In reply to the disciples question, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?, Christ spoke of famines. Are famines in various places signs of the end? What role do famines play in the signs leading up to the end?
Wouldn’t it make sense to define the end? Are we absolutely sure we’re not imagining some end of which the Bible never speaks? In the question above, the word “end” is a part of the phrase, “end of the age.” Now that’s moving us along in the write direction.
So the next question is, “What is the age?” This word, listed #165, in Strong’s Greek Concordance means age. It’s an epoch or period of time. We’re almost there. Our next question leads us to what particular age is under discussion. Now it’s almost natural to define the age as the one in which one presently lives whether then or now.
For example, living today, if one were to ask, When is the end of the age?,” no doubt we would respond by speaking of our current age or times. In like manner, when the disciples asked the question of the Lord, he responded according to the times in which they lived. This helps us to define the period for the famines.
For nation will rise agains nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. (Matthew 24:7)
These were signs, not that the end had arrived, rather, they were merely the beginning of the labor pangs as of a women first going into signs of labor. Christ was careful to add that when they saw these things the end was not yet.
As in the previous post, the rule of hermeneutics applies here also. We must identify the correct times and places for the events. Now the world will always experience poverty and famines. Christ said the poor will be with you always. So, it must be the case that he has some particular time and event in mind.
In fulfillment of the sign of famines, we turn to Acts 11:27-30:
“And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine through all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”
Once again we have an event which occurs in “all the world.” Yet, “all the world” is defined and limited to the times and people of the first century generation. The text makes it clear that this famine happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.
More notable are the famines which besieged the city of Jerusalem during the Roman invasion of Judea, which historian Josephus records as punishment for the Jews sins against the Christ.
This famine was so so severe that it climaxed with a once properous woman reduce to such dire hunger that she roasted her own nursing son, and eating half of him, offered the other half to robbers who went about killing others for food. See excerpt from Josephus in Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, Popular Edition, pp. 87-92.
Finally, Christ’s words are framed so as to occur within the generation living in his time. No amount of modern famines past the first century world leading up to Jerusalem’s fall can fit the text.
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