Before reading this brief study, please read,
- The Meaning of Eschatology
- Flashback to the Prophecy of Jesus Christ
- The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 1
- The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 2
- The Parable of the Vineyard – Part 3
- The Wedding Feast
- The Temple – Old and New
- The Questions
- The Beginning of Signs
- Misleading Signs – False Messiahs
Matthew 24:6 — And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
Mark 13:7 — And when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.
Luke 21:9 — And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
This is also one of the passages of scripture that the end-time proponents use to validate the current affairs in the world. Any news of civil war, cold war or even rumours of such events is spoken off to prove their point.
Why would Jesus speak to His disciples of wars and rumours of wars that would not be relevant to them, but to us two thousand plus years later? The entire context is about things which would precede the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
The Roman Empire was in an extended time of peace at the point Jesus gave this warning. However, within the next few years, the Empire was filled with “wars and rumours of wars.”
Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius; these four Roman Emperors suffered violent deaths in the space of eighteen months. As a result of this, rapid changes were made in government and chaos spread throughout the Roman empire.
“It is recorded in the history of Rome, that the most violent agitations prevailed in the Roman empire previous to the destruction of Jerusalem. Four emperors, Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, suffered violent deaths, in the short space of eighteen months. In consequence of these changes in the government, there were commotions throughout the empire, parties were formed, and bloody and violent wars were the consequence of attachment to the particular emperors. This is the more remarkable, as at the time that the prophecy was made the empire was in a state of peace.” [Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the new testament, n.p.]
The loyalty and commitment of people kept fluctuating as allegiances were formed around the various emperors. These were unstable days in government and Rome suffered bloody violence as the consequence.
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL WARS
John Bray gives a list of wars and conflicts from 30 AD to 70 AD:
“In AD. 40 there was a disturbance at Mesopotamia which (Josephus says) caused the deaths of more than 50,000 people. In AD. 49, a tumult at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover resulted in 10,000 to 20,000 deaths. At Caesarea, contentions between Jewish people and other inhabitants resulted in over 20,000 Jews being killed. As Jews moved elsewhere, over 20,000 were destroyed by Syrians. At Scythopolis, over 13,000 Jews were killed. Thousands were killed in other places, and at Alexandria 50,000 were killed. At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour’s time.” [ John Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p. 28]
Tacitus gives us a view into the scene,
“The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time.” [Tacitus, Histories, 1:2]
THE ROMAN CIVIL WARS
Josephus says that Roman civil wars in this era were so common that he didn’t see a need to write about them in detail. The Roman civil wars were especially pronounced between AD. 68-70 when three emperors held the top spot in short order and their rival troops fought it out.
“I have omitted to give an exact account of them, because they are well known by all, and they are described by a great number of Greek and Roman authors; yet for the sake of the connection of matters, and that my history may not be incoherent, I have just touched upon everything briefly.” [Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 4.9.2]
WHAT WAS JESUS REFERRING TO?
When Jesus was referring to wars and rumours of wars, He was not referring to what is going on in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, China, Israel, or Europe today. Some modern-day prophecy teachers reach into Matthew 24 and back into the old testament to twist these passages of prophecies by alluding these references to these modern-day countries and us today. This is without doubt irresponsible exegesis.
Wars and rumours of wars have always existed throughout history and can be applied to any period in history. Jesus was not talking about an increase of them. He was plainly stating that the disciples would witness wars and rumours of wars before the temple would be destroyed, as the whole context was still the temple. He told them that the end was not yet when they were to witness this.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT ALL THIS?
We often hear skeptics say, “What’s the big deal about these predictions, then?” In a sense they are right, as the key here is not Jesus’ predictions of such things, but His warning, “the end is not yet” and so, in other words He is giving the same advice, “to not read too much into the times.”
However, we need to show that such events did happen in the specified time frame and throughout the region of Israel there was tremendous resistance to the Roman occupation.
JEWISH REBELLION AGAINST ROME
A Jewish rebellion against Rome began in Judea in AD. 66:
“Gessius Florus, the last of the Roman prefects for Judea, provoked a Jewish rebellion against Rome in 66 C.E. by stealing funds from the temple treasury. The Jews withstood the Romans temporarily; at that time the Christian community abandoned Jerusalem and fled to Pella.” [King, Jerusalem, n.p]
According to theologian Alexander Keith the great “Roman Peace” was very fragile:
“The Jews resisted the erection of the statue of Caligula in the temple; and such was the dread of Roman resentment, that the fields remained uncultivated. At Caesarea, the Jews and Syrians contended for the mastery of the city. Twenty thousand of the former were put to death, and the rest were expelled.
Every city in Syria was then divided into armies, and multitudes were slaughtered. Alexandria and Damascus presented a similar scene of bloodshed. About fifty thousand Jews fell in the former, and ten thousand in the latter. The Jewish nation rebelled against the Roman…” [The Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy; Particularly as Illustrated by the History of the Jews, And by the Discoveries of Recent Travelers, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, n.d.), p. 59-60]
RUMOURS OF WARS
Josephus records that both the Bardanes and the Vologeses declared war on the Jews, but it was never carried out. [Josephus, Antiquities, 20.3. p. 417.]
He also mentions Vitellius, governor of Syria who declared war against Aretas, king of Arabia and wished to lead his army through Palestine but the war never materialized. [Josephus, Antiquities, 18. p. 382. ]
“…wars and rumours of wars…” [Matthew 24:6] This shows the reality of this truth.