudes to death.
“The rebellion against Rome that began in AD. 66 soon focused on the Temple and effectively ended with the Templeʼs destruction on the 9th/10th Av of AD. 70. All that remained of the second Temple was a portion of the Western Wall (q.v.; also called the Wailing Wall), which continues to be the focus of Jewish aspirations and pilgrimage.” Encʼ Britannica, 15th ed. (1985) p539.
The ground upon which the Temple had stood was “plowed like a field.” Jer 26:18. In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than one million perished.
Christʼs words, that not one stone would be left upon another, were fulfilled in this way: “Now, as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder...Ceasar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple...This was the end which Jerusalem came to...” Josephus, Wars of the Jews, trans. William Whiston, p589.
verse 21 Great Tribulation This cannot refer to the tribulation which befell Jerusalem in AD 70 because: (a) This tribulation could have resulted in the destruction of the elect (v 22), but none of the elect were in Jerusalem when it was destroyed in AD 70. They had all fled in AD66. (See on v 15-16). (b) This tribulation was shortened (v 22) but the tribulation on Jerusalem was not shortened. (c) This tribulation was “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” so it cannot refer to the tribulation on Jerusalem as there were greater tribulations before then and have been greater tribulations since then. (d) This tribulation was immediately followed by signs in the sun, moon and stars (v 29). Such signs did not immediately follow the tribulation on Jerusalem. “From the destruction of Jerusalem, Christ passed on rapidly to the greater event, the last link in the chain of this earthʼs history,- the coming of the Son of God in majesty and glory. Between these two events, there lay open to Christʼs view long centuries of darkness, centuries for His church marked with blood and tears and agony. Upon these scenes His disciples could not then endure to look, and Jesus passed them by with a brief mention. “THEN SHALL BE GREAT TRIBULATION” He said, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the electʼs sake those days shall be shortened.” FOR MORE THAN A THOUSAND YEARS such persecution as the world had never before known was to come upon Christʼs followers. Millions upon millions of His faithful witnesses were to be slain. Had not Godʼs hand been stretched out to preserve His people, all would have perished. “But for the electʼs sake,” He said, “those days shall be shortened.” E.G. White, Desire of Ages, p630-631.
Today the Papacy openly admits to its atrocities in the past, such as the Inquisition when it tortured and destroyed countless numbers for their beliefs. Those were indeed Dark Ages which would have exterminated the true faith except those days were shortened.”
verse 21 No, nor ever shall be There will never be a period of persecution of this length. The final Tribulation such as never was (Dan 12:1) will be terrible and worldwide but it will not last over 1000 years.
verse 22 Tribulation shortened Had not Godʼs hand been stretched out to preserve His people, all would have perished. Through the influence of the Reformation support for the Papacy dried up and the persecution was brought to an end around the 1770s-1780s and
since that time there has been no general Roman Catholic persecution of Protestant Christians. “The persecution of the church did not continue throughout the entire period of the 1260 years. God in mercy to His people cut short the time of their fiery trial. In foretelling the “great tribulation” to befall the church, the Saviour said: “Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the electʼs sake those days shall be shortened.” Matthew 24:22. Through the influence of the Reformation the persecution was brought to an end prior to 1798.” E.G. White, Great Controversy, p266-267.
verses 23-24 False Christs There have been false Christs throughout history. Because the elect know the Scrip- tures they are shielded against deception (Isa 8:20).
verses 25-28 No secret Coming The coming of the real Christ will be no secret. The “parousia” of the Son of man will be visible, and audible to all men, both good & bad. (See v 30; Rev 1:7; Ps 50:3). At the Second Coming the wicked will be slain and left behind, their carcasses will litter the earth, while the saints will be caught up to be with Christ. (Rev 19:17-18; 2 Thess 2:8; 1Thess 4:16-17).
verse 29 Signs following the Tribulation At the close of the great tribulation, when the Roman Church lost its power to perse- cute (v 21-22), the signs appeared. “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.” Mark 13:24. The 1260 days, or years, terminated in 1798. A quarter of a century earlier, persecution had almost wholly ceased. Following this persecution, according to the words of Christ, the sun was to be darkened. On the 19th of May, 1780, this prophecy was fulfilled.” E.G. White, Great Controversy, p306.
“At the close of the great papal persecution, Christ declared, the sun should be darkened, and the moon should not give her light. Next, the stars should fall from heaven. And He says, “Learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that He is near, even at the doors.” Matt. 24:32, 33, margin. Christ has given signs of His coming. He declares that we may know when He is near, even at the doors. He says of those who see these signs, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” THESE SIGNS HAVE APPEARED. Now we know of a surety that the Lordʼs coming is at hand.” E.G. White, Desire of Ages, p632
“[Luke 21:25 ; Mark 13:24-26; Rev 6:12 quoted]. These signs were witnessed before the opening of the nineteenth century.” E.G. White, Great Controversy, p304.
The Dark Day “Almost, if not altogether alone, as the most mysterious and yet unexplained phenomenon of its kind in natureʼs diversified range of events, during the last century, stands the dark day of May 19th, 1780,
- a most unaccountable darkening of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England.” R. M. Devens, Our First Century, p89- 90.
“The Dark Day, May 19, 1780. The true cause of this remarkable phenomenon is not known.” Websterʼs Unabridged Dictionary, 1883.
“In the month of May, 1780, there was a terrific dark day in New England, when ʻall faces seemed to gather blackness,ʼ and the people were filled with fear. There was great distress in the village where Edward Lee lived, ʻmenʼs hearts failing them for fearʼ that the Judgment-day was at hand; and the neighbors all flocked around the holy man,” who “spent the gloomy hours in earnest prayer for the distressed multitude.” Tract No. 379, American Tract Society; Life of Edward Lee.
“The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable dark day. - Candles were lighted in many houses. The birds were silent and disappeared. The fowls retired to rest. It was the general opinion that the day of judgment was at hand. The Legislature of Connecticut was in session at Hartford, but being unable to transact business adjourned.” President Dwight, in Ct. Historical Collections.
“The cocks crew as at daybreak, and everything bore the appearance of gloom of night. The alarm produced by this unusual aspect of the heavens was very great.” Portsmouth Journal, May 20, 1843.
Moon did not give its light The moon did not give its normal light: “The disk of the moon (May 16-18)...was of a reddish copper colour...” The Pennsylvania Evening Post, (Philadelphia), June 6, 1780, p 62. Rev 6:12-13 reads, “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree casteth its untimely figs, when it is shaken by a mighty wind.”
The Falling Stars “The stars shall fall from heaven.” Matthew 24:29. And John in the Revelation declared, as he beheld in vision the scenes that should herald the day of God: “The stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” Revelation 6:13. This prophecy received a striking and impressive fulfillment in the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833.
Note: This allows for another fulfillment. “The morning of Nov 13, 1833, was rendered memorable by an exhibition of the phenomenon called shooting stars, which was probably more extensive and magnificent than any similar one hitherto recorded...They seemed to shower down in groups - calling to mind the fig tree, casting her untimely figs when she is shaken by a mighty wind.” American Journal of Science, Vol 25, 1834, p 363-4, 382.
“Perhaps ages may roll away before the world will be again surprised and delighted with a display of celestial fire works equal to that of the morning of November, 13, 1833.” The Mechanism of the Heavens, D. Olmsted, p 314.
“Extensive and magnificent showers of shooting stars have been known to occur at various places in modern times; but the most universal and wonderful which has ever been recorded, is that of the 13th of November, 1833, the whole firmament, over all the United States, being then, for hours, in fiery commotion. No celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in this country since its first settlement, which was viewed with such intense admiration by one class in the community, or with so much dread and alarm by another. . . . During the three hours of its continuance, the day of judgment was believed to be only waiting for sunrise.” R.M. Devens, Our First Century, p329.
“Arago computes that not less than two hundred and forty thousand meteors were at the same time visible above the horizon of Boston.” And of the display at Niagara it is said that “no spectacle so terribly grand and sublime was ever before beheld by man as that of the firmament descending in fiery torrents over the dark and roaring cataract.” Ibid. The falling stars were a meteor storm known today as the “Leonids,” because they appear to strike the earth from the constellation Leo. The Leonids occur every 33 years, but are not always as spectacular as the storm of 1833.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SIGNS Some point out that there have been earthquakes of greater magnitude that claimed more lives. They also point out that falling stars were actually the Leonid meteor storm which the earth passes through every 33 1/2 years, and that other storms have been greater (See Guiness book of Records, 1992). How then, these people ask, could these natural sign, which were not global, be the fulfillment of the prophecy?
Matthew 24 is to have another application in which we might expect the signs to be the greatest ever worldwide events. How- ever the historical application of the signs in Matthew 24 still fulfilled every requirement of the prophecy: The prophecy did not say that the signs would be supernatural. It did not say that the signs would be global. It did not say that the signs would be the greatest example of their kind. Therefore the events of 1780 and 1833 occurring as they did in order at the time specified after the Great Tribulation during the Papal supremacy, were a fulfillment of the prophecy.
There will be another more direct application but the fact remains that Matthew 24 has had a perfectly satisfactory fulfillment. In love Christ gave these sign to help men prepare to meet the Lord. The fact that the last two signs, the Dark Day (1780) and the Falling Stars (1833) occurred over North America is significant. These events helped to convince many Christians in North America that the Lordʼs return was imminent. This helped give impetus to the Great Second Advent Movement of the 1840s which itself fulfilled prophecy. See on Rev 10. The events of the 1780 and 1833 may seem like ancient history to some people, but in terms of the total history of the earth, it is quite a recent event and assures us that the Lordʼs coming really is near.
verse 29 And the powers of the heavens shall be shaken We live just before this point in the prophecy which describes events associated with the Second Coming of Christ. (cf. Isa 34:4; Rev 6:14).
verse 30 Sign of the Son of Man The wicked of the earth will mourn when they see Jesus returning because they know that His arrival means their death. (cf. Rev 6:15-17; Isa 2:19-21; Rev 1:7; 2Thess 2:8).
verse 31 The Last Trump The last trump will accompany the resurrection of the dead saints. (cf. 1Cor 15:52; 1Thess 4:16) and their gathering unto Christ from the four winds [N.S.E.W]. Christ returns to collect His saints (John 14:3) both dead and living, who will be caught up to be with Him (1Thess 4:15-17) while the wicked will be slain, leaving the earth “utterly emptied” (Isa 24:1-3; Zeph 1:2-7) “without form and void” with “no man” (Jer 4:23-26). For 1000 years the wicked will be as “dung upon the ground” (Jer 25:33). cf. Jer 25:30-33; Rev 6:14; See study on Rev 20).
verses 32-35 34 This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Many have wondered how all these things Jesus described (the dicisples seeing the abomination of desolation, fleeing from Judea, the signs in the 1700-1800s, and the sign of the Son of man) could occur in one generation?
“This generation” need not refer to a group of people within one human lifetime. “This generation” can refer to the wicked as a whole. “Matt 16:4 “A wicked and adulterous generation...”
“Ye GENERATION OF VIPERS...Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and [some] of them ye shall kill and crucify; and [some] of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute [them] from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon THIS GENERATION.” Matt 23:34-36. Here “this generation” includes Cain who slew Abel right through to those who would slay prophets to come. This generation thus refers to ALL the wicked - the generation of Satan, his “seed.” Inspiration also calls the church “a chosen generation.” 1 Pet 2:9.
“A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” Ps 22:30. Matt 24:34-35 repeats the teaching found in Ps 102:25-28 - “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the EARTH: and the HEAVENS [are] the work of thy hands. They shall PERISH [“pass away” Matt 24:35], but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a gar- ment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed...The children of THY SERVANTS [“This generation” Matt 24:34, i.e. the church] shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.”
This implies that the wicked will pass away. “...the HEAVENS SHALL VANISH away like smoke, and the EARTH shall wax old like a garment, and THEY THAT DWELL THEREIN SHALL DIE in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.” Isa 51:6. After all the signs foretold the generation of the wicked shall perish but Godʼs true church will never pass away. Of course in another sense the events of Matthew 24 are to have another fulfillment which will occur in the days of the final generation. Jesus words thus allow for the historical application of the signs while having a more direct application to the final generation.
verse 36 The day and hour Christ, who was fully God, came “in the likeness of men,” (Phil 2: 6) and gave up His omniscience etc. He had to grow in knowledge and wisdom (Luke 2:52). As a Man while on earth, Christ did not know the day and hour He would return.
verses 37-38 As in Noahʼs day As in Noahʼs day those left behind at the Second Coming will be left dead.
verses 40-41 One taken the other left The field represents the world (Matt 13:38). Those left behind will be left dead as in Noahʼs day. Compare the parallel passage in Luke 17:34-37.
verses 42-44 Watch Coming as a thief clearly means coming unexpectedly, not secretly. 1Thess 5:2-4 “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night...But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” That day will come unexpectedly to the wicked, but not to the saints: 2Pet 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” The “day” of Christʼs coming will not be unexpected by the saints though we do not know the “hour.”
WHAT CAN WE LEARN? (a) This prophecy is the great overview of Christian history. As Old Testament prophecy concerned the history of Israel throughout their entire history so New Testament prophecy concerns the history of the church throughout the ages. God loves us and reveals to us what is to come. (b) Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 all record this same prophecy. It is conspicuously absent in Johnʼs gospel. John gave the expanded account in the book of Revelation. For example the chart on the next page shows how the Seals of Rev 6-8 parallel the things described in Matt 24. Other aspects of Matt 24 are expanded upon in the various sections of the Revelation.
The Great Tribulation in Matt 24 1. Occured between the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (AD70) and the time when the sun was darkened, the moon affected (1780). 2. It affected the elect. 3. It was cut short. 4. It was followed by signs. 5. It was such as was not since the beginning of the world.
Matthew chapter 24
The Great Tribulation occurred under the dominant period of the Roman Catholic Church which persecuted those they declared heretics for over 1000 years between 538 and about
1770. 1. It virtually filled the period between AD70 and the Dark Day and the moonlight to blood (May 19 1780), and the falling of the stars (Nov. 13 1833) 2. It affected the saints 3. It was cut short by the voice of God in the Protestant Reformation (c. 1750). The truth proclaimed enlightned men and the support the Papacy has formerly recieved dried up. 4. It was followed by the signs in sun, moon and stars (1780, 1833). 5. It was such as had not been since the beginning of the world and never will be again. There will never be a period of persecution of this length. The final Tribulation will be terible and worldwide but it will not last over 1000 years.
Another Application of Matthew 24
Matthew 24 shows a chain of events spanning Christian history. While these prophecies received a fulfillment in the past they have a more direct application to the end of the world. “The prophecy which He uttered was TWO-FOLD in its meaning; while foreshadowing the destruction of Jerusalem, it prefigured also the terrors of the last great day.” E.G. White, Great Controversy, p25. “The ruin of Jerusalem was a symbol of the final ruin that shall overwhelm the world. The prophecies that received a partial fulfillment in the overthrow of Jerusalem have A MORE DIRECT APPLICATION to the last days.” MB 120.
The Dual Application of the Prophecy
The 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel chapter 9 brought us to: (1) Christʼs first apartment ministry. (2) The Apostolic Church. (3) Great Disappointment (Calvary) (4) The first application of the prophecies up to 1844. (5) The early church warned the Roman Empire before it adopted apostate Christianity, enforced Sunday laws, and as a result suffered the seven trumpets destruction of Revelation and was devoured by 10 nations whose surviving descendants make up Europe today.
The 2300 days prophecy of Daniel 8:14 brought us to: (1) Christʼs second apartment ministry
(2) The Advent Movement. (3) Great Disappointment (1844). (4) The second application of the prophecies We must prophesy again but the time prophecies are no longer applicable (Rev 10). (5) The Advent Movement is warning the entire world which will enforce Sunday laws before the seven last plagues fall. Finally the wicked, realizing that they have been deceived, will turn on and devour the corrupt church.
The first application of Matthew 24 begins in the time of Christ. The second application of Matthew 24 begins from the time of the Advent Movement.