By SHARON K. GILBERT
Originally published August 6, 2005
DO YOU ever get the feeling that time is running out? If you’ve read the news articles at PID News, then you may be noticing a pattern emerging – the world is growing smaller, so much so that soon one government could assume control. With all the terrorism and wars, some might even point to the concept of a one-world government and call it the best solution possible. In fact, even today, if a strong man arose who could end all war and terrorism, is there one of us who wouldn’t consider that man miraculous?
As we studied the first three signs of Matthew 24 and compared them to the first three horsemen, one indisputable fact emerges: The last days will be very hard. Notice in verse 8 of Matthew 24 that Jesus takes a moment to comment on the first three signs. Instead of saying, “Oh, don’t worry about these – it will get better,” he tells his disciples (and us) that “These are only the beginnings of sorrows.” Great! So, it’s going to get worse? Sheesh! Next train, please!
Beginnings of sorrows? What does that really mean? Think childbirth here – labor pains start out slowly, spaced far apart and more like twinges. As the time for the baby’s birth nears, the pain increases and the spacing shortens until they come one after another, almost without ceasing. That’s what Jesus means here. Pack your bags and call the doctor – it’s time to get to the hospital. The time is near – almost upon you – prepare.
Ok. So, what then is the next “sorrow”? Well, do you recall the last horse in Revelation 6? That should give us a big hint.
Death. (I told you it wasn’t going to be much fun). “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. Compare this to Matthew 24, verses 9 and 10: “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.”
Imagine the looks on the disciples’ faces! These guys thought Jesus was on earth to set up his kingdom – right then and there! Now, the Lord is telling them to prepare to die! Or at least, He’s telling them that death would be a major SIGN for the end of days. Now, let me take a moment to comment on this. If you’ll recall in Revelation 101 – Part I, we looked at the Rapture. It’s wise to remember that event right about now. And, it’s especially wise to remember Jesus’ audience in Matthew 24. He is speaking to members of the body called Israel – yes, believers in Christ, but still these men represent the believing remnant of Israel.
Ok, while there are many differing positions concerning the timing of the rapture, I believe the Church (Christ’s Bride) will be taken BEFORE the big birth pangs begin. Why? Several reasons. First of all, Daniel’s prophecy of Seventy Weeks makes it clear that the final week belongs to Israel. The timeline indicates a BIG GAP between weeks 69 (when Messiah is “cut off – killed”) and the final restoration of the believing remnant. Guess what, folks? The Church – Christ’s Bride – is that gap. We are the big Mystery that Daniel didn’t see. Also, it’s clear that the Church will not go through tribulation – we are to be “kept from [it]”. Revelation 3, verse 10 says, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” (For more information on the pre-trib view, see: 50 Evidences for a Pre-Trib Rapture).
So what’s my point? If the Church is raptured first, then why is Jesus mentioning “Death” and torture to his followers. Here’s what I believe. As I’ve mentioned before, the disciples represent a unique bridge in history – part Israel, part Church. I believe Christ is speaking to them as a representative of the believing remnant of Israel here. He’s giving a two-part prophecy. One part – the immediate future fulfillment – the disciples were delivered up, tortured, and killed for the sake of their faith in Christ. Part Two – the end times fulfillment – the believing remnant will be delivered up, tortured, and killed.
Has anyone ever told you that being a Christian is all sunshine and lollipops? While having Christ in one’s heart does lead to unspeakable joy, the enemy has us in his sights, so we should not be surprised when trials come our way. As the Rapture nears – and I believe it will happen in my lifetime – we can expect the birth pangs to increase, so as Bette Davis said in “All about Eve” – “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Stay tuned for Part IV – Lamps and Lampstands and Who’s Got the Oil?