And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of the birth pains. (Matthew 24:6-8, ESV)
There will be wars, do not be alarmed!
There will be rumors of wars, do not be alarmed!
There will be earthquakes and famines, do not be alarmed!
There will be mass executions, do not be alarmed!
Women will be abducted, do not be alarmed!
Children will be forced to fight, do not be alarmed!
Suicide bombings will take place, do not be alarmed!
Civilians will be beheaded, do not be alarmed!
Terrorist attacks will happen, do not be alarmed!
There will be bombings and torture, do not be alarmed!
DO NOT BE ALARMED?! As Barnhouse said on the eve of WW2, “These are either the words of a madman or they are the words of God. God, unless Jesus is God, these words are the most horrible that could be spoken to men who have hearts that can weep and bowels that can be gripped by human suffering.” Men and women are dying, do not be alarmed? Nations rage at each other, do not be alarmed? Families are left with out home, do not be alarmed? Christians are dead or fleeing for there lives all over Iraq and Syria, do not be alarmed? How can Jesus say such a thing? Why should we not be alarmed? We have every reason to be alarmed do we not? No, for if we are alarmed by what we see going on in the world it means we are not trusting God. What Jesus is declaring to us is that we have no reason to be alarmed because God is completely in control of the events going on around us and the events to come. This passage teaches us that; we must trust in God, because he is in control of history.
There are two points that I would like to consider, firstly we must trust in God, because he is in control of the beginning. Jesus states that, “These (that is war/rumors of war/earthquakes/famines) are but the beginning of birth pains” (vs. 8). What light does the imagery of birth pains bring to us?
(1) Birth pains are inevitable. Anyone who has given birth before knows what is coming. There is no avoiding it, there is no way to get the baby out (in a natural way) with out going through birth. One cannot skip over it and one cannot avoid it. The same applies to the events of history, we may ask why, why, why Oh God? But his reply is the same as the midwife to the mother who cries why must I go through this? There is only one way to get the baby out and there is only one way to have Christ return, the world must go through the events its creator has planned events.
(2) Birth pains are painful. I have yet to ever speak to a women who has said ‘Ah the moments before labor are really enjoyable I did not feel anything!’ I vividly remember watching my wife go through it and I cannot say it looked like an enjoyable experience. The same truth applies to the events of history that we must pass through, they are painful. There will be all sorts of atrocities committed, but ultimately we know that it is for our good and for the glory of God (cf. Rom. 8:28-39).
(3) Birth pains worketh good. If one considers all that happens during the early stages of birth pains it becomes apparent that it is a good thing, though painful. In fact I know of a woman who went into labor without any prior pain or warning and the baby was born extremely quickly. She went into shock because of it. The build up is part of the bodies way of dealing with it. The same applies with history, the world has events that must unfold in order for it to be prepared for Christ to return. If it was possible and Christ was to come early then all sorts of things would be missed, if Christ had come 100 years ago all of us would have missed out on life and therefore, eternal life! Remember what Peter said, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
(4) Birth pains fluctuate. When pains first commence they are not the most intense from the get go (as a rule). They come and go slowly intensifying over time. The same is with the world, the world is in tumult at one time and relatively quiet at other times. But history is slowly journeying forward towards its goal.
(5) Birth pains are uncontrollable. Who of you that have had children had the ability to control the pains? Sure you could dull it with medication, but can you stop the birth pains? The same is true of history, though humanity tries its best to dull the pain of war, famines and earthquakes, do we ever succeed? No. For the only one who can control it is the same only one who can control birth pains, the creator and sustainer of the universe.
Dear reader, there is one simple fact, from the time of Christ’s ascension till now the world has been in the beginning stages of the birth pains of labor. It is not going to change, it is not going to get easier, it is not going to go away. We must face it, the question is how are you going to face it? Will you obey your Lord and trust in God? He has commanded it, trust in him, because he is in control of history and he is good! Someone once said, “In times of crisis, Christians should be the calmest people on the block,” why? Because we serve the one who is ordering all of these events to unfold.
The second point I would like to consider is that we must trust in God, because he controls the end. If all we have said of the beginning so far is true, then all must also equally be said of the end. Surely if we must trust in God in the beginning we must trust in God all the way through till the end! Jesus says to us in verse six, “this must take place, but the end is not yet.” If the end is not yet then it goes with out saying that there will in fact be an end. The beginning of birth pains pointed out one very obvious fact, something is coming! This is probably one of the most comforting thing for those that suffer during the beginning. What we face in history can at times be horrible, just as birth can at times be the death of a mother. But, what is the consummation of all the history of the world, Christ will return! One day, all of this suffering, war, strife, earthquakes, famines, ebola, terrorism, all of it will end.
Look at verse thirty one, “He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” If you are a follower of Christ, this is you, I do not know what you are going through right now, but whatever you face, this is you. One day, your God will send back your Lord Jesus and his angels will gather you to be with him forever! If ever you had a reason to trust in the difficulties of history it is this, Jesus wins. It may seem grim, it may look bad, but Jesus wins!
But reader, if you are not a follower of Christ, let me warn you, look at verses thirty, “Then will appear in Heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory.” Reader, he shall come, there is no doubt, one day when all of the events of history have been completed, the Son of Man will come, he shall appear like a flash of lightening, like a thief in the night. And woes be for those whom he does not know! If you are reading this and you do not know Christ and he does not know you, I urge you, no, I beg you before it is to late, cry out to him now, run to him and seek forgiveness for he will turn none away.
When we see everything going on around us in the world; famines, ebola, terrorism, Islamic State, Ukraine…it can be all to easy to give in to despair. However, Jesus Christ, the God man, the Lord of History, the one whom through all things were made and whom through all things are sustained cries out to us, ‘You must trust in God! Do not be alarmed! For God is in control, he is the alpha and the omega, he has ordained all that will pass in the beginning and has planned the end to come. Run to him and experience the peace that surpasses all understanding even while amongst the most terrible circumstances. Reader, trust in the God and put off all alarm for he is in control.