Birth-Pangs and the Pandemic
- O. Palmer Robertson
- Read Time: 4 mins
A preacher on the web recently said God did not cause the current pandemic. But he went ahead to speak words of comfort, since God offers his help for all those suffering from the disease.
But Scripture reports many cases of God’s bringing plagues on the world. Ten plagues sent by God decimated the Egyptians in the days of Moses. God warned Israel of the plagues that would smite them if they wandered from his gracious teaching: “The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you…” (Deut. 28:21). The four chapters of Joel’s prophecy focus on the plague of locusts the Lord would send because of the nation’s disobedience. The last book of the Bible speaks of a “pale horse” whose rider is named “Death” with power to kill a fourth of the earth by sword, famine and plague…” (Rev. 6:8).
Jesus speaks of the plagues and famines that shall come on the earth during the days before his coming back to earth in all his glory with the holy angels (Luke 21:11). He categories these plagues and famines as “birth-pangs” (Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8).
Any woman giving birth knows exactly what Jesus is talking about. Pain—quite a bit of pain—precedes the birth of every new life. In Jesus’ day, and even until today in many countries, many women die as they bring forth life in childbirth.
But what is Jesus talking about? Why does he speak of plagues of the earth in terms of the pains of childbirth?
Because God’s judgments on this earth are sometimes the only things that will prepare people for receiving his saving work by grace through repentance and faith. John the Baptist called for repentance because the axe of God’s judgment was already laid at the root of the trees (Matt. 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-9). All those who heard his message, confessed and repented of their sins, received forgiveness and discovered God’s purpose for their lives (Luke 7:29, 30).
Jesus anticipated the awesome judgment of God on Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem by the brutal Roman armies, which occurred less than 30 years after his prophetic declaration (Matt. 24:2). In that context he predicted his own awesome return as the Son of Man with his myriad of powerful angels that would render judgment by fire on the earth (Matt. 24:30, 31; cf. 2 Thess. 1:7, 8).
So what does Jesus mean by connecting the plagues and the birth-pangs? The plagues are God’s gracious judgments intended to bring people to repentance and faith that will save them from the final and irreversible judgment that will last forever. The pain of a plague can lead people to a repentance for sin and faith in the Father’s Son that will manifest re-birth into eternal life.
What about you? Are you terrified over these times? Are you afraid you will die o the disease?
Whether or not the Coronavirus catches you, this strange time of a pandemic may be for you the occasion of a re-birth into life. Indeed, birth-pangs may plague you, and their painful nature must not be minimized. But look to Jesus who experienced the awesome pains of death by cruel crucifixion on a Roman cross. Put your total trust in Him for the pardon of all your guilt, and this time of plague may transform your sufferings into childbirth pains leading to a new life that will last forever. As a birthing mother soon forgets all the pain once her child is born, so you will quickly forget the pain of the pandemic because of the joy of your new life in Christ.