Jesus informed us that watching the signs of His return would be like watching birth pains (Matthew 24:8). The obvious implication here, is that the signs that He had just given (war/rumor of war, disease, earthquakes and famine) would appear together. In other words, all of the above would have peaks and valleys together. Indeed, during both WWI and WWII eras, all of these signs peaked together. I believe these were the beginnings of birth pains, or, stated another way, these signs marked the beginning of the last generation. Since then, we've seen more cycles of these signs, repeating over and over for the last 60 years. Recently, we experienced a bolus of these signs, too many to state here.
One interesting footnote to the above. Most of us "prophecy watchers" get stuck in the mode of only watching these "peaks" in the signs but we ignore a very important point in prophecy. Several of the biggest "signs" occur in the midst of a "lull" in the action. Lets look at three examples; three of the biggest signs that we are watching:
1. Gog-MaGog. As stated many times, this is highly significant because God will reveal His divine hand in ending this epic battle. God will also make it clear and unambiguous that He indeed intervened (Ezekiel 38:22-23, and 39:27-29). However, interestingly, this invasion will be sudden and unexpected (ie, during a "lull" in the action).
The scriptures describing Israel's condition just before the attack confirms this: "In future years you (Gog) will invade a land that had recovered from war" (note "recovered from war", not "in the midst of war")...Gog himself states in Ezekiel 38:11 "I will invade a peaceful and unsuspecting people" ("unsuspecting" suggests a time that Israel is not engaged in warfare). These clues indicate that Israel will be in a "quiet" period when this invasion takes place.
2. The beginning of the Tribulation. The bible tells us (1 Thess. 5:3) that the Anti-christ will bring in a brief period of "peace and safety" but in the midst of this "peace and safety", the scripture tells us that "destruction will come on them suddenly", a reference to the 21 judgments that will fall on earth during the Tribulation. This idea is confirmed by the parables that Jesus gave in Matthew 24-25. The Anti-christ will have a peace plan for the Middle-East, and the nations will believe that they are finally living in "peace and safety" as created by the Anti-christ. At that time, however - just when the world is settled into a "peace and safety" mode, the 21 judgments will begin rapidly and unexpectedly.
3. The Rapture of the Church. This one is a little more difficult. We know that the Rapture is an "imminent" event, as detailed previously on this blog. That alone suggests that it will come at an unexpected time. There are no specific events that must take place before the rapture.
Will the rapture occur during a "lull" in the birth pains?
Its very difficult to say, as again, there are no specific events that must occur first. We know that we have already seen most of the signs of the "generation", over a period of approximately 80-90 years. But this still doesn't give us the information regarding the state of affairs in the world at the very moment of the Rapture.
The fact is - we just don't know.
Me MAY have a couple of clues as provided by the apostle Peter, as written in 2 Peter 2.
The apostle Peter revealed two similar events. He mentioned that Lot was spared from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and he reminded us that Noah was saved from the flood. Then he stated the following revealing words:
"...then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment"
What is he saying here? several things. First, Peter puts to rest the notion that some folks hold - which is the incorrect assumption that we won't be spared the Tribulation, via the Rapture because Christians have faced severe persecution throughout the ages, so why should "we" be spared?
Peter answers this question by drawing a distinction between "God's wrath" (both Sodom and Gomorrah and the flood were GODs wrath - not man's persecution). Thats an important distinction, because the Tribulation is God's wrath on an unbelieving world (post-rapture), not just man-on-man persecution. Peter reminds us that God has a history of sparing "His people" from such wrath. A clear reference to the Rapture of the Church.
Secondly, it may represent another point. This is complete speculation on my part - it cannot be proven scripturally. But it causes me to ponder the following: if Peter's reference included two events in which "God's people" were spared from His wrath - we can see that in both instances, they (Lot and Noah) were taken from the "wrath", almost immediately before the massive destruction took place.
More speculation: Will the rapture occur just before an epic, destructive event, similar to the examples given by Peter?
Possibly, but again this requires much speculation. We also know that the Anti-christ, and an unbelieving world - just after the rapture - will need to offer an explanation of what just happened - with millions of Christians having disappeared from the earth. The passage in 2 Thess. 2:11-12 may serve as a reference to the "lie" propagated by the Anti-christ. There is more speculation on how that will play out. BUT (again, speculating) - if the rapture were to occur (like the removal of Noah and Lot from imminent danger) just before a huge, epic event (nuclear? biological terrorism? ENP strike on the US? large-scale terrorist attack?), then the rapture could be rendered a "page 4 story" in the news. Additionally, one could argue that the "nutty Christians" simply fled to the countryside and are in hiding (rathered than "raptured").
Back to the original point. The "lull" between birthpains is just as important as the "contraction" periods. During these apparent calm periods, is when some of the most epic prophetic events (still pending) will occur. Therefore we ALWAYS need to be watching, regardless of current events. Perhaps this is why Jesus gave the following parable:
"Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:42-44)
Are you ready?