By Nathaniel Haney
Often time’s whole passages of Scripture are taught and preached so totally a certain way until they are deeply entrenched as the gospel truth in some people’s minds. So often a passage of Scripture has been used to teach a particular doctrine when, in actuality, it means something totally different than what has become accepted in order to prove a certain teaching. Such misuse of Scripture is one reason the Rapture has been confused in the minds of many as to when it will happen.
One particular passage that is often quoted as referring to the Rapture is Matthew 24. This passage is clearly a description of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and is to be applied to the Jews, not the church. Yet so often excerpts are extracted out of it to describe the Rapture of the saints, but taking another look will help us rightly divide the Word of Truth to perceive solid doctrines in the areas of prophecy. Looking at the beginning of Matthew 24 is the key to understanding what Jesus is talking about.
Matthew 24:1-4 1 �And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said auto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.”
First, notice the disciples came to show Jesus their beautiful temple that King Herrod had built. The temple had long been the pivotal point the nation of Israel had revolved around and was the central place of Jewish pilgrimages to offer sacrifices for sins. It was their national symbol of pride and nationalism, but Jesus, overlooking the temple on the temple mount, began referring to the temple’s future (“there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down’). This prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 under General Titus and the Roman army. It was concerning this prophecy that Jesus’ disciples began to ask questions. Their questions are Jewish, not Gentile or church and concern the Messiah and His corning to deliver them from Gentile oppression.
The disciples asked three questions in response to the temple being destroyed:
1 When shall these things be?
2 What shall be the sign of Thy coming?
3 When will the end of the world be?
The word used for world means age. Their question was, when will this present age end? In verse 4 Jesus began His response to them, and the entire passage is Christ Jesus’ answer to His disciples’ questions. At this time they did not understand the rapture of the church, and they were totally focused on the kingdom of heaven when Jesus would sit on the throne of David, and the nation of Israel would rule over the nations of the Gentiles. The following are a few Millennium verses to help us grasp the mind-set of these Jewish disciples and their spirit of nationalism at the time of their questions regarding Jesus’ prophecy against the temple.
Daniel 7:27 “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”
Isaiah 11:12 “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed ofJudah from the four corners of the earth.”
Jeremiah 23:5-8 5 “Beholdd, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name hereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 8 But, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.”
Zephaniah 3:19-20 19 “Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out, and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. 20 At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.”
Isaiah 14:1-2 1 “For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. 2 And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.”
Isaiah 49:22-23 22 “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. 23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their, face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.”
Isaiah 9:7 “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
Christ’s disciples were expecting a theocratic kingdom when the angel announced His coming. The announcement was about an everlasting kingdom.
Luke 1:31-33 “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.” 32 “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.” 33 “And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”
John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Christ, announced the theocratic kingdom.
Matthew 3:2 “And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus Himself had announced His kingdom was at hand. In Matthew 4:12-17 and Luke 4:18-19, He began His ministry proclaiming that the messianic anointing was upon Him to bring the reign of the Davidic covenant of II Samuel 7:4-17 and Psalm 89 into being.
It was Israel’s great hope and is equivalent to the hope of the Rapture and eternal life for the church. The church was not even birthed yet, and the Rapture had not been talked about. This was a revelation that was a mystery to them, which the Apostle Paul was the first to receive the understanding of in I Corinthians 15 where he explains the translation of the church from Earth to heaven. But in Matthew 24 Jesus is dealing with the 70th Week of Daniel, which we covered in the first volume of our series in Eschatology remembering Daniel’s 70 Weeks are the backbone or skeleton that all prophecy is built on. Remember also that after the last week will be Christ’s Second Coming when He returns after the Great Tribulation to this physical Earth. In verse 15, “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.’), Jesus confirms the prophecy of Daniel’s 70th Week.
When studying the whole prophecy in Daniel 9, clearly, without question, the last week of this particular prophecy is God’s program for the Jews, not the church, and their holy city, which is Jewish. Furthermore, the abomination of desolation is a broken covenant between the Antichrist and Israel. That happened 3� years into the Great Tribulation beginning the series of battles that produce the final battle of Armageddon.
Thus we see the answers to the disciples’ questions had to do with the nation Israel and the natural Jew, not the church or of the Rapture. If one takes the time to study Jesus’ teaching here, Matthew is a commentary by Christ on the Book of Revelation chapters 4-19, and is especially graphic in detail in Revelation chapter 6, a passage that is clearly to those who have missed the Rapture and have entered the Great Tribulation.
We turn our attention now to one of the most misunderstood passages about the Second Coming that is used so often to define and teach the Rapture.
Matthew 24:36-46 36 “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 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, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took then all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field� the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord cloth come. 43 But know this, that lithe goodnan 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. 44 Therefore be ye always ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”
When this passage is applied to the Rapture, it is the reason some place the church in the Great Tribulation. Matthew 24:36-44 is often misapplied and quoted as Scripture that refers to the Rapture, but in looking closely at it, it clearly is a depiction of the Second Corning of Christ to Earth.
First notice, as the days of Noah were so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. We need to define who Noah represents. Noah was not a type of the church; Noah was a type of Israel whom God preserved through the Flood. On the other hand, Enoch was a type of the church whom God translated before the Flood.
Secondly, it is referring to the coming of the Son of Man, which is the Second Coming, not the Rapture. Jesus is not coming to Earth at the time of the Rapture; the church is leaving the Earth.
Verse 38 is a depiction of the world’s condition before the Flood and is applicable to the present day condition of Earth before the Great Tribulation happens. From a literal standpoint, it is the condition of the world that has been sent a strong delusion to believe a lie during the Great Tribulation�they are completely unaware of the coming judgment about to happen.
Verse 39�they knew not until the Flood came and took them away. Now notice closely what the Flood does. This reveals they are taken in judgment as the Flood took the wicked away to death. When Christ returns to Earth, He will come with judgment a sword will be in His mouth and He will bring death to the army of the Antichrist.
Verse 41 continues in this same context of one taken and the other left. The one taken is often taught or preached as the raptured saint, the one left as the non-believer, but in the context of Scripture it is just the opposite. The one taken is the one who, during the last three and one half years of Tribulation, is taken in death and judgment by the plagues and vials of God upon the Earth and by the army of the Antichrist. Those left will be the believers, Jews who flee into the wilderness and are nursed and keep alive until Christ returns for them (Isaiah 16:1-5, Hosea 2:14-23).
Just as Noah had an ark to enter into when the flood came and took away the unbelievers, so Israel will also have a secure place. The ark for Israel, as Noah’s Ark was for his family, will be in Edom and Moab. This is the only place that escapes the hand of the Antichrist when he and his army flood the whole Middle East (Daniel 11:36-46). If we remember, Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24 is to the nation of Israel, not the church. Many false doctrines that started from applying biblical passages meant for Israel to the church will be refuted, and the truth will make people free.
The passage in Luke 17:34-37 is a parallel Scripture to Matthew 24:28-42. The portion of Scripture in Luke clearly shows that those taken are taken in judgment. Matthew 24:28, “where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered.” Luke 17:37, “…Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together,” The Greek for carcass is ptoma and means a dead body, so Matthew 24:28 refers to a dead body. Luke 17:37 uses the word body instead of carcass. The Greek for body is soma and means a corpse. So we find a corpse is associated with the passages of Scripture about one being taken and the other left. During the Flood of Noe’s days, those taken by the Flood were the corpses floating around in the water. They had received their punishment for rejecting the call to salvation. Every person had a chance to enter the Ark but chose to stay outside its protection and were ignorant of the coming Flood that “came and took them all away.” By taking these verses of Scripture out of their proper setting, we take Scriptures that apply to the nation of Israel and place them on the church.
These misused Scriptures bring confusion and conflict to the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ’s imminent harpazo, a reference to Christ removing His church any moment, because they are teachings by Christ Jesus about His Second Coming. Rapture passages are clearly distinguished from Second Coming Scriptures and are given for hope and promise to those who are saved. We see Matthew 24 is instruction to Israel on how to be preserved through the Tribulation time.
The church will have this testimony as Enoch had.
Genesis 5:24 “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not: for God took him.”
Hebrews 11:5 “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Biblical Support For The Pre-Tribulation Rapture
After John had been shown the Church Age in the first three chapters of Revelation, his attention was diverted back to heaven.
Revelation 4:1 “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven. and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will spew thee things which must be hereafter ”
Before writing this verse, John had just seen a prophetic vision of the seven churches of Asia Minor. He uses the term after this. He had been looking at 2,000 years of the Church Age. After this is plainly referring to another portion of time in God’s great plan when there will no longer be a church on the Earth and the final soul has been saved. God only knows when and who that will be, but when it happens God will say, “It is time to bring my bride home.”
When John says after this, the meaning is clear. He is speaking of when the Church Age is through. His eyes are then directed toward another portion of God’s great plan. The next event John sees is the Rapture. In the verses previous to Revelation 4:1, we have seen that the Philadelphia church, which represents the remaining true church on Earth, is promised to escape the great Hour of Trial.
Revelation 3:10-11 10 “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. 11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
Two conditions are met: “Thou hast kept my word and hast not denied my name.” Because of this, the church is given a promise to be kept from the Hour of Trial. In verse 10 the literal rendering is, “I will take you away from the Hour of Trial, not keep you in it.” The word from is the Greek preposition ek and means to exit or out of by separation. Examples of its usage this way can be found numerous times in the Scripture. In Matthew 2:15 ek is used for out of Egypt have I called my son. Matthew 15:19, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts. Revelation 3:16 says “I will spew thee out of my mouth.”
When Jesus promised the church of Philadelphia He was going to keep them from the Hour of Temptation, He did not mean, I will safely see you through it. As Noe was preserved through the Flood, for the church the Lord meant, “I will keep you from, not see you through.” He premised to take them out of the world before the Hour of Temptation. When the Philadelphia church meets the conditions, Jesus made the promise to remove them from the Tribulation. Looking at Revelation 3:8-10 we see why.
Jesus gives the following promise to people who have the spirit of the Philadelphia church.
Luke 21:34-36 34 “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. 35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”
Notice the words escape all these things; not a part, but all! Do we think Jesus will fail to answer that prayer? Some seem to think so. In the Book of Revelation it is noteworthy that the church is never mentioned after chapter 3.
The words “church” or “churches,” so prominent in chapters 1-3, do not appear again in the book until the last chapter (22:26). These singular “church” and the plural “churches” together occur 19 times in the first three chapters (1:4,11,20 [twice]; 2:1,7,8,11,12,17,19; 3:1,6,7,13,14,22).
The term “church” (ekklesia) literally means “a called out group.” It has two main usages in the New Testament. It can be used of the body of Christ, which He is building in this age (Matthew 16:18; I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:1-6). It is composed of believing Jews and believing Gentiles made one in Christ (Ephesians 2:15-16). The term can also be used of a local congregation of believers (Acts 14:27; Galatians 1:2). It is so used in this second sense in the Book of Revelation.
However, there is a strange silence of the terms in chapters 4-19. That fact is especially noteworthy when you contrast that absence with its frequent presence in the first three chapters. One good reason for this phenomenon is the absence of the true church and true evangelical churches in the seven years preceding the second coming. The true believers of the church have gone into the presence of Jesus Christ in heaven before the onset of the events of the seven-year period.
Article “The Rapture And The Second Coming” written by Nathaniel K. Haney is excerpted from The Rapture Of The Church: Volume 3 written by Nathaniel K. Haney.