I have been meditating lately upon Jesus’ remarks about how dreadful it will be for pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days before His return:
Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people.
It recently occurred to me that His words likely include reference to the warnings of the prophets that such a day will come like birthpangs upon a woman with child. For the birth pangs of judgment will come upon those who are just pregnant with Christ and have not yet brought Him forth in their lives.
You yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3
Truly, Truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy. Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.
From this passage we begin to see that the woman with child is a type of the disciple seeking Christ in whom the imperishable seed of the word of God has been sown so that Christ is being formed in him (1 Pet 1:23). The birth is when they see Christ for who He is, at which time they give birth to Christ in their lives and they themselves are born again from above. And yet the birth itself is full of travail, for unless the old man of sin dies, unless one’s grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it cannot bear the fruit of Christ. And even then the new convert has yet to bring forth Christ to maturity in his life, for he is still a nursing babe feeding only on milk and not solid food (1 Cor 3:1-2, Heb 5:11-14, 1 Pet 2:2) and must grow up in his salvation. Evidently, such a turn of sorrow to joy will not come to pass for those who are not mature in their faith–to those who are only with child and nurse babes in those days before Christ’s return.
On still another level, we can understand how the mother with child represents the church or individual within the church who gives birth to spiritual offspring by bringing others to the knowledge of the truth.
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth….And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.
Wail, for the day of the LORD is near! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will fall limp, and every man’s heart will melt. And they will be terrified, pains and anguish will take hold of them; they will writhe like a woman in labor, they will look at one another in astonishment, their faces aflame. Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven (true sons, Phil 2:15) and the constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun (Jesus) will be dark when it rises, and the moon (true church) will not shed its light.
The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea (Babylon). As windstorms in the Negev sweep on, it comes from the wilderness, from a terrifying land. A harsh vision has been shown to me; the treacherous one still deals treacherously, and the destroyer still destroys. Go up, Elam, lay siege, Media; I have made an end of all the groaning she has caused. For this reason my loins are full of anguish; pains have seized me like the pains of a woman in labor. I am so bewildered I cannot hear, so terrified I cannot see. My mind reels, horror overwhelms me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling.
As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, she writhes and cries out in her labor pains; thus were we before Thee, O LORD. We were pregnant, we writhed in labor, we gave birth , as it were, only to wind (not to Christ). We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth nor were inhabitants of the world born (lit. fallen).
Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy (Christ in you, the hope of glory). Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born (lit. travailed with) in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. “Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God. Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her; be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her, that you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts, that you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom. (Zion represents the heavenly Jerusalem, the true and holy Church of God. She gives birth to true sons of the kingdom who nurse at her comforting breasts to grow up in their salvation, even unto the full measure of the stature of Christ. But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days before Christ’s return; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people.)
And you , O desolate one (harlot church), what will you do? Although you dress in scarlet, although you decorate yourself with ornaments of gold, although you enlarge your eyes with paint, in vain you make yourself beautiful; your lovers despise you; they seek your life. For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, the anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands (palms, as if in prayer), saying, “Ah, woe is me, for I faint before murderers.”
Lift up your eyes and see those coming from the north. Where is the flock that was given you, your beautiful sheep? What will you say when He appoints over you–and you yourself had taught them–former companions to be head over you? Will not pangs take hold of you, like a woman in childbirth? And if you say in your heart, “Why have these things happened to me?” Because of teh magnitude of your iniquity your skirts have been removed, and your heels have been exposed.
Now, why do you cry out loudly? Is there no king among you, or has your counselor perished, that agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth? Writhe and labor to give birth, daughter of Zion, like a woman in childbirth, for now you will go out of the city, dwell in the field, and go to Babylon. There you will be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.
I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season. But they came to Baal-peor and devoted themselves to shame, and they became as detestable as that which they loved. As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird–no birth, no pregnancy, and no conception (of Christ in them)! Though they bring up their children, yet I will bereave them until not a man is left. Yes, woe to them indeed when I depart from them! Ephraim, as I have seen, is planted in a pleasant meadow like Tyre; but Ephraim will bring out his children for slaughter. Give them, O LORD–what wilt Thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. (Woe to those who are with child and who nurse babes!)
All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels. Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up, they will bear no fruit. Even though they bear children, I will slay the precious ones of their womb. My God will cast them away because they have not listened to Him; and they will be wanderers among the nations.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is stored up. The pains of childbirth come upon him; he is not a wise son, for it is not the time that he should delay at the opening of the womb.
And they said to him (Isaiah), “Thus says Hezekiah (on account of the threatening insults of Rabshakeh, servant of the king of Assyria), ‘This day is a day of distress, rebuke, and rejection; for children have come to birth (Christ is being formed in the hearts of the remnant of God’s people under Hezekiah’s reforms, cf. 2 Chron 29:1-32:1), and there is no strength to deliver.'”
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