theology
 

Thank you for visiting LearnTheology.com.

This section has articles and information on the Biblical Theology such as: God, salvation, spiritual gifts, The Trinity, and the Bible. This section will also compare and contrast the theological differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.  If you are looking for an article on biblical theology check this section out.

Thank you for visiting. We have a small set of Theology websites that are divided or separated by category (though there is some overlap).

To learn more about our main author and admin click here to go to our information page.

If you would like to contact the author or webmaster please use our contact form.

If you need a web site designed or updated contact Matthew at WCZone for quality work at a fair price. The Web Creation Zone (WCZone) can meet all of your business website design and data management needs.   

The Prewrath Rapture of the Church

The scene is set for the return of Christ—for the deliverance of the righteous that will initiate the judgment of the wicked—events that will be so closely connected as to be virtually simultaneous. And so the Day of the Lord will begin, as Christ returns for Rapture and judgment.

The timing of the Rapture is of the utmost importance to the church. Sadly, much of the church today is seriously mistaken about its specific timing as it relates to the great tribulation of Antichrist. Most scholars are inclined to allegorize, historicize, or spiritualize this essential teaching. The correct timing of the Rapture, however, is clearly revealed by Christ in His Olivet Discourse, is confirmed by Paul in his Thessalonian epistles, and is verified further by John in the Book of Revelation if each of these passages is taken at face value.

As mentioned in the first chapter, all the prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were fulfilled literally in every detail, and the prophecies of His second coming will, of course, be fulfilled just as perfectly and completely. This writer cannot understand how any Christian who acknowledges the inerrancy of Scripture could believe otherwise. Yet many sincere Bible students who are careful to interpret God’s Word in its most natural, normal, and customary (literal) sense in most areas of doctrine, modify that standard in various degrees when dealing with the timing of the Rapture and other closely related end-time events.*

Rightly understood, the prewrath view of Christ’s return is the only view completely supported by the New Testament if one’s hermeneutic truly uses the face-value meaning of the text to find the solution. The essence of the prewrath position which will be demonstrated in the following pages, is that Christ will rapture His church immediately after He cuts short the great persecution at the hands of Antichrist, immediately before He unleashes His Day-of-the-Lord judgment on the ungodly world that remains. In other words, the Rapture initiates the Day of the Lord. In the meantime, however, the church must be prepared for the fiery testing that the whole earth will undergo when given the choice of whom they will serve, Antichrist, the false messiah or Jesus Christ, the true Messiah.

As discussed at some length in the two previous chapters, the sign of the end of the age and the sign of Christ’s coming occur back to back—the first sign setting the stage for the second, both signs cutting short the great tribulation by Antichrist, both signs precipitating “the Son of Man[’s] coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”

This then is the heart of the issue which every true believer must address head on. Either the church goes through this time of severe persecution, or it doesn’t. This entire volume has tried to warn the believer that he or she must be prepared for this time of unparalleled distress.

So far we have worked through the biblical sequence of events, including the Antichrist’s persecution of “the woman and the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus,” right up to the sign of Christ’s coming. Every biblical passage developed in some depth, thus far, has supported the perspective of this writer.

If the prewrath premise is correct, the next event described in both the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation must be the Rapture of the church. In addition, the prewrath timing of the Rapture must be a clear teaching of the New Testament, not a position (such as pretribulationalism and post-tribulationalism) whose defense is not an explicit teaching of the Scriptures, or one that the Bible does not, in so many words, state, or whose proof at times has been logically invalid or at least unconvincing.*

Because the majority of the church’s teaching today either removes the church before the great tribulation or simply allegorizes this critical truth away, I have chosen to slow the movement of this book at this point and focus on this critical issue, carefully going through the biblical defense for the prewrath position’s timing of Christ’s return to rescue the elect of God from the persecution of Antichrist. To those who are more concerned about the clear teaching of Scripture than clinging to a system with no clear biblical support, the prewrath position does indeed offer an explicit teaching of Scripture, logically valid and convincing.

The purpose, then, of this present chapter is to present the unequivocal teaching of Scripture as to when the Rapture will occur. Thus we will see, first, that the Rapture will occur on the same day that the Lord begins to pour out His wrath of judgment on the world, the Rapture initiating the Day of the Lord as it were; and, second, that these two back-to-back events (the Rapture followed by God’s judgment of those who remain) can only occur when God cuts short the great tribulation, putting the church at the mercy of Antichrist until the Day of the Lord comes. Although these conclusions have been somewhat developed already throughout the preceding chapters, we now turn to an explicit and systematic presentation of what the Scriptures consistently teach concerning these truths.

Rapture and Wrath on the Same Day

The two previous chapters have established the interrelationship of the sign of the end of the age and the sign of Christ’s coming and have already given considerable evidence that the Rapture and the Day of the Lord must occur on the same day, sometime during the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week, during the great tribulation of Antichrist. As we study the Scriptures further, we see conclusively that when Christ comes again He will first rescue His church and then begin His destruction of the world, both actions occurring on the very same day. The Rapture will, in effect, initiate God’s wrath.

This is important to understand. If these two events occur on the same day, this destroys the imminency of Christ’s return, the heart of the pretribulational position. The imminency of Christ’s return, as understood and taught today by those who attempt to keep the church out of the seventieth week, means that Christ could return at “any moment” since His departure recorded in Acts 1:9–11. According to the imminency view, nothing prophetically has had to occur since the ascension, since Christ’s second coming has always been imminent—that is, it could occur at any moment.

On the other hand, if both events (Rapture and judgment) occur on the same day, the doctrine of imminency is destroyed since important events would need to occur prior to our Lord’s return. If the prewrath position is correct, the Day of the Lord cannot occur until Israel is back in her own land and in control once again of her holy city, Jerusalem. And as it will be the rescue (Rapture) of the church that will initiate the wrath of God against the unrighteous inhabitants and armies of Satan’s earthly kingdom, Antichrist and his eighth beast empire must likewise be on the world’s scene before Christ returns.

Therefore if Scripture teaches that the Rapture of the church and the Day of the Lord occur on the same day, then the imminent return of Christ has been impossible for the past two thousand years. Thus, this is an important consideration for every student of Scripture genuinely looking for the return of Christ. We will begin by looking at the teaching of Christ on this issue.

Taught Specifically by Christ

In a discussion Christ had with His disciples prior to His Olivet Discourse, He specifically told them that these two events, the Rapture and God’s wrath, will occur on the very same day. The discussion begins with a passage we have already looked at several times—a passage that refers specifically to the time when the true disciples of Christ will undergo great persecution, looking anxiously for the return of Christ. It is the perfect summary of all we have worked through in the previous chapters.

“The days shall come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them. For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.… And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:22–24, 26–30, emphasis added).

In this writer’s opinion, this passage could not be clearer. Christ explains that the Son of Man will be revealed (referring directly to the sign of Christ’s coming like the lightning [v. 24]) on the same day that God’s judgment of the unrighteous will begin—just as in the days of Noah and as in the days of Lot.

The Noahic Flood Controversy

Yet some biblical scholars refuse this clear, simple teaching of Christ, attempting to show a time gap between the Rapture and the Day-of-the-Lord judgment by attempting to “explain away” the clear teaching of Christ’s illustration concerning Noah and the Flood.1 In this attempt, then, they appeal to the Flood story in Genesis where God commanded Noah,

“Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time. You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female.… For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made” (Gen. 7:1, 2, 4).

The argument is made that the phrase “after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth” means, in their opinion, that Noah and his family entered the ark seven days before God’s wrath came.2

If this is the case, then what Christ specifically says about these two events occurring on the same day did not actually happen on the same day, but instead, occurred seven days apart, “as happened in the days of Noah.” Such a conclusion, however, not only contradicts the clear teaching of Christ (Luke 17:26, 27, 30), but it is based on Scripture taken out of context.

As the Genesis text explains, Noah’s entering the ark with his family was in fact “on the very same day” that “the fountains of the deep burst open.”

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. And the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark. (Gen. 7:11–13, emphasis added)

In other words, the rescue of Noah and his family occurred on the same day that the rains of judgment began to fall—which “will be just the same,” Jesus said, “on the day that the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:30), one passage of Scripture perfectly supporting the other.

The disciples understood that truth, as we see in their question to Christ that initiated Christ’s response in the Olivet Discourse: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). Again, as mentioned in chapter 14, the disciples understood the sequence of events even though the signs will occur in reverse order of the events—something they had no way of knowing until Christ explained the interrelationship of the two signs to them.

Think about that last statement carefully. The pretribulational view holds that the Rapture must occur some time before the Day of the Lord begins, the one following the other but not on the same day because of the problems with imminency that would then occur. Yet, if the two events don’t occur on the same day, this pretribulational view has a new problem other than disagreeing with Christ, especially in light of the fact that the sign of Christ’s return comes only after the sign of the Day of the Lord is given first.

But the disciples knew that Christ’s coming and the end of the age were inseparably connected—that His coming initiated the end of the age (the Day of the Lord). Doubtless the disciples recalled Christ’s teaching that these two events would occur on the same day, the one initiating the second, and they therefore wanted to know how to recognize the signs that would signal that great two-part event.

Confirmed by Peter

It would almost seem as if the Holy Spirit intended to underscore the importance of this truth when we see the same illustrations used by Christ, now repeated by Peter:

…and [if God] did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation [i.e., from testing],3 and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment. (2 Pet. 2:5–7, 9)

Peter simply repeats what he had been taught by his Lord—the truth that when Christ returns, He will come to simultaneously rescue His saints and destroy the wicked.

One Taken and the Other Left

As we have just seen in the foregoing sections, the illustration of Noah’s rescue before the world was destroyed by water is the illustration used to describe the back-to-back timing of the Rapture of the church and the judgment of God. Not only does Peter use it in the passage quoted just above, but Christ used the same illustration when He explained to His disciples that both events will occur on the same day (Luke 17). When He delivered His Olivet Discourse—just a few days before His crucifixion—He used the same illustration once again.

Yet some, in order to preserve a system unsupported by Scripture, must again somehow distort the clear intent of Christ’s illustration, making it applicable to the Battle of Armageddon instead of the Rapture of the church, claiming that the one “taken” is taken to judgment and the one “left” is left behind to enter into the millennial Kingdom of Christ.

In response to this position, we need only to look carefully at the illustration itself, in particular the very words of Christ. In response to the disciples’ question “What will be the sign of your coming?” Christ illustrates His teaching concerning His “coming” and the wrath it will initiate, by again giving His disciples the example of Noah and the Flood.

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.… And they [the world] did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Then [at His coming] there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left” (Matt. 24:37, 39–41; cf. Luke 17:34–36).

When the one is “taken,” the other is “left.” The meaning of this passage in this context clearly is that those who are “taken” are taken to be with the Lord when He comes to rescue His faithful church (see 1 Thess. 4:15). Those that are “left,” will be the wicked who remain after the elect are taken, left to face the wrath of God’s judgment “like [in] the days of Noah.”4 This is exactly as Peter understood it, as seen in the previous section of this chapter, when the godly are “rescued” and the unrighteous are left for “punishment” (2 Pet. 2:5–7, 9).

This is confirmed further when we look at the Greek term translated as “taken.” In both instances the word “taken” is paralambano, which means to “receive near, that is, to associate with oneself (in any familiar or intimate act or relation).”5 Christ uses the term only six times in reference to future events. He uses it twice in Matthew 24:40, 41 and three times in Luke 17:34–36, in each instance referring to one person being taken and another being left behind. The other time Christ uses this particular word is in the beautiful promise to His followers that

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive [paralambano] you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2, 3).

In light of the meaning of paralambano as found in John 14, we see that in these verses from Luke and Matthew, “taken” carries the sense of “being received”—that is, of being received by Christ, as in the case of John 14:2, 3. As we continue, we will see that when believers are received by Christ in the clouds at the Rapture of the church, it will be the angels of God who “gather the wheat into My barn” (Matt. 13:30) and who “gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:31), and that “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [by God’s angels] together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17, emphasis added). Think how confusing it would be if Christ, referring to the same end-time wait, without any explanation, meant one thing some of the time, and the opposite the rest of the time. “Take” is a bad translation. Paralambo means “to receive, intimately.”

Thus, as in the days of Noah, God will destroy those who are “left” during His fiery Day-of-the-Lord judgment of the world, “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God” (2 Thess. 1:7, 8).

Confirmed by Paul

The classic Rapture passage in the New Testament, quoted in part just above, is found in 1 Thessalonians 4. In this passage Paul begins by comforting the confused Thessalonian believers concerning their believing loved ones who had died:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess. 4:13–15)

Here Paul explains that not only those believers who had recently died but all believers who had or would die before Christ’s second coming will be taken by resurrection to their Lord just before the living overcomers are raptured. Paul gives greater weight to that promise by declaring that he is speaking “by the word of the Lord,” which is quite possibly a reference to Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse and in His earlier discourse recorded in Luke 17.

After first mentioning “the coming of the Lord” in verse 15, Paul goes on to describe the Rapture in detail in verses 16 and 17. In anticipation of the obvious question now in the minds of the reader, “When will this happen?” Paul replies, “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you” (5:1).

Paul then immediately links the return of Christ to the Day of the Lord, when Christ will come in judgment—“like a thief in the night”—as seen in the verses that follow: “For you yourselves know full well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come on them suddenly…” (vv. 2, 3a). It is noteworthy, in fact, that this reference to “a thief in the night” links together four other passages, all of which refer to the Lord coming in judgment, as found in Luke 12:39, 40; 2 Peter 3:10 and Revelation 3:3.

Again, the sequence of events recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 is both critical and clear. Paul carefully teaches that the taking of believers and the beginning of the destruction of unbelievers will occur at the same time. Similarly, as in Jesus’ and Peter’s comparisons to the times of Noah and Lot, the judgment of unbelievers will come upon them totally unexpectedly, just like a thief in the night.

In addition, Paul later again instructs his brethren

“with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him (Rapture), that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure…to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come” (2 Thess. 2:1–2).

In this passage, the coming of Christ, the gathering of the saints, and God’s wrath upon the wicked world that remains are inexorably connected to one another, making these three separate components all one event.

In summary then, based on the unequivocal teaching of the New Testament—as seen by the teaching of Christ in both the Olivet Discourse and His earlier discussions with His disciples recorded in Luke 17, confirmed by Peter in his second epistle and again by Paul to the church of Thessalonica—the only possible conclusion is that Christ will return to simultaneously rapture the church and unleash His wrath of judgment upon the ungodly at the same time. The Rapture initiates the Day of the Lord.

Therefore, by definition, all of the conditions and events discussed in chapter 9 must be in place, at a minimum, before the Christian can expect to see the return of Christ. The return of Christ has never been truly imminent and will never be imminent until the great tribulation of Antichrist begins and the surrounding Gentile nations come together against Jerusalem in the valley of Jehoshaphat. Only then are the elect of God told to look for the sign of Christ’s coming which will be seen in the heavens, but only after the earth is first plunged into darkness by the sign of the end of the age.

Thus the unequivocal teaching of Scripture is that back-to-back signs will announce back-to-back events—first the rescue of the true church and then the destruction of the wicked, both signs to be given when the great tribulation of Antichrist against God’s elect will be cut short. “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief [upward deliverance] to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:6–8).

Rapture & Wrath on the Same Day

Comparative Accounts

“And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all… It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
Luke 17:26–27, 30 (emphasis added)

Jesus

Paul

Revelation

TRIBULATION

Matthew
24:21

2 Thess.
1:6–7; 2:3–4

Revelation
6:7–8

RESCUE OF RIGHTEOUS

Matthew
24:22, 29–30

1 Thess.
4:15–17
2 Thess.
2:1

Revelation
7:9–17

WRATH OF GOD (ON THE SAME DAY)

Matthew
24:14, 37–39

1 Thess.
5:1–3
2 Thess.
1:7–9
2 Thess.
2:2

Revelation
8:1–6ff

Christ’s Coming Cuts Short the Great Tribulation

As pointed out in chapter 1, the view that Christ’s return cannot occur until Antichrist’s persecution of God’s elect has begun was the position of the majority of the early church fathers, primarily because of the clarity of Scripture on this issue.*

The Coming (Parousia) of Christ

Before we, like the early church fathers, conclude that the clear teaching of the New Testament concerning the timing when these twin events will occur at Christ’s coming, a word of clarification must be made which will bring incredible simplicity to this critical defense. When referring to the second coming of Christ, invariably the Greek word parousia is used. This particular word does not indicate movement from one place to the next, but, as a noun, speaks more to the overall event of Christ’s second coming. It carries the basic meaning of “presence.”

Therefore, within the scope of the second coming (parousia) of Christ as an event, there will be various comings and goings of Christ, but in those cases a different Greek word is used.6 However, when the phrase, “the parousia (coming) of Christ” is used, it always refers to the event in general, no different than the first coming (parousia) of Christ. There will only be one “second coming” or parousia of Christ, not two.* Keeping that simple fact in mind will bring harmony to the teaching of the New Testament concerning the timing of Christ’s parousia,making the Olivet Discourse instruction to the church concerning Christ’s coming, (parousia) rather than instruction to unsaved Israel concerning the Battle of Armageddon.

The First and Second  Parousias of Christ

The New Testament word for the second coming of Christ is the Greek word parousia. It is best translated “presence” and implies an event with possibly many activities associated with it.

THE FIRST PAROUSIA

THE SECOND PAROUSIA

1.

The birth of Christ

1.

Christ’s rapture of the Church (1 Thes. 4:15)

2.

The ministry activities of Christ

2.

Christ’s Day of the Lord judgment of the wicked who remain (Rev. 8:1)

3.

The death of Christ

3.

Christ’s earthly return for the salvation of Israel
(Rom. 11:25–26)

4.

The resurrection of Christ

4.

Christ’s regaining of earthly control for Almighty God (Rev. 11:15)

5.

The ascension of Christ

5.

Christ’s destruction of Antichrist and his army at Armageddon
(Rev. 19:11–21)

The Olivet Discourse Argument

The two previous chapters of this book carefully described the signs that will be given in the heavenlies, announcing the end of the age and the coming of Christ. In response to the disciples’ question, “What will be the sign of Your coming [parousia], and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3), Jesus said,

“For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming [parousia] of the Son of Man be.… But immediately after the [great] tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:27, 29–31).*

This critical passage recorded by Matthew, virtually sums up everything developed thus far in this book relating to “the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). The timing of His return that Christ gave the disciples in response to their question, clearly placed His coming (parousia) after the great tribulation by Antichrist. The sequence of events described in the Olivet Discourse could not be more explicit. First, Jesus described the “birth pangs” (Matt. 24:4–8), then He described the hard labor, the “great tribulation” (vv. 9–26), and then He described His glorious parousia (vv. 27–30) for Rapture (v. 31) and for judgment (vv. 32–51). In Jesus own words, the timing of His parousia is “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (v. 29), which, as Christ had already promised, would be “cut short…for the sake of the elect” (v. 22).

The only viable conclusion then, based on Christ’s own teaching in the Olivet Discourse, is that the church will indeed go through the great tribulation by Antichrist, and that the great tribulation will be cut short7 by the sign of the end of the age, at Christ’s coming (parousia) when He comes to rapture the church and judge the world.

Confirmed by Paul

Paul’s critical teaching about the timing of the Rapture in his two epistles to the Thessalonians also perfectly coincides with Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse. But, whereas the first letter to the Thessalonians deals with the fact that the Rapture and the Day-of-the-Lord judgment will occur at the coming (parousia) of Christ (4:15)—back to back, at the same time—Paul’s second letter to this church, like the Olivet Discourse, pinpoints the timing of these two events in relation to the activity of Antichrist.

The Thessalonian Christians understood from Paul’s teaching in his first epistle and his earlier ministry in their church, that they would have to endure severe persecution before being graciously rescued by the Lord just before His Day-of-the-Lord judgment (see 2 Thess. 1:4–10). But, not unlike today, false teachers had come into the church and had seriously confused the believers about those truths. And so Paul cautions the Thessalonian believers:

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the Day of the Lord has come. (2 Thess. 2:1, 2)

Paul began by establishing again the connection of the coming (parousia) of Christ with “our gathering together to Him” (the Rapture) and “the Day of the Lord” (God’s judgment). He then unequivocally tells them, as well as the church today, exactly what must occur before the parousia of Christ can occur. Continuing his discourse on the end times, Paul cautions,

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the coming (parousia) of our Lord at the Day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness [Antichrist] is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one [Antichrist] will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming [parousia]; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders. (2 Thess. 2:3–9)

The events spoken of in this passage exactly parallel those given in the Olivet Discourse, where the “coming” (parousia) of Christ is clearly stated as occurring after the great tribulation by Antichrist is “cut short” by the sign of the Day of the Lord, and just before God’s elect are gathered to Christ by His angelic reapers.

Comparative Accounts

The Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24)  and 1 & 2 Thessalonians

The Olivet Discourse
of Christ

                                                               The Instruction of Paul

Matt. 24:3–4a

THE SOURCE OF THE INSTRUCTION IS CHRIST

I Th 4:15

Matt. 24:4b

THE WARNING CONCERNING THE INSTRUCTION

II Th 2:3

Matt. 24:3, 27
Matt. 24:37, 39

THE SUBJECT MATTER: CHIRST’S PAROUSIA

I Th 4:15
II Th 2:3
II Th 2:8

Matt. 24:3, 29–30
Matt. 24:37–39

CHRIST’S PAROUSIA INITIATES GOD’S JUDGMENT

I Th 5:1–3
II Th 2:1–2

Matt. 24:15

ANTICHRIST’S TEMPLE DEBUT

II Th 2:4b

Matt. 24:9, 21

PERSECUTION (OPPOSITION) BY ANTICHRIST

II Th 2:3–4a

Matt. 24:9–12

THE APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH

II Th 2:3

Matt. 24:22, 29–30

CHRIST’S PAROUSIA CUTS SHORT
(ENDS) PERSECUTION

II Th 2:8

Matt. 24:31

THE GATHERING (RAPTURE) OF GOD’S ELECT

I Th 4:15–17
II Th 2:1

Matt. 24:14, 37–39

THE WRATH OF GOD (THE DAY OF THE LORD)

I Th 5:1–3

In perfect harmony with the Olivet Discourse, Christ’s coming (parousia) will only occur after the apostasy (v. 3a), after the man of lawlessness (Antichrist) is revealed (v. 3b), and after Antichrist takes his seat in the temple and demands the world’s worship (v. 4).*

Clearly the purpose of Christ’s coming (parousia) includes both the deliverance of His saints (v. 1) and the judgment of Antichrist (vv. 2, 8). And just as clearly, the Olivet Discourse likewise teaches that the coming of Christ can occur only after the great persecution of God’s elect is cut short. Why? Because Antichrist will be brought to an end by the appearance of His coming!

The Rapture Described

The heart of Christ’s Olivet Discourse is the glorious revelation of His return. After the universe is plunged into total darkness and the sign of Christ’s coming is seen by every eye, everyone living on earth “will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:30, 31).

Coming “with power” refers to judgment, and coming in “great glory” refers to the sign of His return—for which every true believer will have been anxiously watching and yearning, especially once the great tribulation by Antichrist begins.

These two verses also contain several other important truths about Christ’s return. First, the context of these two verses is Christ’s coming, His parousia (see vv. 3, 27). Second, His coming will be associated with “the clouds” (see v. 30). Third, His coming will be associated with a “great trumpet” (see v. 31). Fourth, His coming will involve “His angels,” who will gather “His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (see v. 31), and finally, he will “gather together” (episunago) His elect in an upward direction. As shown below, this is the exact same sequence consistently taught throughout the New Testament.

It will be helpful to look at those five truths in light of the undisputed classic passage on Christ’s rapture of His church:

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain8 until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:15–17, emphasis added)

In this beautiful and well-known Rapture passage we discover the same five truths just mentioned above and also emphasized by Jesus in Matthew 24:27, 30, 31.

A Concluding Word of Encouragement

The truths we are studying are much more than abstract doctrine, they are the living truths of God’s holy Word, given by our loving Father in heaven for our teaching and encouragement. In this regard we see how beautifully the Apostle Paul has woven these truths together to encourage the Thessalonian believers, but just as much for the encouragement of Christians in every age:

Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power. (2 Thess. 1:4–11)

Having carefully considered the teaching of Scripture concerning the prewrath position on the timing of the Rapture, taught consistently by Christ, by Paul, and by Peter, we turn now to the Book of Revelation—the most comprehensive prophetic book in the Bible—where we find further confirmation and precise consistency.

Technical Notes

1. In an article entitled “Another Look at Rosenthal’s Pre-Wrath Rapture,” printed in Bibliotheca Sacra, October–December 1991 (p. 394), Dr. John A. McLean, Associate Professor of Bible at Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary, attempts to rebut the same-day position taken by this writer as follows: “Rosenthal’s argument of a ‘same day’ Rapture with the Day of the Lord does not stand up to biblical scrutiny. After Noah’s family and the animals entered the Ark, the Flood waters did not begin for seven days (Gen. 7:7, 10).”

2. The most likely explanation is that the seven days referred to in this passage, is the length of time it took for all the animals to be gathered into the ark before the rain started.

3. The same word (peirasmos) is translated “testing” (nasb) in Revelation 3:10. The Greek carries the basic idea of putting to a proof. For further information on peirasmos, see chapter 2, note 2).

4. Pretribulational rapturists who see Armageddon depicted in the Olivet Discourse must do something with the illustrations in Matthew 24:40, 41 to make them fit the Armageddon scenario, rather than the Rapture. In the text, at the coming of Christ, one person is taken and the other left. To make this text fit the events that will occur when Christ destroys the nations at the Battle of Armageddon, the ones who are “taken” will be taken to judgment, and the ones that are “left” behind will primarily be the Jewish believers who enter into the millennial kingdom. But there is no eschatological passage in either Testament that supports the idea that the ungodly are taken or received directly by Christ for judgment at His coming (vv. 37, 39), that judgment being reserved for the Great White Throne judgment at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:12–15).

Their argument, however, is usually based on the preceding verse, which refers to those left behind in the days of Noah—those who “did not understand until the flood came and took them all away” (v. 39, emphasis added). Those taken by the Flood (the wicked), they say, are representative of those taken in judgment at the coming of Christ, in the next verse.

But the Greek verbs used in the two verses are different. Airo, translated “took…away” in verse 39, carries the ideas of removal and separation. The same word was used by John the Baptist for Christ, whom John called “the Lamb of God who takes away [airo] the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). In another example, Jesus warned that “every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away [airo]; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). In both cases, the idea is clearly that of taking away from or apart from.

But the Greek verb translated “will be taken” in Luke 17:34, 35 and in Matthew 24:40, 41 is an entirely different Greek word, paralambano, which carries an entirely different meaning. The proper sense of this word is one of taking near—in particular the taking of something or someone to oneself. In the case of Matthew 24:40–41, verses 30–31 make it clear that those taken at the coming of Christ in the clouds are removed from earth by the angels of God, to meet the Lord in the clouds (Matt. 24:30; cf 1 Thess. 4:17). See W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Westwood, N.J.: Revell, 1940), 4:105, 106; Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), p. 72; James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1890), #142, 3880; W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 23, 24, 625; Gerhard Kittel, ed., The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–76), 4:3.

5. James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1890), #3880. Gerhard Kittel explains that paralambano is best translated “with a personal object, ‘to take to or with oneself.’ Example: in close fellowship” (G. Kittel, ed., The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–76), 4:3.

6. The Greek noun parousia (usually translated “coming”) has the primary meaning of “presence,” and often the derived connotations of a “coming or advent”—that is, of becoming present by one’s arrival or appearance. In other words, the term itself does not carry the idea of movement, although that idea is often implied. See Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #3952; Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 635; Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1:208. It is significant that in Alfred Marshall’s highly recognized Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (London: Samuel Bagster, 1966), the English “presence” is always used beneath parousia in the following references (also in the NASB and most English versions): Matt. 24:27, 37, 39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7, 8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28.

The verb heko has the basic meaning of “to come” or “to be present.” See Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #2240; Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 345; and Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1:204. In reference to Christ’s second coming, the term is used only three times in the New Testament, each time in the Book of Revelation. It is used once as a word of encouragement to the church at Thyatira and twice as a word of warning to the church at Sardis (Rev. 2:25; 3:3).

The verb erchomai, which has no corresponding noun, is always used of persons and specifically connotes movement, either coming or going, from one point to another. It is in contrast to heko, which denotes only arrival. See Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #2064; Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 310; Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1:203. Erchomai is rendered as “coming” or “comes” in the following New Testament passages: Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7; 2:5; 22:7, 12, 20.

It is significant that erchomai, which always relates to movement, is so often mentioned with Christ’s coming in or with the clouds as He descends from heaven (Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7). Clouds are associated with physical movement in the sky, but it was also into a cloud that Jesus was received when He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9). After the Lord disappeared from sight, the angels informed the disciples that “this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11)—meaning, among other things, that His future descent, like His past ascent, would be through the clouds.

The primary distinction between these three Greek words is that generally parousia will refer to an event, heko to someone’s presence, and erchomai to someone’s movement. The two most significant and most often used of those words are parousia and erchomai—the former usually encompassing the entire series of events of the second coming, the latter accentuating Christ’s movement during those separate but related events. Yet despite their distinctions, they emphasize inseparable facets of the same glorious truth of our Lord’s return.

7. As carefully developed in chapter 14 (see technical note 1), it is not the final forty-two months of Satan’s earthly authority that will be cut short, but the severe persecution occurring during the great tribulation associated with Antichrist that Satan will inflict on God’s people during a portion of the last half of the seventieth week. When the object of one’s persecution escapes (or is suddenly taken away, raptured), by definition, that persecution is over, the target of that persecution no longer existing. (It’s interesting to note that nowhere in the Old Testament are the Jews promised that their persecution at Antichrist’s hands will be shortened, like the promise given to the church that is raptured. Except for the 144,000 firstfruits of Israel, the remainder of Israel is still unsaved and must endure the seventieth week to its end, including the first phase of God’s wrath, before protection is afforded them [Amos 5:18–20].)

8. The phrase “we who are alive and remain” at first seems to be redundant, but close study of the two Greek verbs indicates that those who remain will have just survived some sort of ordeal, which, of course, would be the great tribulation by Antichrist “out from which” Christ will rescue His saints (2 Pet. 2:9).

Perileipo (“remain”) is used only twice in the New Testament, both times in this classic Rapture passage (vv. 15, 17). Its meaning is broader than meno, a frequently used New Testament word that is often rendered “remain.” Strong defines perileipo as “to leave all around (i.e., pass.), survive, remain.” See James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1890), #4035.

It is also significant that the word “and” used just before the word “remain” is italicized in many English translations, indicating that the word is supplied in English but is not in the original language. The only Greek connecting term here is hoi, the definite article (the). The text therefore literally reads, “the living, the remaining” or “the surviving.”

* See further chapter 10, “The Seventieth Week not the Day of the Lord” section.

* See chapter 1, “the Various Positions concerning Christ’s Return” section, the Walvoord/ Mayhue quote in particular.

1 In an article entitled “Another Look at Rosenthal’s Pre-Wrath Rapture,” printed in Bibliotheca Sacra, October–December 1991 (p. 394), Dr. John A. McLean, Associate Professor of Bible at Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary, attempts to rebut the same-day position taken by this writer as follows: “Rosenthal’s argument of a ‘same day’ Rapture with the Day of the Lord does not stand up to biblical scrutiny. After Noah’s family and the animals entered the Ark, the Flood waters did not begin for seven days (Gen. 7:7, 10).”

2 The most likely explanation is that the seven days referred to in this passage, is the length of time it took for all the animals to be gathered into the ark before the rain started.

3 The same word (peirasmos) is translated “testing” (nasb) in Revelation 3:10. The Greek carries the basic idea of putting to a proof. For further information on peirasmos, see chapter 2, note 2).

4

Pretribulational rapturists who see Armageddon depicted in the Olivet Discourse must do something with the illustrations in Matthew 24:40, 41 to make them fit the Armageddon scenario, rather than the Rapture. In the text, at the coming of Christ, one person is taken and the other left. To make this text fit the events that will occur when Christ destroys the nations at the Battle of Armageddon, the ones who are “taken” will be taken to judgment, and the ones that are “left” behind will primarily be the Jewish believers who enter into the millennial kingdom. But there is no eschatological passage in either Testament that supports the idea that the ungodly are taken or received directly by Christ for judgment at His coming (vv. 37, 39), that judgment being reserved for the Great White Throne judgment at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:12–15).

Their argument, however, is usually based on the preceding verse, which refers to those left behind in the days of Noah—those who “did not understand until the flood came and took them all away” (v. 39, emphasis added). Those taken by the Flood (the wicked), they say, are representative of those taken in judgment at the coming of Christ, in the next verse.

But the Greek verbs used in the two verses are different. Airo, translated “took … away” in verse 39, carries the ideas of removal and separation. The same word was used by John the Baptist for Christ, whom John called “the Lamb of God who takes away [airo] the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). In another example, Jesus warned that “every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away [airo]; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). In both cases, the idea is clearly that of taking away from or apart from.

But the Greek verb translated “will be taken” in Luke 17:34, 35 and in Matthew 24:40, 41 is an entirely different Greek word, paralambano, which carries an entirely different meaning. The proper sense of this word is one of taking near—in particular the taking of something or someone to oneself. In the case of Matthew 24:40–41, verses 30–31 make it clear that those taken at the coming of Christ in the clouds are removed from earth by the angels of God, to meet the Lord in the clouds (Matt. 24:30; cf 1 Thess. 4:17). See W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Westwood, N.J.: Revell, 1940), 4:105, 106; Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), p. 72; James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1890), #142, 3880; W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 23, 24, 625; Gerhard Kittel, ed., The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–76), 4:3.

5 James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1890), #3880. Gerhard Kittel explains that paralambano is best translated “with a personal object, ‘to take to or with oneself.’ Example: in close fellowship” (G. Kittel, ed., The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–76), 4:3.

* See chapter 1, “Position of the Early Church Fathers” section.

6

The Greek noun parousia (usually translated “coming”) has the primary meaning of “presence,” and often the derived connotations of a “coming or advent”—that is, of becoming present by one’s arrival or appearance. In other words, the term itself does not carry the idea of movement, although that idea is often implied. See Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #3952; Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 635; Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1:208. It is significant that in Alfred Marshall’s highly recognized Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (London: Samuel Bagster, 1966), the English “presence” is always used beneath parousia in the following references (also in the NASB and most English versions): Matt. 24:27, 37, 39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7, 8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28.

The verb heko has the basic meaning of “to come” or “to be present.” See Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #2240; Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 345; and Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1:204. In reference to Christ’s second coming, the term is used only three times in the New Testament, each time in the Book of Revelation. It is used once as a word of encouragement to the church at Thyatira and twice as a word of warning to the church at Sardis (Rev. 2:25; 3:3).

The verb erchomai, which has no corresponding noun, is always used of persons and specifically connotes movement, either coming or going, from one point to another. It is in contrast to heko, which denotes only arrival. See Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, #2064; Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 310; Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1:203. Erchomai is rendered as “coming” or “comes” in the following New Testament passages: Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 8:38; 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7; 2:5; 22:7, 12, 20.

It is significant that erchomai, which always relates to movement, is so often mentioned with Christ’s coming in or with the clouds as He descends from heaven (Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; Rev. 1:7). Clouds are associated with physical movement in the sky, but it was also into a cloud that Jesus was received when He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9). After the Lord disappeared from sight, the angels informed the disciples that “this Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11)—meaning, among other things, that His future descent, like His past ascent, would be through the clouds.

The primary distinction between these three Greek words is that generally parousia will refer to an event, heko to someone’s presence, and erchomai to someone’s movement. The two most significant and most often used of those words are parousia and erchomai—the former usually encompassing the entire series of events of the second coming, the latter accentuating Christ’s movement during those separate but related events. Yet despite their distinctions, they emphasize inseparable facets of the same glorious truth of our Lord’s return.

* See chapter 1, informational note p. 16.

Taught Specifically by Christ: Many pretribulationists must hold to the latter view in their attempt to keep the church out of the great tribulation. But the context of the Olivet Discourse demands that it is a book written for the church, Jews and Gentiles alike, having no bearing whatsoever to the Battle of Armageddon.

The Great Commission Argument: The Great Commission (with which the Gospel of Matthew closes) is of important significance. Christ gives the command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19, 20).

Not only has that passage always been understood as Christ’s commission to His church rather than to unsaved Israel, but His command to His disciples makes it clear that Christ intended that all of His teaching to them—“teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”—be taught to the new disciples that would comprise the church after His ascension.

Church Use in the Gospels Argument: The church is also in view in other passages in that Gospel. In fact, Matthew is the only Gospel writer to report Jesus’ use of the term “church.” Jesus first mentions the church by that name in 16:18, and He gives instruction for church discipline in 18:15–20. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper (26:26–29), an ordinance of the church, on the sixth day of Passover.

The Timing Argument: It is obviously of great significance, then, that much of Jesus’ most important instruction to His followers—that is, the church—was given during or near His last Passover, just prior to His death. This instruction would be foundational, not simply for the apostles and other church leaders, but for all His new disciples that would soon become the a part of the true church of Christ. That is why Christ, in His Olivet Discourse, answered the disciples’ question concerning His coming and the end of the age from the standpoint of the church rather than from the standpoint of Israel. As a nation, Israel had already turned her back on her Messiah, refusing the King and forfeiting His kingdom “until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25), an event that will not occur until after the seventieth week is complete (see Dan. 9:24).

*

Those who believe that Matthew applies to unsaved Israel, not to the church, must take the events of Matt. 24:29–31 as applying to Christ’s return for the Battle of Armageddon rather than to His rapture of the church when the great tribulation of Antichrist is cut short (Matt. 24:22 cf. 24:29). But a normal, face-value understanding of the related passages completely undermines such a view.

First, as we have seen, the Olivet Discourse answers the disciples’ question about when the sign of Christ’s coming (parousia, Matt. 24:3) would occur. Here, the parousia of Christ is a noun, describing an event, a “presence” of Christ that begins when the church is raptured. In addition, it is a singular event, the Greek being in the singular voice, rejecting the argument for a dual parousia or coming of Christ, one before the seventieth week (at the presumed time of the Rapture) and the other after the seventieth week, at the Battle of Armageddon. For this reason Scripture never directly associates the Greek word parousia with the Battle of Armageddon in the classic Armageddon passage found in Revelation 19, or for that matter, in any prophecy concerning the Battle of Armageddon. There can only be one parousia or coming of Christ. Both 1 Thess. 4:15, 16, the classic Rapture passage, and the Olivet Discourse speak specifically about the parousia of Christ without an explanation that there may be more than one. Therefore, it is hard to escape the conclusion that both passages refer to the same event, the Rapture of the church.

Second, when all the second person language in the Olivet Discourse is carefully considered, it becomes clear that Jesus was speaking to and of believers who were then alive, not to unsaved Israel. Speaking to His disciples, Christ used the word “you” ten times in the sequential portion of His discourse recorded in Matt. 24 (vv. 4–31). (See chapter 13, the section entitled “New Testament Expectancy vs. Biblical Reality.”)

If the church were to be raptured before the seventieth week, the events described in Matt. 24:9–12 would have no meaning as those Christ refers to as “you” who will be killed and hated “on account of My (Christ’s) name.” Certainly this is not referring to unbelieving Israel as they will not be saved until sometime during and after the close of the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week (see chapter 19 in particular). Obviously, an unsaved Jew will not be willing to die “on account of My (Christ’s) name.” But the second person language comes alive in the context of the church, a position further supported by the paralambano argument given in the “One Taken and the Other Left” section of this chapter, as well as technical notes 4 and 5.

Third, in the opposite way, the third person language of the Olivet Discourse clearly refers to unbelievers. These unbelieving men and women referred to in the third person (“they” were eating and drinking, “they” were marrying and giving in marriage, “they” did not understand until the flood came and took “them” all away), are compared to the ungodly people of Noah’s day, who continued business as usual until the Flood came and swept “them” all away (Matt. 24:37–39). Obviously the voice is different, referring to “they” or “them” instead of “you.” Logically speaking, it could hardly be that life will be going on as usual up until the Battle of Armageddon which, by definition, must occur after the trumpet and bowl judgments have just occurred (the Day of the Lord), the most devastating destruction the world will ever see. (Cf. the sixth bowl, Rev. 16:12–16.)

Fourth, the clear warning to “be on the alert” (Matt. 24:42) concerning the events Christ had just explained to His disciples (i.e., Antichrist, the great tribulation, etc.), would make no sense if the church will have already been raptured before these events ever occur. Paul gives a similar warning to the church to “be alert and sober” (1 Thess. 5:4–6, 9), and Peter tells the church that “since all these things are to be destroyed in this way [by the Day of the Lord], what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…” (2 Pet. 3:11)

Fifth, Jesus states that not even the angels in heaven or the Son of God know the day or hour of His coming (Matt. 24:36). That would hardly be true if the Olivet Discourse refers to Armageddon, presumably from their perspective the last event of the seventieth week. If Armageddon is in view, His coming would be easily predictable, occurring 2,520 days (seven prophetic years of 360 days each) after the seventieth week begins, within a margin of perhaps one or two days.

Sixth and lastly, there is an interesting Greek word which, in its own subtle way, demands that the Olivet Discourse be seen in light of the Rapture, not the Battle of Armageddon. Follow with me this one last time: “and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together [episunago] His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:30–31, emphasis added).

When we see the Son of Man coming on the clouds. and His angels are sent forth to gather together His elect, the Greek word episunago is used to describe this gathering, rather than the normal root verb, sunago. Adding the Greek preposition epi to the root verb sunago changes the basic sense of the verb, in this instance, giving direction to the gathering. Epi basically means “on” or “upon” (like epi-dermis refers to the top layer [epi] of one’s skin [dermis])sunago, it can be used to give the reader the idea of an upward direction to the gathering, if the context permits.

Therefore, episunago can mean a gathering together in an upward direction or “a taking up and bringing together.” The idea is similar to that of “taking up” an offering. When compared to 1 Thess. 4:17, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…”, this little Greek preposition can take on enormous significance in its particular use in the Olivet Discourse of Christ.

You must decide. Does this specific Greek word (used only eight times in the entire New Testament) give the idea of a sideways gathering into the land of Israel (as the pretribulational view must do when arguing that Matt. 24 refers to Armageddon), or an upward gathering to meet the Lord in the air?

7 As carefully developed in chapter 14 (see technical note 1), it is not the final forty-two months of Satan’s earthly authority that will be cut short, but the severe persecution occurring during the great tribulation associated with Antichrist that Satan will inflict on God’s people during a portion of the last half of the seventieth week. When the object of one’s persecution escapes (or is suddenly taken away, raptured), by definition, that persecution is over, the target of that persecution no longer existing. (It’s interesting to note that nowhere in the Old Testament are the Jews promised that their persecution at Antichrist’s hands will be shortened, like the promise given to the church that is raptured. Except for the 144,000 firstfruits of Israel, the remainder of Israel is still unsaved and must endure the seventieth week to its end, including the first phase of God’s wrath, before protection is afforded them [Amos 5:18–20].)

* See chapter 11, informational note p. 212. Only then will Christ bring Antichrist “to an end by the appearance of His coming [parousia]” (v. 8).

8

The phrase “we who are alive and remain” at first seems to be redundant, but close study of the two Greek verbs indicates that those who remain will have just survived some sort of ordeal, which, of course, would be the great tribulation by Antichrist “out from which” Christ will rescue His saints (2 Pet. 2:9).

Perileipo (“remain”) is used only twice in the New Testament, both times in this classic Rapture passage (vv. 15, 17). Its meaning is broader than meno, a frequently used New Testament word that is often rendered “remain.” Strong defines perileipo as “to leave all around (i.e., pass.), survive, remain.” See James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1890), #4035.

It is also significant that the word “and” used just before the word “remain” is italicized in many English translations, indicating that the word is supplied in English but is not in the original language. The only Greek connecting term here is hoi, the definite article (the). The text therefore literally reads, “the living, the remaining” or “the surviving.”

Robert Van Kampen, The Sign, "Updated Edition"–Cover.; Includes a Detachable, Color Foldout in Back of Book., 3rd rev. ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2000), 305.

© 2010 – 2011, LearnTheology.com. All rights reserved. Permission must be obtained from LearnTheology.com to use or copy any part of this post.

2 Responses

  1. Darlene says:

    You have explained fow the pre trib’s use Matthew 24:36 in their theory, buow does this verse fit into the prewrath tribulation?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Darlene:
      I heard this verse a lot lately…. especially as May 21st was getting near with Harold Camping’s prediction of the return of Christ. Almost all Christians (the vast majority) of Christian who believe in a literal rapture also believe that we cannot give an exact date when it will occur. The prewrath viewpoint does not specify when the rapture will occur during the 2nd half of the ‘tribulation’.

      On the other hand, Matthew 24:36 comes immediately after matthew 24:32-35 in which Jesus tells us very plainly that we can know the ‘season’ when this is about to occur. We will be able to observe the signs, circumstances, and other things occuring in the world that point to the general time period when He will return.
      Matthew

Leave a Reply

css.php