The Son of God Said it Perfectly: Matthew 24
Let me share an outline of Matthew 24 to aid you in studying this grand chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel:
Chapter 24: 1-51
* Verses 1-3 – The Introduction
* Verses 4-14 – The Signs of the End
* Verses 15-26 – The Great Tribulation
* Verses 27-34 – The Return of Christ to the Earth Where He Will Establish His 1,000 Year Reign
* Verses 35-36 – Transition to Save Man; Escape From the Darkness Coming on the Earth
* Verses 37-42 – The Great Escape or The Rapture
* Verses 43-51 – The Rewards of the Rapture Ready to Meet Him and the Wicked Living Carelessly
The Son of Man never spoke with more authority or with greater prophetic beauty than as recorded in St. Matthew’s chapter 24. He clearly outlined a series of end time events and the depth of the impact that would occur. His disciples had asked Him a three-part question and He answered those questions giving vivid details. In the process He gave complete authentication to the Book of Daniel in the First Testament and placed the seventh week of Daniel dramatically at the end of the church dispensation. This chapter in the Bible is clearly one that every saint of God should understand and quote often. It is potent truth. Do not expect a chronological order as you read this chapter because it was not given as one would write a book.
The Book of Revelation was given to John in a book form and he was told to write it as such. “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” (Revelation 1:19) He was even told the order in which to write it because our Lord was giving him a chronological picture. The Book of Revelation is the summing up of all the different eschatological (future) teachings in the Holy Bible.
The book of Matthew was an oral teaching that Matthew wrote down some years after it was spoken. The Lord Jesus answered three questions and literally discussed the signs that would occur leading up to the end. He also talked about the great Seven Year Tribulation, His Second Coming to earth, and the gathering of Israel at that time. After painting a rather bleak picture, He then began to talk about the mystery of the Rapture and the faithful servants that would be blessed to escape the dark hellish Tribulation.
One of the reasons that the book of Matthew is often grossly misinterpreted is the order in which it was given. The Lord was having a casual conversation with His disciples. He was the Master Teacher and after giving them a picture of things which were going to occur, He then spoke personally about their hope and the promise to His saints that they were not to be judged with the wicked. That is the clear reason why the idea of the Rapture was discussed after He told them of the Tribulation. Surely any minister that preaches a sermon about future things will end by telling the people how to make sure they escape.
Let’s put this great chapter in a kind of chronological order to help all of us understand. Jesus ends this great lesson to His disciples by giving them a warning mixed with assurance of escape. He stated, “But of that day and hour (Notice how clearly He set this portion of the lesson apart from the teachings He had already given.) knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:36-44)
The ending verse in this section settles forever that the hope of the saints is to be those that escape when He comes. Verse 42 says, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42), while verse 44 warns, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44) I have heard the erroneous idea that this is not the Rapture at all, but the wicked that are removed and the saints are left. Why did He say then, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42) Surely, no one believed the Lord is coming to get the wicked to carry away with Himself and the saints to be left here for the judgment to come.
Comparing Noah’s day with the day of the Rapture is wonderful support for the subject He was teaching. The spirit of Noah’s day was sinful and careless living; and Jesus stated the same would be true of this promised occasion. This line of thinking fits no other event that relates to the end of the world. The wickedness that characterizes the Tribulation Period is far greater and described with totally different language. They cannot be seen as dealing with the same period.
The language of “two” people being in a given place with one taken and one left would have no significance if it was not speaking about the Rapture of the righteous. It certainly would have no bearing on the kind of alert and careful living He was seeking to promote among His disciples. To use this kind of thought outside the context of the Lord’s coming to get His own bride would sound ridiculous. Twisting the Lord’s lesson of truth about the end is carelessly treated when men make unclear arguments out of such a simple, straightforward statement. Jesus meant exactly what He said.
The last seven verses of this chapter follow perfectly the above understanding. Once He establishes this great warning of the sudden Rapture to get the overcoming saints, He speaks clearly about them as faithful wise servants. Look at His words, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:45-51)
It is foolish to try and connect these words to any other idea but the Rapture. Notice, “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” Our modern theology has so watered down the requirements for the Rapture that it is no wonder that they want to deny the Rapture in this context of verses. Anything with a religious label is being treated as Rapture ready material. These verses destroy such nonsense. The saint of God that meets the Lord in the air, the one taken in the presence of one left, is holy language warning this untoward generation to return to the cross and the crucifixion of the flesh. If we do not, we shall join the “left” crowd on that awesome day.
The Signs Of The End
Now, if we clearly understand the last portion of this chapter (verses 36-51) as a kind of separated and closing warning, then the first part of this great text can be clearly placed in focus. The master Teacher had told of dark things, but His deep concern was His disciples and all future saints. We must always understand the sinister acts of men and Satan will be followed by the victory of His kingdom and His chosen ones. That is exactly how He ended this chapter.
As He begins the lesson following the disciple’s question, He first dealt with the signs of impending wickedness. Read carefully His words, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:4-14)
Any simple interpretation and historical insight will confirm every one of these signs from that day to this. The significant things are the escalating of each of them. Whether it is wars and rumors of wars or nations against nations, they have increased in both frequency and scale of destruction. Since the 20th Century began, each war has brought a new level of destruction and terror. At present there are enough “germ warfare materials” in storage to wipe off every human being from planet earth. When you multiply that by “nuclear armaments” and other modern technologies, our world has become a powder keg.
A simple look at what the nation of Russia and her close allies have ready for employment is scary beyond description. Add to that modern China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and a few other large or third world nations and our future looks bleak. Jesus was giving us a picture to watch as time progressed toward the countdown hour.
Now, move to the idea of false teachers and prophets deceiving men. Jesus clearly stated, “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:5) This statement is quite revealing. He is clearly saying that false prophets will come in His name saying that He is Christ, but will be deceiving the people at the same time. The Catholic Church has been doing this since the third century, but never has the Protestant world been so totally inundated with this kind of deception. The day has come that the evangelical world is almost as deceiving and apostate as the Harlot of Rome.
Every verse in this section is a picture of escalating evidence. Famines and earthquakes are increasing with fury. Pestilences or infectious diseases are encircling the globe. The horror stories about AIDS are the modern black plague. “Road Rage” alone describes the following verse, “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” (Matthew 24:10) This doesn’t even count the rest of the story.
Jesus certainly gives a different picture of this closing hour than most ministers are determined to preach. Almost every minister I research is talking about a great revival before the Lord comes. Good men that are clearly preaching the gospel have accepted some kind of dream of a latter rain outpouring and a worldwide harvest. The Lord gives a different sense when He said, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:11-13)
I am committed to doing everything possible for the harvest, but it will be “showers of blessings” in the midst of “torrential religious deception.” It will not be what most are prophesying.
One sure promise concludes this list of signs. “The gospel will never be silenced.” Right down until the end our Lord will have a remnant that preaches and teaches truth in the midst of deadly enemies and angry truth haters. He promised that no man could take away the truth from the World. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14)
Jesus said it again to the Rapture ready church of Philadelphia. “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8)
The Unparalleled “Seven Years”
The signs that we have just read are “God-given evidences” that the world is progressing toward utter moral and spiritual bankruptcy. The signs are sure proof that God must judge the world and redeem the cosmos before His Second Coming to establish His kingdom. In the Rapture He comes only as far down as the midair and we are caught up to meet Him; but when the Tribulation Period is complete, the world will be ready to receive Him in all His holiness and splendor.
As Jesus spoke of this period of worldwide tribulation, He begins His explanation in the middle of the seven years. The “Abomination of Desolation” is a Daniel term that sets a “seven year period” as the final judgment of a wicked world. Jesus then describes this period as “unparalleled” in all of human history. Please read these words of our Lord carefully. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” (Matthew 24:15-26)
Jesus was Jewish and spoke in Jewish terminology. You see that in verse 20. “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.” (Matthew 24:20). It is clear that this period is shattering to the entire world. Notice again these words. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21-22)
This is not persecution that all of us endure and which will continue to escalate. This is tribulation or the “Act of God’s Judgment.” Please understand the difference between “persecution” and “tribulation.” “Persecution” is the lot of every saint of God. “Tribulation” is God’s divine redemption of the world system and the cleansing of the very earth, atmosphere, and human domain. Holiness will become the character of the culture over which the Lord Jesus Himself shall reign with His saints.
One of the most dangerous things about this period of judgment is the constant presence of an Antichrist person claiming to be the real Son of God. This is the very essence of what this period will represent. The devil will sit in the churches claiming to be God and will be worshipped as the same. No wonder Jesus said, “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.” (Matthew 24:23-26)
The most sinister thing about the period just before the Rapture and during the Seven Years is the presence of deception so false and so real that it is almost impossible to discern. The Unholy Trinity, as seen in Revelation 12 and 13, will accomplish their greatest hours of masquerade.
Suddenly The King Returns In His Glory
While this masquerade of Satan, his Antichrist, and anti-spirit are at their zenith of power and deception, the wrath of God will reach its fullness. Suddenly, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:27) This is not His Rapture of the saints, but His return in the glory of His coming kingdom. Read the following as Jesus now describes His return to establish His kingdom. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24:29-35) What a picture!
This part of the discussion between Jesus and His disciples was probably the centerpiece of this conversation. They had believed that Jesus came to set up His kingdom and this idea was still misunderstood even after His resurrection. In these words they hear the kind of assurance from Him that their questions were really all about. These disciples wanted to know about the “end” and “His Coming” to reign on this earth. Everything else in this chapter is incidental to the establishing of His kingdom on this earth, which would fulfill the Hope of Israel.
Imagine the following intriguing words of this piece of the conversation and the lesson that Jesus taught them. “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31) That statement is totally for the Jewish. When He defeats the Antichrist army and secures the peace of Jerusalem, He will send His angels to gather the Jews still dispersed around the world and they will be redeemed as a nation. Many people try to make this chapter either all for the Jewish or all for the Gentile. It is neither, but it is all-inclusive for the Jews and Gentiles.
At this point the Jewish nation will be saved and reign in the Promise Land as the Lord promised to Abraham and David. From Jerusalem they will bless the world and share in leading the world to the Glory of God intended in the beginning.
The Bride of Christ from His church will rule the world (excluding Jerusalem and the Land of Promise) and reign as kings and priests. The entire cosmos will have the character of His holiness and the cultures of each nation will be redeemed.
This chapter is all about the end and His coming to reign in His kingdom. Jesus did not intend to give it as He did the Book of Revelation. It was intended to be encouraging to His disciples and to assure them that His death was not the end. He would return to reign with them on this earth. It is no wonder that Matthew 24 has always been a centerpiece in any discussion about eschatology. It is controversial because different theological systems have different ideas to try to prove. When all the arguments are silent and we read this great discussion between Jesus and His disciples at face value and in context with the rest of the Gospels, it is extremely clear and easy to understand.
Remember these simple things:
• The Rapture stands alone in Scripture. Nothing must occur to pre-date the catching away of His saints. He talks about the Rapture at the end of the chapter because of these very facts and as a point of hope in the midst of everything that will soon happen. There is no reason to be gloomy, because at the appointed time the Lord of the church will call for His chosen.
• The signs of the end are not connected to the Rapture because no sign is necessary for Him to come. The signs pre-date the Tribulation and His Second Coming to reign on earth, not to Rapture His saints.
• The glorious Hope of Israel and her future glory is His coming to reign in Jerusalem. That was the central idea these disciples needed to hear and the center of this time of conversation together.
Matthew 24, and it’s over!
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