What do earthquakes and birth pains have in common?
Well, for one thing, Jesus Christ mentioned them together when His disciples asked about the signs of His soon return and the end of the world in Matthew chapter 24, and there is a surprising link between them—an analogy that can give us hope in unstable times.
Recently the Australian state of Victoria—where I live—was surprised by the strongest earthquake recorded in our area— measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale. We felt very “shaken” to realise that the ground beneath our feet is not always as solid as we thought! I can’t say my response was even slightly logical.
I had never practised an earthquake drill with my family, and we weren’t expecting one at all on that beautiful, sunny morning. I was standing right next to the sliding glass door at the back of our house, and suddenly felt it begin to shake violently, as if buffeted by a huge gust of wind. However, when I opened the door, I could tell it wasn’t windy at all. That’s when we realised what was happening, and I shouted, “Everyone outside!”
It was like a dream.
We ran around like headless chickens—running from one end of the house to the other and out the front door. The kids called out to my husband and warned him about the earthquake, but he’s from Chile (where earthquakes are common), so he didn’t even get out of bed!
Later on we realised that if we were going to evacuate, we should have gone through the nearest door. Not to mention that running outside is not the official safety advice for earthquakes; it was just an intuitive reaction to the human feeling of not wanting to be trapped. We were completely unprepared as we had never expected an earthquake to happen in Melbourne.
End of the world
Jesus and His disciples had just visited the temple in Jerusalem. The disciples were awe-struck by its beauty and tried to call Jesus’ attention to look at its magnificence. It was a magnificent structure; built of huge stones with features of pure gold and fine craftsmanship. But Jesus told the disciples that not even one stone would be left on top of another at a later point in the future.
As Jesus and His disciples were later resting on the Mount of Olives, they came to Him privately and asked Him to reveal more about the future—what would be the sign of His return and the end of the world? The Bible describes the scenario in Matthew chapter 24:
“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when His disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’” (verses 1 and 2).
It continues. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no-one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah”, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours 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’” (verses 3-8).
Jesus’ first prophecy was partly a warning of the horrific destruction of Jerusalem, and in fact, because of His thorough warning, His followers were able to escape from the city before its downfall. When Roman soldiers finally swept in at the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD (some 40 years after Jesus’ warning)—after a long siege where many starved to death—they were merciless and the streets ran with rivers of blood and the city was set ablaze. The magnificent temple caught fire and its mighty structure— which would have been one of the wonders of the ancient world—was reduced to rubble.
Jesus also said that earthquakes around the world were one of the signs of His soon return. He described wars, famines and pestilences and other natural disasters, and He used the analogy of birth pains! Why would He use that term?
In my humble understanding of birth pains, there could be two reasons for this, and it is not because Jesus wanted to scare His followers, but because He wanted to encourage people. If you have ever experienced birth pains (I have), you would know that as they progress, they get more intense, as well as closer together. In fact, I remember wondering towards the end of labour, ‘Why does it feel like there’s no gap between them at all?’ The intensity at the end feels almost overwhelming, and the pain is exhausting—you just want it to be over.
Jesus was honest with His followers in letting them know that things would not get easier toward the end times. However, His warnings were not recorded to scare us about natural disasters at the end of the world, but to encourage us, and that brings us to the second reason for the birth pain analogy—the whole reason why you willingly suffer through birth pains in the first place. It’s not a cliché to say you forget all the pain as you experience the joy of meeting your child for the first time.
Jesus Christ was sharing these prophecies with His followers so that people could be ready for the end times, and so that they could be encouraged. This is why Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). All of the pain and pressure is not a signal to fear, but a beacon of hope, an invitation for us to look to God for our help and salvation. When we see natural disasters happening, God’s Word tells us not to focus on the disasters and be scared, but to “lift up your heads”—to look up and be ready to meet Jesus.
How can we be ready? It’s simpler than you might think. Jesus reaches out, inviting you to put your trust in Him. Allow Him to give you the gift of healing and restoration. If you want Him to be Lord of your life today, all you need to do is ask. Pray and ask Him into your heart. Then ask Him to give you repentance (that means turning away from sin), and to forgive all of your sins, and to cover you with His perfect life so that you can be with Him when He returns. God has always wanted everyone to come to Him—He doesn’t want anyone to miss out on the wonderful life He has in store for us in heaven.
Leesa Briones is a lifestyle medicine student with a background in education. She lives with her family in Melbourne.