When the disciples asked Jesus for the sign of His coming, Jesus also foretold that shortages, scarcities, hunger, and deficits of all types would upset the world at the very end of the age just before He returned.
Jesus had already warned about massive deception, wars, terrorism (commotions), nations rising against nations, and kingdoms clashing with other kingdoms. But He continued His discourse on end-time events by telling His disciples, “…And there shall be famines…” (Matthew 24:7).
Famines are certainly not new, as there have been many notable famines in world history. But according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:7, there will be a scarcity of food in many parts of the world toward the end of this era just before He returns.
Let’s look a little deeper at the Greek text in Matthew 24:7 to see what is included in this word “famine.” After all, this is a word Christ Himself used to describe events that will occur as the age wraps up and comes to a close.
The word “famines” in Matthew 24:7 comes from a Greek word that literally describes scarcity of grain. Because the word used in this verse is plural, it depicts multiple famines and multiple scarcities that will occur simultaneously in various parts of the earth at the very end of the age. Because “famine” describes a scarcity of grain, it is assumed by most readers that this refers only to physical hunger — and it is absolutely true that Jesus was prophesying that a time of great physical hunger would develop in nations of the world toward the very end of the period. But as you will see, the Greek word for “famine” includes much more than that.
First, however, let’s look at the facts regarding world hunger in our time.
World Hunger Today — The Alarming Facts
The following information is written to give you a brief overview of the recent conditions of hunger in the world today. Because this overview is based on statistics that are valid at the time I am writing this book, it may fall short of the real picture by the time this book comes into your hands. The numbers concerning world hunger are unfortunately growing exponentially.
According to a report from 2016 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics, more than 250,000 people die every year around the world from hunger and hunger-related causes. Another shocking report is that between 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind each year due to vitamin deficiency caused by extreme undernourishment — and half of those die within a year of their blindness. Besides the people who actually starve to death, millions more languish in undernourished conditions. Instead of living with vibrancy and hope for the future, their lives have halted to a standstill as they focus solely on where to obtain food for themselves and their loved ones so they can continue to subsist.
Think of the famines that have purged millions of people from the planet in various parts of the world — even in our lifetime. The images of starving children and adults have been paraded before us on television and other media to bring the stark reality of this suffering to the forefront of our minds. In many parts of the world, the lack of food and clean water — or the lack of any water at all — is an unimaginable crisis. Despite the wonderful efforts by many charitable organizations, the problems associated with hunger, malnutrition, and disease as a result of no water or dirty water has grown worse in recent years.
Currently our planet has a population of approximately 7.6 billion people. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, approximately 1 in 9 — or about 815,000,000 people — suffer from chronic undernourishment. That means all these people lack the food necessary to maintain normal health. To help you understand the approximate size of that number, think of the population of the entire European continent — and then add to that the populations of California and Texas combined!
Let’s more closely define what the word “undernourishment” means. The following four points explain the various nuances of this word:
- To be nourished with less than the minimum amount of food essential for normal health and growth.
- To be deprived of the essential elements required for one’s normal and healthy development.
- To live on an insufficient quantity or quality of nourishment that is needed to maintain ongoing health and growth.
- To have insufficient amounts of food to remain in good health.
As I have stated, currently 815,000,000 people are living on less than the minimum amount of food essential for health, growth, and life. In other words, these 815,000,000 people are starving. The greatest number affected are children.
Worse still, according to studies within the last five years, globally 51 million children under the age of five are “wasted,” meaning they have an abnormally low weight-to-height ratio. Of that number, 17 million — that’s fully one third — are severely wasted, meaning the condition is fatal.6 The term “wasted” depicts a person so undernourished that he is dangerously thin, and sickness is caused as a result. Of course, eventually these children will experience death if food and medical care are not provided.
Making matters even worse, hunger creates a vicious cycle. Malnutrition produces poor health, which results in abnormally small body sizes, low levels of energy, and a marked reduction in mental functions. These factors lead only to more poverty. Those suffering are so affected physically that they are not able to learn or to work as adults because their bodies are deprived of needed nutrients and vitamins. All of this downward progression promotes a seemingly unending cycle of even greater hunger.
The facts about poverty are alarming and disheartening. A study of this information makes it very clear why God hates poverty. These statistics expose poverty’s true nature as a thief that steals time, focus, energy, talent, and even life itself. Simply stated, poverty leads to hunger — and hunger leads to more poverty. With- out intervention to stop this sequence of events, the cycle will be unending. What poverty produces is simply devastating — a truth that cannot be exaggerated.
Wars and Conflicts — Contributors to the Hunger Problem
In my book, Signs You’ll See Just Before Jesus Comes, I explain that Jesus prophesied about wars, rumors of wars, commotions, and conflicts — and we see how they have been emerging on a massive scale, just as He said they would in the last days. But now let’s see how all of these military conflicts contribute to advance the horrible condition of world hunger.
A world at war produces one worldwide calamity after another, one of which is famine and shortages of food. Many factors con- tribute to food shortfalls in different parts of the world, but the impact of wars and ethnic, political, and religious conflicts is huge on this heartbreaking issue of famine and hunger.
Exacerbating the hunger issue is the growing number of dis- placed people who live in countries rife with continued conflicts and fighting. As political and religious ideologies collide on an increasing level, the number of refugees is increasing commensurately, and the problem of impoverishment and hunger is growing right along with it.
Right now, there are more than one billion people on the earth who earn less than $1.25 a day. These meager earnings make it almost impossible for them to purchase even small “doses” of food to sustain their lives. World hunger is being felt all over the planet — and it is a sign that Jesus said we would witness just before the end of the age.
What Can We Do to Help Combat This End-Times Problem?
As Christians, most of us understand at varying levels that it is our job to combat the forces of darkness in this world — through prayer, our walk of humility and obedience before God, the proclamation of His Word, etc. But we must also make the effort to combat these dark forces through more natural means. I’m talking about something as simple as opening our wallets and sharing our resources with those in need!
Just reading the information in these paragraphs should be enough to compel us to seek ways to help those who are in need if we are not already doing so. The Bible is full of scriptures about helping the poor and hungry — and promises special blessings to those who obey God’s charge to make a difference in the lives of people in need.
Even if we feel that we are struggling financially, compared to many other parts of the earth, we are blessed! And those who are blessed more than others have a God- given responsibility to hear the cry of the poor (see Proverbs 21:13). We are obligated to do something to make a difference in the lives of suffering people.
If sacrificing financially on behalf of the hungry and needy seems like a daunting goal for you, I’m wondering — would you consider denying yourself a meal once a week and sending the equivalent of that expenditure to a Gospel ministry that feeds the poor? In some places, the cost of one hamburger, a side of fries, and a soft drink could feed an undernourished person for a whole week!
I encourage you to consider making this kind of small investment into the lives of those who lack the basic provision of adequate food to sustain health and growth. This type of com- passionate, sacrificial act will bring a special blessing from God to your life. Proverbs 19:17 declares, “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”
Living in the last days provides opportunities for each of us to reach out and make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering the effects of famine and hunger. Most of these hungry people never asked to be put into these situations. Nevertheless, they live in dire circumstances that are beyond their control. They barely subsist in chaos-affected homes or conflict-affected regions, where fighting, instability, and upheavals of all kinds have caused them to be deprived of basic sustenance for daily living.
Whether our offering is big or small, we must each recognize our responsibility to contribute in some way to make a difference in the lives of people who are undernourished, impoverished, or starving.
Economic Woes —The End-Time Shaking Continues
The horrendous facts of global hunger demand our prayers and our actions, but there is more we must see about this word “famines” as it was used in early New Testament times. What else did this word mean in Jesus’ time — and what does it mean for the days in which we live?
As noted at the beginning of this post, the word “famine” specifically described a scarcity of grain. The economies of Jesus’ day were largely based on grain. That is one reason why nations like Egypt were considered such rich countries — Egypt, in particular, was a huge source of grain in the world at that time. Just think what would have happened if that country had experienced a “famine” of grain in Jesus’ day. A scarcity like that could have plunged the economies of the civilized world into chaos.
In the ancient world, to a large extent, economies were based on grain, so a shortage of grain would have resulted in an eco- nomic shaking. It would have produced a worldwide crisis similar to the shaking we experience in our own day when the value of stocks plummets in a stock market. A shortage of grain would have financially debilitated the Roman Empire in much the same way a crash in the trade markets would affect the world today.
Since so much of the economic system of Jesus’ time was based on grain, that system could very well be compared to the commodities that are sold and traded today as a basis for our world economy. Because of the financial impact this one resource had on the entire Roman Empire, one might say grain was like the “stock exchange” of the ancient world!
So when Jesus used “famines” to forecast a scarcity of grain and widespread hunger in the last days, He was additionally forecasting that a time would come at the end of the age when economic shortfalls and deficits would be so immense that these famines would affect global economies. This was a prediction of financial instability at the end of the age.
Mark’s gospel adds an additional word to this prediction of end-time famines that will give us more insight into Christ’s pre- diction of financial instability in the last days. In Mark 13:8, the writer recorded that Jesus said, “…There shall be famines and troubles.”
The word “troubles” is from a Greek word that means to be troubled, stirred up, agitated, anxious, or upset. It could be translated as the word “distress,” thus picturing people who are distressed about something deeply disturbing or troubling.
Because Jesus used the word “famine” — or scarcity — in the plural form, He let us know that such financial shakings would be repeated again and again. He was prophetically forecasting that financial instability would become more and more common as we draw closer to the end of the age. In other words, the earth at that time in history would exist in a state of being financially troubled, stirred up, agitated, anxious, and upset.
So in addition to hunger itself, Jesus was also forecasting deficits, economic shortages, and financial hardships will affect the earth and serve as another indicator that we are speeding toward the close of the age and the soon return of Christ for His Church.
Should THIS Prediction Frighten Us?
Regardless of what has transpired in the world at any given season in history, God’s people have always been preserved. It will be no different for believers in the last days who embrace their “better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (see Hebrews 8:6). Our faith and trust in Christ’s words — and careful attention to His leading — will hold us steady through any storm of scarcity that affects society and global financial markets in this end-times age.
At the close of the age, people will experience what no other population in history has seen or experienced. Because of this, it is essential that we keep our eyes locked on the promises of God’s Word for every sphere of our lives.
Later in my book (Jesus Before Jesus Comes), I discuss how Jesus prophesied about pestilence and emerging diseases at the end of the age just before He returns.