In answer to His disciples’ request for a sign that would precede the fulfillment of Jesus’ words about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that was portended by the Jewish leaders’ rejection of Him as their Messiah, He warned first against being deceived by false political and religious leaders who would come in His name and present themselves as the sort of Christ they wanted Jesus to be and that the Jews in general were expecting of the Messiah—an anointed leader with the promise of deliverance from their Roman enemies. As with all deception, the salvation promised by false Christs and false prophets would appeal to people’s fleshly desires, but be a worldly salvation to be obtained by worldly means and not the true eternal salvation from sin offered by the true Christ. Such delusion was a part of God’s judgment upon those who refused to love the truth that Jesus brought to truly set the Jewish nation free, and is a type of the deluding influence Scripture says God will give men over to believe prior to Christ’s second coming that will result in a great falling away from the faith when the man of lawlessness is revealed; 2Th 2:1-3,9-12. In addition, He has warned of wars, famines, and plagues, which take peace from the earth and are the natural and inevitable consequences of rejecting Him who came to bring peace on earth. In our previous study He also warned of earthquakes, which were understood as a manifestation of God coming down to earth in judgment to remove those things which can be shaken, so that those things that cannot be shaken may remain (Heb 12:27).
For all of this, does Jesus say such things are what will mark the end of the age about which they had asked (Mat 24:3)? See Mat 24:6,8. What do birth pangs represent throughout Scripture, especially for the wicked? See Psa 48:5-6, Isa 13:6-9, 21:2-4, Jer 4:31, 6:22-24, 50:41-43, 1Th 5:1-3. What is the ultimate source of such birth pangs? See Gen 3:16; cf. Jer 13:21-22, Hos 13:12-13. Consider then that birth pangs represent the pain and anguish of God’s judgment upon sin; although such birth pangs come suddenly and at an unknown time, is such judgment entirely unexpected? Like a pregnant woman, does not every person know there will come a day of like sorrows, which is why we instinctively fear death? See Heb 9:27 and cf. Mat 8:29. In what way then do such birth pangs typify the pains and anguish of death that will be felt by all men? In what way are the sufferings and trials of old age like birth pangs in this regard? Although such pangs are much feared by the wicked as something to be avoided at all costs (even as the pangs of childbirth have become to many…), in what way do those pains represent something more for those who are waiting and keeping watch for the Lord, so that they are able even in the midst of such sorrow to find hope? See Joh 16:21-22, Acts 2:24 and NAS text note, 1Th 5:4-9. What does this again teach us about the nature of the Lord’s coming as one of writhing pain and anguish that on the one hand will consume the wicked, but on the other hand sanctify and purify the people of God, and give birth to something so incredibly joyous from the Lord that their travails will be forgotten? Cf. Isa 26:17-18, Mat 13:40-43. What does this remind us about our need in the midst of such trials to not lose heart but endure, and to trust in the Lord and call upon His name to carry us through such times? Cf. Isa 37:3-4, Gal 6:9. What does it also remind us about the hope we have as believers as we approach the end of our lives and begin to experience those birth pangs of old age? Although such fears may overwhelm the godless, what immense joy do the pangs of death give birth to for those who trust in the Lord? See 1Co 15:50-58.
Is the travail of childbirth typically something that is of very short duration? Cf. Isa 66:7-9, Gal 4:19. What does this remind us about how the trials of old age, or of men’s salvation, aren’t necessarily of short duration either? Cf. Luk 13:23-24, Act 14:22. In the present context, what does it also teach us about the length of time involved in the signs Jesus is giving? Looking back in history, what hope was born of those birth pangs that took place over the next 40 years that ultimately destroyed Jerusalem and the temple and marked the end of that age of the Jews? Cf. Rev 12:1-6 and consider how the Christian Church was born of the Jews and through the birth pangs that destroyed the Jewish nation came into its own as the hope of the entire world through which men of every nation might be born again into God’s kingdom. Is it possible that there might be a similar end to our present Church age? Cf. Rev 19:1-8.
1. “When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.” From Rippon’s Selection of Hymns, 1787, How Firm a Foundation.↩