THE BIRTH PANGS/SEALS PARALLEL THEORY  


 

THE BIRTH PANGS/SEALS PARALLEL THEORY

THE THEORY

There are many who believe that the events prophesied in Matthew 24:4ff parallel the 6 seals of Revelation 6. It is even stated that because of this observation, some of them have come to recognize that the PreWrath view of the rapture is more consistent with Scripture. The theory states that each of the “birth pang” items correspond respectively with the first 4 seals; that Mat. 24:9-28 corresponds with the 5th seal; and that Matthew 24:29-31 corresponds with the 6th seal.

I do believe that there is a parallel between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6, however, it has nothing to do with the birth pangs.

First, the birth pangs are the normal historical trends that have been going on since the first century and have no bearing on WHEN the “end” will occur.
Jesus said, “See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.”

And second, the parallels that this theory purports are mismatched, strained and inaccurate.

In the beginning, I personally had no problem with the theory that there is a parallel between the birth pangs of Matthew 24 and the seals of Revelation 6. Then I stood away from it and examined the two passages from a neutral position, and realized that the birth pangs have nothing to do with the seals.

To me the most natural understanding of the beginning birth pangs in Matthew 24 is that it refers to the events that will characterize human history IN GENERAL from the time of Christ forward to the specific event mentioned in Mat. 24:9, “then they will deliver you up to tribulation.”
The tribulation as properly defined in Scripture does not begin at the start of the 70th week, but at the midpoint. And there is no difference between “the tribulation” and “the great tribulation.”

The verses after verse 9 up to verse 29 then describe the events of that tribulation, which will be cut short by a sovereign decree from God the Father at an unknown day and hour before the end of the 70th week. The end of the tribulation will be evidenced by the signs in the sun, moon and stars; the second coming of Jesus, and the beginning of the severe Day of the Lord judgments.

I suggest that the disciples had a frame of reference for Daniel’s 70th week, and of Ezekiel and Isaiah. I suggest that they were aware of most of the END-TIMES things that are supposed to occur – that have been prophesied in the Old Testament - at least IN GENERAL.

Wars: (Isaiah 13:4; Ezek. 30:4-5; 38-39; Dan. 9:26; 11:40-44; Joel 2:1-11; Zeph. 1:16).

And famines: (Deut. 32:24; Isaiah 51:19; Ezek. 34:29; Joel 1:16-20).

And plagues: (Deut. 32:24; Ezek. 38:22; Hab. 3:5).

And celestial disturbances: (Isaiah 13:10; 34:4; Joel 2:30-31; 3:15). And false messiahs: (Dan. 7:24-25; 8:23-25; 9:27; 11:36-39; Zech. 11:15-17).

And earthquakes: (Isaiah 13:13; 29:6; Ezek. 38:19).

We also know that all these things happened during the first century (found both in Acts and in historical data).

So, the intent of Jesus is to prepare them for the future and answer their questions as specifically as He can. Knowing that all these things are going to happen within their lifetime, Jesus also knows that there is a very real possibility that they would be deceived when the stuff starts happening, ESPECIALLY in the context of the fall of Jerusalem in 68-70 AD.

If the church, or more specifically, individual believers, get too distracted and discouraged at the progress of evil or adversity in the world, they will lose sight of the true objective for their continued sojourn here on the earth (1 Peter 2:9).

So, in order that they might not be deceived, He tells them that all these things are going to happen, but they are not to be concerned about them. Concerned in what manner? Concerned that the end is near.

He does NOT want them to think that the end is near when these various things start to happen. They will be, after all, just the NORMAL evidences of sin and the curse - just the BEGINNING of birth pains, but it is NOT YET THE END.

What about these BIRTH PANGS? Let me suggest that the “beginning birth pangs” are those intermittent pushes and shoves which indicate that a pregnancy is moving toward its “end.” These are nothing of import – a kick, a push that always gets the mother all excited and suggesting things like “Oh, this one is a boy for sure!”

However, before that “end” can occur, there must be the final birth pains which are the body’s actions to bring that baby into the world and “end” the pregnancy.

The “pregnancy” is God’s plan to establish the Messiah’s reign on the earth via His return at the Day of the Lord.

The beginning birth pains are those historical trends which progress from Messiah’s first advent until the revelation of the beast, the man of lawlessness at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week.

The final birth pains take place during the oppressive reign of the beast which is called the tribulation, the great one.

The end of the “pregnancy” is when Jesus returns at the Day of the Lord and administrates divine wrath upon the world in preparation for establishing His 1000 year earthly kingdom.

The “parallel theory” requires that when Jesus describes these GENERAL historical trends, he is in fact describing specifically what happens during the first 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s 70th week (according to Rosenthal’s THE PREWRATH RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH, pages 111-112), rather than what can be historically expected from the resurrection forward as normal trends.

Remember that He said we are not to be concerned (fearfully expectant?) when we see these things, for that is not yet the end. In other words, JUST normal things that will happen throughout history. It is not until verse 9 that we are to KNOW that we are near the end, because verse 9 is when the tribulation will begin.

If these “beginning birth pangs” actually will occur during the first half of the 70th week, then it IS MOST CERTAINLY something to be concerned about and expectant about. For in that case, the return of Jesus would be forth coming within a matter of at least 4 ½ years.
However, there is no hint whatever that Jesus is attempting to teach about the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel when He mentions the “beginning of birth pangs.”

Jesus does not even focus on the beginning of the week, when the 7-year covenant is signed, either in The Olivet or in any of His teachings. And it is certain that the “awareness” factor comes when the tribulation begins and NOT when the beginning birth pangs occur.

In fact, none of the New Testament writers focus on the beginning or the first half of the 70th week. The focus is always on the midpoint of the week and the beginning of, or the time of the tribulation. This is probably because there is nothing of significance that occurs during that first half of the 70th week. It is a time of relative peace and religious toleration, at least in the Middle East and Europe, since the focus of the covenant’s jurisdiction involves that geographical sphere.

Thus, as many and varied false messiahs come on the scene, this will not be a sign that the end is near, but when we see the signing of the covenant, or at the least, the EFFECTS of that signing, we will then know that the end is near.

As many and varied wars occur throughout the world, this will not be a sign that the end is near, but when we see the beast arise who begins knocking national heads together, then we will know the end is near.

When many famines and plagues occur throughout the world, these will not point to the end being near, but when we see the famine effects of the beast’s control over the food and energy resources, then we will know that the end is near.

When we see the many earthquakes, and comets and meteor showers, and various juxtapositions of planets, we should not be concerned and think that the end is near. It is as Jesus said, “Do not be concerned, for this is not yet the end.”

But He made it perfectly clear WHEN we would know that the end is near, and that is when we see the events of the tribulation.

So when we see the events of the SEALS, then we WILL know that the end is near, because that is the purpose of the seals - revealing the events that precede the arrival of Jesus and the beginning of the day of the Lord.

Now, of course, some of these beginning birth pangs will continue after the 70th week begins, but there is no distinction between the first half of the week and the MANY years that precede it. That is, the normal historical trends will just keep on occurring right up into the week without portending anything unusual. The only exception to this is probably the historical trend of WAR AND RUMORS, and perhaps famines, which seem to cease through the covenant of peace established at the beginning of the week. But even that depends on the geographical extent of the covenant. However, the covenant cannot affect the earthquakes and terrors that have been increasing more and more as the curse on the physical creation continues to affect the earth’s geological stability.

WHERE THE PARALLEL BEGINS

On the other hand, the beginning of the tribulation, that is prophesied at Matthew 24:9-29, DOES parallel the seals of Revelation 6.

The seals of Revelation 6, likewise describe the events of the tribulation (although seal #1 probably describes the beginning of the 70th week).  

But the seals are SYMBOLIC images shown to John in vision format, and are not REAL. They REPRESENT something that WILL BE real, but within the scope of the vision, they are only symbols of things that must occur before the second coming of Christ.

The events of the tribulation as described in both Matthew and in Revelation lead up to the return of Jesus in the clouds at the 6th seal of Revelation 6:12-17.

Seal #2 SYMBOLIZES a specific person who takes THE PEACE from the earth. That means that there was some kind of specific peace in place in order for it to be removed.

Thus seal #1 refers to activity by a specific person that seems to dominate world politics and power by going out to conquer. He needs to “conquer” because the world at that time is characterized by all kinds of wars - especially in and around Palestine.

It seems most natural for this conquering to be what brings about the end to all the warfare and establishes a significant peace; THE PEACE that will then be removed later by the person of the 2nd seal.

The person of the first seal is the world ruler who establishes a peace treaty between the Muslims and Jews so that there will be peace between them for an agreed amount of time – i.e., 7 years.

This is the covenant that is established “for one week” (7 years) as prophesied at Daniel 9:27.

However, 3 1/2 years into that treaty the same person, having become empowered by Satan, will break that treaty and demand that everyone worship him and Satan. According to Revelation 17, the world ruler is a SEVENTH ruler who BECOMES the EIGHTH. This is why two different symbols are used to portray the same person who is represented in both seal #1 and #2.

Seal #2 thus begins the tribulation.

And seals 3, 4 and 5, then SYMBOLIZE what happens as a result of the beast breaking the covenant and instituting beast worship with its stringent economic controls.

Seal #3 SYMBOLIZES some kind of economic control.

There is no hint of famine there or food shortages, but simply price control. This is exactly what happens when the beast takes control of resources so that one cannot buy or sell unless they have the mark of the beast.

Seal #4 SYMBOLIZES a lot of death that comes from 4 sources.

Death from sword: the beast tries to kill anyone who will not take the mark. This corresponds with the sword of the 2nd seal.

Death from famine: When the beast controls the resources, it will produce massive shortages for those outside the beast’s kingdom.

Death from disease: natural result from massive food shortages (famine).

Death from animals: encroachment of wild animals into civilized areas because of the massive food shortages.

Seal #5 describes many martyrs, and is only a SYMBOLIC representative group rather than what is ACTUALLY happening in heaven.

THE FAILURE OF THE THEORY

Now where is the parallel with Matthew 24?

1. Mat. 24:5, many false christs: “many shall come in my name.”

The “parallel theory” makes this correspond with seal #1.
However, MANY does not parallel ONE.

Nor is there anything that makes the guy of seal #1, someone who comes IN MY NAME. Even when we recognize that seal #1 refers to the world ruler who LATER becomes the beast (the antichrist), EVEN THEN, he is NOT someone who comes in Christ’s name. There is not even a HINT of “comes in my name.”

The “many false teachers” refers to the normal historical trend of messianic imitation that has existed since the resurrection of Christ.

2. Mat. 24:6, wars and rumors of war: this indicates MANY such conflicts, but it is nothing that should get the believer to think that the end is near. It simply refers to the NORMAL human conflicts that will characterize history for many years to come.

Does this parallel seal #2? No. Seal #2 is a specific action that removes a previously established peace. It is NOT “wars and rumors.”

In addition, “wars and rumors” are EXPLAINED by “for nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom,” in Mat. 24:7a.

This is NOT what happens with the rise of the beast (antichrist). He does not bring war - let alone warS - when he takes over. He simply ENDS the peace and does not ALLOW for war as long as he maintains control, which he does until the Day of the Lord arrives.

Furthermore, “men slaying one another” is not necessarily war. In this case, it is the killing of those who do not take the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:7, 15; 12:17; Dan. 7:25).

The sword that the red horse rider has does not need to mean war.
It can mean military CONTROL, which of course, is exactly what the beast has, as is described at Revelation 13:4, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to make war with him?”
This does not indicate the presence of wars, but the ABSENCE of wars.

3. Famines: since the so called “parallel” has already been torn down, it is simple to see that famine is NOT the same thing as the economic controls that are portrayed by the rider on the black horse. Famine will certainly occur in some parts of the earth because of those controls, but that is covered under the 4th seal – not here. The famines of Matthew 4 are historical trends that do not portend anything significant. For, once again, as Jesus said, we are not to be concerned, for this is “not yet the end.”

4. Pestilences AND EARTHQUAKES:

According to the “parallel theory” this (BOTH items) corresponds with the 4th seal, which is death from famine, disease, sword and animals.

If one were to be consistent, HERE is where famine would be matched up, for the word occurs in both places. Once again, the failure of the parallel theory is glaring.

Furthermore, there is no mention of earthquakes at the 4th seal.
And Jesus did not mention wild animals and sword in the beginning birth pangs, either in connection with the famine and earthquakes and disease or separately.

Still another issue is the record at Luke 21:11. According to Luke, Jesus also mentioned “terrors and great signs from heaven” as part of the beginning birth pangs. This probably includes severe weather storms, volcanoes and eclipses and comets, etc. These are not mentioned in connection with the first four seals.

5. The next thing in Matthew 24, after the birth pangs, is verse 9, “then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and you will be killed . . .”

It is here that we do in fact find a parallel between the two passages.

(1) The tribulation is prophesied beginning at Matthew 24:9.
(2) The tribulation is in view with at least seals 2 through 5, but not with the beginning birth pangs.

So when the “parallel theory” wants this to correspond with the martyrs of the 5th seal, it is accurate.

That is, it is accurate with a little bit of adjustment. That theory wants to make the 5th seal the START of the tribulation. This, I trust, has been shown to be a bit LATE. The tribulation will start with the 2nd seal (or perhaps seal #1).

The seals are simply teaching aids within the scope of John’s vision. They refer to things that must take place before the Lord will return and the Day of the Lord will begin. The event in the 5th seal that needs to occur before the Lord returns is the martyrdom of “their fellow servants and brethren.”

Within the context of John’s vision, the 5th seal martyrs are ALREADY there in heaven. It is not showing John that they are being killed.

The issue with the 5th seal is NOT chronological, but rather simply a recognition that believers who have been killed for their faith are in heaven longing for justice.

It is consistent with the vision format that is shown to John, for this group to just be SYMBOLIC and representative of ALL believers who have been killed for their faith. This is just another symbolic part of the vision. John is SYMBOLICALLY shown JUST a representative group of those who have been martyred. The focus is just on martyrs since they were the direct recipients of fatal persecution.

But this is JUST A SYMBOLIC image for the vision. Remember that all who have died are face to face with the Lord and are experiencing great peace and joy. They are NOT hanging out “underneath the altar” waiting for justice to be poured out on the world.

Anyway, within the scope of the vision, they are told that they must wait until others are killed likewise for their faith - and THEN justice will be meted out. This then, is what anticipates the martyrs of the tribulation.

When that is completed during the tribulation, then the end will come when Jesus returns and raptures all believers and begins to render justice to the unbelievers left on the earth.
Perhaps there is a specific number involved through the foreknowledge of God. This would explain why “in His own time” He will cut short the tribulation by a sovereign decree, and THEN manifest the signs in the sun, moon and stars – the Day of the Lord signs.

THE END

Then AFTER the tribulation of those days, the second advent of the Messiah will occur. This is described at Matthew 24:29ff (Luke 21:25-28) and at the 6th seal (Rev. 6:12-17). Here, of course, there is a perfect parallelism because they ARE IN FACT talking about exactly the same thing.

The validity of the PreWrath rapture view is not dependent on the parallel theory discussed in this article. Many pre-trib advocates have also seen a similar parallel theory, while wrongly defining the 70th week and tribulation as beginning with the birth pangs. However, the PreWrath view does in fact rely upon a CORRECT parallelism between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6. That parallel is that the first 5 seals represent the 70th week and the tribulation that begins at the midpoint of the week. And Matthew 24 likewise teaches of the tribulation that begins at the midpoint of the week in verses 9-29. Then Seal #6 represents the arrival of Jesus and the inception of the Day of the Lord. And Likewise, Matthew 24:29-30 teaches of the same two events.

The parallel continues as the rapture is presented by Jesus in Matthew 24:31-44, and is shown to have occurred in Revelation 7:9-17.

But the beginning birth pangs of Matthew 24:4-8 are historical trends that have been occurring since the resurrection of Jesus and will continue as such until a whole change of focus occurs with the beginning of the tribulation at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week.
 

 
 

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