Matthew 24:19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Jesus continued to warn of the dangerous situation that the Jews will face at the mid-point of the Tribulation and beyond. We know that the world has attacked the Jews on many occasions. The Jews are not any better than anyone else. God chose them for His own reasons to be a light to the world. His goal for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament was that they would live in such a way that He could pour out His blessings on them and through that, draw the Gentiles to the truth as well. Israel was to be the evangelists of the Old Testament. He provided all that they needed to be a light for Him.
Sadly, Israel rejected God’s offer and His Work. They did not want to understand that God cannot and will not continue to pour out His blessings toward those who reject Him. Israel too often turned to pagan Gentile nations and chose to follow idolatry rather than humble themselves and repent toward God and be forgiven and restored to a right relationship with Him.
The Gentile nations envied the blessings that Israel had when they followed God obediently. They did not want to turn to the true God, but they wanted the material benefits that Israel had. They were jealous of the blessings that were available only through the true God. That attitude is still true today. The world is still trying to figure out how to live in a utopia without believing in the true God. Generation after generation has failed to find that blissful life, but generation after generation still tries to find it. A few in each generation listen to God and turn to Him and are saved and then they learn that life is not about circumstances, but rather it is about knowing the true God and trusting Him.
Back in our text, Jesus was warning of the difficulties that the nation of Israel would face in the Tribulation time. We noted already that at the mid-point, the Jews would need to be ready to flee to the mountains. The antichrist would try to destroy the Jews once and for all. Due to the fact that the nation of Israel had rejected God as a nation for hundreds of years, God was going to allow the antichrist to punish them in a way they had never been punished before. Those who would be tied to their earthly possessions would perish. Those who would forsake all and run would find refuge.
That is a very real picture of salvation. Those who continue to believe the lies of the devil and think that the things of this world have value that cannot be abandoned will lose out. Those who turn to God in repentance and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation “shall be saved.” The true child of God is constantly learning the treasure that he or she has received in knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
God could have just wiped Israel off the face of the earth and started with a new nation. God made a promise to Abraham and in the end He needed to keep that promise to prove Himself faithful to His Word and to Himself. Jesus had already taught that the devil is a liar and he is the father of lies. God is not a liar. He is truthful.
Even though the Jews rejected Him and even though He could not bless them as He wanted to, He would still preserve that nation for ever. He needed to do that in order to prove His faithfulness to man.
God is not like most politicians who make promises and then break them and justify the breaking of the promises on the flimsiest grounds. They lie to the citizens and they have no shame about doing so.
God is not like that. Thus, we see that Israel would suffer greatly in order for them to learn the importance of submitting to the God Who raised them up as a nation in the days of Abraham. Thus Jesus warned that those Jews that would be with child would be in grave danger during the last half of the Tribulation.
A pregnant woman cannot maneuver like one that is not pregnant. We, as men, will never fully understand that, but we can observe the limitations that our wives face while pregnant. A mother with a young sucking child cannot flee like a woman that is not looking after such a young child. A mother with a young sucking child needs good nourishment to be able to keep herself healthy and also keep that young child healthy.
In verse 20 Jesus reminded the disciples that those who are alive at this terrible time He is speaking of, should pray that they would not need to flee in winter or on the sabbath day. Winter in Israel is not as cold as it is in Manitoba, but it is still cold. If you are fleeing without your outer garments and you are not taking any extra bedding or anything else with you, it would certainly be cold. Sickness could well take over when the body is rundown and unable to keep warm. The Sabbath was also a day that Israel was to keep in a special way. They were to trust God to provide for them on that day and through that to be a testimony to the world. However, due to their rebellion against God, His provision would not be there as it would have been had they honoured Him.
In verse 21 Jesus warned that those last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation time would be known as the time of great tribulation. Christians have faced tribulation throughout the church age. Faithful Jews have faced tribulation throughout the Old Testament. Jeremiah faced great difficulties. Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. His three friends were thrown into a fiery furnace that was intentionally overheated to guarantee they would die. They did not die.
Tribulation is not a new thing. What is new is the intensity of the tribulation that the Jews will face at the hands of the antichrist.
Jesus warned that they will face tribulation such as the world has never known before. It is a dangerous thing to reject God to the place where He opens the way for evil to abound. II Thessalonians 2 warns us that during the Tribulation time, God will remove His hand of restraint and will give the devil much greater leeway than he has ever had. Jesus was not making idle threats here. He was not telling scary stories. He was warning of a judgment that was coming and that judgment was the direct result of the rejection of God and His truth.
The Jews cried out at Jesus’ trial and said they would take full responsibility for His death. They declared:
Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
They had no idea of the severity of the judgment they were under.
Acts 5:28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
In just a few short years they already realized they were not able to bear the guilt of murdering Jesus Christ. They did not just murder a man. They expressed their desire to be free from God. That is not possible, but to make that vow is extremely foolish and dangerous. In Acts 5, the apostles were not guilty of judging the Jews. The Jews were already under God’s condemnation because of their rejection of the true God. The same is true for unsaved Gentiles. They are already under God’s judgment.
The solution is not to dig in your heels and continue to fight against the truth. The solution is to repent and trust in the salvation that Jesus Christ provided on the cross of Calvary. Forgiveness of sin is only possible through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Israel as a nation rejected and still rejects Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Messiah, they will suffer greatly during that 3 1/2 years that Jesus is speaking of here. Gentiles will also suffer at that time. However, God’s focus at that time will be to get Israel to recognize Him as their God and Messiah. He wants to bless them, but they must turn to Him to be blessed. God promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. That blessing is found in knowing God’s forgiveness and His salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
II Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
That is still God’s design today. God would much rather see men and women, boys and girls turn to Him in repentance and be saved. That is His desire. However, those who do not want to do that have no one to blame but themselves for the suffering they face now and the torment they will face for all eternity in the lake of fire. God’s Word has many warnings given to those who reject Him. The Bible is very clear that God does not make idle threats. He loves mankind and wants man to know His forgiveness and peace. That is His desire for anyone reading this today who is not saved.
If you will listen to what God is saying, you will know that He is just in all that He says and does. You will know that He is very merciful. He is willing to forgive any repentant sinner. Turn to Him and be forgiven today!