Heaven, Hope, and the Childbirth Motif (John 16:20-22, Genesis 3:15-16a, Romans 8:22)

John 16:20-22 – 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Genesis 3:15-16a

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.

Romans 8:22 – For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

In the Garden of Eden, humanity began its rebellion against its Creator. Mankind sinned against God, choosing to throw off his loving commandments. We chose self-rule rather than following God, and we received for our crimes the due penalty for our transgression.

Since that time, all of humanity has lived under the curse of God. People get sick and die. People suffer evil at one another’s hands. People struggle against the natural world. Relationships are strained. Selfishness abounds. And all of this links back directly to Adams fall.

Yet, in the garden, God made a promise. It comes in the words of his judgment against the serpent. God promised one to come, one who would crush the serpent. This is the first sign that someone would arise, descending from woman, who would set right the wrong done in the garden. And most evangelicals understand this promise to be a promise of the coming of Christ.

What strikes me this morning is actually the text of John 16:20-22 taken in the light of Genesis 3. This weekend, lord willing, I will preach through John 16:16-33. But I will not take the time to make the point that is on my mind today as I review the passage.

Jesus, in predicting to his disciples their coming sorrow, uses an interesting illustration. The Lord Jesus is about to be arrested and crucified. In that time, the disciples will be greatly sorrowful, weeping and lamenting. They will feel great anguish as their Lord, the one they have followed for the last three years, is brutally put to death. But that sorrow will turn to great joy when Jesus returns from the grave, having conquered death and paid the penalty for the sins of all who will trust in him.

Now, here is the point on my mind. Jesus uses an image to describe the disciples going from sorrow to joy. The picture Jesus uses is that of a woman in labor giving birth. She hurts, but the pain is turned to joy when the baby is born. Similarly, the disciples will hurt, but the pain will be turned to joy. My thought is that this too can be connected to God’s words in the garden.

Immediately after the serpent was judged and the first glimpse of the gospel is given, God turns his attention to Eve. He promises Eve that he will greatly increase her pain in childbirth as a part of the burden she must bear for her guilt in the fall of mankind. So, in a very real sense, a sign of the curse of sin on humanity is the suffering and travail through which women go in childbirth.

Is it not fascinating that Jesus uses the reversal idea of joy coming after the birthing process is over to depict what his disciples will feel when they see him alive after death? Could we not make a larger application? From the time in the garden until the consummation of God’s Kingdom, humanity suffers. As Paul Says, creation is groaning in childbirth. But with the resurrection of Jesus and his finished work of atonement, our pains are being eased. With Jesus’ paying for our sins, we who know him no longer sit under the wrath of God. While we still feel the effects of the curse over the world, that curse is about to come to an end. Soon Jesus will return. Soon the curse will be put behind us. Soon we will rejoice as a mother rejoices at the birth of her child. Yes it is painful, but that sorrow will be turned to joy when we, the children of God, are gather together with the Lord to be with him forever. We will live in the presence of God, in full joy, apart from any lingering effects of the curse. What a glorious day that will be! What a glorious eternity stands before us!

Christians, let us not fail to keep our eyes on eternity. This hope is a hope that God wants us to feel. He wants us to see the joy that is set before us in Christ. He want us to long for the days of a life without sin, without suffering, without pain, and with the greatest possible soul satisfaction. God wants us to pray for his kingdom to come. He wants us to speed that day with our prayers and our faithful sharing of the gospel. God wants us to be heavenly-minded people. Let us look forward to eternity with the anticipation fitting the joy ahead.