Will the church be on earth during wars? Will we experience wartime hardship?

We know that the first judgments in the Tribulation (the Church is gone) are the Seals. The Second Seal is the Red Horse and its rider takes peace from the earth. But the warnings of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse also remind us that one of the birth pang signs is also war, and not just between nations but kingdoms against kingdoms. Will we, the Church experience the effects of war? Will war occur on our soil prior to the Rapture?

We have experienced war since the moment Jesus ascended, as part of the prophesied birth pangs. In one sense, the Church is already experiencing wartime hardship. Any Christian in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel, or much of Africa is living in a time when war touches their lives directly. But with the ramping up of the conflict between North Korea and South Korea, with the US and China being dragged in as powerful allies, it is a timely question. There was a mystery missile shot just 35 miles from the western shores of the US this month, which also spooked many. In our secret heart of hearts, we have visions of mushroom clouds over LA, NY, Kansas... Or Sydney or London. Will wartime hardship touch the Christians in other places and locations? Let's take a look.

Matthew 24:6: "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end."
Mark 13:8a: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."
Luke 21:11- "There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven."

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus spoke of what will happen in direct response to the Disciples' questions about the end of the age and the signs indicating it. In the first verse of His answer in Mt 24:2 He told of something that will happen in a few years hence, though the Disciples were not aware of the timing. The Temple was going to be destroyed in 70AD. Then He spoke of signs of the end of the age in verses 4-8. Verse 9 begins a shift to the time of the Tribulation. Jesus says: "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name." The rest of the Discourse relates only to the Jews and the Time of Jacob's Trouble as they term it, or as we term it, The Tribulation.

We know that the first judgments in the Tribulation (the Church is gone) are the Seals. The Second Seal is the Red Horse and its rider takes peace from the earth. But the warnings of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse also remind us that one of the birth pang signs is also war, and not just against nations but kingdoms against kingdoms.

The number of military conflicts have risen dramatically as the end nears. In one of John MacArthur's sermons on this subject (the end days) he cited statistics at the Encyclopedia of Wars, and I placed those numbers into a spreadsheet and turned it into a graph showing the number of military conflicts over the last 3000 years. No one on the planet since Jesus uttered His warning sign has been immune from wars, conflicts, battles, and uprisings. You can view that post by clicking here. The graph is below:

Though numbers of wars have been rising and rumors of wars are constant nowadays, I believe that the difference between our living through military conflicts now and those in the Tribulation will be markedly different. Why? The bible tells us. The verse in Revelation states: "When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword." (Rev 6:4)

Please notice several things about that Tribulation verse. First, peace is taken from the earth. There is no peace, anywhere! Imagine living in a constant state of conflict. Even in your home, you feel no peace. Riots, wars, conflict, fights, any flavor of the opposite of peace you want to think of, will be the state of things, all the time. Now, even in the end time prior to the Tribulation, we can find peace. Rumors of wars are unsettling, but they are not the scale and breadth that they will be as soon as we leave and the Seal is opened.

Sword is the Lord's metaphor for war, or actually, judgment. The root word in the verse in Rev 6:4 is megas, meaning exceeding, great, large; and machaira, meaning figuratively, war, judicial punishment -- sword. So, second, the verse takes careful note of the size of the sword. The Lord gave unto men a sword in other verses throughout the bible, as in Ezekiel 21:14; Ez 32:20; Jer 50:36; etc. Look up sword in the bible, and then look up large sword (or great sword, mighty sword). The sword of war is never described in any of the verses I could find, as mighty, (except in one verse in Isaiah 27:1, The Deliverance of Israel, which is the Lord's own sword.) In other words, the wars and rumors of wars now are normal business, but the Tribulation wars will be devastating.

See what happens in the Fourth Seal: When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth." The verse tells us a quarter of the earth's population dies, partly from results of war (sword).

Ultimately, I interpret the verses in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 to say though there will be conflict both prior to the Trib and afterwards, the conflict in the Tribulation will be horrendous while the conflicts in the end of the age will be manageable. Will the US experience a nuclear holocaust, or even en electro-magnetic pulse wiping out all electronics? Maybe, I can't predict the future, but I believe the church all over the world will experience normal conflict prior to leaving, but not horrendous hardship from nukes and direct attacks. That would be judgment, and we are not to be judged.

That is not to say that the normal course of war is anything to take lightly. It's terrible. Ask any war widow. Ask anyone who lives in the line of fire, whose home is blown up and who has lost their nation, being a refugee. But the terrible times of the wars depicted in the Tribulation will be so much worse.

When Jesus said that there will be nations rising against nations, and kingdoms against kingdoms, it sounds quaint and old-timey to hear the word "kingdom." Monarchies seem outdated and bygone. But there are kingdoms in the world today, many with ruling and active kings (or queens). UK's full name is really The Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The full name of other nations reveal many kingdoms. Others on the earth today include the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Kingdom of Denmark. Kingdom of Bahrain. Kingdom of Belgium. Kingdom of Bhutan.  Kingdom of Cambodia. Kingdom of Lesotho. Kingdom of Morocco. Kingdom of the Netherlands. Kingdom of Norway. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Kingdom of Spain. Kingdom of Swaziland. Kingdom of Sweden. Kingdom of Thailand. Kingdom of Tonga.

Kingdom of Tonga

Isn't it strange to think that in the Tribulation, no where will be peaceful, including the far-off, remote and tiny place of Tonga. How many travel posters tout places like Tonga as the quintessential peaceful place, perfect to escape to? Pictures sch as the one above are emblematic of peace and tranquility. But when Jesus tells John that "peace will be taken from the earth", that means that nowhere on earth will you find peace. Nowhere. At all.

As for the current conflict in the China Sea, time will tell how that may or may not blossom into a hot conflict narrow in scope or worldwide in impact. We won't have long to wait. The joint US-SKorean military exercises are due to begin on Sunday and NKorea has vowed retaliation of we do. Here are a series of recent news headlines illustrating the progression of the conflict that has evolved over the last four days:

Boston Globe: South Korea's Defense Minister Resigns
South Korea's defense minister resigned Thursday, two days after an artillery attack by North Korea killed four people on small island near their disputed frontier.  The move came as President Lee Myung-bak vowed to send more troops to the island and as residents tried to salvage belongings from its blackened wreckage. Pyongyang warned of additional attacks if provoked.

Korean Times: NK fired fuel-air shells on Yeonpyeong
North Korea used a new type of artillery shell capable of penetrating concrete walls and causing fires in Tuesday’s deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea, military investigators said Thursday.  The “special shell” similar to a thermobaric weapon, known as a fuel-air bomb, is believed to have been deployed since 1985, they said. A team of investigators has recovered some 20 duds that landed on the island for analysis.

BBC News: N Korea warns war drills take region to 'brink of war'
North Korea has warned that impending joint military exercises by the South and the US are pushing the region to "the brink of war".  A group of naval ships, led by a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, is heading to the Yellow Sea to take part in the drills, due to begin on Sunday.  At least four South Koreans died on Tuesday when the North shelled the Southern island of Yeonpyeong.

Korea's Yonhap News: N. Korea says it is 'ready to annihilate' S. Korea's stronghold North Korea said Friday it is "ready to annihilate" South Korea's stronghold if its sovereignty is violated even a bit, raising already high tension after the two countries exchanged artillery barrages earlier this week, Yonhap reported. "We will show a firm and merciless example to whichever provoker encroaches on our dignity and sovereignty," the North's Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement released by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Japan Broadcasting Corporation: Japan increasing air patrols
Japan currently deploys five EP3 aircraft at its Iwakuni Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan.  The aircraft routinely patrol the skies over Japan and surrounding areas, monitoring North Korea's military activities, such as a ballistic missile launches.  The Defense Ministry appears to be increasing the number of EP3 flights to be on the alert for further possible military actions by the North.

UK Independent: Expats recalled as North Korea prepares for war
A mass exodus of North Korean workers from the Far East of Russia is under way, according to reports coming out of the region. As the two Koreas edged towards the brink of war this week, it appears that the workers in Russia have been called back to aid potential military operations.

China's Xinhua News: Chinese FM discusses Korean Peninsula issue with Russian, Japanese counterparts on phone
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Saturday discussed the latest situation on the Korean Peninsula in phone calls with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Japanese foreign minister Seiji Maehara. He said all parties should work together to help cool the situation as soon as possible and effectively ensure no repeat of such conflict. Meanwhile, the Chinese minister expressed the hope that concerned parties would take a reasonable and pragmatic approach to actively create favorable conditions for resuming the six-party talks.

Hankyoreh (Korea's Independent Newspaper): Joint drills will be far from NLL, military reports
Joint South Korea-U.S. drills with the USS George Washington in the West Sea will be held from Sunday to Wednesday. North Korea has promised retaliation if both countries hold the drills in the West Sea. South Korea and the United States have stated that the drills are routine and defensive in nature, but with the drills being held in the middle of the West Sea for the first time, they strongly take on the character of a show of force against North Korea.

Stock Analyst: SKorea may elevate NKorea to main enemy status
Meanwhile, an unidentified South Korean official told Yonhap Saturday Seoul was mulling over whether to designate North Korea as its "main enemy" when the Defense Ministry publishes its next biannual defense white paper. The South now considers North Korea "an immediate and direct threat" to its national security.

The world holds its breath as it teeters on the brink of war.