Why Matthew 24 Applies to the Church

Why Matthew 24 Applies to the Church

Matthew 24 is one of the most important chapters in all Bible prophecy. The chapter records the Olivet Discourse, which contains teachings from Christ about the lead up to His Second Coming and the end of the age.

Matthew 24 speaks of many troubling events for the righteous, including persecution, the rise of false Christs and prophets, and love growing cold.

Many believe Matthew 24 is for Jews and not for the Church. You find this teaching especially popular with those who believe in the Pre-Trib Rapture. Even though this teaching is widespread, is it biblical?

After a lot of study, I believe the teaching that Matthew 24 is only for the Jews is unbiblical. In this article, I will explain why Matthew 24 applies to the Church.

Table Of Contents

The Persecution of Great Tribulation

Many like to believe that Matthew 24 only applies to the Jews since that would mean that the Church is unlikely to face persecution during the tribulation if that is true. The verses that speak of persecution in that chapter would only apply to the Jews. The persecution at that time will be intense.

Christ warned that a time of unprecedented persecution will start when the Antichrist defiles the future Third Temple. This event will take place at the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week (or 3.5 years into the 7-year tribulation, see Daniel 9:27):

“(15) When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (16) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: (17) Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: (18) Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. (19) And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! (20) But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: (21) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:15-21)

Christ spoke about those who will be near Jerusalem when He talked about the onset of this time of intense persecution: the great tribulation. This is a big reason many focus on the persecution of the people of Israel at that time. In fact, some use the term the “time of Jacob’s trouble” to signify the great tribulation. Daniel 12:1 affirms that this time of trouble will unprecedented:

“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”

However, the people of Israel will not be the only ones who will face persecution. The Book of Revelation tells us that Satan and the Antichrist will also go after the saints. The saints are those who “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”:

“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17)

“(6) And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. (7) And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” (Revelation 13:6-7)

“(12) Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (13) And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:12-13)

The phrases “the faith of Jesus” and “the testimony of Jesus Christ” identify the saints as followers of Christ: Christians will be on the earth during the great tribulation.

The Elect of Matthew 24

Christ adds that “the elect” will need to endure the great tribulation:

“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)

Who are the elect?

The Remnant of Israel?

Many Pre-Trib teachers reject the idea that the elect represents the Church. Instead, they claim the elect represents a remnant of Israel who will survive the tribulation.

Many teach that the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:29-31 is the regathering of the remnant of Israel from across the world that is promised in many end time passages:

“(29) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (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. (31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31)

One prominent Pre-Trib teacher suggests that the remnant of Israel won’t need to take an airline plane to Israel. They will have angels carry them to the land.

The problem with this teaching is that several end time passages suggest that the surviving Gentiles-not angels-will be the ones who will escort the remnant of Israel to the land of Israel:


The Gentiles Bring Back the Remnant of Israel

“Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, And set up my standard to the people: And they shall bring thy sons in their arms, And thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.” (Isaiah 49:22)

“And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, And kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: All they gather themselves together, they come to thee: Thy sons shall come from far, And thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. […] Surely the isles shall wait for me, And the ships of Tarshish first, To bring thy sons from far, Their silver and their gold with them, Unto the name of the LORD thy God, And to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.” (Isaiah 60:3-4, 9)

“And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations Upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, To my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, As the children of Israel bring an offering In a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.” (Isaiah 66:20)


These verses undermine the teaching that angels are taking the elect back to Israel. The elect are not the remnant of Israel.

Christians?

I believe “the elect” represents Christians. Consider Romans 8:28-39, which is one of the most popular passages that Christians draw comfort from:

“(28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (31) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (32) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (33) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. (34) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (36) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (37) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (38) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-39)

I highlighted the word “elect” in this passage. The Greek word for “elect” here is the same word as “elect” in Matthew 24.

Christians view themselves as the audience for this comforting passage. The passage refers to “God’s elect” and few Christians object to that title. If Christians are the elect in Romans 8:28-39, why are they also not the elect in Matthew 24? People should not pick when they want to represent “the elect”. Christians are “the elect” in both passages.

I also want to add that Romans 8:28-39 tells us that tribulation, distress, or persecution cannot separate us from the love of Christ. This statement will hold true in the great tribulation, as Christ will eventually come to save the elect.

John 14 & Matthew 24

The Book of Luke and the Book of Mark also have accounts of the Olivet Discourse. Like Matthew 24, Luke and Mark record Christ telling His disciples about His coming in the clouds to gather His elect:

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:27-28)

“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.” (Mark 13:26-27)

Christ gave the Olivet Discourse near the Passover. We know the talk took place near the Passover as Luke 22 mentions that the feast was approaching:

“(1) Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. (2) And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. (3) Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. (4) And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.” (Luke 22:1-4)

John 13 also covers the same period as Luke 22:

“(1) Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (2) And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; (3) Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;” (John 13:1-3)

Why does the timing matter, and why do I bring up the Book of John? Many believe that Christ spoke to the Church in the next chapter, John 14. Christ promised His disciples that He would come again in the future:

“(1) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (4) And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” (John 14:1-4)

Christ talked to His disciples in John 14:1-4 like He talked to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse. Yet, many tell us to believe that Christ only spoke to the Jews in Matthew 24 while He spoke to the Church in John 14.

  • How does that make sense? You cannot pick and choose who Christ referred to when He spoke to the same audience in each account.

Christ spoke to believers in each account.

The Parable of the Wheat and Tares

It is useful to think of the Rapture as the end time gathering of the righteous. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares gives us many details about this event. Christ tells us that the wheat (the righteous) and the tares (the wicked) will remain together UNTIL the time of harvest:

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)

This key statement means that the wheat (the righteous) will not be removed from the earth before the time of harvest. The wheat must remain on the earth until the time comes to begin the harvest.

The harvest of the earth will take place at the end of the age (or end of the world). This means that the Rapture cannot take place before the end of the age arrives (Matthew 13:39). At the time of harvest, Christ will send His angels to gather the wicked and the righteous (Matthew 13:30):

“(37) He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; (38) The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; (39) The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. (40) As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. (41) The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (42) And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:37-43)

The Parable of the Wheat and Tares indicates that this event will take place after the tribulation. Matthew 13:41 mentions that Christ will gather people out of His kingdom. The reference to “His kingdom” is significant because it means that the harvest will take place when Christ’s kingdom is set up on the earth. The kingdom of God and Christ will arise at the sounding of the seventh trumpet:

“(15) And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (16) And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, (17) Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. (18) And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:15-18)

The sounding of the seventh trumpet will coincide with the end of the tribulation as Antichrist’s 3.5 year or 42 month reign on the earth will end (Revelation 13:5-7, Daniel 7:25-27).

Therefore, the gathering of the righteous (the elect) will not take place until after the tribulation. This means Matthew 24:29-31 speaks of the gathering of Christians, the Church, at the Rapture:

“(29) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: (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. (31) And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31)

Conclusion

I showed that Christians will be on the earth during the tribulation and Christians are the elect in Matthew 24. This means that the Olivet Discourse applies to the Church in the same way that John 14:1-4 applies to the Church.

Even though Christ spoke of people near Jerusalem in Matthew 24:15-21, we can deduce that He also referred to Christians who will live near that area at the onset of the great tribulation. Christians, Jews, or anyone else in the area who has read Matthew 24 should heed Christ’s warning to flee when the time comes.

Therefore, we should reject the teaching that Matthew 24 is only for the Jews. Christians should study the chapter and other related Bible verses and passages with the expectation they may live to see these events.

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