Question: "What does it mean that there will be wars and rumors of wars before the end times?"
Answer: In part of His response to the disciples’ question, “Tell us . . . what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3), Jesus responded, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6). Because of Jesus’ words in this passage, whenever there is an explosion of conflict, especially in the vicinity of Israel, many people begin to wonder if the new war is a sign of the end times. If only people would read the rest of Matthew 24:6—“. . . See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (emphasis added).
Understanding Jesus’ statement about “wars and rumors of wars” to mean that warfare is a sign of the end times is the exact opposite of what He intended. Jesus was instructing us to not allow wars or rumors of wars to alarm or concern us, because “the end is not yet.” Similarly, Jesus spoke of false Christs (Matthew 24:5), famines, and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7), warning that “all these are the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:8).
Sadly, all of the things Jesus pointed to as not necessarily being signs of the end times are precisely the things most people look at as signs of the end times. Now, this is not to say that wars and rumors of wars are completely unrelated to the end times. When the Bible speaks of the end times, it describes some intense warfare. But Jesus’ point seems to be that there always has been war, and, until He establishes peace in the Millennial Kingdom, there will always be war. Therefore, wars and rumors of war are not reliable predictors for the end times.
Whether it is a civil war in Africa, strife between Israel and its neighbors, or the war on terror, no conflict today is necessarily a sign that the end times are imminent. No matter what wars and rumors of war are going on around us, our mission is the same, and it just so happens that the mission is what Jesus says is a reliable predictor of the end times, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, emphasis added).