Questions From Readers
● Does Matthew 24:19 apply to those inside the Christian congregation or to those outside the congregation?—E. N., United States.
Pregnant women and those with new babies would encounter hardship because of the difficult times foretold by Christ when he said at Matthew 24:19: “Woe to the pregnant women and those suckling a baby in those days!” True to his words, extreme adversity befell pregnant women and those suckling babies when Roman forces descended upon Jerusalem and dealt the Jews a crushing blow A.D. 70. Thousands of persons suffered and died. Famine prevailed, and it alone was terrible. Concerning the treatment then meted out by the seditious to their own fellow Jews, Josephus wrote:
“The old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to the infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor.”—Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chapter X, ¶3.
Imagine mothers standing by, forced to look upon such brutality inflicted upon their own children, even infants. Think also of the horror experienced by these mothers at seeing them slaughtered before their very eyes, for that also occurred! By reason of her emotional makeup it is very natural for a woman to show deep concern for those she loves, those of her own family. How much greater is her concern when dire circumstances threaten the well-being and life of her offspring! So let us not minimize the suffering of women at that time. For those who were pregnant things were naturally more difficult. During a time of calamity maternal protective instincts assert themselves all the more. So just imagine the intense suffering, the utter feeling of helplessness, that must have been experienced by nursing mothers in Jerusalem of the first century as they themselves were subjected to cruelties and as they witnessed the suffering of their offspring! Indeed, it was a time of woe to pregnant women and those suckling babies!
Humans can well understand a mother’s love. For example, Paul saw fit to illustrate his gentleness toward Christians at Thessalonica with the words: “To the contrary, we became gentle in the midst of you, as when a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” (1 Thess. 2:7) We can also readily comprehend the intense concern of a pregnant woman or a nursing mother because of what might happen to her child at a crucial time. So, at Matthew 24:19, Jesus was putting in human and very understandable terms the manner in which the things destined to occur would affect persons. There would be great difficulties. Extremely trying times were ahead.
Christ’s words of woe to pregnant women and those suckling babies apply to our day. The major fulfillment of this prophecy takes place in these last days. And Jesus’ statement applies specially to persons outside the Christian congregation. The days ahead as this old world draws to its Armageddon end will be days of woe and hardship. They will not be easy times for anyone.
Let it be noted, however, that at Matthew 24:19 Jesus Christ was not discussing the propriety of Christian married couples having children in these last days. Christians today are not under command to have children, but neither are they under a command not to have them. This is a matter to be decided by marriage mates themselves. It is their own business.—Gal. 6:5.
Hardship, then, is to be expected by all persons as this world comes to its end. That surely includes pregnant women and those suckling babies. If pregnant women or women with small children allow this situation to keep them from fleeing this world and dedicating themselves to God through Christ, they will miss out on divine protection. Yet mothers who take advantage of the time left to flee to Jehovah’s “mountain” of safety will be protected. They will experience hardship, to be sure, but Jehovah’s protection can extend to them and to their children, born and unborn.—Ps. 91:7, 8, 14-16.