Are the "birth pains" spoken of by Jesus the same as the "labor pains" described by Paul?

Email Received:

When Jesus' disciples asked him what would be the signs of His coming, He described some things that he called the "beginning of sorrows." Later, Paul spoke about the sudden destruction that would come upon people, like "travail upon a woman with child." Were Jesus and Paul talking about the same things?

Ted's Response:

No, these pains are not the same, and they occur at different times. First, let me list the passages, by Jesus and by Paul, as included in two versions of the Bible: King James and New International. Jesus said,

Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:4-8—KJV)

Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, "I am the Christ," and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. (Matthew 24:4-8—NIV)
Paul said,
For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2,3—KJV)

For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2,3—NIV)
Simply speaking, at the end of the age, the beginning of sorrows or birth pains/pangs will take place much sooner than the pains of travail/labor. Occasional abdominal discomfort or cramping is not uncommon in the early stages of a pregnancy. But unless the baby is going to be born prematurely, these pains have nothing to do with the severe labor pains associated with uterine contractions. The latter occur near the end of the pregnancy, just before the baby is born, and are much more excruciating.

I am convinced that in Jesus' Olivet Discourse, He was describing most of Daniel's 70th Week (see Parallels Between the Six Seals and the Olivet Discourse). So Jesus' "beginning of birth pains" corresponds to the first half of the final seven-year period. On the other hand, Paul's "pains of labor/travail" correspond to some portion of the last half of the seven years—especially, I believe, to the final year.

Considering the 70th Week to be a "week" of seven years, the final "day" (that is, the seventh year of that "week" of years) will be the "day of vengeance" (Isaiah 34:8, 61:2, 63:4), during which the Trumpet Judgments of the Lord's wrath will be unleashed upon the earth. (Note that the Fifth Trumpet Judgment, alone, will last five months—Revelation 9:1,5,10.) The "day of vengeance" will be the initial, brief segment of the overall “Day of the Lord” era, which will continue for another thousand years—the Millennium (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8), during which the Lord Jesus will rule and reign on the earth.

The great prophet Isaiah also likened the day of the Lord to experiencing the pains of labor:

Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man's heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. See, the day of the LORD is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. (Isaiah 13:6-9)
We can tell more about this "day" from what another great prophet, Zephaniah, wrote:
The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the LORD will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath.... Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. (Zephaniah 1:14,15,18)
Some believe that the "day of the Lord's wrath" will encompass the entire seven-year period (commonly referred to as the "tribulation" period). Some feel that it will comprise the last half of the seven years. And some (like myself) think that it will take place near the end of that "week" of years. So how can anyone know when the "day of the Lord's wrath" is about to happen? The prophet Joel has told us:
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. (Joel 2:30,31)
John combined the changes in both the sun and moon with the wrath of the Lord that will follow them:
I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. ... They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:12,13,16,17)
Now, recall that Paul said,
For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2,3)
For whom will this "day" come like a "thief in the night," with destruction coming on them suddenly?
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. (Revelation 6:15)
All of the people above will experience the "pains of travail and hard labor" of the day of the Lord's wrath. Will anyone be exempt from this? Yes. Look at what Jesus said would happen shortly after the changes in the sun and moon are observed (Matthew 24:29):
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:30,31)
This is a depiction of the Pre-wrath Rapture of believers. Those who have embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior will not be surprised by the coming of that dreadful "day":
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. ... For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:4,5,9)
They will see "the face of him who sits on the throne," at which time they will be caught up to be with their Lord, Jesus, in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). They will not experience wrath but, rather, supernatural salvation, via the Rapture. Shortly after this, the multitude of saved believers will appear in heaven, praising God/the Lamb on His throne for the salvation they have just received:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9,10)
On the contrary, the unbelievers in the nations will mourn because they will be left behind to face the day of the Lord's wrath (Revelation 6:16,17). Incidentally, the word "wrath" does not appear in the Book of Revelation until this point. Anything prior to that is not God's wrath. In fact, we know why God will pour out wrath and take vengeance on the earth at this time. It is because, before the opening of the Sixth Seal, His slain saints will have cried out for God to avenge their blood:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (Revelation 6:9-11)

The "day of vengeance," or day of the Lord's wrath, will begin with the opening of the Seventh Seal (Revelation 8:1), at which time the dire pains of labor and travail will begin for the world, including Israel.

Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the [labor] pains come upon her, she delivers a son. Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (Isaiah 66:7,8)
The day of vengeance and wrath will take place probably for a year, and it will associated with the redemption of believers who are alive at that time, as described by Isaiah:
For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. (Isaiah 63:4)
Since the day of the Lord will not begin until well into the second half of the 70th Week, then the "man of lawlessness" or "son of perdition" (that is, the Antichrist) will be revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:2,3), to the world, no sooner than the middle of those seven years. In fact, it is at or after the midpoint that he will proclaim himself to be "God."

Prior to the labor pains of the day of venegeance, there will be the "birth" of believers (collectively, a "son" of God), at the Rapture. Then, after a "day" (year) of hard labor pains, the country or nation of Israel will be born—the children of Zion, who will know Yeshua as their Messiah. Essentially, at the sounding of the Seventh Trumpet, a pair of "twins" will have been born, completing the mystery of Christ (Revelation 10:7). That is, Gentile believers and Israel will share together, as one body, in the promises of Christ:

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ.... This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:4,6)

Return to Email Questions and Ted’s Responses

Go to Ted’s Bible Commentaries and Other Links

View the New International Version of the Bible

Go to Ted’s Homepage