The Labour Pains of Matthew 24.
Please either listen to the five minute audio above or read the notes below or both at the same time!
Some theologians argue that the ‘labour pains’ mentioned in Matthew 24:8 describe events that have happened world-wide throughout the Church age.
Matthew 24:6-9 ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birthpains’
To some extent, this is absolutely true. The world has always experienced wars, famines and earthquakes. There have also been times of persecution, betrayal, wickedness and the preaching of the gospel.
Indeed, Matthew 24:6a reads ‘Such things must happen but the end is still to come‘ and Jesus seems to be warning us here that we are not to rush to YouTube every time there is an earthquake and pronounce the end-of-the-world and the imminent return of Christ Jesus!
However, as we go further into the chapter then this theological understanding rather falls apart.
Matthew 24:9-32 continues to describe the abomination that causes desolation; the fleeing from Judea; the lightening and other cosmic signs; and most importantly, the return of Christ Jesus. have not been happening throughout the past two thousand years. They are one-off events that will happen at a specific point in the end-times.
And then consider the following verse:
Matthew 24:21 ‘For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.’
This verse feels awkward when trying to describe two thousand years and more of history. A short period of time, say, seven years seems much more appropriate.
I would strongly suggest there are certain elements of the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 that have been happening throughout the course of history. However, the bulk of chapter twenty-four will be confined to a short period of time, known as the time of tribulation, just before Christ Jesus returns.
To return to the birth illustration, a woman may experience labour pains for quite some time, but yet the contractions are not for ever, certainly not for thousands of years, they are leading somewhere and eventually the contractions will increase in frequency and intensity until the baby is ready to be born.
In the same way, we will experience some of the elements of Matthew 24: the wars and earthquakes and famines for example, throughout history. But eventually all the elements described will escalate in frequency and intensity until we will know that we have entered into the time of tribulation and that the time of the return of Christ Jesus is upon us.
Luke 21:28 ‘When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
The assertion that the labour pains of Matthew 24 are simply a description of world events over the past two millennium, is downright dangerous. It attempts to defuse the element of warning and the need of preparation that has been carefully sewn into these verses.
And so to conclude: we will experience some of the elements of Matthew 24: the wars and earthquakes and famines for example throughout the course of history. But eventually all the elements described will escalate in frequency and intensity until finally we will know that we have entered into the time of tribulation and that the time of the return of Christ Jesus is upon us.
And we ignore the warning of this coming tribulation at our peril.
Thank you for reading this.