The Beginnings of Sorrows
Or, How We Can Providentially Tell That Our Rapture Deliverance Is Near
"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows"
by Tom and Katie Stewart
n His Olivet Discourse, our LORD Jesus Christ described the signs that indicate that our Pre-Tribulational Rapture Deliverance and-- most importantly-- His Second Coming are near. He described "earthquakes", "famines", and "troubles" as the "beginnings of sorrows" (Mark 13:8). These "sorrows" are also translated elsewhere as "travail" or "pains", as when a woman gives birth. Even the Apostle Paul alludes to the Rapture concept in his use of the phrase the "redemption of our body". "22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain [birth pains] together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:22-23).
We, the Watching and Waiting Body of Christ, have been providentially enabled by the Spirit to sense the nearness of our Deliverance, because of the quickening frequency of the birth pains. "Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in Thy sight, O LORD" (Isaiah 26:17). It is completely appropriate that we would use the sense of our own personal circumstances, as well as the current events of the world, to tell how close together the birth pains are. "I being in the way, the LORD led me" (Genesis 24:27). And, we are in no danger of an inappropriate focus on watching for our LORD, so long as we "occupy" (Luke 19:13). "Blessed are those servants, whom the LORD when He cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them" (12:37).
First Advent: Israel Brought Forth the Messiah
he reason why the Living God has chosen to create the universe, Israel, and the Church, is simply for His pleasure. "Thou art worthy, O LORD, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Revelation 4:11). At each phase of the LORD's revelation of Himself to man-- as Creator, Sustainer, Lawgiver, Saviour, Sanctifier, and King-- it pleasures Him to be embraced by His people with all the confidence of a loving faith. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Love has always been the motivation that the "God [Who] is love" (1John 4:16) has expected of His people for trusting Him. "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by Love" (Galatians 5:6). Even when the LORD Jesus recounted the foundation of Old Testament Israel's relationship to Jehovah, He emphasized that love has always been the reason for keeping the Law. "37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39).
What then was Israel's role in the manifestation of the Messiah? Specifically, the LORD Jesus Christ was to be born of the seed of David. "The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy [King David's] body will I set upon thy throne" (Psalm 132:11). The Nation of Israel was to travail to bring forth the Son of Man. Just witness the assembly of players that came forth to experience the travail, pain, and joy of bringing forth the Son of Man, i.e., Simeon, Anna, Elizabeth, Zecharias, Joseph, and Mary. "A woman when she 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" (John 16:21).
Just as the Old Testament assured David a seed to sit forever upon his throne, the New Testament supports the position that Israel's birth pains were to bring forth the Messiah the first time. "1 And there appeared a great wonder in Heaven; a woman [the Nation of Israel] clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: 2 And she being with Child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. 3 And there appeared another wonder in Heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her Child [Jesus] as soon as It was born. 5 And she brought forth a Man Child, Who was to rule all nations with a Rod Of Iron: and her Child was caught up unto God, and to His Throne" (Revelation 12:1-5).
Second Advent: The Church Brings Forth the King of Kings
he "Head of the Church" (Ephesians 5:23)-- the LORD Jesus-- has ordained His Church to be the vehicle to manifest Himself to the world. "19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:19-20). This Gospel Age is a constant reminder to the Body of Christ of the soon "Coming of our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Corinthians 1:7) He is Coming back to judge the world and consummate His Kingdom. "7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the LORD Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ" (2Thessalonians 1:7-8).
One of the foundational ordinances of the Church, the LORD's Supper, is intended as a remembrance of the LORD Jesus, as well as an expectation of His soon return. "25 After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the LORD's death till He come" (1Corinthians 11:25-26). To return to the pilgrim character of the Church, we must again look for that "Better Country", and "be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1) of the attachments of this world. "But now they desire a Better Country, that is, an Heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a City" (Hebrews 11:16).
The Apostle Peter sets forth the Church's role in the manifestation of the Messiah the second time. "Looking for and hasting [literally, hastening] unto the Coming of the Day of God" (2Peter 3:12). How do we hasten the "Coming of the Day of God"? The promotion of the Gospel to save and sanctify, hastens His Coming. "Blessed is that servant, whom his LORD when He cometh shall find so doing" (Luke 12:43). Intercessory prayer begs God to move His hand that His "will be done in Earth, as it is in Heaven" (Matthew 6:10), so that He will come quickly. All necessary and good works promote the Kingdom and soon return of our LORD. "And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful" (Titus 3:14).
Again, the Apostle Paul gave us the foundational understanding that the Church's birth pains are to bring forth the Messiah-- the King of Kings-- the second time, i.e., "Thy Kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). "20 For our conversation is in Heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the LORD Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21). Understanding that the "whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now... even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:22-23), we know that we travail in anticipation of not just our Rapture, but the manifestation of the King of Kings. "14 Until the appearing of our LORD Jesus Christ: 15 Which in His times He shall shew, Who is the Blessed and Only Potentate, the KING of Kings, and LORD of Lords" (1Timothy 6:14-15).
The Value of Sorrows (or, Travail)
to give birth to a child-
to give birth to a Godly transformation-
to give birth to a Godly deliverance-
to give birth to a Godly repentance-
to give birth to Godly fruit-
to give birth to God's judgment-
he Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9,13,22) leads us by His Spirit to expect His Appearance and our Rapture-- the "Coming of our LORD Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him" (2Thessalonians 2:1)-- to be soon. Since watching and waiting for the LORD are continually enjoined in the Scriptures-- "And the LORD direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ" (3:5)-- it is utterly unthinkable that the Holy Spirit would lead us to interpret the birth pains into a course of action that would cause us to be "ashamed and confounded" (Psalm 40:14). "Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a Chief Corner Stone, Elect, Precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded" (1Peter 2:6). By faith, God will preserve us from falling into the "great transgression" (Psalm 19:13) of a "castaway" (1Corinthians 9:27) life. "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on Thee" (25:21).
Even so, come, LORD Jesus.
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