The Beginning Of Birth PangsSeries: An Eschatological Mix
THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PANGS
Sermon By Terry Siverd / June 13, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
We have now assembled at the mountain (the mount of Olives) - - where Jesus delivered his Olivet Discourse. We all have a responsibility to study this challenging and very important chapter. How we come to understand this chapter will play a big part in shaping our eschatological views heretofore. Eschatology is the study of end-time things. Notice that I said “end-time things” not “the end of time”. The New Testament speaks often about the time of the end, but never about the end of time. In making this distinction I have tipped my hand to show you my convictions - - I am a preterist. As you can tell, my leaning is neither slight nor wishy-washy - - I am a full-blown preterist. First and foremost, I am a CHRISTIAN. But if you ask me where I stand on eschatological matters, I am a Preterist. This word comes from a Latin word (praeteritus) which sounds like a dinosaur but translates as “gone by or past”. A preterist affirms that the last days spoken of in the Holy Scriptures brought about the fulfillment of prophecy and the realization of eschatology which precipitated the changing of covenantal worlds - - the full consummation of the Old Covenant and the complete establishment of the New Covenant.
Last week I read an online article titled, My Path To Preterism by Daniel Morais. “While doing research for Probe (Ministries), I remember reading Matthew 24. I had read Matthew 24 many times before, but this time something clicked. I realized that I had been lying to myself concerning the timing of the second coming. In the past I had tried to explain away Jesus' seemingly inaccurate predictions concerning the time of his return by placing round pegs in square holes. At that moment I understood that the imminent nature of the second coming was not just a seemingly inaccurate detail, but rather an underlying Biblical theme. I did a quick internet search on Matthew 24 and an interesting preterist website came up. I read the article and then proceeded to print out and read all the other articles on the site...”
On a personal level, my path to preterism began some 50+ years ago while I was just a teenager. The preacher at our congregation was brave enough to wade into the Olivet discourse (Mt.24). His courage, candor and careful exegesis provided an environment that invited exploration. I will always be grateful for the seeds planted (implanted in my mind) by my dear brother, Marvin Jacobs. Jake's approach to examining this difficult chapter opened up a new way of thinking for me and many others. Marvin personified Paul's description of a faithful preacher (2Tim.2:24-25a) - - The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition...
The text of Mt.24 is loaded with prophetic utterances (spoken by Jesus).
Our primary focus in this morning's sermon titled The Beginning Of Birth Pangs will be vss. 4-14.
First, however, I want us to jump ahead to what we might call “the heartbeat of the chapter” (vss.29-35) - - Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun be be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all of the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts for its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away. I have read these verses (vss.29-35) in advance to underscore the CONTEXT.
For many, this string of verses sounds so futuristic. It describes precisely what many contemplate when they think of a yet-future second coming of Christ. The language is a filled with Semitic apocalyptic imagery. Cosmic-sounding upheavals: sun & moon darkened … stars falling from the sky .. powers of heavens shaken ... The sign of The Son of Man appearing in the sky … coming on the clouds with power and great glory … angels appearing with a great trumpet gathering together God's elect. The trouble is, these events are not in front of us but rather they are behind us; not future but realized. Vs.34 may this undeniably clear - - this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place. Not our current generation, mind you, but that generation that Jesus addressed first-hand. cf. Mt.16:28 / some of you standing here shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. Thus, if we are going to let the Scriptures be our guide (and we must), we need to re-think the coming of the Lord. This coming involved concomitant events: judgment … resurrection … the last days and the end of the age/world. Could it be that this “coming” has been fulfilled in the context of the changing of the covenants? I have been criticized for teaching classes that ask a lot of questions. I do not pose this question so as to straddle the fence, but rather my desire is to lead you to truth rather than dictate what you must believe. Mt.24:29-35 is filled with APOCALYPTIC IMAGERY, which is rooted in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. We will speak more about this symbolic language in a future lesson. The failure to properly grasp these “words” has blinded and derailed many in their study of Mt.24.
Let us return now to read Mt.24:4-14
Remember that these words are spoken in response to Jesus' declaration concerning the temple in Jerusalem: not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down (Mt.24:2) . After this astounding prediction, Peter, Andrew, James & John (Mk.13:3) came to Jesus with a follow-up question: Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? / Mt.24:3
Jesus warns them not to be misled by: false Christs … wars & rumors of wars … kingdoms fighting … famines & earthquakes ...tribulation … murder & hatred … apostasy & treachery … false prophets … lawlessness … love grown cold.
Note Mt.24:8 / all these things are merely THE BEGINNING OF BIRTH PANGS. This is a image that clearly depicts covenantal change. Beside Mt.24:8 - - cross reference Rev.12:1-2 - - A great sign appeared in the heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child, and she cried out, being in labor and in pain (about) to give birth. Paul used similar terminology in Gal.4:19 / My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you... See also Rom.8:22 / the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now. Many of us have been taught that the Old Covenant ended at the cross (Col.2:14). The cross of Christ was the beginning of the end for the Old Covenant. Heb.9:8 / the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing. The 40 weeks of human childbirth (gestation period) corresponds to the 40 years that brought about covenantal change. I realize that I am mixing metaphors, but most of you will recall that it took the nation of Israel forty years to get to the promised land. The Old Testament prophet Micah also alluded to these forty years in writing about Israel's last day (Mic.7:15) - - As in the days when you came out from the land of Egypt, I will show you miracles. The 40 years wilderness journey was a foreshadowing of what Israel would experience in her last days. cf. Mic.4:1.
The cross of Jesus was the beginning of the end (telos/maturation), but the full ripening would not be complete until Jerusalem fell and the temple was destroyed - - not by accident, but by the mighty hand of God.