Since I have
shown in previous installments that Matthew 24 is a future, end-time prophecy,
the next issue to tackle is when will verses 4 through 14 come to pass?
There are two
major views that futurists, like myself, tend to hold. First, some believe that verses 4- 14
refer to the inter-advent age- that is the time between Christ' s first coming
and the beginning of the tribulation.
Second, some hold that verses 4- 14, especially verses 4- 8, refer to the
first part of the tribulation and correspond with the first four seal judgments
of Revelation 6:1- 8. I think that
the second view is correct.
Inter-Advent Age View
interpreters of the Olivet Discourse believe that verses 4- 14 describe the
general signs of the inter-advent age.
Dr. John F. Walvoord, an advocate of this view says that verses 4- 14
describing the general
characteristics of the age leading up to the end, while at the same time
recognizing that the prediction of difficulties, which will characterized the
entire period between the first and second coming of Christ, are fulfilled in
an intensified form as the age moves on to its conclusion." 
Walvoord believes that verses 15- 26 are specific signs that describe the
tribulation, while verses 27- 31 relate to the second coming.
inter-advent age view is a variation of this perspective. Some think that verses verses 4- 8 are
general signs of the inter-advent age leading up to the tribulation. While verses 9- 14 reference the first
half of the tribulation. " The
events concerning the first half of the tribulation are recorded in Matthew
24:9- 14," says Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.
This " passage begins with the word then, pointing out that what Christ is describing now
will come after the event of
nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom." 
inter-advent age view is the correct interpretation, then it would mean that
wars, earthquakes, famines, and the appearance of false Christs would be constantly
on the increase as we approach the tribulation period. However, if these items are references
to the first half of the tribulation, then wars, earthquakes, famines, and
false Christs during any part of the church age would not constitute prophetic
signs. This explains why some
futurists believe that increasing wars, earthquakes, famines, etc. are
prophetically significant, while others, like myself, do not think that they
are prophetically significant, since these verses refer to global events during
the seven-year tribulation.
I believe that
Matthew 24:4- 41 refers to the seven-year period (Dan. 9:24- 27) that many
commonly call the tribulation. The
tribulation is divided in half by the abomination of desolation, mentioned by
Jesus in verse 15. Thus, verses
4- 14 refer to the first half of the tribulation and are parallel to the first
five seal judgments found in Revelation 6.
" If out
interpretation is the right one there must be perfect harmony between these
three: Old Testament
Prophecy: Matthew xxiv:4-44, and
Revelation vi-xix." insists Arno Gaebelein. I believe just such a harmony exists,
especially between the Olivet Discourse and Revelation. This is what convinces me that verses
4- 14 refer to the first half of the tribulation. Gaebelein continues:
If this is the correct
interpretation, if Matthew xxiv:4-14 refers to the beginning of that coming end
of the age and if Revelation vi refers to the same beginning of the end and
that which follows the sixth chapter leads us on into the great tribulation,
then there must be a perfect harmony between that part of the Olivet discourse
contained in Matthew xxiv and the part of Revelation beginning with the sixth
chapter. And such is indeed the
acceptance of this view, in part," observes John McLean, " is dependent on how
much weight is given to the parallels between the synoptics and Revelation."  Since all futurists see the Olivet
Discourse as parallel to Revelation to some degree, it makes sense that these
two portions of Scripture would be focused on the same basic time period- the
tribulation. Dr. McLean has
displayed these relationships in the following chart.
characterizes the events of verses 4- 7 as " the beginning of birth-pangs." The Greek word ™dinon means " the pain of childbirth, travail-pain,
birth-pang." It is said to be
" intolerable anguish, in reference to the dire calamities which the Jews
supposed would precede the advent of the Messiah."  Another authority agrees and says, " of
the ' Messianic woes' , the terrors and torments that precede the coming of the
Messianic Age." 
Most likely our
Lord had in mind the Old Testament reference to birth pangs in Jeremiah 30:6- 7,
which says, " ' Ask now, and see, if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands
on his loins, as a woman in childbirth?
And why have all faces turned pale? ' Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it
is the time of Jacob' s distress, but he will be saved from it." Dr. Randall Price explains the birth
pangs of Messiah as follows:
birth pangs are significant in the timing of the Tribulation, as revealed by
Jesus in the Olivet discourse (Matt. 24:8). Jesus' statement of the " birth pangs" is specifically that
the events of the first half of the Tribulation (vv. 4-7) are merely the
" beginning," with the expectation of greater birth pangs in the second half
(the " Great Tribulation" ). Based
on this analogy, the entire period of the seventieth week is like birth
pangs. As a woman must endure the
entire period of labor before giving birth, so Israel must endure the entire
seven-year Tribulation. The time
divisions of Tribulation are also illustrated by the figure, for just as the natural
process intensifies toward delivery after labor ends, so here the Tribulation
moves progressively toward the second advent (vv. 30-31), which takes place
" immediately after" the Tribulation ends (v. 29). As there are two phases of the birth pangs (beginning labor
and full labor), so the seven years of Tribulation are divided between the less
severe and more severe experiences of terrestrial and cosmic wrath, as revealed
progressively in the Olivet discourse and the judgment section of Revelation
Paul also uses
the motif of birth pangs in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 where he says, " While they are saying, " Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them
suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not
escape." The context of this
passage relates to the tribulation period, which fits the other uses of birth
Raphael Patai in
his helpful book (The Messiah Texts) has dozens of references to extra-biblical commentary from Jewish
writings in a chapter entitled " The Pangs of Times."  Patai tells us that " the pangs of the
Messianic times are imagined as having heavenly as well as earthly sources and
expressions. . . . Things will
come to such a head that people will despair of Redemption. This will last seven years. And then, unexpectedly, the Messiah
will come."  This widespread Jewish idea fits
exactly into the framework that Jesus expresses in the Olivet Discourse. The birth pangs of Messiah, also known
as " the footprints of the Messiah," 
support the notion that Matthew 24:4- 14 relate to the tribulation period
leading up to the second advent of the Messiah since it is known as a time of
great tribulation that results in Messiah' s earthly arrival.
I have often been
ask on radio talk shows if I believe that events like earthquakes, famines,
wars, etc. meant that the end is near.
Of course I always say no.
This usually surprises the host, since they so often hear from other
prophecy teachers that these things have current prophetic significance. As you can see, if they don' t refer to
the church age, then they must have reference to the tribulation. While it is likely that we stand on the
verge of tribulation events, we are not yet in that time period. Since Matthew 24:4- 14 cannot happen
until after the rapture and the start of the tribulation, it is wrong to say
that such events are prophetically significant in our own day. The birth pangs do not start until
Israel faces her time of trouble.
Continued . . .)
 John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Chicago:
Moody Press, 1974), p. 183.
 Walvoord, Matthew, p. 183.
 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the
Messiah: A Study of the Sequence
of Prophetic Events (San Antonio: Ariel Press, 1982), pp. 439-40. For the most exhaustive presentation of
this view that I have found so far, see David L. Cooper, Future Events
Revealed: According to Matthew 24
and 25 (Los Angeles: David L. Cooper, 1935).
 Arno C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew: An Exposition (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers,  1961), p. 476.
 Gaebelein, Matthew, p.
 John McLean, " Chronology and Sequential Structure
of John' s Revelation," in CONTACT _Con-48271A681 Thomas Ice & Timothy Demy, When the Trumpet
Sounds: Today' s Foremost
Authorities Speak Out on End-Time Controversies (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995), p. 323.
 McLean, " Chronology and Sequential Structure," p.
 Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon
of the New Testament (New
York: American Book Company,
1889), p. 679.
 William F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1957), p. 904.
 J. Randall Price, " Old Testament Tribulation
Terms," in CONTACT _Con-48271A681 Thomas Ice & Timothy Demy, When the Trumpet
Sounds: Today' s Foremost
Authorities Speak Out on End-Time Controversies (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1995), p. 72.
 Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years (Detroit:
Wayne State University Press, 1979), pp. 95-103.
 Patai, Messiah Texts, pp. 95-96.
 Price, " Tribulation Terms," p. 450, f.n. 56.