Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Thoughts on the Return of Christ, Part III

By way of recap . . .

In the message last Sunday on August 13th, we looked in detail at the return of Christ described in Matthew 24:23-31.

We saw the Reality of the Coming of Christ. . .

  • His Coming will be SURPRISING (24:38-41)
  • His Coming will be UNMISTAKEABLE (24:23-27)
  • His Coming will be VISIBLE (24:27, 30)
  • His Coming will be COSMIC (24:29)
  • His Coming will be GLORIOUS (24:30)
  • His Coming will be REVOLUTIONARY (24:30-31)

And then we looked at Our Reaction to the Coming of Christ . . . for the Christian, the Coming of Christ is intended to elicit . . .

  • Hope (Titus 2:11-13, 1 Thes. 4:13, 1 John 3:1-3)
  • Rejoicing (I Peter 1:3-9)
  • Comfort (John 14:1-3, 1 Thes. 4:17)
  • Patience (James 5:7-8)
  • Eager Expectation & Readiness (Mt. 24:42-44, 1 Cor. 1:7, 16:22, Phil. 3:20, 1 Thes.5:4-10, Heb. 9:28, 2 Pet. 3:12, Rev. 22:20
Seems pretty straighforward, doesn't it? But there's a major "pinch."

Those who subscribe to a Pretribulation Rapture doen't think these verses in Matthew 24 referr to the Rapture, but to the second, second coming of Christ after the Tribulation. For Pretrib folks, the church is removed by rapture somewhere between vv. 15 and 21. even though Jesus does not mention a rapture. So Matthew 24:23-31 are pretty irrelevant to those who subscribe to a Pre-Trib rapture and only really apply to those who will saved during the Tribulation.

Here’s why I find a pretribulation rapture does not jive with a natural straightforward reading of Matthew 24 . . .
  1. First, I go back to the disciples original questions in v. 3. “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” The disciples are asking, "When are you coming?" Jesus tells them about a bunch of stuff that will happen, but He doesn’t them tell them about the rapture! That doesn’t make sense to me. If they’re confused in their understanding, you’d think He’d say, "You’ve got it all wrong. I’m coming for you first, I’m going to get you outa here, then I’m going to come in judgment." The rapture is a pretty big deal, but Jesus doesn’t mention it. Why?

  2. Second, verse 31 mentions the angels who “WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds.” This term “elect” is a term that Jesus has used in reference to the disciples. They would naturally think that he is talking about them. I think he speaks this verse as words of comfort to the disciples. But a pretribulation rapture position requires that these elect be Jews and others saved during the Tribulation. Why? Because the church has already been raptured before the Tribulation. But, again, there’s no indication of a rapture in v. 31.

  3. Third, Jesus’ encouragement to alertness and readiness in 42 – 44 follows this description of his coming in v. 29-31. In fact He uses the exact same phrase to refer to it. . . “the coming of the son of man” in v. 37 and 42. Are Jesus words intended as encouragement only for those who will be saved during the tribulation? No, they’re meant to be encouragement for the original hearers and for disciples of all generations who read them. A rapture that Jesus does not mention, but that’s inserted somewhere between verse 15 and 20, renders the rest of the chapter irrelevant to the original hearers and to us. We might as well skip ahead to chapter 25.
So where does that leave us? Are there other ways to understand Matthew 24? Are Matthew 24:23-31 relevant for us?

(Stay tuned for Part IV, where I'll show you those charts from Sunday.)

1 comment:

Erika McGuire said...

Thanks for obviously speaking from your heart before God, not simply presenting sermons with a majority view because of the majority. It is right that you should not have every answer. I would like to meet the perfect human with a perfect wisdom, but that is clearly reserved for God. I'm being encouraged to test out these things by searching my bible- so thank you! Your wrestling is modeling what we should all be doing- searching the scriptures for ourselves, and holding with a strong grip to the things we know for certain.