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Food for Thought


I've be re-thinking some things concerning the birth pangs in the Olivet discourse (Matt. chapter 24) and the first three seals of Revelation Allow me to share these thoughts with you as my "sounding board" and get your opinion.

As I've previously thought, and how Van Kampen (and Rosenthal) teach, when Jesus speaks of the birth pangs in verses 4-8 of Matthew chapter 24, they compare these birth pangs to the first 3 seals of Revelation:

          
         Matt. 24                                Rev. 

False Christ (vs. 4, 5)                   First Seal (white horse)          
Wars & rumors of wars (vs. 6, 7a)         Second Seal (red horse)         
Famines & earthquakes (v. 7b)             Third Seal (black horse)

But, unlike the comparisons of the events in Matt. 24:9-29 with the next three seals (seals 4-6), these first three comparisons (above) are vague and seem to force the scriptures. "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs." (Matt. 24:8 NASB) I.e., this is referencing back to Matt. 24:4 through 7. Matt. 24:9 clearly begins a new thought of events. "These things" are what was described prior to v. 8 as the "beginning" of birth pangs, not including after v. 8. Vs. 9-14 are no longer the "mere beginnings," but we're now in the very throws of the birth pangs itself. All these events are before mid-point (Matt. 24:15), but the "merely...beginning of birth pangs" seem to strongly suggest events throughout history (that is from Christ until the end-time events) that we are not to confuse with the actual end-time birth pang events beginning with v. 9. Also, when Jesus speaks of the birth pangs (vs. 4-8), He refers to them as "not yet the end" (v. 6 NASB). Yet, when He speaks of the tribulation and persecution (v. 9-14), He refers to those who endure "to the end" (v. 13 NASB) "and then the end shall come" (v. 14 NASB).

In other words, I now think that the discourse on the birth pangs is merely a historical reference to the way the world has been (since Christ) and will continue to be up until the end (i.e., last days). So, He's telling His disciples not to confuse the "normal" course of history and natural disasters (merely the beginning of birth pangs) with the distinctive events and signs marking the end.

This clears up (for me) the difficulty of forcing the First Seal as being the False Christ when in the Second Seal, it clearly defines the First Seal when it states, "And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him." Now, this taking "peace from the earth" is not possible unless first, peace is established; does this not make sense? Therefore, the First Seal must be to establish a world peace; not the False Christ(s) setting up his kingdom.

Neither is the Second Seal's war "to take peace from the earth" comparable to Matt. 24:6 & 7 (NASB):

"And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you arenot frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet theend. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom..."

"Nation(s)...rise(ing) against nation(s) and kingdom(s) against kingdom(s)" (kingdoms, by-the-way, speaks of a number of conquered nations under a kingdom) is not the war that takes "peace from the earth," but rather is the "normal" course of events throughout history up until the end. The great war of the Second Seal, that does take "peace from the earth," is the Ezekiel 38 and 39 war (also described in Joel). Again, when Jesus speaks to His disciples and says, "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs" (v. 8 NASB), He is clearly telling His disciples not to confuse the "normal" course of events and natural disasters (that He just described above this verse, i.e., vs. 4-7) with the end. In fact, He clearly states that these events are "not yet the end" (v. 6 NASB).

Nor are the "famines and earthquakes...in various places" (v. 7b NASB) the great world famine of the Third Seal, but rather also the "normal" course of events throughout history, not to be confused with signs of the end times.

Therefore, I believe, the Olivet discourse in Matt. 24 only describes the end-time events comparable to Seals 4-6 and that the "birth pangs" do not describe the events comparable to Seals 1-3. Does this not make sense? Does this clear things up with you too or have I confused the whole issue?

Now some thoughts on the Forth Seal compared with verses 9-14 in Matt. 24 (NASB):

9 "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you willbe hated by all nations on account of My name.
10 "And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one anotherand hate one another.
11 "And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.
12 "And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will growcold.
13 "But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.
14 "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole worldfor a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.

These (above) verses are speaking of the end, yet just prior to the Antichrist (cf., v. 15) and prior to the great tribulation (cf., v. 16-22)! When Jesus says, "on account of My name" (v. 9), He is not referring to secular Israel, is He? Except for a remnant, Israel, as a nation, does not receive her Messiah until He appears (Zech. 12:10; cf., Matt. 23:39). Rather, these are those who are persecuted "on account of My name" (v. 9 NASB; cf., Rev. 14:13). And this persecution is clearly comparable to the Forth Seal in Rev. 6 (NASB):

7 And when He broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourthliving creature saying, "Come."
8 And I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had thename Death; and Hades was following with him. And authority was givento them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine andwith pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.

The fifth seal, I believe, is the great trib. (Matt. 24:15-22), beginning at mid-point. I don't believe this time of intense persecution (distress) is the same event, nor should be associated with the persecutions of Matt. 24:9-14. "Great" (megas) strongly implies very much greater than. "And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short" (Matt. 24:22 NASB).

Therefore, the events (listed below) from Matthew 24 are clearly comparable to seals 4-6 from Revelation:

          Matt. 24                                Rev.

Persecutions (vs. 9-14)                   Forth Seal (ashen horse)
Great tribulation (vs. 14-22)             Fifth Seal (martyrs)
Cosmic Signs (vs. 29, 30)                 Sixth Seal (cosmic signs)

Note: The term "wild beasts" could be used to describe ruthless men without conscience (i.e., antichrists in general; cf., the Beast, the Antichrist and the "beast" nations of Daniel 7:1-28). But, more probably refers to actual beasts of the field (see Ez. 14:21, c.f., Lev. 26:22).

What I've shared with you above, in no way changes the pre-wrath rapture premise and neither is what I've written in The Seals of Revelation basically changed; it also still stands as correct--except for perhaps my comparisons of the first three seals with the "birth pangs" of Matthew chapter 24, as I explained above.



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