I still remember quite vividly the events surrounding Khloe’s birth. I remember Rosie hitting me at 1am in the morning when she had her first contraction. I remember timing those contractions, speaking with the midwife, and packing the car. I remember getting to the hospital only to be told that we had to go home and wait, for another 12 hours… I remember walking with Rosie around the block and supporting her when the waves of contractions came and laughing to myself when the neighbourhood kids who were playing in the streets, stopped, and looked strangely at this woman who was grunting in the middle of the street. I also remember that moment when Rosie grabbed my arm and said, ‘take me to the hospital now,’ to which I obliged. Now I am not going to go into all the details about what happened next. Needless to say, it was intense (definitely more so for Rosie), but even though the experience was harrowing it did end with great joy!
Contractions are evidences that the delivery of a baby is near. From my personal observance, and from the birthing guide that Rosie has given me to read, I can tell you that the closer and more intense those contractions are from each other, the more advanced the labour is and the nearer the child is to coming. Yet, what does this have to do with the Bible? I mean, this is a Bible study not a birthing class!
The earth’s birth pains
Well… Jesus likens the events preceding His return to labour: “all these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matt 24:8 ESV. He tells us that the increase in wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilences are our natural course towards the end. While these events have always been business as usual, they’ve never occurred with as much intensity & frequency as what we see in modern times. Yet, let us not forget that nothing catches God by surprise. Jesus foresaw this 2000 years ago and told us.
Don’t let anyone discourage, shame, or hinder you from looking at and being aware of the signs concerning Jesus’ return. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 and see what the Apostle Paul has to say about what we should do. May we not declare peace and safety when there is no peace and safety. May we not desire to keep the status quo when we know the status quo is about to be upended. May we discern the times that we are living in and the unique responsibility that we bear. May our yes be yes, and our no be no.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we become alarmists and venture beyond what Scripture has revealed “for of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven” Matt 24:36. We should not speculate on what His word has not revealed. Let us focus instead on what He has revealed, and know that it is near, even at the doors. But notice the certainty of Paul concerning these events, he speaks as if we should know these things; he says “you have no need that I write to you,” “you yourselves know perfectly,” “ you are not in darkness” and “let us watch and be sober” (vvs. 1, 2, 4 & 6).
Who told them about these things and how did they know it? Jesus said it, and it was so important to the early church that it was recorded in 3 of the Gospels. In other words, it was their bread and butter. Now, Thessalonians was written 19 years after Jesus spoke of the signs of the times and this was even written before the Gospels! Think about it. They knew this before it was even written down because to them it was their common teaching, practice and understanding. Birth pains, evidences that the Lord was soon to come and their need to watch and keep their lamps trimmed and burning.
Now I am not advocating a ‘Christless’ apocalyptic message—if that even that needs to be said. What I am saying is that we must preach the end time message that Jesus has given us to preach, in the way that He intended us to preach it. This doesn’t exclude Jesus or the signs of the times. It is not an either-or message but rather both and. In other words, it’s not discerning the signs or knowing Jesus, it’s knowing Jesus and discerning the signs. The everlasting Gospel is not only what Jesus did to save us from our sins but is also the message of when He will come and restore all things. It is everlasting because it teaches an everlasting message about, He “who is and who was and who is to come” Revelation 1:8. The everlasting Gospel tells us what Jesus did, declares what He is doing, and prophesy’s what He will do! And in expectation of that which is before us I say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.