In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (recorded in Matthew 24 & Mark 13) He gave a series of things that must come to pass yet are not necessarily signs that His coming is near. These included many who come claiming to speak and act by the authority of Jesus’ name, yet they are deceivers. There also must be wars, reports of wars, nation against nation, famines, plagues (including mass diseases), and earthquakes in various places. All of these things have occurred many times in history, some with increasing devastation. Jesus said of these, “all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” This was no doubt spoken so that Christians would not become anxious that the end is near whenever they hear of such things occurring. He did not want His followers to anticipate His coming too soon.
However, while all of these things have occurred many times since Jesus’ ascension to heaven, there is also an end-time component to these things. After describing the above things, He then said, “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” The metaphor of the arrival of the Kingdom with “birth pains” clearly shows that these things will occur very close to the end, just as a woman’s birth pains do not exist throughout her entire pregnancy, but only at the end. This metaphor comes from the final prophecy of Isaiah.
Isaiah 66:7-14 (NKJV) 7 “Before she was in labor, she gave birth; Before her pain came, She delivered a male child. 8 Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children. 9 Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the LORD. “Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God. 10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, And be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; 11 That you may feed and be satisfied With the consolation of her bosom, That you may drink deeply and be delighted With the abundance of her glory.” 12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, And the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried, And be dandled on her knees. 13 As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you; And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” 14 When you see this, your heart shall rejoice, And your bones shall flourish like grass; The hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants, And His indignation to His enemies.
Verses 7-9 were meant to indicate that the long-awaited labor and delivery will be very short, not a long-extended period of time. The woman giving birth is Jerusalem, and the male-child is restored Jerusalem ruled under the direct dominion of Jesus Christ and His bride joined to Him as one flesh. Consequently, when Jesus referred to the “beginning of birth pains” He was not speaking of the whole time since His ascension, but to that brief period when suddenly birth pains strike, signaling that the long period of gestation and waiting is over and delivery of the child is at hand. The “pregnancy” of Zion (Jerusalem) has been ongoing after the priesthood and Temple was destroyed by the Romans and “new wineskins” (who would become the new priesthood in the Kingdom) began taking the Gospel to all nations to be gathered into restored Jerusalem when the “birth” occurs.
Yet the same signs mentioned previously which Jesus said must occur “but the end is not yet” also provide an early-warning for us that the intense labor, what Jesus called “great tribulation” is very, very close. In verse 8, Jesus said, πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἀρχὴ ὠδίνων, literally, “Yet ALL these things are the beginning of birth pains.” Consequently, while individual plagues, wars, earthquakes, famines that have been spread out over the centuries and over the earth occurred in isolation many times, when “all these things” convergence, this is the signal that the “birth pains” have begun. The Seven-Sealed Scroll in Revelation 5-6 seems to place the same events that Jesus called “the beginning of birth pains” during the first four Seals.
However, prior to describing the “abomination of desolation” mentioned by Daniel, which occurs in the middle of the last week of seven years before Jesus’ arrival, Jesus described a great apostasy from the Faith by His followers.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
The first word “Then” (Τότε) means “at that time.” Since Jesus was not describing a point in time, but a brief period of time called “the beginning of birth pains,” the persecution of Christians in verse 9 and the apostasy of Christians in verses 10-13 is something that will indeed be a significant sign prior to the “abomination of desolation” in verse 15.
While Christians have been hated and persecuted in various places and times throughout history, what will occur during the “beginning of birth pains” will be significantly worse and more widespread because the hatred for Christ and faithful Christians will be in all nations simultaneously, including nations that have a long “Christian” history, and even in the United States which seems to have held Christian principles and been very tolerant of Christians the longest. But anyone paying attention can see that such is disappearing very fast and intolerance and hatred is growing exponentially.
Verse 10 also begins with “And then” using the same Greek word τότε. The great apostasy from the Christian Faith will be something very significant and obvious during the period called “the beginning of birth pains.” It is so significant that Paul reminded the Thessalonians of two sequential and easily identifiable signs which must occur before Jesus could return, “the falling away” and the revelation of the “Man of Sin.” The Antichrist will be “revealed” when he places the abomination of desolation in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus indicated that when this occurs, “great tribulation” (intense labor) will commence. This is after the Temple has been rebuilt and in use by a small remnant of Israel worshipping there during the 1260 days of the 2 prophets prophesying. Consequently, the apostasy which Jesus spoke about in Matt. 24:9-13 will occur over a short period of time before the “Man of Sin” (Antichrist) is revealed, and must be on a massive scale. This is a very significant event that will signal that Antichrist will arrive soon.
It is clear from the fact that Jesus used the word “then” (at that time) twice, both of the rise of hatred of true and faithful Christians in every nation simultaneously and of the mass apostasy, that these two begin at the same time.
The reasons for the apostasy given by Jesus stem from the inadequacies and laxity of many Christians described in the parable of the sower. In that parable, the “seed” (the Word of God) falls on various kinds of “soil” which describes the heart and mind that is seen only by God. For most, nothing happens and the seed falls on deaf ears. However, there are three different groups Jesus described who receive the Word, thus become Christians.
For one group, the seed falls on rocky soil. “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” The word “testing” means putting their professed faith to the test to see if it endures. This can come through several channels including persecution, peer pressure from friends or family, life’s hardships, or tests of humble submission to God’s commands and His will for us revealed in Scripture. In any case, such people quit the narrow path because it is too difficult for them to endure the testing.
For the next group, the seed falls on thorny ground cluttered with weeds. “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” This group has divided loyalties. They want to follow Jesus Christ. But other things are also calling them to pursue, things like wealth, possessions, status, image, fame, power, etc. When they are forced to choose, to let go of whatever else they hold dear, they are unable to do so.
Finally, Jesus described those who will inherit the Kingdom. “And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” These are the ones in the Olivet Discourse about whom Jesus said: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
The parable of the Sower was intended to describe the heart condition of those who fall away and those who persevere. Of course, that parable applies to Christians in general, not just in the end times. However, in the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ focus was on “the beginning of birth pains,” and He provided what this apostasy will look like on the outside when it occurs on a massive scale so that we can recognize it as a distinct sign. “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.” The question then should be, what is it that will drive Christians to hate one another? The answer to that question is found in 1 John.
1 John 3:11-14 (NKJV) 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, 12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
People tend to hate those who take a stand for righteousness. This applies both to those who are unbelievers and to Christians who are living in sin. Often, hatred of other Christians comes simply by declining to engage in disobedience along with them. It definitely comes against Christian leaders who are preaching or teaching against sin and disobedience to God’s commands.
2 Tim. 3:12-13 (LGV) 12 And everyone willing to live devoutly in Anointed Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But the wicked men and charlatans will grow worse, straying and being led astray.
Jesus described a second major reason many will fall away. “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” False prophecy and false doctrine is very dangerous because it permits Christians to live in disobedience to God, it allows them to pursue their idols, it allows them to ignore the warnings of Scripture all the while thinking they will have peace and inherit immortality. Deception by many who claim to speak in God’s name will be no different than the false prophets who spoke in the name of the LORD and contradicted Jeremiah when he prophesied that God’s severe judgment was imminent. Those who listened to those false prophets perished with them.
Finally, Jesus described a gradual decline in Christian love and devotion to God because of a lack of vigilance in resisting disobedience to God’s commands. “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” “Lawlessness” is simply disobedience to God’s commands. Those who are disobedient tend to justify themselves by twisting or ignoring any Scriptures that convict them. The result of justifying disobedience is that the heart grows hard, God’s voice grows faint, and love (agape) grows cold. Hardening of the heart and love growing cold is a process that takes time.
Some may think that this hardening and growing cold cannot be observed on the outside, since man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Yet Jesus made it quite clear that what is in the heart is easily detectible on the outside.
Matt. 12:34b-37 (NKJV) … For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Whether one’s love for God is growing stronger or growing cold is not a secret that can be hidden for long because it is manifested externally in two things, humble obedience to God’s commands and love for the brethren. These are the ones who are walking in the light and whose sins are continually cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. John’s epistles make it abundantly clear that disobedience to God’s commands and hatred of brethren are the marks of those who are walking in darkness.
Growing cold is the opposite of what the Bible calls “zeal” – a term that literally means to “boil.” The assembly at Laodicea was described by Jesus as having cooled significantly. “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Even the assembly at Ephesus, which was commended for their doctrinal purity and external good works was growing cold in their love for Christ while John had been taken from them and was in prison on Patmos. A zeal for God driven by love for Him will manifest as zeal for holiness (loving what God loves and hating what He hates), and love for God’s people. But God’s (agape) love is not like the world’s love which is pretentious and patronizes people for personal advantage. It does not ignore and gloss over sin; it does not excuse ungodly behavior. Rather, it warns, sometimes with strong words, when exhortation and pleading are despised.
For those of us who are convinced that the beginning of birth pains and great travail is very close, we need to be extremely vigilant concerning all that the Scriptures say regarding those who will fall away from the Faith in the end times. We must guard ourselves against even the slightest temptation to disobey God’s commands, justifying ourselves. We must guard against false prophets and teachers. And we must warn fellow believers who seem to be slipping into any of these things that potentially result in either God’s severe discipline or worse, total apostasy.
God is also working to head-off apostasy on an individual basis. Hebrews 12 exhorts us to follow the examples of the people of faith in the previous chapter, but especially to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the Founder and Finisher of the Faith. He was the epitome of obedience and endurance when persecuted. He has already secured His reward and showed us the way to securing ours. In order to secure our reward also, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” If we fail to heed this advice, God will step in since He does not want to let go of any of His children quickly or easily.
Hebrews 12:5-17 (NKJV) 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.
In part 5 of this “The Time of the End” series, I pointed to a very significant event that must occur before Antichrist comes – the rise of ten kings from the remains of the old Roman Empire who will deliver their kingdoms to the Antichrist when he arrives. The persecution of faithful Christians among all nations and the great apostasy described by Jesus when “the beginning of birth pains” arrives are two more significant signs that must occur just before Antichrist arrives. Paul indicated that Christians should sequentially watch for both the “falling away” and the revelation of the “Man of Sin” who will defile the rebuilt Temple with the “abomination of desolation.” Universal hatred of obedient Christians, and a mass apostasy from the true Faith, along with the rise of the ten kings, provide an early-warning system that the end is very near.
The trends in the world now are indicating that these things are beginning to converge. While we await these signs to manifest in earnest, we would be wise to take inventory of our own condition, to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,” to guard ourselves against becoming lax and succumbing to any of the things Jesus mentioned in the Olivet Discourse, the parable of the Sower, and the parable of the True Vine. Another important passage that we cannot afford to ignore is Revelation 2-3, the seven letters to the seven assemblies. There Jesus warned about apostasy and described exactly who will inherit the Kingdom and rewards, who will be preserved by God during the time of trial lying ahead, who will be cast into great tribulation to be purged by severe chastening, and who will be completely rejected. He ended each of those letters with His signature exhortation: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Go to: 8. Come out of Her My People
 Matt. 24:5
 Vss. 6-7
 Vs. 6 (NKJV)
 Vs. 8 (NASB)
 Matt. 24:15
 Dan. 9:27; Dan. 12:11
 2 Thess. 2:1-12
 Mark 13:14
 Matt. 24:15-22 (cf. Rev. 7:14)
 Matt. 13:3-9,18-23; Mark 4:3-9,14-20; Luke 8:5-15
 1 Sam. 16:7
 Luke 8:13 ESV
 Luke 8:14 ESV
 Luke 8:15 (ESV)
 Matt. 24:13 (ESV)
 Matt. 24:10 (ESV)
 Matt. 24:11 (ESV)
 Jer. 14:11-16 (ESV)
 Matt. 24:12 (ESV)
 Matt. 7:19-23
 See: Heb. 3:12-14, Heb. 6:4-9, ands the Parable of the True Vine in John 15:1-10.
 1 John 1:7
 1 John 2:3-6,9-11; 1 John 3:10-17,24; 1 John 4:20-21; 1 John 5:2-3
 Rev. 3:16 (NKJV)
 Rev. 2:1-7
 Cf. Gal. 4:13 & Gal. 5:4
 Heb. 12:1 (NKJV)