In multiple places throughout Scripture, the Bible uses the metaphor of birth pains to describe the onset of the end times.
Paul also uses this metaphor when describing how the end times will come upon the world.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)
These themes of “the day of the Lord,” “destruction,” and labor pains can be found in Isaiah 13.
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;
as destruction from the Almighty it will come!
7 Therefore all hands will be feeble,
and every human heart will melt.
8 They will be dismayed:
pangs and agony will seize them;
they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.
They will look aghast at one another;
their faces will be aflame.
9 Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity;
I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people more rare than fine gold,
and mankind than the gold of Ophir.
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
and the earth will be shaken out of its place,
at the wrath of the Lord of hosts
in the day of his fierce anger. (Isaiah 13:7-13)
Jesus also uses this metaphor of “birth pains” when giving his main speech on the end times in Matthew 24:
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Matthew 24:7-8)
After describing all of the signs, Jesus describes the signs that take place in the heavens.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. (Matthew 24: 29-31)
This is just like the Isaiah passage we read above, where the sun and moon are darkened, and the heavens “tremble.”
Jesus also describes a time of sudden destruction that comes on the unbelieving world after his arrival, just like Isaiah and Paul do. He illustrates this using the object lesson of Noah’s flood.
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37-39)
Jeremiah also talks about a time of trouble for Israel, and uses language of labor pains to describe them. However, Israel is delivered out of this time of trouble.
4 These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:
5 “Thus says the Lord:
We have heard a cry of panic,
of terror, and no peace.
6 Ask now, and see,
can a man bear a child?
Why then do I see every man
with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor?
Why has every face turned pale?
7 Alas! That day is so great
there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob;
yet he shall be saved out of it.
8 “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. 9 But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. (Jeremiah 30: 4-9)
Birth pains start off less frequent and less painful. However, as the time of delivery draws near, the contractions get more frequent and intense. Finally, they culminate in all out agony right before the baby is born. (1) The coming of the Son of Man on the clouds is comparable to the joyous birth of the baby. The signs beforehand are analogous to the contractions, which increase in frequency and severity over time.
In every case, the “birth pains” are connected with the “day of the Lord.” Paul uses this term specifically to describe the Rapture. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2) Jesus doesn’t use the term “Day of the Lord” specifically, but he alludes to it by mentioning the “birth pains,” the darkening of the sun and moon, and the destruction that comes at his coming, which will be analogous to Noah’s flood. All of these strongly cross-reference to Isaiah 13, which talks about labor pains, destruction, and the darkening of the sun and moon in connection with the day of the Lord. In both 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:3 and Matthew 24:29-39, a gathering of saints happens to the elect, whereas the inhabitants of the earth face destruction.
Jesus specifically mentions world war, famines, and earthquakes as the “beginning of the birth pains.” This means that these signs are the beginning of the end. The book of Revelation also describes these signs, by describing world war, and famine which precede the day of the Lord.
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” (Revelation 6:3-6)
This precedes the onset of the Day of the Lord, which happens at the opening of the 6th Seal:
12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17)
Notice the similarity to Jesus’ teachings, with the darkening of the sun and moon, as well as the stars falling.
For more information on how the birth pains and other signs fit into the Rapture, check out this article.
- "Contraction Timer & Calculator For Labor Pains." MomJunction. Accessed November 2, 2018. http://www.momjunction.com/contraction-calculator/.
- “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
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