Satan Evicted: Olivet Discourse: The Rapture?

The Sermon of Jesus on the mount. Fresco by Franz Xaver Kirchebner in the Parish church of St. Ulrich in Gröden-it:Ortisei build in the late 18th century.

Olivet Discourse: The Rapture?

A plain reading of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 reveals various signs and events leading to the destruction of the Jewish Temple, Jesus Christ’s coming, and the end of the age. Unfortunately, there is dispute among scholars as to what temple, what coming, and what age.

PRETERISM: Some scholars believe that the passage describes the second Jewish Temple, Christ’s brief stay following his resurrections, and the end of the Mosaic Age in 70 AD. Others believe that they describe the Christ’s Second Advent where he comes to reclaim the earth and the end of the Church Age. My personal belief varies from both of these views.

First, the Christ provides his description in response to three questions from his disciples:

  1. When will the temple be destroyed? (tauta: this)
  2. What will be the signs of Christ’s coming? (parousia – presence, coming)
  3. What will be the signs of the end of the world? (aión - age)

Matthew 24:1-3: And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto 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. “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?” (KJV)

We understand from history and the Bible that all three events were fulfilled during the first century. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Roman forces under Titus, Christ made a token visit in the flesh after his ascension (Matthew 28:16-20, John 20:19-31, Acts 1:1-7), and the Mosaic Age essentially ended with the destruction of the second temple. Unfortunately, those historical events did not fulfill all of the prophecies contained within those chapters.

  1. Although the Roman legions trashed the temple, there are no historical records that indicate that an idol or a statue of Caesar was placed in the temple. It is unlikely that the 70 AD event fulfilled the “abomination of desolation” portion of the prophecy (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14).
  2. While the siege of Jerusalem was horrible, it is unlikely that it matched the horrors of the holocaust. It is unlikely that the 70 AD event fulfilled the worse tribulation that will ever be (Matthew 24:21, Mark 13:18).
  3. While Middle East was certainly the “center of the world” during ancient Roman times, it’s doubtful that the Gospel reached the Americas. It is unlikely that the prophecy that the Gospel was preached to all nations (Matthew 24:14, Mark 13:10).
  4. While Jesus Christ certainly made a physical appearance to many after his ascension to heaven, it is doubtful that all nations saw his sign in the sky or mourned at his appearing (Matthew 24:30, Luke 21:26).
  5. It is doubtful that all of Christ’s elect have yet been gathered from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven (Mark 13:27, Matthew 24:31).

Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume that at least part, if not all, of the prophecies in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 were not fulfilled in the first century.

These passages serve a dual role.1 First, a portion forewarned those living during Christ’s earthly ministry of the end of the Mosaic Age and the scattering of the people of Israel – fulfilled with the Roman siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the second Temple, the Roman conquest at Masada, the suppression of the Bar Kochba’s revolt in 135 AD, and the subsequent scattering of the Jews among the various nations. Second, these passages provide a glimpse into the tribulation that will occur during the transition from the Church Age into the Millennial Age. The first century Roman suppression serves as a biblical type – it provides a glimpse into the types of things that will occur.

THE PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE: Those who believe in a pretribulation Rapture of the saints generally believe that Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 target ethnic views, not Christian believers. Thus, Jesus Christ’s coming within these passages represent the second advent – Christ’s return as a conquering king at the battle of Armageddon. The two most viable arguments in support of this view include:

  1. First, Matthew 24 includes a number of Old Testament references indicating that the “elect” are the remnant of Israel.2
  2. Second, the differences between Paul’s Thessalonian statements and Matthew 24:30-31 far outweigh any alleged similarities.3
  3. Third, Paul said we shall be changed in a moment. That leaves no time for a sign to be given, and then after the sign we read of angels being sent to cause a gathering to occur.4
  4. Fourth, the sign is not Jesus in the sky, but rather a sign that Jesus is in heaven.5

There are a number of other minor theories such as the Lord is gathering the resurrected saints who have scattered throughout heaven or Matthew 24:30 describes two resurrections. Such theories provide little scriptural or argumentative support and cannot, therefore, be refuted.

PREMISE: Matthew 24 Includes a Number of Old Testament References Indicating That the “Elect” Are the Remnant of Israel

Deuteronomy 30:4-5: If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.

Isaiah 11:11-12: And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 27:12-13: And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.

This argument tends to be consistent with Revelation, Chapter 7, where the angels at the four corners of the earth hold back the four winds until the seal of the living God has been placed on the foreheads of 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from each tribe. Considering that the description of the great multitude before the throne immediately follows the sealing of the 144,000, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that two events transpired at the breaking of the sixth seal:

  1. The remnant of faithful Israel has been regathered and sealed.
  2. Christian believers from the current age have been Raptured.

The question, therefore, does Matthew 24:29-31 coincide with the breaking of the sixth seal? I believe it does. The parallelism between Matthew 24:29-31 and Revelation 6:12-16 is remarkable:

Matthew 24:29-30 Revelation 6:12-18, 7:1
immediately after the distress of those days  (follows the turmoil of the first four seals)
  a great earthquake
the sun will be darkened sun turned black like sackcloth
 the moon will not give its light the whole moon turned blood red
the stars will fall from the sky the stars in the sky fell to earth
the heavenly bodies will be shaken the sky receded like a scroll
   every mountain and island was moved
the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the lamb!"
all the nations of the earth will mourn. the kings of the earth, the princes… hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains
Angels with a loud trump… gather his elect from the four winds four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth

While not exact, the events are sufficiently parallel that a relationship should not be ignored.

PREMISE: The Differences Between Paul’s Thessalonians Statements and Matthew 24:30-31 Far Outweigh Any Alleged Similarities

Where does Paul mention the darkening of the sun (Matt. 24:29), the moon not giving its light (Matt. 24:29), the stars falling from the sky (Matt. 24:29), the powers of the heavens being shaken (Matt. 24:29), all the tribes of the earth mourning (Matt. 24:30), all the world seeing the coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:30), or God sending forth angels (Matt. 24:31)6

The absence or addition of specific information does not justify rejection of the entire element. There is little debate among pretribulation supporters that 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 both portray the Rapture of the Church. However, the two descriptions are not identical:

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17: 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. 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.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52: 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.

Corinthians 15:51-52 does not mention a) the Lord himself shall descending from heaven with a shout, b) the voice of the archangel, or c) being caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Should we reject 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 because it contains too much information? Or, should we reject Corinthians 15:51-52 because it does not contain enough information? Naturally, we should reject neither because they both portray the Rapture of the Church. Similarly, we should not reject Matthew 24:30-31 simply because it contains more details than 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.

(a)In Matthew the Son of Man comes on the clouds, while in 1 Thessalonians 4 the ascending believers are in them. (b)In Matthew the angels gather the elect; in 1 Thessalonians the Lord Himself (note the emphasis) gathers the believers. Thessalonians only speaks of the voice of the archangel. (c)In the Olivet Discourse nothing is said about a resurrection, while in the latter text it is the central point. (d)In the two passages the differences in what will take place prior to the appearance of Christ is striking. (e)Moreover, the order of ascent is absent from Matthew in spite of the fact that it is the central part of the epistle.7

Although the above claims seem to be a stretch, I’ll offer the following as a response:

(a) If the resurrected saints are going to meet Christ in the air then wouldn’t we expect Christ to be in the clouds to meet them there?

(b) 1 Thessalonians 4 states that Christ himself will descend from heaven; it does not claim that Christ will personally gather the believers. Even if Christ gathers the elect, angels, as agents of Christ, could be responsible for the physical task.

(c) The “gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:27) would seem to imply a gathering from every possible location including the grave. But perhaps, the passage wasn’t clear; therefore, the Apostle Paul’s need to provide further clarification in both Corinthians and Thessalonians that the dead would also be included.

(d) Neither Thessalonians nor Corinthians provide details of what will take place prior to the Christ’s coming. We could assume that such details were unnecessary because they were provided by the Olivet Discourse. The primary focus in both Thessalonians and Corinthians is the resurrection of the dead; neither is intended to teach the details surrounding Christ’s coming and the end of the age.

(e) The order of ascent is emphasized in Thessalonians to quell a dispute among the congregation there; some members apparently were concerned that the dead would not be resurrected during the first resurrection.

PREMISE: Paul Said We Shall Be Changed In a Moment. That Leaves Not Time For a Sign to Be Given, and Then After the Sign We Read Of Angels Being Sent to Cause a Gathering to Occur

I have read this argument in several places and am somewhat perplexed as to its origins. The scripture in question does not indicate that the “Rapture” process will occur in the twinkling of an eye; the passage reads that the “change” of bodies will occur in the twinkling of an eye:

1 Corinthians 15:51-52: 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.

What is the “change” being discussed? The change is the transformation from the “corruptible” to “incorruptible.” Starting with verse 35, the passage is discussing the two types of bodies – fleshly bodies and celestial bodies. The passage is not discussing all of the events that will take place during the Rapture – only one, the change from the fleshy body to the celestial body.

Claims that the entire Rapture event will take place in the twinkling of an eye ignores the context of the passage and should be rejected.

PREMISE: The Sign Is Not Jesus in the Sky, But Rather a Sign That Jesus Is in Heaven

The Son of man being in Heaven means He is on the throne. And there would be a sign to indicate that! This is what the verse is saying… The Son of man came in clouds TO THE THRONE... not to the earth. And He went and took dominion. This is precisely what we read in Revelation.8

This argument centers on the allusion to Daniel 7:13 found within Matthew 24:30. Reverend Blume seems to assert that Christ will not descend to earth in Matthew 24:30 but the tribes of the earth will mourn because they see “sign of the Son of man in heaven” and understand that Jesus Christ is taking dominion over the earth.

Daniel 7:13-14: I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.

Matthew 24:30: 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.

Revelation 5: 6-7: And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne.

The use of the phrase “coming in the clouds” appears to be a double entente – a figure of speech where the term has double meaning.

The first meaning indicates that Jesus Christ possesses the glory of the Father as well as power and dominion over earth. The phrase “coming in the clouds” is paralleled in Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27, and Revelation 1:7, and it also appears in Matthew 26:64 and Mark 16:62 in response to the High Priest asking Jesus if he was the Christ. Revelation 14:14 describes Jesus Christ sitting on a cloud supervising the reaping the wicked of the earth.

from Cloud
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

The metaphoric and symbolic uses of clouds are many, and furnish some of the most powerful figures of Scripture. In the Old Testament, Yahweh's presence is made manifest and His glory shown forth in a cloud. The cloud is usually spoken of as bright and shining, and it could not be fathomed by man: "Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, so that no prayer can pass through" (Lam 3:44). Yahweh Himself was present in the cloud (Ex 19:9; 24:16; 34:5) and His glory filled the places where the cloud was (Ex 16:10; 40:38; Nu 10:34); "The cloud filled the house of Yahweh" (1 Ki 8:10).9

The second meaning indicates that Jesus Christ will physically arrive in the clouds to gather his elect:

Acts 1:9-11: And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: 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.

Is the allusion of Jesus Christ coming with the clouds in Daniel 7:13 tied exclusively to Matthew 24:30? Or, can the allusion be applied generally as a characteristic of Christ? I tend to believe that it is a general characteristic reflecting that Jesus Christ shares the glory of God:

Matthew 17:5: While he yet spake, behold , a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

Luke 9:34-35: While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

What then is the “sign of the Son of man in heaven”? Frankly, I do not know. Some claim that the Star of Bethlehem will reappear; others claim that the destruction of the second Jewish temple was the sign that Jesus was in heaven. The passage seems to indicate that the sign will appear then the tribes of earth will mourn and Christ will arrive in the clouds. I suspect that the Sadducees and the Pharisees knew the nature of the sign because they asked Jesus for just such a sign (Matthew 12:38, Matthew 16:1, Mark 8:11, Luke 11:16, John 6:30) – apparently healing the sick and casting out demons were insufficient as a sign. Perhaps Reverend Blume is correct in that there will be a sign in the heavens when Jesus Christ takes the scroll from the Father… I do not know as of this moment.

The Olivet Discourse Describe the Parousia

Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 do not describe the Second Advent of Jesus Christ – his physical return to earth with his angels and saints to redeem the earth from the clutches of Satan. It does describe the signs that will occur immediately before his coming in the clouds to gather the Christian believer from the four corners of the earth:

  1. The prophecies were directed Christ’s disciples. Many of these disciples had already recognized Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-20), been instructed about Jesus Christ’s final days on earth (Matthew 16:21-28), and viewed Christ’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13). Christ’s disciples were Jews but by Matthew, Chapter 24, they were spiritually more Christian than orthodox Jew. Surely they would have viewed the elect of the Son of Man as followers of Jesus Christ.
  2. The allusion to Christ “coming in the clouds” is a double entente – it carries two meanings. The first meaning indicates that Jesus Christ possesses the same glory and authority as his Father (Matthew 26:64). The second meaning refers to a physical arrival in the clouds to gather his elect (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
  3. The allusion Deuteronomy 30:4-5, Isaiah 11:11-12, and Isaiah 27:12-13 does not pose a barrier to the Olivet Discourse serving as a description of the Rapture. The event serves a dual purpose: a) to close out the Church Age by removing the Christian believer and b) to initiate the Millennial Age by regathering the remnant of Israel. This dual purpose in reflected in Revelation, Chapter 7.
  4. Matthew 24:31 contains a trumpet call just like the two primary Rapture passages in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:52. Though not an unusual occurrence within the Bible the trumpet call provides an additional sliver of evidence.
  5. Within Mark 13:26-27 and Matthew 24:31, the “elect” specifically belong to the Son of Man.
  6. Within the New Testament, the term elect refers to the followers of Jesus Christ as the “elect” (Romans 11:7, Colossians 3:12, 2 Peter 1:10).
  7. Within context of the events describe in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, the gathering of the saints follows the revelation of the “abomination of desolation” paralleling 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
  8. The Olivet Discourse responses to the disciple’s question, “What shall be the signs of your coming (parousia)?” The same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1.
  9. The natural calamities described within the Olivet Discourse closely correlate with the natural calamities within Revelation 6:12-14 that is immediately followed by the sealing the Israeli remnant and the appearance of the great multitude of saints before the throne of God.

Conclusion

Scholars apply a wide array of arguments in an attempt to explain how the Olivet Discourse does not describe the events just prior to the end of the current age or the Rapture of the Church. Unfortunately, these scholars, I believe, are trying to force the Olivet Discourse into a mold that conforms to their “end time” belief system. A plain reading gives the impression that Jesus Christ is describing those events immediately preceding his return for his elect. This is the impression we should hold fast unless there is a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. Within the articles and commentaries reviewed, the opposing arguments are less than compelling.


1 See Topic Analysis: Dual Purpose Literary Devices

2 Thomas Ice, “Matthew 24:31: Rapture Or Second Coming?” Pre-Trib Research Center, ND. <http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-Matthew2431RaptureOrS.pdf> Nov. 9, 2011

3 Thomas Ice, “Matthew 24:31: Rapture Or Second Coming?” Pre-Trib Research Center, ND. <http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-Matthew2431RaptureOrS.pdf> Nov. 9, 2011

4 Rev. Mike Blume, “Is There A Resurrection Foretold In Matthew 24?” mikeblume.com. October 2002. <http://mikeblume.com/mat24res.htm> Nov. 9, 2011

5 Rev. Mike Blume, “Is There A Resurrection Foretold In Matthew 24?” mikeblume.com. October 2002. <http://mikeblume.com/mat24res.htm> Nov. 9, 2011

6 John A. Sproule, quoted in Thomas Ice, “Matthew 24:31: Rapture Or Second Coming?” Pre-Trib Research Center, ND. <http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-Matthew2431RaptureOrS.pdf> Nov. 9, 2011

7 Paul D. Feinberg quoted in Thomas Ice, “MATTHEW 24:31: RAPTURE OR SECOND COMING?” Tom's Perspectives, Pre-Trib Research Center, ND. <http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Ice-Matthew2431RaptureOrS.pdf> Nov. 9, 2011

8 Rev. Mike Blume, “Is There A Resurrection Foretold In Matthew 24?” mikeblume.com. October 2002. <http://mikeblume.com/mat24res.htm> Nov. 9, 2011

9 “Cloud,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Bible History Online, ND. <http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/C/CLOUD/> Nov. 9, 2011


With all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...
HomeTable of ContentsSite MapSite IndexWorking Draft
© 2011. Visitors may freely share site content. When reproducing material for distribution, please replicate entire sections rather than smaller portions.
Calvin E. Roberts, Jr. — San Augustine, Texas 75972 — mail@satan-evicted.com