Distress of Nations

See: Israel's Birth Pangs

Labor Pains

I am told mothers experience intense labor pains in bringing children into the world. Some mothers even die in childbirth, Rachel for example. When I was born, fathers had to wait in the lobby through the whole delivery. Fortunately times have changed! Dads are encouraged these days to empathize with, and stay with, their wives through all the stages of labor. The Greek word odin refers to the labor pains of the mother. Sunodino refers to the pain felt by the father in childbirth, identifying with his wife's suffering! In the case of the church, we will share the pain of Israel's Final Redemption which will be worse than the Holocaust.

Twenty odd years ago I wrote about Israel's coming birth pangs, (Israel's Birth Pangs). This article expands on this, to show how the entire world faces judgments from God--the focal point being Israel.

Truly truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 

When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." (John 16:20-22)

BIRTH-PANGS [Greek. odin] (Mark13:8 par. Matthew 24:8); AV SORROWS; earlier SUFFERINGS. Literally the physical pain accompanying childbirth. Strict literal usage of Greek odin and its cognates odino and synodino is not found in the NT; rather the terms have symbolic meanings or appear in figurative expressions, e.g., the pains of the symbolic apocalyptic woman in Revelation 12:2, and Paul's application of Isaiah's metaphor of the barren woman who bore children without labor pains (Isaiah 54:1) to the Gentiles who have become true Israelites (Galatians 4:27). Elsewhere, odin (and cognates) is to be understood figuratively of pain or anguish that is related to some anticipated or hoped-for event. The pain of childbirth was apparently among the more dreaded experiences in the ancient world; hence, to the claim that women's life is free from danger, Euripides has Medea respond that she would rather go to war three times than bear a child once (Medea 248-25 1). Elsewhere the point seems implicit that the "birth-pangs" are worth enduring because of the result: so (figuratively) Socrates serves as midwife for a student who agonizes (odino) his way from ignorance to knowledge (Plato Theaetetus 148e, 151a, 210b). A similar notion is found in Galatians 4:19, but here Paul himself undergoes the agony (odino) on behalf of the Galatian Christians in whom he wishes to see "Christ formed."

In several passages the birth-pangs result in the new situation brought about by Christ's return, and the pangs themselves correspond to the sufferings or tribulation expected to precede that event (Mark 13:8 par.). The whole creation is already involved in this agony (synodino, Romans 8:22). And for those who find "peace and safety" in the empire, the return of Christ will mean sudden judgment, as labor pains come suddenly to an expectant mother (I Thessalonians 5:3). These eschatological birth-pangs are determined by the resurrection of Christ, whose death as inevitably led to resurrection as birth-pangs signal that a child is on the way (Acts 2:24; cf. TDNT, IX, s.v. (odino [Bertram]; cf. 4 Ezra 4:42 for a similar emphasis on the immediateness of birth after the beginning of labor. in an eschatological context). (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

Strong's Number G5604 matches the Greek ὠδίν (odin), which occurs 4 times in 4 verses in the TR Greek. Matthew 24:8: “All these are the beginning of sorrows; . Mark 13:8:“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows." Act 2:24: “whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 1Thessalonian 5:3: For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

The horrific birthpangs for Israel--scheduled for the end of this present age--will focus on World War Three and will be centered on Jerusalem.

"And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves."

..."‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate,’ says the Lord of hosts. Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered;  I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land, says the Lord, two-thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one-third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire,  refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’" (Zechariah 12:10-14 13:7-9)

Many Bible commentaries think only in terms of linear time! But those of us who have new resurrection bodies will be experiencing a dimension of eternity. We won't be trapped in time as earth-dwellers are.

Labor pains for the entire world are prescribed for the entire world, not only for Israel. In Romans 8, Paul tells the church they will share with Israel her final ordeal, as observers from New Jerusalem. The word sunodino is used:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains (sunodino) until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." (Romans 8:18-30)

I always flee to Ray Stedman’s library when checking a passage in the Bible I haven’t looked at in awhile. From Ray,

First John 3:2 says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; but it does not yet appear what we shall be," (1 John 3:2a KJV). That is the theme that Paul brings to a focus in Verses 18-28 of Romans 8. He deals with two themes: the sufferings of believers, and the glorification of believers. First John 3:2 has always been a comfort to me, as a pastor, because it reminds me that, though we are all sons of God, sometimes we don't appear to be his sons. Sometimes when I am beset by saints who come to me and criticize various things that are going on, I have a difficult time relating to them. Then I have to remind myself, "Well, they are still children of God, even though it does not yet appear what they shall be." As I see the increasing decrepitude in people's deteriorating physical bodies as they grow older, I have to say again, "It does not yet appear what we shall be." Things are moving toward a great day, but it is not here yet; and until that day, we have to put up with the difficulties and the hardships and the sufferings that our current situations bring us to. These are the themes that Paul links together in this great section of Romans 8. He stated this very plainly earlier, in Verse 17:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 NIV)

This verse links together two things that we probably would not put together: sufferings and glory -- hurts and hallelujahs. They belong together, and you find them together in almost every passage of Scripture that deals with the suffering of the Christian. In fact, the Apostle Paul links them directly together in Second Corinthians 4:17:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

So, our sufferings as believers -- physical, emotional, whatever they may be -- are directly linked with the glory that is coming. The important thing we need to see is that both the sufferings and the glory are privileges that are given to us. It is easy for Christians reading these passages to get the idea that we earn our glory by the sufferings that we go through -- those who go through the greatest suffering will earn the greatest degree of glory. But it is wrong to see it that way. We never earn glory. As this passage makes clear, glory is given to us as part of our inheritance in Christ. And suffering, also, is our inheritance in Christ. Suffering is a privilege committed to us. Paul says this again very plainly in Philippians 1:29:

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him [or, for his name's sake], (Philippians 1:29 NIV)

In the early part of Acts, it is recorded that the early Christians actually did this. They rejoiced in their sufferings. They rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Lord. And though they were beaten and mistreated, they went away rejoicing because God had counted them worthy to bear suffering for his name's sake. I think this is the transforming view that makes it possible for us to endure suffering and, more than that, to actually rise above it with triumphant rejoicing. We can do this when we see that our sufferings are privileges committed to us. Our Lord Jesus said this himself in Matthew 5:11-12. He said, "Blessed are you when men persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for his name's sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you," (Matthew 5:11-12 KJV).Nothing will help us more in enduring suffering than a clear view of the glory that is linked to it. That is the theme of this section in Romans 8, beginning with Verse 18:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV)

The theme of that verse and the next nine verses is that incomparable glory lies ahead -- glory beyond description, greater than anything you can compare it with on earth. A magnificent and fantastic prospect awaits us. All through the Scriptures there has been a thread of hope, a rumor of hope that runs all through the Old Testament, through the prophetic writings, and into the New Testament. This rumor speaks of a day that is coming when all the hurt and heartache and injustice and weakness and suffering of our present experience will be explained and justified and will result in a time of incredible blessing upon the earth. The whisper of this in the Old Testament increases in intensity as it approaches the New Testament, where you come to proclamations like this that speak of the incomparable glory that lies ahead.

Now, we tend to make careful note of our suffering. Just the other day, I received a mimeographed letter from a man who had written out in extreme detail (even though rather humorously) a report of his recent operation. He said he had had to listen to all the reports of other people's operations for years, and now it was his turn! We make detailed reports of what we go through in our sufferings. But here the apostle says, "Don't even mention them! They are not worthy to be mentioned in comparison with the glory that is to follow."

Now, that statement would be just so much hot air if it didn't come from a man like Paul. Here is a man who suffered intensely. No one in this room has gone through even a fraction of the suffering that Paul endured. He was beaten, he was stoned with rocks, he was chained, he was imprisoned, he was shipwrecked, starved, often hungry and naked and cold. He himself tells us this. And yet it is this apostle who takes pen in hand and says, "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed in us." The glory that is coming is incomparable in intensity.

Our sufferings hurt us, I know. I am not trying to make light of them or diminish the terrible physical and emotional pain that suffering can bring. It can be awful, almost unendurable. Its intensity can increase to such a degree that we actually scream with terror and pain. We think we can no longer endure. But the apostle is saying that the intensity of the suffering we experience is not even a drop in the bucket compared with the intensity of glory that is coming. Now, you can see that Paul is straining the language in trying to describe this fantastic thing that is about to happen, which he calls the revelation of the glory that is coming.

This glory is not only incomparable in its intensity, but it is also incomparable in its locality. It is not going to be revealed to us, but in us. The word, literally, means "into us." This glory is not going to be a spectator sport, where we will sit up in some cosmic grandstand and watch an amusing or beautiful performance in which we actually have no part. We are to be on the stage. We are going to be involved in it. It is a glory that will be "revealed into us," and we are part of it. I think that incomparable spokesman, C. S. Lewis, has explained this more accurately than anyone else. I would like to share with you a paragraph or two from his message, The Weight of Glory:

We are to shine as the sun. We are to be given the morning star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the morning star already. You can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings, if you get up early enough. "What more," you may ask, "do we want?" Ah, but we want so much more. Something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though God knows even that is bounty enough -- we want something else which can hardly be put into words -- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul. But it can't. They tell us that beauty, born a murmuring sound, will pass into a human face. But it won't -- or not yet, at least.

[Lewis sums it up in a previous sentence in this way]

The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.

That is what Paul says is about to happen. This is the incredible glory that God has prepared for those who love him, that he has given to us -- not because we have been faithful, not because we earn it, but because we are heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ. And also we are called and entrusted with the privilege of suffering for humanity. All Christians suffer. There are no exceptions. If you are a true and genuine believer in Jesus Christ, you will suffer. But we are not only given the privilege of suffering with him now, but also of sharing in his glory that is yet to come. We can endure the suffering, and even triumph in it, because we see the glory that is to follow. In the paragraph that follows, the apostle shows us two proofs that confirm this hope of glory. The first one is that nature itself testifies to this, the second is our own experience. Paul says the whole created universe bears witness to this day that is coming. Verses 19-22 explain the testimony that is found in nature. Verse 19 tells us that nature is waiting for something:

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19 NIV)

The word in the original language which is translated "eager expectation" is an interesting word. It is a word that pictures a man standing and waiting for something to happen, craning his head forward. That is why I think Phillips translates this correctly when he says, "The whole creation is standing on tiptoe, eagerly awaiting the revelation of the sons of God." The word means "to crane the neck, to look on with a visible sense of anticipation that something is about to happen." That is what Paul says the world is doing. It is eagerly awaiting this remarkable event toward which the world is hastening, and has been hastening, since the beginning of time. Paul goes on to explain why he makes such a statement in Verses 20-21:

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21 NIV)

Paul is saying that creation not only is waiting for something, but that it is doing so because it is linked with man. Creation fell with man, the apostle declares. Not only did our whole race fall into the bondage of sin and death, as the earlier chapters of Romans explain, but the entire physical universe fell as well. It was man's sin that put thorns on roses. It was man's sin that made the animals hate and fear each other and brought predators and carnivores into being. With the fall of man came the spreading fear, hostility, and hatred in the animal world, and the whole of nature testifies to this fact. It is, as Paul describes it here, subjected to frustration.

Recently we have been hearing a lot about how plants are sensitive to people, how they even understand something of what we say, and how our attitudes are conveyed to them. Can you imagine how frustrated a plant can get when it wants to produce and grow, and yet it is always treated with a circumstance or attitude that frustrates it. Some of us have to live with these frustrated plants in our homes. Think of the beauty of nature -- and yet every area is spoiled by thorns and thistles, and various things that mark this decay. Futility prevails in the natural world.

This phrase "the bondage to decay" is a very accurate description of what scientists call the second law of thermodynamics. This is the law of infinite increase of entropy. Everything is decaying; everything, with no exception, is running down. Though for a while something may seem to grow, eventually it dies. Even human life dies, and so does all that is with it. All of this is because of the fall of man.

I just spent a few days in the beautiful High Sierra, where the great Sequoia trees grow. As I walked about, I was sad to see how the crush of man has spoiled what is left of the beauty of creation. In the area where I was, there was once a great forest -- the world's greatest forest of sequoia trees, those great redwoods. But man came in, and in less than a decade there is nothing but blackened stumps and rotting logs where once there were thousands of trees. Ironically enough, though it was all done in the name of profit, nobody made a dime on the whole operation. At least half of the lumber that was cut was never removed and was left to rot. This is how man despoils creation wherever he goes. He pollutes the air and ruins the environment. This is all a part of the bondage to decay that we see all around us.

But the apostle argues that, if that is true, it is also true that when man is delivered from this decay, nature will be delivered as well. Therefore, when the hour strikes when the sons of God are going to be revealed -- when it shall appear what we are, as John would say, when what we have become in our spirits, sons of the living God, shall become visibly evident to all -- in that hour, nature will be freed from its bondage. It will burst into a bloom and fecundity that no one can possibly imagine now. The desert will blossom like the rose, the prophet says, and the lions will lie down with the lambs. None shall hurt and destroy in all of God's holy mountain. Rivers will run free and clear and sweet again.

All that God intended in nature will come into visible manifestation in that day. Nature will be delivered into "the freedom and the glory of the children of God." That is a literal rendering of what Paul says here, and it means that glory has a great deal of freedom about it. It is a stepping into an experience of liberty such as we have never dreamed, such as has never come into our imaginations at any time. It is incomparable glory. Now, in anticipation of that day, the apostle says, nature groans, but it groans in hope (Verse 22):

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:22 NIV)

As Paul has said earlier, nature groans in the hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage of decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Somebody has pointed out that all the sounds of nature are in the minor key. Listen to the sighing of the wind. Listen to the roaring of the tide. Listen to the roar of the cataract. Even most of the sounds of birds are in the minor key. All nature is singing, but it is singing a song of bondage. Yet it sings in hope, looking forward to that day, Paul says, when it shall step into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Not only does nature testify to this bondage, bearing witness to the hope that is waiting, but, Paul says, we ourselves have this testimony. Our present experience confirms that this glory is coming. Paul sets this evidence before us in Verse 23:

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:23-25 NIV)

In some ways, I think that is the most remarkable statement in this remarkable paragraph. Paul says here that though we ourselves are redeemed in spirit, our bodies are not yet redeemed; we, too, are groaning. All through this paragraph there is a constant contrast between the groan and the glory; yet there is a link between the two. Nature groans; we groan. And yet the groan is producing the glory. I remind you again of what Paul said in Second Corinthians 4:17:

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17 RSV)

Have you ever thought of afflictions in that way? Our afflictions are working for us. Every time we groan, it is a reminder to us of the promise of glory. I do not think anything will transform our sufferings more than remembering that.

My daughter, Laurie, has reached the stage where she delights in mimicking me, repeating back to me the things that I say in the way that I say them. I must admit it is a great help. It's just like holding up a mirror before me. I have been so struck by the fact that in the tone of voice she employs in mimicking me there is often a groan. I am groaning all the time. I groaned this morning when I got up. So did you, probably.

Our lives consist of groans. We groan because of the ravages that sin makes in our lives, and in the lives of those we love. We groan because we see possibilities that are not being captured and employed. We groan because we see gifted people who are wasting their lives, and we would love to see something else happening. It is recorded that, as he drew near the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus groaned in his spirit because he was so burdened by the ravages that sin had made in a believing family. He groaned, even though he knew that he would soon raise Lazarus from the dead. So we groan in our spirits -- we groan in disappointment, in bereavement, in sorrow. We groan physically in our pain and our limitation. Life consists of a great deal of groaning. But the apostle immediately adds that this is a groaning which is in hope. As nature groans in hope, so we believers groan -- but we groan in hope too. For in this hope we were saved, in the anticipation that God has a plan for our bodies as well. Among the Greeks, it was taught that the body was evil, and that the best thing was to get out of it, to get away from it, to escape into whatever glory awaited the human spirit, for the body was a prison, holding us in.

I am afraid that this pagan concept is more prevalent among Christians than we like to think. I find a lot of Christians who have an ejection-seat mentality. As soon as they get into difficulty, they want to pull the ejection chord and zip off into glory. They want to get away from it all. We are all tempted to feel that way, but that is not the Christian point of view. The Christian viewpoint is that, though the body is in pain and suffering and is limited now, this is an important aspect of our lives. It is something that is part of the whole program and plan of God, part of the privilege committed to us as Christians. We suffer with Christ. As he suffered, so do we, that we might also be glorified, as he is. Therefore, what is happening to us now is something that we never need to see as meaningless. It holds great meaning. That is why I think that boredom is the most non-Christian attitude that we can have. Boredom is an attitude of enduring, waiting for something better to come, but seeing nothing meaningful in what you are going through at the time. I don't think the Scriptures ever support that idea of Christians.

We are saved in hope, Paul says, and by that hope we live. It is true that hope, by its very nature, is something yet in the future -- "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." But what makes it possible to wait is that we already have the firstfruits of the Spirit. We know that the Spirit of God is able to give joy in the midst of heartache. He is able to make us feel at peace even when there is turmoil all around. This happens to even the weakest and newest among us. This is what Paul calls the firstfruits of the Spirit -- the power of God to make a heart calm and restful and peaceful in the midst of turbulent, trying, and difficult circumstances. Because we have these firstfruits we can wait patiently for the hour when, at last, even our bodies will be set free, and we shall step into an incomparable glory, such as we have never imagined or seen before. No one, in all the wildest dreams of science fiction, has ever imagined or conceived of something so vast and so magnificent as the glory God has waiting for us.

There is more involved in this program of patient waiting, as the apostle goes on to explain in Verses 26-27:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8:26-27 NIV)

Now the Spirit is groaning. There are three groans in this passage. Nature is groaning, we are groaning, and now the Spirit is groaning with words which cannot be uttered. This passage helps us in our understanding of prayer. The apostle says that we do not know what to pray for as we ought. We lack wisdom. I want to point out immediately that this is not an encouragement to cease praying. Some people think this means that if we don't know how to pray as we ought, and if the Spirit is going to pray for us anyway, then we don't need to pray. But that would contradict many other passages of Scripture, especially James 4:2, which says. "You have not because you ask not," (James 4:2b NIV). God does want us to pray, and we are constantly encouraged to pray. Jesus taught on prayer. In Philippians 4:6, Paul tells us that we are never to be troubled or anxious, but in everything, with prayer and supplication, we are to let our requests be made known to God.

There are many times when we do know what to pray for. But there will come times when we won't know what to pray for. My wife and I had a time like that last night. We knew something was wrong, but we didn't know how to analyze it, or how to explain it, or how to ask God to do something about it. We were without wisdom. It is at that time, the apostle tells us, that the Spirit of God within us voices, without words, his request to the Father.

I have always been amazed at people who emphasize the gift of tongues and take this verse as proof that the Spirit prays in tongues through us. This verse could not mean that. Paul tells us that this praying of the Spirit is done with groans which words cannot express. Now, tongues are words, words of other languages. If this referred to the gift of tongues, it would merely be putting into other languages the feelings of our heart. But this passage has nothing to do with that. This describes the groans of the Spirit within, so deep and so impossible to verbalize that we cannot say anything at all. We just feel deeply. The apostle says that when that happens, it is the Spirit of God who is praying. The Spirit is putting our prayer into a form which God the Father, who searches the heart, understands. The Spirit is asking for something concerning the situation that we are trying to pray about. Now, what is the Spirit asking for? That is explained in Verse 28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)

Never separate this verse from the previous two verses. The apostle is saying that what the Spirit prays for is what happens. The Spirit prays according to the mind of God, and the Father answers by bringing into our lives the experiences that we need. He sends into the life of those for whom we are concerned the experiences that they need, no matter what they may be.

Now, that means that even the trials and tragedies that happen to us are an answer from the Father to the praying of the Spirit, doesn't it? You may leave this service this morning and become involved in an automobile accident on the way home. Someone may steal your purse. You may get home to find your house is on fire. There are a thousand and one possibilities. What we need to understand is that these things do not happen by accident. They happen because the Spirit which is in you prayed and asked that the Father allow them to happen -- because you or someone close to you needs it. These are the results of the praying of the Spirit.

The joys, the unexpected blessings, and the unusual things that happen to you are also the result of the Spirit's praying. The Spirit is praying that these things will happen, he is voicing the deep concern of God himself for your needs and mine. Out of this grows the assurance that no matter what happens, it will work together for good. This verse does not tell us that everything that happens to us is good. It does say that whether the situation is bad or good, it will work together for good for you if you are one who is loved and called by God. What a difference that makes as we wait for the coming of the glory! God is working out his purposes within us.

Paul is telling us here that we can wait with patience because nature testifies his glorious coming, and our own experience confirms it as well. We are being prepared for something -- we can't really tell what it is, specifically, but we are getting ready for something. And one of these days, at the end of our lives, if not before, we will step out of time into an incredible experience of glory, something that begs description -- a glory that Christ himself shares, and that we all shall share with him.

This is what God is preparing us for. No wonder the apostle then closes this passage with one of the greatest paeans of praise in the Scriptures. As we face the sufferings we are going through now, what a blessing, and what a help it is to remember the glory that has been granted to us. We have been counted worthy to suffer for his name, that we may also share in the glory that is to come. --Ray Stedman, The Agony and the Ecstasy.

The Final Redemption

Perilous times

 The past two thousand years of history, bracketed by Pentecost at the start and the Second Advent of Jesus Christ at the close, have featured wars, plagues, violence, famine. The term odin is apt in describing the time of Israel’s Final Redemption especially. In the time of the Final Redemption the tiny, obscure nation of Israel will become the head of the nations. God’s bringing this all about will involve a horrific World War. Natural forces long held in check will be unloosed: earthquakes, volcanic events, disasters (such as the ten plagues Moses and Aaron called down on ancient Egypt).

The prophet Joel spoke of the end of the age we live in now. (Acts 2:17-31) These events will affect earth dwellers but not heaven dwellers. We will be watching from the Mezzanine, but be deeply moved of course, (sunodino). 

“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
   and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
   and your old men shall dream dreams. 
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
   in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
     and they shall prophesy. 
And I will show portents in the heaven above
   and signs on the earth below,
     blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 
The sun shall be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood,
     before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him,

“I saw the Lord always before me,
   for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; 
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
   moreover, my flesh will live in hope. 
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
   or let your Holy One experience corruption. 
You have made known to me the ways of life;
   you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

“He was not abandoned to Hades,
   nor did his flesh experience corruption.” 

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand, 
   until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” 

Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ ”

(Acts 2:17-31)

The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord

Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near.
and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. (Joel 1:15)

a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness! (Joel 2:2a)

the heavens tremble.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
and the stars withdraw their shining. (Joel 2:10b)

For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible;
who can endure it? (Joel 2:11b)

Isaiah 2 says a word to the same effect:

For the Lord of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up and high. (Isaiah 2:12)

In that day men will cast forth
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
to the moles and to the bats,
to enter the caverns of the rocks
and the clefts of the cliffs
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the glory of His majesty,
when He rises to terrify the earth. (Isaiah 2:20-22)

And again in the prophecy of Zephaniah;

The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities and
against the lofty battlements. (Zephaniah 1:14-15)

 


Matthew 24

As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Then he asked them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.

‘So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “There he is!”—do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Take note, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, “Look! He is in the wilderness”, do not go out. If they say, “Look! He is in the inner rooms”, do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

‘Immediately after the suffering of those days
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from heaven,
   and the powers of heaven will be shaken. 

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, “My master is delayed”, and he begins to beat his fellow-slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Compare

Mark 13 by Ray Stedman

Matthew 24: The Olivet Discourse by Ray Stedman

Andy Woods on the Olivet Discourse

The Upper Room Discourse by Ray Stedman

 


Luke 21

Not the same occasion as the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.

‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfillment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple. 

Compare

Mark 13 by Ray Stedman

Matthew 24: The Olivet Discourse by Ray Stedman

Andy Woods on the Olivet Discourse

The Upper Room Discourse by Ray Stedman


Mark 13

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, ‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ Then Jesus began to say to them, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

‘As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; someone on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; someone in the field must not turn back to get a coat. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not be in winter. For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “Look! There he is!”—do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be alert; I have already told you everything.

‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light, 
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ 

Mark 13: Commentary by Ray Stedman



Eternity
The Third Heaven
Realm of God and the Angels
The Church is in Heaven
After the Rapture


Multidimensional Time

The Second Heaven
Realm of the Stars and Upper Atmosphere
The Mezzanine

New Jerusalem: Heaven Dwellers

The Church is on Earth
Before the Rapture


Linear Time

The First Heaven
Earth and its Atmosphere

Earth-Dwellers
Eternity
The Underworld
Sheol, Hades, Tartarus

* I suggest New Jerusalem is a literal city, a cube 1500 miles on a side. Orbits the earth, the city is already built (John 14:3) but presently cloaked from view. Perhaps it is in a synchronous orbit. Like Dr. Who's Tardis, the interior may well be multidimensional. Why not? Residents of New Jerusalem will be watching events on earth from the Mezzanine.

It is not necessary to think of the heavens as merely vertically stacked. Every follower of Jesus is now seated in Christ in the heavenly places. We are all presently in New Jerusalem but our old unredeemed bodies have senses too limited to see that well! The body of the believer is the true temple. If man is the center of the created universe, then the microcosm strethces inward to the very small and the macrocosm extends to the far reaches of outer space. See Elements.

"You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life." (Ephesians 2:4-10)

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.’Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.’ This phrase ‘Yet once more’ indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:18-29)


Jeremiah The Prophet Mourns for the People

18 I would comfort myself in sorrow;
My heart is faint in me.

19 Listen! The voice,
The cry of the daughter of my people
From a far country:
“Is not the LORD in Zion?
Is not her King in her?”

“Why have they provoked Me to anger
With their carved images—
With foreign idols?”

20 “The harvest is past,
The summer is ended,
And we are not saved!”

21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt.
I am mourning;
Astonishment has taken hold of me.

22 Is there no balm in Gilead,
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery
For the health of the daughter of my people?
(Jeremiah 8:18-22)

The Balm in Gilead (Wikipedia)

The Lamentations of Jeremiah



Related Reading

Jesus Plain and Simple

The Royal Road to Wholeness

The Left Hand of God

New Jerusalem Prospectus

The Names of God

Seek the Things that Are Above

Day of Man, Day of God

Coming Soon

Hide Yourself

Born (again) and Adopted

Wheels

Teach me to Number my Nanoseconds

No Such Thing as Chance

The Eightfold Way to Knowing God

The Hidden of the Lord

Seek the Things that Are Above

Accountable!

When a Nation Dies

The Holiness Papers

The Coming Exile of Israel in Edom

Israel and the New Covenant by Ray Stedman

Who Owns Jerusalem? Psalm 2

Portals

Pillars of Fire

The Royal Road to Wholeness

God our Father

Jesus, the Avenger of Blood

The First Begotten

The Central Glory

The Wasted Years


Your God is Way Too Small

Jesus and His Bride

The Divine Council

Notes by Lambert Dolphin 

Email Lambert

Lambert Dolphin's Place (Home Page)

Lambert Dolphin's Original Web Site (1995)

Lambert's Personal Testimony


Newsletters by Lambert 

Music for today 

There is a Balm in Gilead

A Glorious Church

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Jesus, The Light of the World

Pachelbel: Canon in D

December 13, 2021.