Jesus sat on the olive tree covered slopes of the Mt. of Olives, and gave His disciples a private briefing of the End of Days for Planet earth. In the shortest and yet most complete summary He describes life from His 1st Advent through to His 2nd. That sermon called by theologians the “Olivet Discourse” is again our focus, as we open to Matthew 24:7. Tonight we hear Jesus is describing another element of what the Earth would be like at His Coming.
Each of the other six elements we have studied, that are given in God's Word (Global: Travel, Knowledge Explosion, Disaster Awareness, Communications, Commerce, and Apostasy) are actually trends that become full blown, global realities during what is known in God's Word the Bible as the End of Days.
After examining the first six of these ten biggest trends, that are clearly described in the Scriptures, we have come to the seventh, which may be described as either “Global Pestilences”, or “Global Bio-Terrorism”, or “Global Plagues”. Listen to Christ's ominous warning:
Matthew 24:7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
Rearing its Ugly Head?
Amazingly in January of 2009, as people all over the world were reeling from bank collapses, job losses, economic quakes, and a general financial uncertainty across all borders: we continued to move at warp speed towards the horrific reality of Global Pestilences.
While most of the world’s attention and news services have been glued to the continuing financial meltdown and swindles that have taken billions from common working people and trillions from financial markets—one item has passed almost everyone by.
In a lonely terror training camp, a small group of terrorists stationed in North Africa, may have proved last month that the most feared scourge of modern civilization may be in the process of becoming weaponized.
Billions of pathogens aimed at human destruction, called the Black Death, await the bidding of their handlers. Germ warfare is very lethal. In a matter of a few hours 40 Al-Qaeda fighters were dead. They may have been experimenting with, or experimented on, by the Plague, the pestilence, or as history calls it—the Black Death.
Black Death comes in various forms and was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history when it struck in the 1340s killing 75 million people across North Africa, Asia and Europe.
Bubonic Plague is spread by bites from infected rat fleas. Symptoms include painful boils in the groin, neck and armpits. In Pneumonic Plague, airborn bacteria spread like flu. Without medication it can be deadly.
Though not practiced enough to be accurate, they did manage to release legions of deadly pathogens. Though poorly aimed, soon the pestilence weapon will be at the command of evil masters. We know that they will finally perfect bio-warfare, because John the Apostle watched them do it in Revelation 6.
As we read Christ's words in Matthew 24 think germ warfare, think of the chilling description that John gave us. Christ's predictions of Matthew 24 are seen by John on Patmos, and written down for us by the Spirit of God.
Please stand and listen to MATTHEW 24:1-14.
THE BEGINNING OF
The events described in this section are “the beginning of birth-pangs” (Matt. 24:8). The image of a woman in travail is a picture of the Tribulation period (Isa. 13:6–11; 1 Thes. 5:5). Let’s just review just the elements captured in Christ's description of the beginning of this period.
1. Global Apostasy (vv. 4–5). The rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:1–2 is the Antichrist, that final world dictator who will lead the nations astray. He is surrounded by religious deception and desires to be worshipped in place of the True God, hence the name anti (in place of or against) Christ. Daniel exposes that he begins his career as a peacemaker, signing a covenant with Israel to protect her from her enemies (Dan. 9:27).
2. Global Warfare (v. 6). Wars are not a sign of the end. There have always been wars in the world, and will be until the very end. Wars of themselves do not announce the end of the age or the coming of the Lord. But amplified, accelerated, global warfare is seen here as Revelation describes.
3. Global Famines (v. 7a). War and famine usually go together. Revelation 6:6 suggests terribly high prices for staple foods, for a “penny” was a day’s wages.
4. Global Epidemics (vv. 7b-8). From all the extra insights of Revelation 6-16 we see that earthquakes may help to create famines; but there seems to be some form of bio-terror that helps to cause epidemics that take many lives.
5. Global Persecutions (v. 9). Christians have always been hated by the world, but here we have an acceleration of persecutions and murders. All nations will be involved. This certainly was not true in the history of the early church.
6. Global Chaos (vv. 10–13). Lawlessness will abound (Matt. 24:12), not even governments will be able to keep the peace.
7. Global Evangelism (v. 14). Revelation 7:1–8 portrays God choosing and sealing 144,000 Jewish evangelists who carry the kingdom message to the ends of the earth. By media today, by the 144,000 then, plus the angel of Rev. 14—all the Earth is exposed to the Gospel.
As we linger on the central point of Matthew 24:7, we see “pestilence”, plagues, disaster, death, and disease are going global and no one is ever prepared for a plgue.
Far more deadly and volatile than the Black Plagues of the past are the avian or bird flus of today. On January 18th, 2009, A 27-year-old woman from eastern China has died of bird flu, Chinese authorities said, making her the second person to die this year from the deadly virus. Two tests on the woman were positive for H5N1 avian influenza, said the ministry, which did not say how she might have contracted the virus.
Tonight a menacing plague is stalking our planet . Quietly in farms and homes across Asia a global, deadly, unstoppable influenza pestilence is mutating, strengthening—and trying to find a way out.
Last time it got out almost four million people died in 1964.
The time before that almost eighty million died in 1918. In fact, 1918 was the greatest disaster America has ever had with almost a million dying in just a few weeks time.
The Big Picture of
Life and Death
Now to get this all in perspective, think of the big picture of planet earth.
Almost five million people die each month on earth anyway—but Jesus warned of something bigger, something frightful. He said that a plague, a pestilence, a wall of death is going to stalk the entire planet. He said that if these catastrophic events didn’t stop they would wipe out all human life.
World Vital Events Per Time Unit: 2009
Time unit Births Deaths increase
Year 129,908,352 56,622,744 73,285,608
Month 10,825,696 4,718,562 6,107,134
Day 355,913 155,131 200,782
Hour 14,830 6,464 8,366
Minute 247 108 139
Second 4.1 1.8 2.3
Listen to Jesus as we open again to Luke 21:11 where we see that one of the signs of His Coming is when we see the onslaught of global pestilences.
Luke 21:11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
There have always been diseases, plagues, and pestilences—but never have they been global until the advent of Global Travel. Think about it—most carriers of a plague would die before they got very far up until the 19th century with steam engines. Then with air travel in the 20th century—it is now possible to harbor a plague or pestilence, board a flight and land before you get to the final stages and thus expose everyone around you to that plague.
Look at what Jesus also said in the same context. Mark and Matthew capture this same message. Only they also record that Jesus said something ominous about how powerful these pestilences will be.
Mark 13:20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.
Matthew 24:22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
Remember the ominous proportion of this future pestilence being an extinction level event, and remembering the nearly self-limiting nature of ancient travel speeds—no one could live long enough to spread these plagues globally until the 20th century.
Listen to an article from the New Yorker Magazine :
" The vicious avian flu that has killed dozens of people in Vietnam, Thailand, and elsewhere in the region has caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of animals in nearly a dozen Asian countries in the past two years and could kill millions of people if it becomes capable of spreading efficiently among humans. No such virus has ever spread so quickly over such a wide geographical area, and, unlike most viruses, this one has already affected a more diverse group than any other type of flu, and it has killed many animals previously thought to be resistant."
One farmer whose chickens were killed by the virus says,
"It's so hard to watch. One day, they're all alive and healthy-the vets were here the week before to check them-and the next day they're dying by the thousand. It happened so quickly. They started shivering, thousands of them at once. And then they started to fall. Every one of them. They just fell over, dead."
Scott Dowell, the director of the Centers for Disease Control's Thailand office, tells Specter,
"The world just has no idea what it's going to see if this thing comes. When, really. It's when. I don't think we can afford the luxury of the word 'if' anymore.... The clock is ticking. We just don't know what time it is."
Robert Webster, a virologist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, in Memphis, who has been studying avian influenza for decades, is even more stark.
"This is the worst flu virus I have ever seen or worked with or read about. We have to prepare as if we were going to war-and the public needs to understand that clearly. This virus is playing its role as a natural bioterrorist. . . . if it does happen, and I fully expect that it will, there will be no place for any of us to hide. Not in the United States or in Europe or in a bunker somewhere. The virus is a very promiscuous and effective killer."
Not all politicians have ignored the threat; when Tommy Thompson, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced his resignation, last December, he cited an avian- influenza epidemic as one of the greatest dangers the United States faces.
The World Health Organization's conservative estimate of the number of deaths that an epidemic would cause is seven million worldwide.
Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, calculates that a pandemic on the scale of the devastating global influenza epidemic of 1918 would kill at least a hundred and eighty million people today. Specter reports on the efforts of health officials in the United States, Thailand, and other countries to contain the virus as best they can. Developing...
Here is another headline from the news this month--
Avian Flu World's No. 1 Threat, CDC Head Says
Avian flu poses the single biggest threat to the world right now and health officials may not yet have all the tools they need to fight it, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said on Monday.
"This is a very ominous situation for the globe. I think we can all recognize a similar pattern probably occurred prior to 1918," she said, referring to the 1918 pandemic of influenza, which also passed from birds to people and killed between 20 million and 40 million people globally.
The H5N1 avian flu, which first appeared in Hong Kong in 1997 and has since popped up twice, is evolving and can jump directly from birds to people, killing an estimated 72 percent of diagnosed victims, Gerberding said. Officials have documented 45 deaths so far from avian flu.
Gerberding said influenza was far more infectious than severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, which swept out of China in 2003, killing 800 people and causing global concern before it was stopped.
Health experts have also pointed out influenza kills much faster than diseases such as AIDS, taking tens of millions of lives in the space of weeks or months.
People transmit flu before they become ill themselves so it would be almost impossible to stop it by watching or isolating sick people, Gerberding said.
This assessment, she said, is based on the known history of the flu virus.
The avian flu now spreading in Asia is part of what is called the H1 family of flu viruses. It is a pathogen that is notorious in human history.
"Each time we see a new H1 antigen emerge, we experience a pandemic of influenza," said Gerberding. In 1918, H1 appeared and [up to 40] millions died worldwide. In 1957, the Asian flu [less than a million deaths] was an H2, and the Hong Kong flu [3-4 million deaths] in 1968 was a H3.
There had been small appearances of the H1-type of avian viruses in other years, but nothing like the H5 now rampaging through the birds of Asia.
Study already has shown that the virus can infect cats who can then infect other cats, which Gerberding said was "another harbinger" of the possibility of a human pandemic.
"The science here is all alerting us that we have a great deal to be concerned about," she said. The CDC chief said her agency is getting ready for a possible pandemic next year.
Now for those of us who just let everything fly by us, listen--here is what all that means.
When the World Health Organization starts comparing a new flu virus to the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, it is something that should cause everyone to sit up and take notice.
The 1918 epidemic was the worst epidemic the United States has ever experienced. It was so virulent that it caused the median life expectancy of Americans in 1918 to drop by ten years. More than a half-million Americans died after contracting the virus.
World-wide, it was so deadly that it killed between 25 and 40 MILLION people in 1918-1919. The strain was unusual in that it killed young and healthy victims, as opposed to more common influenzas which caused the bulk of their mortality among the old and infirm.
People without symptoms could be struck suddenly and be rendered too feeble to walk within hours; many would die the next day. Symptoms included a blue tint to the face and coughing up blood.
Nobody was safe from the Spanish Flu. The only inhabited place of any real size that wasn't touched by an outbreak of the virus was the island of Marajo at the mouth of the Amazon River.
In the case of H5N1, the incubation period after exposure is between two and ten days. It takes less that 12 hours to fly from anywhere in the world to almost anywhere else.
A person could become infected in Asia, hop a plane to the States, ride mass transit and eat in restaurants for a week before coming down with any symptoms.
Everybody who came in contact with that first person would also have between two and ten days to infect everybody they came in contact with.
H5N1 could duplicate the 1918 pandemic in a matter of weeks, rather than months.
Now turn to the inspired ending of human history, when the Lord is reeling in the rebellious planet look at Revelation 6 with me.
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." (Revelation 6:8)
The rider on the pale horse begins his deadly ride at some point during the Tribulation, and before his ride is over, a quarter of the population of mankind will be dead, from either war, famine or 'the beasts of the earth'.
The word translated 'beasts' is 'therion' in Greek, and means a 'venomous beast'.
H5N1 is a viral infection that scientists fear has crossed over from the beasts of the earth to human to human transmission. A virus is, in and of itself, a living thing -- a 'venomous beast' by definition.
Taken together with the other signs of the soon return of the Lord, we have something of a loose time frame. For two thousand years, that time frame was 'someday, eventually.'
For this generation, the ability to kill a quarter of mankind with war, famine and infectious disease fits into a time frame of today, tomorrow, or, as Dr Simor observed, "if not this year or the next, the following year", depending on the 'if-then'' factor. .
IF Iran doesn't use their newly built nuclear weapons to start World War III;
IF the Pakistanis and Indians don't nuke each other and start a conflagration involving 1 ½ billion people;
IF North Korea doesn't use its atomic bombs on the new long range missiles they are testing this week that could reach the West Coast;
IF terrorists don't get their hands on bio-weapons,
IF the Middle East conflict doesn't spark a global thermonuclear war first, THEN, maybe it might take a little longer.
But above all this gloom and doom, we know the One who promised that:
"the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1st Thessalonians 4:16-18)
Do you have that hope?
Is Christ's forgiveness applied to your life?
If not, it can be today. God still stands with open arms saying:
Isaiah 45:22 “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.