In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus divides the time of the end into three periods. He said that during the opening period, "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars" (Matt. 24:6). The period after 1948 has brought a threefold fulfillment of Jesus' prediction, confirming, as we have argued before, that the time of the end began in 1948.
Sign: Many Wars
When predicting, "And ye shall hear of wars," Jesus was clearly foreseeing a time when wars would be widespread and continuous. The year at the outset of the end time, 1948, was preceded in the twentieth century by two world wars, the widest and most destructive wars the world has ever seen. The second, ending right before 1948, ushered mankind into the era of atomic weapons. Efforts after World War II to build a lasting peace were stymied by nationalistic aspirations in the third world and by adamant antagonism between the democratic West and the Communist East. Since 1948, wave after wave of strife has erupted upon the sea of nations: the Indian partition, the Chinese Revolution, the Korean War, several Arab-Israeli wars, the civil war in Indonesia, the Vietnam War, the war in Afghanistan, the Gulf War, wars in Africa, wars in Latin America, wars everywhere. It is obvious that although wars and rumors of wars have been incessant throughout history, bloodshed mounted to a climax in the twentieth century. It has been estimated that in all of the wars in human history before 1900, about forty million combatants died. Yet the casualties in wars from 1900 to 1987 were about thirty-eight and a half million (1). By the end of 1999, wars in the twentieth century were more deadly than in all previous centuries combined.
Sign: General Knowledge of Wars in the World
Jesus' specific prediction was not that there would be wars, but that mankind would hear about them. In Jesus' day, people in one region of the world had no knowledge of events in regions far away. But today, as a result of modern communications, every war, no matter how remote, reaches the attention of the media and becomes world news. In the last two centuries, and particularly in the last century since the advent of radio, the daily news has been obsessed with war and with diplomatic maneuverings either to avert or resolve international conflict. The year 1948 was when consumer demand for television, invented about twenty years earlier, began to surge. Television added to war news a vividness and immediacy that greatly magnified war's place in public consciousness. Never before in history had men heard so much about war. Never before had war been such a continuing preoccupation.
Sign: General Apprehension of War
Not only did Jesus say that men would hear about wars; He said also that they would hear about rumors of wars. In what other period of history was man as obsessed with the mere possibility of war as he was after atomic bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Throughout the Cold War, fears of a nuclear holocaust haunted mankind. I can remember as a child hearing the sirens and putting my head down on my school desk as part of a civil defense drill preparing us for a nuclear attack. I can remember the disbelief and disquiet that followed Sputnik—also, the grim apprehension that gripped America during the Cuban missile crisis. Nuclear war was never more than a rumor, but no other rumor of war has so transfixed the minds of men and so shaped a whole period of history.
The collapse of the Cold War did not bring mankind to a tranquil assurance of future peace. A new worry has emerged to unsettle the minds of people everywhere. Ever since violent Muslim extremism spread to a worldwide theater of operations in the 1990s, and especially since 9/11, people in the Western world have been unable to escape from the daily possibility of a terrorist strike close to home. Terrorism has therefore become another menace generating endless rumors of war, such as Jesus envisioned in the end time.