The Signs of the Times (3): Birth Pains

editor - 24 June 2018

“… All these are the beginning of birth pains…” (Matthew 24:8 NIV)

What are birth pains? Birth pains, or contractions, precede the birth of a child. How does this work? From about the 24thweek of the pregnancy, the mother-to-be is already experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, also known as practice contractions. These are usually not too painful, and occur at irregular intervals.

Serious labour starts when the uterus begins to contract. When the contractions start, the interval between two contractions is about 10-30 minutes long, and lasts approximately 40-60 seconds. As labour progresses, the contractions of the uterus occur more often, and become longer and more painful. A contraction starts off a little painful but, as time goes by, becomes increasingly painful until it reaches a peak. After this the pain subsides. It’s like a wave. Through the contractions that become increasingly painful, the birth of the child is coming closer.

So the birth pains become stronger and often more painful. The intensity, duration and frequency increases. Towards the end, the contractions can be so strong and so painful, that the mother-to-be sometimes exclaims: I cannot take anymore! As a husband there’s little more you can do than hold your wife’s hand, and pray to God that everything will be all right. Fortunately, most of the time all will be well in the end. And when it’s all done, and you hold your baby in your arms, there’s nothing left but indescribable joy and gratefulness. The pain is soon forgotten.

The Lord Jesus compares the things that will happen to planet earth with birth pains. Painful contractions that will move across the world. The process starts slowly, but by the time the birth of the ‘child’ is near, the intervals will get shorter and the intensity and the pain will increase.

Who looks at what’s happening in the world around us, sees crisis after crisis. One crisis has barely ended, and the next crisis has already begun. Disaster follows disaster. Problem after problem. Earthquake after earthquake. War after war. Massacre follows massacre. Like waves they keep coming. In small ways and in big ways. In the end it feels like it’s too much to bear, and you think: can humanity and planet earth take much more? Will this be the end? Total annihilation of mankind and total destruction of planet earth? Is this the end of the world and of the history of mankind?

But He says: ‘these are birth pains’. Yes, they are increasing and they will be more and more painful, with ever shorter breaks in between. Yes, towards the end it will be almost impossible to endure. But in the end it will finally lead to the birth of the ‘baby’. Redemption is coming closer. The Kingdom of peace and righteousness in all the earth is coming. From Jerusalem that peace will one day cover the whole earth. No doubt about that. And the nations will not even train for war anymore, Isaiah 2:2-4.

An example from history. Martin Luther in his days wrote his famous hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” = “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” when Islamic forces were on their way to Vienna and the situation seemed desperate. Luther wrote the words and composed the melody sometime between 1527 and 1529. It has been translated into English at least seventy times and also into many other languages. The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 46. John M. Merriman, Charles Seymour Professor of Yale University writes that the hymn “began as a martial song to inspire soldiers against the Ottoman forces” during the Ottoman wars in Europe.

And the Lord has been merciful in those days. The inability of the Ottomans to capture Vienna in 1529 turned the tide against almost a century of conquest throughout eastern and central Europe. The Ottoman Empire had previously annexed Central Hungary and established a vassal state in Transylvania. According to Arnold J. Toynbee, “The failure of the first siege of Vienna brought to a standstill the tide of Ottoman conquest which had been flooding up the Danube Valley for a century past.”

Whatever happens and will happen: God is in control.


The Signs of the Times
Many people are afraid of the future. Will the turmoil in the world lead to World War III? Or is there still hope? What do the ancient prophecies of the Bible teach us? Are we at the beginning of the end of this world? Or are we approaching a new beginning? Could Israel be a sign of hope? In this new series Rev. Willem Glashouwer looks at 52 of the many signs of the times that are mentioned in the Bible.The English edition of ‘The Signs of the Times’ will be published by Christians for Israel International in the coming months.

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