Gene Cunningham - July 27, 2022

The Beginning of Sorrows (Birthpangs)

This section deals with what the New Testament calls the “last days” (Heb. 1:2), which covers the time from Jesus’ ascension to the Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4:13–18). It is very clear from this section that the Rapture of the Church is not some “way of escape from suffering” as some present it. The whole history of the Church is one of affliction and persecution. This is, in fact, the normal Christian experience (2 Tim. 3:12). It is worth noticing that Matt. 24:4–8 covers the same historical time frame as Revelation 1–3. However, since Jesus is addressing Israel here, the “signs” of the times are the main focus. Revelation 1–3, written to the Church, focuses on conditions existing within the Church body and a call to continued spiritual purification. A. The Two Great Dangers, Matthew 24:4–6 The first great danger to believers is deception. The devil is a deceiver (John 8:44), and this is his greatest weapon against us. Just as he deceived Eve in the Garden, he seeks to deceive each one of us (Gen. 3:1–8; 1 Tim. 2:14; 2 Cor. 11:3). This deception comes from “false christs and false prophets” (Matt. 24:11, 24, see 1 Tim. 4:1–2). The second great danger is fear. Remember that fear and faith cannot live together (see Luke 21:34–38). B. Increasing Birth Pangs (Historical Trends), Matthew 24:7–8 It is my conviction, from simply taking Scripture literally, that the Rapture of the Church occurs at this point, between Matthew 24, verses 8 and 9 (see 1 Thess. 4:13–5:11; 2 Thess. 2:1–8; esp. Rev. 4:1). Jesus does not deal with it here, because the Church is still an unrevealed “mystery” (see Eph. 3:1–10). There are many today who reject the teaching of the Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4:13–18), because they think it is a “cowardly” hope of weak Christians to escape the Tribulation. In light of the past 2,000 years of church history, this is a foolish notion. It has been the portion of believers throughout world history to suffer affliction and severe persecution, even to horrible torture and execution. The Church has surely paid her dues. Furthermore, we do not know what trials await us, even in the times of increasing birth-pangs ahead.

From Series: "Jesus' Roadmap for the Future"

The Olivet Discourse -- Jesus' Roadmap for the future, is one of the three major discourses (sermons) of Jesus. They include: 1. The Sermon on the Mount/Galilee Discourse (Matthew 5–7) 2. The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24–25; Mark 13; Luke 21 3. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17) Each of these messages is aimed at a specific period of history, which we call a dispensation. They lay out God’s dispensational plan, like a road map, from the time of the crucifixion to the end of time. The Sermon on the Mount was directed to the generation in which Jesus lived and was His platform as King—if Israel would receive Him. Obviously, they rejected Him as their King. However, this will be the basis of Jesus’ administration during the 1,000-year Kingdom Age (Millennium). Then, the Olivet Discourse was aimed at the consequences of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and anticipated the destruction of the nation (70 A.D.) and the final Tribulation period. Remember that the Church Age is an intercalation—meaning an insertion, like a parenthesis, into the Age of Israel. This means that with the Rapture of the Church, the Tribulation picks up where 70 A.D. leaves off. This is why the Church Age is called a “mystery” (Rom. 11:25; 16:25; Eph. 3:1–13; Col. 1:26–27), which is a graduate course to “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). Finally, the Upper Room Discourse was directed toward the Church Age, which began at Pentecost and would continue to the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13–18). The uniqueness of this Age is summarized by Paul’s phrase “in Christ,” and all of the elements involved in what we call “positional truth”—our total union with Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit in us, which occurs nowhere else in history. With the removal of the Body of Christ, the Church, Israel would again become the focus of God’s working on this Earth (Romans 9–11; Revelation 6–19).

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