Q. You have said that Matthew 24 is a Tribulation chapter, I agree that some of it will take place during that period. As a Pre Tribulation believer, how can we not see it as a two fold chapter of Rapture and Tribulation? The birth pangs then are only for the Tribulation period … signs of His Second Coming. Where do these birth pangs then fit in a Pre Tribulation Rapture? Many people are taking the “signs” (birth pangs) now as a preview of the Rapture of the Church. How can this be if they are signs of just His Second Coming?
A. Keep in mind that the context of Matt. 24-25 shows Jesus, a Jewish prophet, standing in Israel, answering questions from Jewish men about the end of the Jewish age. In Matt. 24:3 “When will these things happen?” is a question about the Temple’s destruction. “What will be the sign of your coming?” refers the the 2nd Coming, “and of the End of the Age” is about the final seven years remaining from the 490 year age the Angel Gabriel spoke of with Daniel, now known as Daniels 70th week. (Daniel 9:24-27)
In Matt. 24:4-8 Jesus describes events that would be common to the period between his resurrection and the beginning of the 70th week, what we call the Church Age, and in that sense are applicable to the Church. Wars, rumors of war, famines and earthquakes are given as examples. Luke added pestilence in his account. These things have been happening periodically through out the Church Age.
Christian commentators have taken the phrase birth pangs to mean that like a woman’s labor they would begin as mild and infrequent indicators of the impending event, but as the time draws close they will become progressively more frequent and more intense. So as wars, famines and earthquakes have become more frequent and more intense they say this means that the end is drawing nearer. And since the Rapture precedes the end that means it’s getting closer too.
But from Matt. 24:9 onward the focus is on Israel and the 70th week, with Matt. 24:15 giving the first clear sign, the arrival of the anti-Christ in the Temple marking the beginning of the Great Tribulation. From Matt. 24:15 to Matt. 24:29 the Great Tribulation is in view. Then beginning in Matt. 24:30 and continuing through Matt. 25:46 the focus is on the Second Coming and the judgments that will take place just afterward.