Messiah: Signs of His COMING, Not RAPTURE
Matthew Lesson #150
January 15, 2017
“Father, thank You for the fact You’ve revealed Your Word to us, that in Your sovereignty, You in Your omniscience, knew that the best way to inform us was not to just plop the Savior down three days after Adam and Eve sinned.
But that because of the pernicious and extensive corruption that sin brought into the universe and to the thinking of mankind, that it will take time, and that You had to prepare the human race, and there were purposes to what You were doing, and it took over 4,000 years to finally bring the Savior.
That was His first coming, where He was rejected, and then we have at least 2000 years since that first coming. Your timing is always perfect and impeccable because You understand it, You know so much more than we do about all the details of history and how all of human history is working itself out in relation to the even broader conflict among the angels.
Father, we pray as we study this important passage related to Your plans, Your purposes, the coming return of our Lord Jesus Christ to establish his kingdom, that we might recognize that though this is not directed to us, it has implications for our own understanding of living today in light of eternity, and it has implications for understanding so much of prophecy—that that has been revealed for us.
We pray that You would help us to understand the things that we read and the things that You have revealed.
We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”
We’re in Matthew 24:3. We started this last time, and we’re setting a context or background for being able to honestly and accurately contextually read and understand what is being said here in this verse. Let me read it for you.
“Now as He sat”—that’s referring to Jesus having left the temple. He crossed the Kidron Valley and He is seated among the olive groves on the west side of the Mount of Olives, directly across from the temple—“…as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be?’ ”
Those things that they’re talking about have to do with what He has just said about the prophecy about what will happen to the temple. “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?’ ”
What we’re going to get to this morning—I hope and pray—is answering this question that is a significant question: is this talking about signs of His coming or signs of the Rapture? Are these things the same or are they different? That’s crucial for understanding what Jesus says in this chapter.
As I pointed out last time, there’s a lot of debate, even among dispensational futurists, about how to interpret aspects of this passage. So that’s why I’m taking my time to slowly, carefully lay out the parameters of why I believe what I believe about this particular passage.
Last time I pointed out that there were seven questions we needed to answer, as we get into this passage.
- The first has to do with the significance of the temple.
- Second question, what is the reason for the divine judgment on the nation? Why is God announcing a destruction of the Temple and a scattering of the people?
- Third, how many questions are the disciples asking here? It looks like three. Some people merge it with Mark and say it’s four. Other people say it’s two.
- Fourth question: is what Jesus is talking about here in Matthew 24 future? Is it something that was fulfilled in the past, or is it something that is in the process of being fulfilled in the present—throughout the whole of the Church Age.
- Fifth, what did the disciples know? What did they understand? What should they have understood in light of Old Testament prophecies?
- Sixth question is, are they asking about the signs of Your coming? How many times have you heard someone say, “What are the signs of His coming?” “What are the signs of the times?” using the plural noun. Are they asking, “What are the signs of Your coming, or are they asking what is the singular sign of Your coming?
- Finally we need to understand the difference between the coming of Jesus and the Rapture. I’ve covered that before. Many of you have heard me cover one or two or three times. I’ve revised it and expanded it, so we will get into some new material there
Last time we addressed the question “What’s the significance of the temple?” because the context here is Jesus’ announcement that the temple was going to be destroyed.
Matthew 23:38, “See! Your house”—that’s the word for temple—“Your house is left to you desolate.”—He’s announcing the destruction of the temple.
Matthew 24:2, He said, “Do you not see all these things”—pointing to the buildings of the temple, not the retaining wall that was built around the foundation, as I pointed out, but the buildings themselves. “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” —indicating a complete and total destruction. We studied that last time.
In looking at that, answering this first question about the temple, I said that basically understanding the two things that He’s talking about here, that this temple that they’re looking at, those temple buildings that they’re looking at, would be destroyed.
That is covered in Luke 21 and the near fulfillment deals with that specific part that relates only to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. It’s the fulfillment of that as a near-prophecy that validates what He is saying about something distant.
In Deuteronomy 13 and 18, the criteria for evaluating a prophet are laid down, and one of those criteria is that 100% of what they say has to come true. If only 99.5% comes true, then they are to be executed because that’s not the voice of God and they are not speaking from God. 100% had to come true.
Secondly, their prophecies that were beyond their lifetime would be validated by what they said that could be demonstrated to be true within their lifetime; often within a very close period of time.
That’s the significance of these temple prophecies, and it also indicates something else and that is the divine judgment that God is bringing on the nation. That was the second question that I addressed, and this is in fulfillment of prophecies that God gave as promises of judgment as well in the Mosaic Law, that if Israel obeyed, they would be blessed. But if they disobeyed, then God would bring judgment upon them.
There were five series or cycles of judgment or discipline that God outlined in the second part of Leviticus 26, ending with the most intense form, which is that God would destroy their temples, destroy their cities, destroy their presence in the land and remove them from the land.
This is announced in Leviticus 26:30-33: “I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.”
“I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas.”
This is directed toward Israel as God’s covenant partner. It doesn’t apply to the United States or France or Germany or to China or Japan or anybody else because no other nation, no other people in the history of mankind has a contractual relationship with God to be His people.
This is only an announcement that God would remove them from the land. If God were to remove us from America, that’s no punishment because we just got here late, and it’s not historically our land. We have no right to it other than conquest.
Israel has a right to that piece of real estate, and they’re the only people in the world who have a title deed to their piece of land based on a contract from God. Nobody else does. So being removed from their land has significance because that is a special piece of real estate that God gave them as a sign of His blessing.
In Leviticus 26:32-33, it goes on to say, “I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it.”
“I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities laid waste.”
This happened twice in history; first time in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, invaded into the Southern Kingdom and conquered it and destroyed the temple—the first temple—and destroyed Jerusalem.
Then it happened a second time in AD 70. That was the near-fulfillment that’s described in in Luke 21:20 and following.
But in the context of Deuteronomy, God promises that there will be a prophet: that He will raise up a prophet like Moses. If the people accepted that prophet, then God would bless them, but if they rejected that prophet, then He would hold them accountable for it.
Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy: He is the prophet. He is a prophet like Moses, He is greater than Moses. When the people rejected Him that would bring divine discipline: it would bring the judgment of AD 70.
Third question is “How many questions are the disciples asking?” This is fundamental to just being able to understand the passage and what is going on here.
In Matthew 24:3, Jesus is on the Mount of Olives, and He is looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount, and He is asked this particular set of questions.
The issue that has come up, you’ll read in different places, is it two three or four questions? And while some dispensational futurists like a well-known professor from Grace Seminary, president of Grace Seminary at one time, Alva J. McClain, in his great book “The Coming Kingdom,” it’s a tremendous in-depth study, sees a total of four questions.
Some see three questions, such as Dr. John Walvoord, who was the president of Dallas Theological Seminary from the death of Lewis Sperry Chafer until his retirement in the late 80s. Many believe that Walvoord was the greatest prophecy scholar—whether they agreed with Him or not—they thought that he was the greatest prophecy scholar in the 20th century.
His views and his teaching on prophecy was profound and impacted the thinking of many of the people that you know, that you have heard teach, many of the pastors that you’ve heard, and well-known individuals, some of whose names I’ll mention as we as we go along.
Walvoord thought there were three questions, but most people agree that there are two, but they agree that there are two for different reasons.
You will hear some say that there are two because of a rule in the Greek that when you have a Greek construction where you have one definite article, you have an article in the Greek, and then it’s followed by two people or two things, then these should be viewed as being identical or the same thing. So they would view “sign of Your coming” and “the end of the age” as being the same thing.
Actually the way most people apply it, they’re wrong in their application of the Granville Sharp Rule. Although in this kind of construction, it is assumed, and I refer to Dan Wallace (who was a classmate of mine at Dallas Seminary and is a well-known professor of Greek at Dallas, published a grammar).
He did his PhD dissertation on the Granville Sharp Rule—and he is like the go-to living expert on the Granville Sharp Rule—even he says this doesn’t fit Granville’s observations, that it should be related to a person, that in a number of instances it still shows not identity between two things, but an extremely tight close relationship between two things.
The sign of His coming isn’t equal to the end of the age—those are not interchangeable terms—but they are so closely connected that one is inseparable from the other: Jesus’ coming is what brings the end of the age.
So that is not the Granville Sharp Rule. I know a lot of you go, “ugh, it is grammar, and I’ve lost it” but that’s okay. Some of you understand that and that’s important.
That would indicate that that there is one question, “When will these things be?” and that would be what He announced about the destruction of the temple. That answer is what’s recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
The second question has two closely connected parts to it, and that is, “What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?”
Now what’s interesting here is a couple of things. First of all, we need to observe that He’s talking about “the sign”. It’s a singular; it’s not a plural. This is not “the signs of the times”.
It always irritates me: it’s like somebody’s fingernails on a chalkboard when I hear them put s’s on the end of certain things in the Scripture: like it’s of the Book of Revelation. In the first verse of Revelation, it says “the Revelation (singular) of Jesus Christ.” It is not “the revelations of Jesus Christ.” But you often hear people say that, and that’s incorrect.
You often also hear people say, “What are the signs of the times?” or, “this is part of the signs of the times”, and they make it a plural. It’s not. It is one, and it’s important to understand that because of the context. So “the sign” here that they’re asking about is, “What’s the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?”
Another thing we need to pay attention to is the meaning of “Your coming”—we will address that when we get to the end—that is the coming of Christ. It’s the Greek word PAROUSIA: it’s more than just the coming, it is the presence of Christ.
It’s not just His arrival, and we think often of the Second Coming, but it’s His presence on the earth. So the term there really indicates something distinctive, and we have to take this back and understand it a little bit in relation to what Matthew is teaching.
Everybody here ought to have the ability go through this in their sleep:
What is the theme?
What’s the main idea?
What is Matthew talking about in the Gospel of Matthew?
He’s talking about the announcement, the presence, and the coming of the kingdom.
Everything He says in the gospel has to be interpreted in light of the fact that He’s talking about the kingdom. He is not talking about dogs or cats, He’s not talking about good food or good movies, He’s not talking about how to be happily married, He’s not talking about your spiritual life, He is not talking about the church. The church isn’t even in view here.
He uses the word “church” twice; only once, I think, is technical for the church. He uses the word EKKLESIA another time, but I think there it just has a general meaning of “an assembly:” that when somebody offends you, you are supposed to go to them one-on-one and talk to them about it, reconcile.
If that doesn’t work, you go with a witness. If that doesn’t work, then eventually you would go and take it—not to the church, the church wasn’t in existence then.
He’s talking to the disciples about how you handle this in a particular situation, and it really involves somebody who’s opposing them in the Gospel, but that’s another issue.
When He talked to Peter, He said, “On this rock I will build My church,” that’s a future tense. That is a technical use, but He says nothing about what it is. They probably were looking at each other and going, “I’m not sure what He was talking about.” He never, ever gives anything about the church.
Matthew, therefore, is talking about what Israel should expect in terms of God’s prophetic promises to Israel and the coming of the Messianic promise. So that is critical: the coming of the Messianic Kingdom.
In their view as we will see, they viewed that they were living in the present age and that would end when the Messiah came, and then the Messianic Kingdom would come.
When we look at this, and we have the issue of “the sign of your coming,” that is going to be clarified in the context. I’m finding more and more as I study the Bible that most errors develop out of a failure to be consistent in understanding the context.
The word “sign” is used another time in Matthew 24. You would think that if it’s used at the beginning, and then it’s used again a little later on, that people would think that they connect. They do connect. The question is, “What’s the sign of Your coming?”
In Matthew 24:30 —26 verses later—Jesus says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven.”
Don’t you think that maybe the sign of the Son of Man in heaven is the answer to the question? Everything else is just setting the stage. We live in a world today when people want an immediate answer. They usually don’t like my style of teaching because I don’t give immediate answers.
I’ve been informed by the Bible and by Paul. If you want an answer to the question here, you’ve got to go back and start with some of the preceding information, so you can properly understand both your question and the answer.
Matthew 24:30 says, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
It fits my thesis that “the coming of the Son of Man” is His presence on the earth, and the sign that immediately precedes it is His coming in the clouds of heaven to the earth.
It makes sense that this preconceived notion that the apostles or disciples have at this time is very, very clear. They’re thinking in terms of the kingdom—it’s all about the kingdom.
What’s the last question they asked Jesus before He ascends? In Acts 1:6, “Is it now that You’re going to establish Your kingdom for Israel?” See everything here has to be understood. They haven’t been told anything about the church.
Remember, as I said earlier, this is on probably Tuesday or Wednesday, and it’s the last thing that Jesus says to Israel. He’s not going to talk to them about Church Age doctrine until they’re in the Upper Room Discourse the night before He goes to the cross: this is all about Israel.
Luke 21:20-24 answers the first question—it’s recorded for us. Matthew doesn’t answer it. One objection that has been raised is why doesn’t Matthew answer, why does He record Jesus as if He just ignores it.
Well, He doesn’t just ignore it, obviously, in the set of answers because He answers it in Luke, and Luke gives us the answer. But the reason Matthew doesn’t record that is that doesn’t fit Matthew’s purpose for his Gospel.
Matthew’s writing about the kingdom. He’s not writing about that judgment in AD 70. He’s writing about what is going to happen before the kingdom comes, so you know that the kingdom’s presence is at the door—that’s important.
These writers of Scripture write very economically, and they write in terms of their purpose, and they don’t write to tell us everything there is to know about the subject. We often think the Bible ought to tell us all that we want to know, and it’s going to tell us what we need to know.
- Jesus is talking to them as Jews. They are believers, and He is talking to them about Jewish prophecy and its fulfillment in relationship to the kingdom.
- The Olivet Discourse is the last thing Jesus said to the Jews about Israel.
- Nothing in the Olivet Discourse is about Church Age believers or has direct application to Church Age believers.
That’s fundamental to properly understand this because as we will see, a lot of people want to see something in here related to the Church Age. While that may not necessarily be so bad in and of itself, it has a lot of implications for other teaching that really gets off-center.
The fourth question is just what you need to know in order to have a little understanding of some vocabulary that I’m going to use on occasion as we go through some of this.
- Is this going to be fulfilled sometime in the future? Is it all going to be fulfilled at some time in the future? Was it fulfilled in the past, at some time in the past? Was all of it fulfilled in the past or is it in process of being fulfilled in the present?
Now that’s really important because if you are of an amillennial persuasion, which means you don’t believe in a literal future thousand-year rule or reign of Christ on the earth, then you probably think that most of this was fulfilled in the past.
If you are a post-millennialist, you believe that Jesus is going to come back at the end of the millennium; that the church through the Holy Spirit is going to eventually make this world better and better and better until the kingdom is brought about.
Then Jesus comes at the end of the millennial kingdom. Thus it’s called post-millennialism; if you believe that then you too believe that most of this was fulfilled in the past.
A lot of scholars through most of church history think that it is being fulfilled in the present, so at any given time, you will find people say, “Ah! Look at this world event! This fulfills this particular prophecy.”
They’re trying to fit current events into the prophetic timetable. That’s called historicism—I’ll tell you a bit more about that just a minute—historicism is the idea that this is fulfilled throughout history.
Part of the problem—the results of historicism—was that, for example, in the early 1800s, a lot of sects came along based on the idea that they could predict the day that Jesus would come.
They would go sit on a mountaintop somewhere with all of their followers and put on white robes—as if God needed help—and wait for Jesus to come. They would sell all their possessions, they would get rid of everything: “Jesus is coming back!” then He didn’t come back: they would date-set.
This had created such problem in a lot of American evangelicalism in the late 19th century, that when dispensational theology said, “No, you can’t date set. Jesus is coming back. It’s imminent. You don’t know when it’s going to be.
Nobody can predict the day, nobody knows when it’s going to happen. It’s imminent.” People welcomed that because they were tired of all these people talking about Jesus is coming back tomorrow, so you better get ready.
Those are the three views. They have technical terms. Just remember, past, present, future.
The past: those who believe that all of this prophecy, all of Matthew 24 and most of Revelation 4-19, has already been fulfilled. Jesus has already returned. Did you know that? He came in the clouds in AD 70.
The clouds are the clouds of judgment in their view, and when God brought judgment on the temple, God came in judgment. So the Second Coming’s already happened. Some of these people, the strict preterists, believe that we’re in the kingdom.
You know, I’m kind of like Tommy Ice, if I’m in the kingdom, I must be in the kingdom ghetto because this doesn’t seem like the kingdom to me.
Historicism is the idea that most prophecy, including all of Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-19 is being fulfilled. Thus, I can look out there and I can see wars or earthquakes or famines, and I can say, “Ah! Jesus’ coming is getting closer, it’s a sign! I can pinpoint it, and it’s getting closer, and we can pinpoint the date.”
Now we don’t believe that. We believe the third view that’s called futurism. Futurism is that most prophecy, including all of Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-19 will be fulfilled in the future. That’s called futurism, and we hold to dispensational futurism.
The problem is that in the development of the understanding of dispensationalists, early dispensationalists, even up to the late 20th century, were coming out of a theological context, of historicism.
Now picture somebody crawling out of a mud pit, and they’ve got on a complete set of waders, and as they come out of that mud pit, what is attached to their waders? Mud. Theologically, that illustrates that if you’re coming out of a context where everything you’re reading and everything that is still in print and all the commentaries you are exposed to are historicists, and even though you are a futurist because you’re coming out of that mud pit of historicism, you still have bits and pieces of that mud attached to your thinking.
That’s true for a number of futurists. They see elements of today in Matthew 24. I believe that is inconsistent; that is not true, consistent futurism, and all of you have been exposed to people like this. Who knew? So we will come to understand this a little more.
Here’s a chart for it. Here’s our timeline:
Jesus died in AD 33
Judgment came in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed.
We’re in the Church Age that ends at an unknown time in the future with the Rapture of the church.
That will be followed by a seven year period known as Daniel’s 70th week, known as the Tribulation. It is divided into two periods of time, 3½ years each.
That ends with the Second Coming of Christ when He inaugurates His Millennial Kingdom.
That’s the timeline.
In historicism, the blue line indicates that all through this time period, prophecy is being fulfilled. It’s just ongoing. There’s always times when you can look out there on some historical event: you can see Napoleon’s invasion of the Middle East, you can look at World War I or World War II, and you can say that’s a sign of the times.
You often hear people—we’ll talk about this next week—like Hal Lindsey and John Hagee, and many, many others who say, “Ah! There has been an increase of earthquakes in the 20th century. That means Jesus is coming back!” Is that true?
We will find out next week, but this is very popular. It is an urban myth, but it’s a very popular urban myth. In fact, even when the data is given to these people who espouse it, they go, “Well, that can’t be true because even those who did that data are uniformitarians and they’re influenced by Evolution, so you can’t accept their data.”
Hmm, the authority on this is a guy named Steve Austin, and he’s no evolutionist or uniformitarian, and He has written extensively on this topic.
Futurism: the white indicates a period when there’s no prophecy being fulfilled whatsoever, and it goes from the time of Jesus, outside of the judgment, but the time of Jesus all the way to the Rapture. And after the Rapture, then you start getting the fulfillment of Matthew 24 and of Revelation 4-19.
Preterism sees all the fulfillment of Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-19 happening between the cross and AD 70. Then there is no prophecy being fulfilled, now just a wee little bit around Revelation 20 that is being fulfilled in the future. Of course, because they are amillennial or postmillennial, there’s no literal thousand year rule or kingdom, something like that.
That’s the fourth question. Just to give you terminology, historicism and futurism are the main things you need to understand.
- What did the disciples know? I mean from their understanding of the Old Testament, what should they have been expected to know?
The first thing they would have been expected to know is that they were living in the times of the Gentiles. Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 describe a sequence described prophetically: a sequence of kingdoms that would come, that would dominate Jerusalem and dominate Israel.
Because the church was a mystery—that is something unrevealed in the Old Testament—it skips over, it’s silent about the church. We see a gap, but it wouldn’t have been clear to them at all.
The first kingdom was Babylon, that’s represented by the gold head in the statue.
Followed by the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians, represented by the silver chest and the two arms, the two arms representing the two kingdoms came together, the Medes and the Persians.
That is followed by the waist area of brass, which represents the kingdom of Greece.
Then the iron legs, which represents the kingdom of Rome, and different people use different dates for the fall of Rome. I’m using the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is the last dying gasp of the Roman Empire.
Then it’s revived as iron and clay in the feet. The ten toes represent 10 nations or entities that will come together in this end-time empire.
That’s one element. They would understand they’re living in the times of the Gentiles until the Messiah comes.
In Daniel 9, we have a detailed prophecy called Daniel’s 70 Weeks, covering a period of actually 490 years. It ends at the end of the 483rd year, and then there’s clearly a gap. At the end of the 483rd year, the Messiah is cut off, and then the “prince of the people who is to come” destroys the temple. That was fulfilled in AD 70.
Sometime after that—it’s an indefinite time—we have the 70th week or a seven-year period, and this represents the Tribulation period.
It is for Israel because the beginning of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24, God says to Daniel, “These 490 years are for you and your people and your city.” Daniel is Jewish, so it’s about him and the Jewish people, and it’s about Jerusalem. It’s all about Israel, it’s not about the church.
Something has to happen to remove the church from the earth before God shifts His focus back to His chosen people. I think that’s one of the strong arguments for a pre-Tribulation Rapture: the church will not be here.
Messiah returns at the end of that seven-year period. That period, as I indicate here, is split into two, 3½-year periods, and what happens in the middle is represented there. It is the desecration of the temple, when “the prince who is to come” will put up an idol to be worshipped. He ends the daily sacrifices, and he’s going to be worshiped as God. This is called the Abomination of Desolation.
Jesus refers to this in Matthew 24:15, “Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel…” When Jesus says that to them, they’re going, “Okay, I’ve got to fit this chronology of Matthew 24:1-14 into the framework of that seven year period.
Now Jesus, in verse 15 is clearly talking about the Abomination of Desolation, and that’s in the midpoint. That’s very crucial for understanding this.
One of the issues is, to what do Matthew 24:1-14 refer? Do they refer to any part of the present Church Age—and there are a number of dispensational futurists who have believed that—or is that totally in the future as well?
Is that part of the first half with the second half beginning in verse 15? There are those who take that view.
I think there’s a weakness there. Generally, I believe that all of this Matthew 24:4-28 is talking about the Tribulation Period. But we have to understand its breakdown, and it’s like this:
1. The first 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week are referred to in Matthew 24:8 as the beginning of sorrows.
What happens from Matthew 24:4-8 is not trends in the present Church Age, but that this refers to future events in the first half of the Tribulation that’s the beginning of the labor pains.
The labor pains do not last throughout the whole Church Age. That would be like saying labor pains last throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. It doesn’t fit the analogy. The labor pains just come at the end.
2. The second 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week are then described in Matthew 24: 9-14 in a summary fashion, then something more specific is described in verses 15 and following.
What’s important is to look at the word “Then,” as you see it. It always indicates, in this chapter, what happens next. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you.”
The first half of the Tribulation—the period of the first 3½ years—Israel is under a peace treaty with the antichrist, and he has guaranteed that they will have peace. That’s not a guarantee of worldwide peace.
I think this is the problem; Dr. Walvoord, Dr. Chafer, Pastor Thieme, Hal Lindsey, yada, yada, yada, all made that mistake. They assumed that the peace treaty meant the first half of the Tribulation was a period of the Cold War and world peace. It doesn’t fit. That dog doesn’t hunt. They interpreted the first 14 verses as being trends of the Church Age.
If you’ve been reading and studying Matthew at all, you have to understand nothing here is about the church. It’s all about Israel.
Matthew 24:4-8 talks about the beginning of sorrows: those are the increased signs. We’re going to talk about this more next time: the increased sign.
We’ve been having famines and wars and pestilences and diseases since when? Since the fall of Adam. How were the wars and the earthquakes and the famines and pestilences and everything today any different from what was going on in Jesus’ time or in 500 BC or in a 1000 BC? They’re not.
How can they be signs? A sign is something that is significantly distinct. What this is talking about when we look at Revelation is worldwide cataclysmic events. Not an earthquake that’s 7.2 on the Richter scale, but an earthquake that is 15 on the Richter scale and rocks everything in the world. THAT’S a sign! That’s what’s going on here.
In Matthew 24:9 and following, He’s talking to the disciples as Jews: “Therefore you will be given over to tribulation and they will kill you and be hated by all nations for my namesake.”
That can’t be in the first half of the Tribulation because Jews are under the protection of this covenant. This is what happens in the second half, “THEN they will deliver you to tribulation.”
This is what Daniel 12:1 talks about, “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble”—that’s the Tribulation—“such as never was since there was a nation.”
It is a one-of-a-kind situation—never like this. World War II is going to look like a backyard fight between a couple of bullies.
This is going to be a true worldwide conflagration—“such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time and at that time your people shall be delivered.” That’s the end of that period: Israel is delivered.
It’s spoken of in Zechariah 14. I talked about this some last time, “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming”—this whole period is called ‘the Day of the Lord.’ It’s a time of judgment, the seven-year-period—“and your spoil will be divided in your midst.”
“For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the cities are going to captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”
That’s going to happen in the Tribulation Period. It doesn’t end with the total destruction of Jerusalem, though. That’s what happened in 586 BC and in AD 70.
Zechariah 14:3, “Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.”
“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half to the south.”
Here is an aerial that was taken at the beginning of the 20th century. This first red box here is over the wall around the Temple Mount precinct, and here is the abomination of the Dome of the Rock. Over here, this darker area between the two boxes is the Kidron Valley. This area, both here and here, represent the Mount of Olives.
There’s a fault that runs through the Mount of Olives, and this is where Jesus is talking to His disciples. They’re thinking about the end times. As He’s telling them, they’re thinking “We’re sitting right here on the Mount of Olives.”
They’re thinking about Zechariah 14: “This is where this is going to split. Right here where we are.” They’re on the spot thinking specifically about the Scripture and that this will be when the mountain splits, then they’ll flee.
Slides 31, 32
Zechariah 14:5-8 says that this is a time when God will rescue His people, and then in that day waters will flow out of Jerusalem: half toward the eastern sea—the Mediterranean—and half towards the western sea. So the “Med” and the Dead will get fresh water from the Mount of Olives.
That answers the fifth question.
- “When they ask for sign or signs, is that important?”
I think it is. This a very brief question and answer, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven.” Jesus is answering them.
The sign is not the earthquakes, it’s not the wars, and it’s not the famines. Don’t get sucked into reading the Midnight Globe and the National Enquirer: they give you all these reports that Jesus is coming back because of the some big earthquake that happened.
Don’t listen to Hal Lindsey. Dave Hunt used to do this, and others. That was historicism that leaked into their system. If these are signs that are happening in the Church Age, then that’s what would be said.
But it doesn’t say anything in the text about the frequency of earthquakes, that they’re going to get more and more frequent and more and more difficult. It just said that you’re going to see earthquakes. All these things are described in Revelation.
The sign is His appearance in the heavens. That’s what that context tells us, not all of these ancillary events that are happening during the Tribulation. The sign is His appearance in the heavens.
- The last question, the important question of distinguishing between His coming, His PAROUSIA—His presence on the earth—and the Rapture.
What are the disciples really concerned about here? It is what they asked in Acts 1:6: “Is it now that You are going to establish Your kingdom for Israel?” They’re still thinking in terms of that kingdom.
They’re not thinking about Church Age doctrine. They haven’t heard John 12-17 yet. They don’t know anything about Romans or 1 Thessalonians, or 2 Thessalonians, or Revelation. All they know is what’s in the Old Testament.
I’ve got 17 points of distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming. Some is new, some of it is the same. I’ve reworded some points, restructured the order, but we will just go through it fairly quickly.
I’m not concerned that you should write everything down, but I am concerned that you recognize and are overwhelmed by the data, that these are not the same thing.
1. The Rapture is not predicted in the Old Testament. It is called “a mystery” in 1 Corinthians 15:51, which means that it’s something that has not yet been revealed, is never mentioned.
Why? The church is never mentioned in the Old Testament, but His coming is predicted often in the Old Testament, and it is also mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Rapture is a mystery, Second Coming is not.
2. No prophecies or signs must be fulfilled before the Rapture. It is called the “sign-less event.” 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
The Second Coming, on the other hand, follows many definite signs including the seven year Tribulation, and many of these events are described in Matthew 24:4 to 31.
3. The Rapture is imminent, which means at any moment. That means nothing has to happen before it happens. It could happen in the next five minutes. It could happen in the next five days or the next five years. We have to constantly be ready.
The Second Coming, on the other hand, is not imminent. It takes place at the end of the Tribulation. Matthew 24:29–31.
4. The Rapture is heralded by a shout: The voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “Then the dead in Christ rise first, and we who alive and remain are caught up together with them in the clouds.”
At the Second Coming multitudes of saints and angels: the hosts of God, the armies of God, Church Age believers and angels, return with Christ. Matthew 25:31 and Revelation 19:14.
5. The Rapture occurs before the day of wrath, and the Second Coming concludes the day of wrath. That’s an important distinction. Rapture is before the day of wrath, Second Coming concludes the day of wrath.
6. At the Rapture, Christ comes in the air. He doesn’t come to the earth. His feet do not touch down on the Mount of Olives. In the Second Coming, He comes to the earth. He leads the armies of Israel against the antichrist, where He conquers Jerusalem, and He marches up on the Mount of Olives, thus fulfilling what’s in Zechariah 14.
7. At the Rapture Jesus Christ comes for His own. He comes for the church. He comes for His own. He comes for His bride, but we return with Him at the Second Coming. He comes with His own. In the Rapture He comes for His own, at the Second Coming He comes with His own.
8. The Rapture is for believers only; it doesn’t affect anybody else. Believers are caught up to be with Him in the clouds. But the Second Coming affects everybody because He ends the war, He shuts down human history, you have judgments, and He establishes His kingdom.
9. At the Rapture we have the translation of all believers. They instantly receive their resurrection bodies as they are resurrected or raptured to be caught up with Him in the clouds, but at the Second Coming, there’s no translation. Those who are believers, who survived the Tribulation, don’t get new mortal bodies at that time. They will continue in their mortal bodies. This is what’s developed in the next point …
10. Translated saints then go back to heaven. Jesus said, “I will prepare a place for you, and where I go, that you may be with Me also.” That’s in heaven, not on the earth. So we are taken to heaven, John 14:2-3.
In the Second Coming translated saints return to the earth, Matthew 25:34. We’ve already received our resurrection bodies, we come back with Him to the earth.
11. At the Rapture Christians receive a glorified body, 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, but at the Second Coming, believing survivors of the Tribulation remain in their mortal bodies to enter into the earthly kingdom, the Messianic kingdom, Isaiah 65:20 and Matthew 25:31-34.
12. At the Rapture there will be no divine judgments on the earth. It’s not specifically associated with judgments. Those come in the Tribulation. But at the Second Coming, it concludes the judgments that have been carried out in Revelation 6-19 in order to be able to establish a righteous kingdom.
So no divine judgments associated with the Rapture, but they are concluded by the Second Coming.
13. Church Age believers will then be evaluated at the Judgment Seat of Christ, following the Rapture, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. But what follows the Second Coming is that the nations, the Gentiles, are judged according to Joel 3:2 and following and Matthew 25:32. The nations are judged. So those are two distinct events again.
14. At the Rapture, Christ claims the church for His bride, Revelation 19:7-9, and then at the Second Coming, He returns with His bride to establish His kingdom.
15. There’s no reference to Satan at all at the Rapture, anything related to Satan subsequent to the Rapture, it is not related to Satan or to judgments, as we saw earlier. But when Jesus returns, He will bind Satan for 1,000 years, according to Revelation 20:1-3.
16. At the Rapture only His own will see Him, but at the Second Coming, every eye will behold Him. They will look upon Him who they pierced. Every eye will see Him.
17. After the Rapture, the Tribulation begins. It doesn’t begin with the Rapture.
There are people He teach that, and that leads to some distorted understandings of the second half of Matthew 24. But Daniel 9 makes it clear that what begins the Tribulation is the peace treaty that the antichrist signs with Israel.
That may come two days, three days, two years, five years after the Rapture, just as the Cross occurred 50 days before the beginning of the Church Age. Christ was the end of the Law in April of AD 33, but it wasn’t until towards the end of May that you had the beginning of the church. It’s a transition period. And so you have a transition period between the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, we don’t know how long that will be.
When the Second Coming occurs, there is also a transition period, then the kingdom will be established. So that’s the difference. When we look at these things, we understand that there are these various distinctions.
What is in their mind is that the kingdom is going to come: that’s the background. This is about Israel, it’s about Jewish believers being prepared for what will come and for the apostles being able to proclaim the truth. It’s not related to the church.
We will come back next time and probably get through the first 14 verses because we laid a groundwork for this.
The way to avoid the Tribulation is very simple, and that’s to trust in Christ as your Savior. That way if the Rapture occurs today, tomorrow, or in our lifetimes, we know that we will be with Him in heaven instantly, and we will not go through the Tribulation, Daniel 70th week.
We will go through tribulation. There are Christians who are going through some of the most horrendous tribulation that we can imagine in history right now in Syria and in areas of Iraq and areas of Turkey. They are being tortured and murdered and raped for their faith.
So the Rapture is not an “escape clause” from going through adversity or suffering for Christ in this life, but it does tell us that the church is not destined for the Tribulation. That has a totally distinct purpose.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things today and reflect upon Your Word, to begin to put together the important details that You’ve revealed in the Old Testament and the Olivet Discourse, and then finally pulling things together in the Revelation.
Father, we’re thankful that we have You, Your Word, to tell us and give us certain answers about the future, that we live today in light of that reality, and that this gives us a confidence and hope that when we look around the world and we see things that some are trying to say are signs of the times, we can be confident that they are not, that nothing is necessary to take place before the Rapture. It is imminent.
But that we do know—we see certain trends that seem to indicate that Your coming at the end of the Tribulation is near. Therefore, it seems to us that if that may be near, that the Rapture may be near as well, and we need to be prepared, we need to be ready.
We pray that if there’s anyone listening, who’s never trusted Christ as Savior that they would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, who died on the cross for our sins and paid the penalty, and that by believing in Him, we have eternal life, and that this is freely available to us at no cost.
And we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”