What Is the Beginning of Sorrows?

Pregnant WomanThe beginning of sorrows is mentioned by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:4-8 (Mark 13:5-8). It is a period of time characterized by specific signs that indicate His return is near. These signs also cause an increase in pain and sorrow that the Bible likens to a woman as she goes through her pregnancy and is about to give birth.

The analogy of a pregnant woman to the end times is drawn from Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 13:6-8 that describe the Day of the Lord. Prior to a woman giving birth, she experiences painful contractions. The culmination of the sorrows or birth pangs comes at delivery when the pain is most intense. After that, there is joy because of the child that is born!

As with a woman about to give birth, the time from the beginning of sorrows until Jesus returns and establishes His eternal kingdom will be characterized by increasing pain and sorrow culminating with utter destruction when God judges the nations and in doing so destroys the beast’s (Antichrist’s) kingdom.

This page examines the specific signs Jesus told us to look for as well as other indicators from Scripture. The evidence shows that these things came to pass in the 20th century which would lead us to conclude that we are living in the beginning of sorrows timeframe.

Dramatic Increase in World Population

It is interesting to note that while the world population experienced very little growth for centuries. It was during the 20th century when the population quadrupled from about 1.5 billion people in 1900 to about 6.0 billion in 2000 and reached 7.5 billion in 2017. More people means more potential for increased pain and sorrow.

Specific Signs That Jesus Told Us to Look for

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:4-8, Mark 13:5-8)

Nation Shall Rise Against Nation and Kingdom Against Kingdom

But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end [is] not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: (Luke 21:9-10, Mark 13:7-8, Matthew 24:6-7)

The Interpretation

EgyptThe only other place in the Bible where similar language is used is in Isaiah 19:2:

And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbour; city against city, [and] kingdom against kingdom. (Isaiah 19:2)

Matthew Henry’s Bible commentary and John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible provide evidence that a civil war did occur in Egypt to fulfill this prophecy.

World War I (1914-1918)

Countries Involved in WWIEnd times events will happen throughout the world, so using Isaiah 19:2 as precedent, Jesus is describing a war that will impact the entire world. World War I “was the first truly global war“. In fact, as the map indicates, over 100 countries eventually became involved, for various reasons and to varying degrees.

World War I was one of the deadliest conflicts in history with the number of casualties far surpassing that of previous conflicts. Military and civilian casualties vary depending on the source, but about 20 million people died and about 21 million people were wounded.

World War II

World War II was the largest and bloodiest war in history. The number of military and civilian deaths and casualties varies from about 55 million people total, to about 72 million total, to about 85 million total.

A Closer Look

Looking more closely at Matthew 24:6-7 Jesus mentions “wars and rumours of wars” in general terms, and uses the conjunction “For” to link verses 6 and 7. “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” more specifically describes “wars and rumours of wars”.

Jesus also said not to be “troubled” or “terrified” by these types of wars (plural). As this video describes, World War I (WWI) was the first war that used technology like airplanes, tanks, Gatling guns, submarines, and chemical warfare on a massive scale. World War II (WWII) used atomic weapons that killed at least 115,000 people instantly. Wars have been fought for millennia, but WWI and WWII were different and could be very “troubling” and “terrifying”.

Jesus also said that these wars must first take place. All three Gospel writers mention “nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom” first. Earthquakes, famines, and pestilences follow, and in a different order depending on what Gospel account you read. (Luke 21:9-11; Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8)

Total Deaths

The 20th century was “dominated by wars and conflicts”, and “was the bloodiest, costliest century of warfare in human history”.

While statistics vary, the number of deaths due to wars in the 20th century is somewhere between 96 million to 160 million to as many as 231 million people.

Great Earthquakes in Various Places (Increase After WWI)

And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven (Luke 21:11, Mark 13:8, Matthew 24:7).

Revelation 11:13 mentions a great earthquake that will occur during the end times that will kill 7,000 people. There also needs to be more than one earthquake in this time period, and they need to occur in various places.

This chart was compiled using data that originated with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for earthquakes that caused at least 7,000 deaths. The 830,000 people that died during the 16th century were the result of one earthquake in China.

The turn of the 20th century marked a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by great earthquakes, thus sharply increasing the sorrow and pain inflicted. About 1.3 million people died from great earthquakes in the 1900s. That trend has continued into the 21st century with almost 800,000 deaths since the turn of the century. 

When Jesus said that there would be earthquakes in “divers” places, He meant “various” places. This map shows where earthquakes that killed over 7,000 people since 1900 have occurred and is evidence of what Jesus said. Yellow markers indicate earthquakes between 1900 and 1914 and red markers indicate earthquakes after the start of WWI.

Famines (Increase After WWI)

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11).

The Greek word that is translated famine can also be mean hunger.

Throughout History

Famines have occurred throughout history. Stephen Devereux has done extensive research on famines and is quoted by many others who have done similar research.  He made this statement: “With up to 70 million estimated deaths, the 20th century was the worst ever in terms of famine mortality.” Famines charted since 1860 illustrate a large number of deaths immediately following WWI and WWII. During the 1920s and 1930s, about 16 to 17 million people died from famines in Europe and the Soviet Union.  Of the 32 famines for which mortality estimates are available, the Great Leap Forward famine in China between 1958-1960 is probably the most deadly famine of all time, killing an estimated 30 million people.

The 21st century

Famines continue to be a problem in the 21st century in many parts of the world. Statistics that originated from The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that “about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016”.

In April of 2020 David Beasley the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) painted a grim picture of 135 million people facing crisis levels of hunger or worse, coupled with an additional 130 million on the edge of starvation prompted by Coronavirus.

In April 2020 Oxfam released a paper that stated widespread hunger due to the COVID-19 pandemic could push half a billion people into poverty.

In May 2020 Oxfam stated: “As COVID-19 marches across the world, the threat of illness and death is meeting an even greater concern as the disease threatens places already suffering from poverty, conflict, and drought. Hunger is now the greater concern in poor countries where people struggle to earn enough to eat each day, or grow the food on which their families and local markets rely.”

Pestilences (Increase After WWI)

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:11).


The Greek word translated pestilences is loimos which can have a broad range of meanings including any sudden fatal epidemic such as the Spanish Flu or the coronavirus. Loimos can also be translated plague which is an epidemic disease causing a high rate of mortality such as cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, pestilence is a contagious or infectious epidemic disease that is virulent and devastating. Virulent is marked by a rapid, severe, and destructive course and able to overcome bodily defensive mechanisms : markedly pathogenic such as cancer.

Since end times events will occur on a worldwide scale, these plagues or pestilences would also need to be referred to as global or “pandemic” which is an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population such as obesity and tobacco use.

Death Rates

The ‘20th Century Death’ infographic estimates that a staggering 4.2 billion people died from some type of disease in the 20th century! Not all of those diseases would match the characteristics Jesus gave. Where to draw that line is not clear, so let’s just consider the 5 mentioned above that would fit the definitions and account for about 1.9 billion deaths in the 20th century, mostly after WWI.

Spanish Flu (1918-1919)

The Spanish flu lasted about 1 year. In that time an estimated 500 million people (about 20-40% of the world’s population) became ill and about 50 million died. The chart below shows the spike in deaths that occurred within a two-month period.

Overweight and Obesity

Obesity is a “global pandemic” that is now associated with “increased cancer risk, morbidity and mortality“. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports these statistics:

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
  • In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.

WHO reports that obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

Tobacco Use

Deaths Caused by TobaccoThe World Health Organization (WHO) states that ”Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.”.

While smoking has been around for thousands of years, it was in 1881 when James Bonsack invented the cigarette-making machine that cigarette smoking became widespread. This graph illustrates the rise in cigarette consumption in the United States in the early 1900s. The Tobacco Atlas reports that ”Without appropriate prevention policies, the world will lose a billion lives this century due to tobacco smoking.”


Cancer has been around for centuries, but it “emerged in the 20th century as one of the top causes of death”. In particular, deaths due to lung cancer increased significantly primarily due to the widespread increase in smoking during the same period of time.

It is estimated that 530 million people died from cancer in the 20th century, with lung cancer being the highest at about 93 million. The American Cancer Society reports that more than 8 million people die from cancer each year.

Cardiovascular Disease

Worldwide, the National Center for Biotechnology Information website states that: ”At the beginning of the 20th century, CVD was responsible for less than 10 percent of all deaths worldwide, but by 2001 that figure was 30 percent”.

Cardiovascular diseases, in general, killed an estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide in the 20th century. More specifically, ischemic (hardening of the arteries) heart disease killed an estimated 540 million people, and ischemic strokes killed about another 357 million people.

WHO reports these statistics:

  • CVDs are the number 1 cause of death globally: more people die annually from CVDs than from any other cause.
  • An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2016, representing 31% of all global deaths.

Many Shall Come In My Name (More Prevalent After WWI)

And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them (Luke 21:8, Matthew 24:4-5, Mark 13:5-6).

Many Shall Come… Saying I Am Christ

There are a handful of people over the last 100 years or so that have been referred to as Christ. They would include Rev. Sun Myung MoonJose Luis de Jesus Miranda, and David Koresh. But, this would hardly qualify for the “many” that Jesus referred to.

However,  the New Age Movement believes that the path to Christhood or Christ consciousness can be pursued and attained by anyone. The New Age teaches that the Jesus Christ of the Bible is not God, but a human being who attained Christ consciousness just like Buddha, Krishna, and Mohammed.

One website states that “many people on Earth have attained some degree of Christhood”. Another website states that there are “10,000 people on planet earth who have manifested a high degree of personal Christhood at inner levels” and “millions of people who have manifested a high degree of Christhood”. These numbers would qualify for the  “many” that Jesus referred to who will come in His name claiming to be Christ.

The modern-day New Age movement became more prevalent after WWI. Between 1919 and 1949 Alice Bailey received teachings from the Ascended Master Djwhal Khul and published them in a series of books.

In My Name

Moses asked God what His name is and He answered “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14). Following are some of the movements and organizations within the New Age Movement that use God’s name “I AM”.

  • The I AM Movement was founded by Guy and Edna Ballard in the early 1930s.
  • The “I AM Presence” that is part of every human being.
  • The Daily I Am website.
  • I AM that I AM Ministries missions statement.
  • The Integrated Ascended Masters University, also known as the I AM University.

The Time Draws Near

When Djwhal Khul was communicating with Alice Bailey between 1919 and 1949 he said that “the time will not be long” for the outpouring of the Christ principle which he claimed was the true Coming of Christ. Edgar Cayce predicted this would reach fruition in “1998-1999”. Some now believe that the Golden Age of Christ Consciousness began in 2013.

Other Indicators

Besides the specific signs that Jesus mentioned, the Bible mentions other indicators to look for.

  • The Temple in Jerusalem implying that Israel will be a nation.
  • Increase in the tribulation and persecution of Christians and Jews.
  • Many shall run to and fro and knowledge will increase.

Israel Becomes a Nation to Build the Third Temple in Jerusalem

Israel becomes a Nation on May 14th, 1948

The people of Israel are God’s chosen people, and He has a plan for them that cannot be thwarted. That plan extends into the end times. The history of how modern Israel became a nation started in the late 19th century. It culminated on May 14, 1948 when, after about 1900 years in exile, Israel once again became a nation!

Rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem

In the Olivet discourse, Jesus told His disciples that the Temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24:1-3, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6). Since Jesus was talking about the end times, He was referring to the Temple that would exist during the end times. The Temple that existed in His day was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD. But Jesus did not return in 70 AD. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 the Apostle Paul specifically mentions Antichrist sitting in the Temple of God. Jesus mentions the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place, and refers to Daniel (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14). Daniel mentions the daily sacrifice being taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate being set up (Daniel 12:11, 9:26).

Taken together, these passages indicate that there will be a Temple in the end times that Antichrist will occupy, take away the daily sacrifice, and set up the abomination that maketh desolate. Since no such Temple exists today, one must be built. In order for the Temple to be rebuilt, the Jews must inhabit at least part of Jerusalem where the site of the Temple is. On June 7, 1967 they occupied the Temple Mount area.

The next step is to rebuild the Temple and restore the sacrificial system established in the Old Testament. The Temple Institute has been making preparations for the new Temple for over 30 years.

Persecution of the Saints (Increasing)

In a recent article, Justin D. Long emphasized the startling fact that more people have died for their faith in the Twentieth Century than in all of the previous centuries combined. “During this century, we have documented cases in excess of 26 million martyrs. From AD 33 to 1900, we have documented 14 million martyrs.” In 2019 about 245 million people worldwide are highly persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.

2019 World Watch List from Open Doors USA on Vimeo.

Clearly, the persecution that Jesus referred to (Matthew 24:9) has already begun, and will most likely intensify as we move into the 70th week of years. Today, there are many organizations that monitor the persecution of followers of Jesus Christ worldwide. Among them are Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, and International Christian Concern. Please visit their sites for the latest news and ways to help.

Many Shall Run To and Fro and Knowledge Shall be Increased (Increasing Exponentially in the 20th Century)


But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (Daniel 12:4)


The Hebrew word translated “shall run to and fro” is shuwt and can also be translated to rove about, or go eagerly or quickly to and fro. The advent of cars and planes around 1900 has certainly made this possible on a massive scale.

The Hebrew word translated knowledge is daath and can be translated perception, skill, discernment, understanding, learning, insight, or wisdom. The obvious application is that of science, technology, and human learning that has exploded exponentially over the last 100 years. If you are reading this, there is no need to go into further detail!