Tonight we’ll be studying the famous Matthew passage on the “end of these things”. I don’t have everything together on this passage, but here’s a few thoughts:
- There’s nothing in this passage to support the theology of the rapture. Verse 31 speaks about “gathering the elect from the four corners.” But there’s nothing in there to express a disappearance from the earth, or a raising, even. (My initial thought is that it has to do with a type of reverse exodus based on my reading of the corresponding Zechariah passage). Verses 41 and 42 are where the phrase “Left Behind” (of those horrific ‘thrillers’) are taken from. But a closer look at the immediate context reveals that it’s not those who are left behind who are unfortunate, but the other way around.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (NIV)
- The chapter begins with Jesus’ disciples proclaiming wonderment at the Temple area. Jesus foresees its destruction. Much argument arises out of what the disciples meant and how Jesus interprets their question, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (NIV) I have a hard time believing that the rest of the passage is all about the period ending in 70 AD with the siege and fall of Jerusalem. But this period of Great Tribulation is of that period. Here’s a few clues: 1) In the phrase, “This generation will not pass until these things happen,” the word “generation” means what it has always meant: generation. Not all of humanity. Not race. Age. Contemporaries; 2) “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Not “those who are in the cities,” nor, “those who are in the valley.” Specifically, those in Judea; 3) “Abomination of desolation” means that, once again, a gentile ruler will enter the holy Temple and do unspeakable things (in this case, utterly destroy it); 4) The language used in this chapter is fairly similar to the language that the Jewish historian (who was in the campaign to lay siege against the rebels) Josephus uses to describe that period and; 4) In the corresponding passages (in Mark 12 and Luke 21), the disciples are asking specifically and only about the fall of the temple.
- However, much is made about whether everything in the Matthew passage refers to AD 70. It seems to me that Jesus is mixing in his vindication (the coming and judging on the clouds is from Daniel 7) with his parousia.
- But probably the most important thing is to watch and pray, watch and pray, as evidenced by this passage and the next chapter (and, for contrast, the chapter preceding it).