Thursday, August 18, 2016
Matthew 24 is Not the Rapture of The Church
As I've said before, it's hip to be post-trib these days and if you discuss the scriptures with a post-tribber , invariably you will find yourself in Matthew 24. For someone who is post-trib ( or if you prefer, pre-wrath) Matthew 24 is the 'proof text' that unequivocally spells out the timing of the great catching away promised to the church. The only problem is that Matthew 24 does nothing of the kind, and is instead the future description of an entirely separate event happening to an entirely separate group of people. Let me explain.
There is a very basic rule in Bible study that goes like this; things that are different are not the same. In fact, life itself is chock-full of things that are similar, but different. A cat has fur like a dog, four legs like a dog , and is kept as a pet like a dog, but is not a dog. It is the differences that are significant, not the similarities. The same is true in Bible study, and it doesn't take a great intellect to recognize the differences between Matt 24 and 1 Cor 15,/1 Thess 4; it merely take a side-by-side comparison.
1. Living or dead?
This is probably my weakest point. I reasoned within myself that I would put it out there first to save lazy people the trouble of reading the entire article before they dismiss me.
But first, the issue. In 1 Cor 15, the Bible says , starting in verse 51 "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." I Thess 4 says, beginning at verse 13 "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep." From these two passages something becomes very clear; dead saved people and living saved people will be raised up as a future event, with the dead being raised first.
Now take a look at Mathew 24. Verse 31 says "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 we'll be taking a deeper look at verse 31 later on, but jumping down to verse 40, we read "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." A parallel passage in Luke 17 mentions also "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left." Taking these verses at face value, we see that, at the time of this future event there will be people working in the field, people working at the mill, and people in bed. So my question to you is this; where are all the dead people in Matthew 24? Or Mark 13? Or Luke 17?
Now if your response is "Just because they aren't mentioned doesn't mean they aren't there", then I will acknowledge the point. Of course, if that was my only point, then this would be a much shorter article. In the meantime, just tuck it away in your brain that there are no dead people in Matt 24 , and we'll move on.
2. Who is the source of the 'trump'?
Returning to 1 Cor 15, we see in verse 52 "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Verse 16 in 1 Thess 4 says "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:" Once again, something is happening and it is very clearly explained. The Lord himself will descend, and he will have as his possession with him a "shout", "the voice of the archangel" and "the trump of God". All 3 of these sources of communication are related to his voice. Cross reference Rev 1 and Rev 4 and you will see that the voice of Jesus Christ sounds like a trumpet, so it's possible that all 3 of the things listed in 1 Thess 4 are the same thing, but regardless of whether they are one thing or three things, the Lord Jesus Christ is the possessor of all 3, and the originator of all 3.
Now we run back to Matthew 24, where verse 31 tells us "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." In Matthew 24, Jesus isn't the one blowing the trumpet. Now I will acknowledge that, grammatically, the case could be made that the trumpet is blown by Jesus, and it's the trumpet that dispatches the angels. Even so you wind up with an interesting quandary in that the Matt 24 trump dispatches the angels while the 1 Thess 4 trump directly raises the dead.
I submit to you that these two trumps accomplish two different things because they are two different trumps and are heralding two different events.
3. Who is gathering people up?
Taking yet another look at 1 Thess 4, we see "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." These verses are, as the saying goes, hard to believe but easy to understand. Jesus Christ is returning in person for his church, and He will gather them up in a resurrection, with the dead rising first. We will go from whatever state we are in to being with Jesus, with no intermediary process mentioned in the verses. We find the same events and same sequence of events mentioned in 1 Cor 15 which says "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." Both verses lay out the personal, intimate involvement of the Lord Jesus Christ in the resurrection of the saved.
Matthew 24 lays out a very similar scenario, but with a key difference. Verse 30 begins "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." In Matthew, the ones caught up aren't summoned up directly by the Lord Jesus Christ; they are gathered up by angels. The 'gathering' in 1 Cor 15 and the 'taking' in Matt 24 are accomplished by two different methods because they are two different events.
4. What happens to the evil servant?
Tucked away at the very end of Matthew 24 are two men; the wise servant and the evil servant. Starting in verse 44, it says "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 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."
I must admit, I don't have a whole lot of insight into who these men are supposed to typify. The wise servant has been put over the lord's household (past tense) and is promised more authority upon his lord's return, which is interesting. But if this wise servant is supposed to be a Christian, then who is he in charge of? He is in charge of a household, but it can't be the household of faith in Galatians 6 or else some Christians would be in charge of other Christians, and that doesn't appear anywhere else in scripture. Now we could be just silly and make the wise servant a pastor or something, but there's just not enough there to make the case, plus you run afoul of other scriptures. So although I cannot determine who the wise servant is, I think the case can be made for who he is not; he is not the church collectively or individuals within the church.
Of course the case of identity becomes even more problematic when you get to the evil servant. He can't be a lost man because he's a servant, albeit an evil one. Mark's gospel also seems to indicate that both servants enjoyed some authority, saying "For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch." He has access to other servants, and he beats them because he has convinced himself that his lord is not coming for quite some time. This evil servant , by all indicators , dies and goes to hell because he wasn't prepared for his lords return.
Now I am saved, and eternally secure in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have been made bone of his bone. I'm a joint heir with Jesus, and I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. He who cannot lie has promised that he will never leave me nor forsake me. I literally cannot go to hell, and even if I forgot the rapture or was never taught the rapture or neglected teachings on the rapture , I still cannot go to hell. Ergo, whoever the evil servant is, he isn't me, and if you're saved he isn't you.
If Matthew 24 is about the church going through the tribulation, then who are these servants, and why can't we make them match up to anything that we know to be true about the church of the living God? Wouldn't it make more sense that these two servants typify some other group that experiences some other event that is not the catching away of the church?
5. Wheat and Tares?
We have established in previous points that, in both 1 Cor 15 and 1 Thess 4, the dead rise first. With that in mind, take a look at Matthew 13, another rapture-ish event. The Bible says "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
Jesus explains later on that the reapers are angels and that the harvest is the end of the world, which seems to make it run parallel to Matthew 24. If that's true, then in Matthew 13, the lost are typified by the tares, and the tares are gathered first. Interesting, isn't it?
6. The fig tree?
In the middle of a discourse (according to post-tribbers) on how the body of Christ will go through the tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ makes an interesting comment. He says in Matt 24:32-33
"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." I won't waste your time or mine using these verses to set some sort of 'date' for the blessed hope. Smarter men than I have fallen into that trap already, and there is no reason to compound their errors with my own. Suffice to say that in all of Jesus's parables, everything in the parable stands for something else. What does the fig tree stand for?
Well, by comparing scripture with scripture, we learn that the 'fig tree' stands for the Hebrew people. It's worth a study in and of itself, but the connection always seems to be a reference to Israel dwelling safely and prosperously in the land God gave to their fathers. Examples of this are found in Deut 8, Judges 9, 1 Kings 4, Psalm 105, Song of Solomon 2, Jeremiah 5, Jeremiah 24, Hosea 2, Joel 1, Micah 4, Zechariah 3, and Matthew 21, among other places.
Why, if Matthew 24 is the rapture of the church, would Jesus interrupt himself with a seemingly unconnected comment about Israel before he launched back into a warning to the church? I mean, I know I get off track and make unrelated comments while I'm preaching, but I assume Jesus doesn't have that problem. I suppose we could reverse-engineer our theology, making the church and Israel synonymous, but that would be just sloppy handling of the scriptures.
I offer as a much simpler, and more coherent explanation this missive; Jesus isn't interrupting Himself, he is continuing a thought directed towards the same group of people, and that group of people is not the church.
Now, I don't expect my post-trib brethren to be able to address or explain every little jot and tittle of what I've covered here, because frankly, neither can I. The whole story isn't contained in these three chapters, nor should anyone claim that it is. Some post-tribbers have some interesting takes on some of the outlying issues in all this, and as I told a friend of mine; "This is the biggest puzzle in the world, and I'm not sure that anybody has all the pieces.". But there are glaring differences between the events in Matthew 24 and the events in 1 Cor 15/1 Thess 4. I think those differences are both significant and fundamental in nature. If we fail to acknowledge these differences, we set ourselves up for a whole slew of faulty conclusions and extrapolations going forward.