We live in a unique time. There has never been a generation in which all of the signs that the Bible says that we should look for have converged simultaneously. Those who study prophecy know that when Israel was gathered back into the land in 1948, it was a great sign from the Lord, promised thousands of years before by the Old Testament prophets. Since then all the major signs that the Prophets said to look for have emerged, and are increasing in intensity at an ever-accelerating rate.
To be ignorant of the words of the prophets, and to not understand what is happening with Israel, the nations and the Church in light of what they predicted, is to remain in the dark. At a time when there is so much information available to believers (as never before), we are without excuse. And yet I cannot remember a single sermon in a church in my 20 years as a Christian that covered the subject of the Lord’s return! Let’s look again at what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians:
1Th 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
Paul said that the day of the Lord will come at a time when they are saying “peace and safety.” The recipients of the Letter, the Church, are not to be in darkness. But “they” (the world) will be saying “Peace and Safety.” It is interesting that for the last couple of decades the phrase we hear more and more on the lips of world leaders and politicians is “Peace and Safety” or “Peace and Security”, especially when it comes to trying to find a “solution” concerning Jerusalem. Paul tells us here that this phrase is itself a sign!
Paul associates this phrase with the “labor pains” that accompany the coming of the Day of the Lord, saying that the destruction will “come upon them as travail upon a woman with child.” This same Greek word was used by Jesus when He described the signs that would build up in frequency and intensity toward His coming. In Matthew 24 He listed signs that He called the “beginning of sorrows” (travail). A quick rundown of this list of “birth pangs” causes us to realize that He is literally standing at the door.
(Mat 24:4-8) And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 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. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows (travail, or “birthpangs”. )
Birth pangs Verses 3-7
- false teachers in His name deceiving many
- wars and rumors of wars
- nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom
In verse 8 He said that these things are the “beginning of sorrows” (travail). All of these signs are to increase like birth pangs in increasing intensity, impact and frequency. In the decades since the return of Israel to her land, exactly as God has prophesied in the Bible, we have seen a global increase in these signs. Jesus calls the following signs “the beginnings of birthpangs”:
False Teachers coming in His name to Deceive Many: We we will see in part 4, the visible form of Christianity is being almost overrun by false teachers teaching deception in His name.
Wars and Rumors of War: Every day we hear more rumors of upcoming wars – North Korea, Syria, China, Russia, Iran, Israel, the United States…All of the major powers are literally on the brink.
Famines, Pestilences (plagues) and Earthquakes: Scientists are warning that the entire world is at risk due to droughts and famines that are impacting the food supply. There new strains of plagues and diseases that threaten to wipe out entire populations if not contained. In fact, the only reason they haven’t broken out is because of God’s grace and mercy that is holding back that day. Look on the internet for graphs and timelines of Earthquakes greater than 5.0 and you will see that they have been steadily increasing for the last 50 years.
After verse 8, He says the next thing to emerge would be a worldwide persecution of believers. “Ye shall be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (v.9-10)
Mat 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Persecution: Regarding persecution, worldwide we are witnessing an increase in persecution of Christians, especially in the Middle East and in China. This time has been called the “Age of Martyrs”. Those who have studied these things say that 33AD to 1900 there were approximately 14 million martyrdoms recorded. In the 20th century, there were more than 26 million. The 20th century saw more Christians martyred than all previous centuries put together. Since the wars in Iraq, and Afghanistan, the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East and the emergence of ISIS, we are seeing a dramatic increase of persecution in the Middle East. In the west, we are seeing a “Soft” persecution at this point – Christians are increasingly hated and marginalized. The last few years there has been a dramatic turn in terms of an increasingly vocalized hatred towards Christians. Part of this is due to the freedom that social media gives people to vent and the quickening pace of the news cycle. There are also certain cultural agendas that are coming to the forefront that are forcing the issue to the front and center. It is becoming increasingly dangerous in the United States and Europe to be a vocal, evangelical Christian, and this is clearly a harbinger of tough times ahead.
False Prophets: Verses 11-12 says that while this is going on, there would be a dramatic increase of false Prophets who would deceive many, and this would cause the love of “the many” (an idiom for God’s people) to grow cold. In verse 13 He warns that those who “endure to the end” will be saved. We are indeed seeing an explosive rise of False prophets and teachers among the Church and it is impacting the spiritual condition of Christians.
The Gospel of the Kingdom: In verse 14, He says that the Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached throughout all the earth as a witness, and then “the end” would come beginning with the manifestation of the Man of Sin, the persecution of Israel and the judgements of the Day of the Lord, which He calls “the Great Tribulation”, all covered in the rest of the chapter.
If all of this is a chronological timeline of things that will emerge one after another, we are past the “beginning of birth pangs” and are now living in between verses 9-14. The call is to endure, and this requires watching. These describe the Birth Pangs as they are impacting God’s people. It will turn out to our salvation. While the events described seem sorrowful, Jesus says that they are sorrowful in the way that labor pains are sorrowful. When the child is born, we will forget the sorrow for joy.
Joh 16:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
These signs are just a general outline that the Lord gave us for us to realize that His Coming is swiftly approaching. The birthpangs are coinciding with the exact geopolitical alignments of nations that the Bible says will be arrayed against God’s regathered Israel in the last days, while the political leaders of the world are calling for measures that will ensure “Peace and Safety.”
All of these signs are occurring on a global scale and no one can deny it. These signs are sobering because they tell us what time it is. And these signs are wonderful because believers know their salvation is at hand! Jesus said that when we see these things begin to come to pass, we should “look up and lift up our heads” because “our redemption draws nigh!”
Luk 21:28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh!
The world, seeing the same things does not look to the Lord for redemption, but for man’s ability to come up with a system apart from God (and in opposition to Him) that they hope will ensure “Peace and Safety.” Again, the admonition for us who see these things and believe in the Lord is to watch and be ready! Clearly watching for the Lord is not just related to watching the news and seeing how it lines up with prophecy, although recognizing the sign of the times produces a sense of urgency.