Matthew 24
Jesus explains His return

For the days of Noah, begin at verse 36.
Periods of apostasy are seen in the structure of this chapter. Go to bottom of page. The rapture theory may be seen beginning with verse 45.
Signs of Christ's coming. Mark 13, Matt. 24, Luke 21:5-end
.1 ¶ And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.   Departed He left it never to return mt2337-9.
  His disciples He spoke to a group of followers. In v3, apparently some of the twelve talked with Him privately.
.2  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.
.3  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?
  When ... and what shall be the sign? Instead of a deep relationship with the creator God, the Jewish religion had become, for most, a culture of superiority and control a religion of righteousness by works. The disciples could not imagine the total destruction of the massive temple, without it being the end of the world when He would return. Jesus did not explain that they had asked about two separate events.
  Coming From parousia. Soon after this scene, Jesus ascended to heaven ac0109-11 and His followers looked for Him to return right away. Paul clarifies that the return would not be soon and it would be associated with misunderstanding 2th0201-3.
  World Greek aion or "age." "World" is often a good interpretation although not necessarily here.
.4  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
 5  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
 6  And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
 7  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
 8  All these are the beginning of sorrows.
  Take heed that no man deceive you Jesus begins by telling the disciples what will happen after He is gone but, as we will see in the pattern of the chapter, he later addresses them as representatives of those living far into the future. Two statements indicate that this is an early stage of the story: "the end is not yet" and "the beginning of sorrows." Compare de1301. Passages like this one often have more than one verse.
.9, 10 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.   Afflicted. "Affliction" and "tribulation" are translated from the same Greek word.
.11  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
 12  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
.13  But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
  Deceive many but some would endure. In older English, "patience" means endurance, re1412.
  Endure to the end The objective is for us, too. See comments on "gospel" re1406f2.
.14  And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
   Some teach that Jesus will return and preach to convert people. Matthew disagrees. The preaching is finished. Then Jesus comes.
  Then shall the end come  Two ends may be seen here. Primarily, the end of the "age" (v3) for the Jewish system which was brought to an end by the the destruction of Jerusalem. The gospel apparently had gone to all the world. This end, however, prefigured the end of human probation when Daniel stands up still future. Compare ps02227. The connection with the destruction of Jerusalem may be seen in considering the word, "therefore" in the next verse.
.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:)

  Note: The double appearance of the sign, here and in v30, follows the pattern of the disciples' question. We saw that they asked two questions, but notice that the second question has two parts. "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign [1] of your coming and [2] of the close of the age?" (RSV).
  The sign is for both. It is better here as "the close of the age" and in v30 as the coming of Christ.

  Therefore In other words, Because the end is coming, be ready to flee.
  Abomination See lu2120. See da0813. da1211.
  Daniel the prophet Evidence that the book of Daniel may be trusted as it reads. See on da1211, da0927.
  The holy place Compare lu2120.
  Let him understand The comment, "may whoever reads understand" indicates a meaning beyond the obvious. This is the sign of Christ's coming which the disciples had asked for in v3. It was a sign for the Christians to flee from the city. At Christ's coming the sign of abomination or defiance of God signals the time to leave the cities before the total anarchy of the time of trouble breaks out.
  Compare re1801ff. The end following the early preaching of the gospel came in the destruction of Jerusalem. Because that was the sign of the final end, the finishing of this work in the last days will prepare for the final end. See note for more.
 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.
  Flee There will be deception, iniquity, and the need to endure, "Therefore" flee when the abomination stands in the holy place. Luke says, "compassed with armies" lu2120. The army of pagan Rome would desolate (depopulate) the city.
.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:
  Woe The endurance v13 will be physical, too. Of course our salvation does not depend on physical strength.
  Sabbath day In AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed, the Sabbath would still not have changed. Some believe this advice was only for Jews, but for whatever ethnic origin, it was for Christians r01e. We have no indication that there should be a difference in applying the words of Jesus. In fact, among Christians, there is neither Jew nor Gentile ga0328. Although the Jews had maintained a form of worship, the sacrifical system which had pointed to the cross had ended in the sight of heaven. Duty to God as creator (recognized by Sabbath holiness ge0201) had not ended. See on mt2750f.
.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.
 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
  Then .. great tribulation The people inside the city certainly had tribulation, but our focus is on those who fled, not on the Jewish rejecters of Christ who remained. The righteous ones were relatively well off then. Following the text, however, we see that the focus continues to be trouble and deception for the righteous down to the coming of Christ. (The verses before and after v21 are about the righteous.)
   We see persecution of the early church ac0401ff, ac0801, ac0758ff. Then persecution by the Gentiles and pagans ac1622ff. Then the great persecution of the dark ages for 1260 "days" or 3½ times da0725, re1206, re1305b. The word, "days" here in v22 is in harmony with our understanding.
  Nor ever shall be See note below.
  Shortened Is this the tribulation after elect are taken up? No, For the elect's sake that it's shortened. The persecution of the Dark Ages had subsided before the power of the persecuting church also measured by the 1260 "days" came to an effective end.
.23  Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
.24  For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
.25  Behold, I have told you before.
 26  Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
  In the secret chambers Satan, the unholy spirit of darkness, turns us away from the true Christ by sending evil angels to impersonate loved ones thought to be in heaven.
  Believe it not Deception connected with the tribulation. False christs (Messiahs). Following the tribulation of Jerusalem came the tribulation re1305b of the 1260 symbolic days (years), re1305a2
-  A "christ" is someone who offers a way of salvation. A "prophet" speaks for God. False religious leaders will depend on miracles as indicated in Revelation 13 re1313a. We may also expect that some will claim the office of prophet or declare that they are Christ. 2co1114.
.27, 28  For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.   As the lightning The coming of Christ will be as visible as lightning, re0107a we will not meet Him in any secret place.
  Carcase The sentence may have been a common saying of the time. Consider it as characteristic of the destruction of the end-time wicked. See re1917.
.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: 

[Compare mr1324. The text there also mentions falling of stars]

  After the tribulation Seeing the "days" of tribulation as the 1260 days which, shortened, would be somewhat less than 1260 years, we find cosmic signs following them, including the earthquake in Rev. 6, re0612d.  The shaking of the powers of heaven is still future. Then, final decisions for or against God will be made.
  Some point out that the signs of the Lisbon earthquake, 1755, the dark day in the Northwestern US, 1780, and the "falling" of the stars, 1833, were not that significant. Although this may be argued from our perspective, these events deeply impressed the people who witnessed them. Also we can understand from the story of the bitter book re1007 that the seventh trumpet which was to announce Christ's coming began to sound, then paused. The actual sounding comes at re1115. Then we may expect future signs and the coming of our Lord. I believe it will be very soon.
.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.
  The righteous will be gathered (v31) while the wicked (tribes of earth, v30) mourn. This questions the rapture theory which claims that people are raputred when no one sees them. See the rapture error also beginning in v44.
  Sign of the Son of man in heaven This will correspond to the Roman army coming to stand around Jerusalem v15. As I understand, Christ will appear in heaven and pause for an intense time of heart searching for both righteous and wicked, re0801a. Then the righteous will be gathered and the wicked will be killed re1917ff, mt2519.
  The righteous will recognize the sign when it appears 1ki1844, ha0303ff. Jesus will come in response to the final and ultimate defiance of God re1315, da1145. It is when the "son of perdition" claims the place of God 2th0203f. False signs will precede the true one v24.
.32, 33  Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:  So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. The time is near Today we see more and more leaves on the fig tree. Certainly time is short.
.34, 35  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

The chapter continues below the illustration.

Fulfillment - certainty It's coming soon, and it's certain. How could it be that the generation alive when Jesus spoke would live to see all these things fulfilled? Did they see Him come? Obviously not. They saw the sign the destruction of Jerusalem. This shows that the text has a double fulfillment.
Fulfillment - principle Verses 37 explicitly tells us that the days of Noah were to represent the coming of the Son of Man re0601agl.

Continuation of the chapter: Jesus' explains His return
.36  But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.   That day The disciples had asked two questions although they didn't realize that the second question related to two events v2f. The questions: When will this happen? and What will be the signs? He spoke a long time about the signs and has given clues about when. Here he makes it clear that the date is a secret. I'm glad it is. The rest of the chapter deals with the "when" question.
.37 But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.    As the days of Noe Jesus is coming with the sound of a trumpet, but it will be a surprise. The world will be in apostasy as it is now.
 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,   They were eating ... Life will be moving along without apparent major change although natural and human disasters increase. Luke pictures this surprise in the context of "drunkenness" and "cares of this life" lu2134. It will be like this when Christ comes on a cloud in glory. This helps us know when one is taken and one left vss 40, 41. We have the same picture in vss30,31 above.
  Did Noah have days? Yes, and they were years ge0603.
.39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (KJV). Or "and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man." (RSV)

   Knew not Or literally, "did not come to know." How could they not have known after Noah preached for 120 years? God allows us to believe what we want 2th0210. They paid no attention to the warnings. See ep0408. They chose to not believe.
   "The KJV and the NKJV translation of Matthew 24:39 'the flood came and took  them all away' is confusing, because both translations use derivatives of the same English word take to translate two entirely different Greek words. In describing the destroying flood in verse 39, the Greek word (airo) signifies being 'swept away' in destruction...." (Dwight K. Nelson, What 'Left Behind' Left Behind," pp. 35, 36.) In verse 40, "taken" is from a different Greek word as noted below. The one "left" is saved.
   Took them all away The word "all" is from hapas meaning "everyone." This is a puzzle because the following verses indicate that some were taken and some left.
    Notice, however, continuing the thought of the preceding verse, that those eating and drinking are the "all" here taken away as by the flood. In contrast, those who are ready are gathered by Christ at His coming. mt2431. They are seen in the present context as those who go into the ark of safety. Remembering that only 8 people out of a large population in the time of Noah were saved, the focus is on the majority unprepared for the flood.
 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

   One taken That is, taken away by the flood. "Taken" is from paralambano which also means "to receive" or "to take for" or "to take with." Other occurrences of the word are in lu1126 and mt2017. Uses of the word shows physical movement or acceptance of ideas.
   The same word, paralambano, appears in Jesus' promise given during His last evening with the His disciples: "I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am [heaven], there ye may be also." In both cases the taken or received ones were taken away from the scene. In the flood picture they are swept away to destruction ge0723. In the scene of the last supper Jesus promised to take them to heaven.
   Other left See v28 above. Many today believe that, at any time now, faithful ones will be raptured up to heaven to escape a time of trouble which is to be suffered by those left, and that Jesus will return after a seven-year period to get others who will have repented in the meantime.
   However, notice that our verse pictures a separation as was the case at the time of the flood. Those who refused the invitation of Noah did not have a new chance. "Left" is from the word aphiemi which and is a good translation.
   The rapture theory runs into trouble when comparing other texts. See first the rest of this page, then re0107b, lu1734-7.
.41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
.42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
  42 - Keep awake, then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come (Revised English Bible). 

   Grinding at the mill The destiny of women as well as men is described in this verse and the one before it.
   What hour your Lord doth come As mentioned above, this verse clarifies that the ones taken from the mill and the field have lost their salvation.
   Lot's account We can recognize the same warning, the same time of separation of wicked and righteous in Luke 17:28-30.
.43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

   Goodman [or "head"] of the house Jesus said he would come by surprise as a thief would re0303, re1615.
   House The Jewish leaders were responsible for the Lord's house, the temple which Jesus had just left as their house mt2338.
   What watch They had selectively studied and interpreted the Scriptures and had expected His coming in glory to take over the Roman Empire. They were not ready for the first appearance as the Lamb of God. In other words, they chose not to recognized Him because they thought He would come in a different watch of the night.

.44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

   Ready A clear message of this text is that we need to be ready all the time. At death our opportunity to change ends. But there's more. . .

 Warning against the rapture theory. More below.

   In such an hour as ye think not The actual coming of Christ in glory will be at a time when people have been taught to believe that He would not come. The popular rapture theory teaches that righteous people will be swept up to heaven while others are "left" to endure a tribulation, and that Jesus will come in glory after that. In other words, the glorious coming is impossible now because the rapture hasn't happened. It is now, when people expect the rapture, that Jesus will come. There will be no second chance! The Bible just doesn't teach these things re1415f, je0819f.

End of the chapter: the wicked servant
.45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
 46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
   45 - Give them meat Spiritual leaders are to provide pure spiritual nourishment. ("Meat" in the KJV means food.). The words "in due season" or at the appropriate time, are different from what the unfaithful servant teaches.
   46 - Cometh Jesus spoke of His return jn1401-3. Compare mt2519, re0107.
.48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

  Say in his heart His lord doesn't tell him this. He convinced himself.
   Delayeth his coming This describes the teaching of the rapture, discussed from v37. The 70th week of Daniel, they say, is in the future! da0927&links. Compare ez1228.
   That evil servant Notice that the faithful servant becomes evil. In other words, the false teaching comes from sources which had been true. The servant represents a body of people who expect Christ to return. We may see him as those who had been faithful at the time of the Protestant Reformation. This identity will be clearer as we continue. Of course, many individuals will remain true.
The common rapture idea is shown here on a time line. We are in what this theory calls the "church age." The fatal error is believing that Christ can't come now in glory because the rapture hasn't happened. The truth is that there is no new chance to be saved. Information for the chart is adapted from Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Fast Facts on Bible Prophecy, 1997, Harvest House

.49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
   Begin to smite The massive end-time religious movement will be false according to re1308a and it will oppress others who worship the same Lord re1315. "Begin" indicates that the evil servant will not continue for long before Jesus returns, re1616a-surp. "Fellow servants" would be those who refuse to take the wine and get drunk.
   Eat See on v45 above.
   Drink ... drunken Who are the intoxicated ones? First the fallen church (papacy 2th0203) which has developed false doctrine re1408f. The servant who begins to eat and drink with them would then be among the rest of Christendom, basically the Protestants re0301. So who of us can brag about his religious heritage? ga0614. To learn more look at the woman on the beast re1702.
.50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
 51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
   When he looketh not for him See on v44 and re1615.
   Cut him asunder Compare re1618f.
   Hypocrites Like those who Jesus had condemned just before talking here with His disciples mt2313.
   Weeping mt2213

The prophecy as a time line
   In this chapter, Jesus takes us down the path of time from that day on the mountain to when He will take us home. If you look back over the chapter as we have studied it, you can see four periods. For the disciples, the gospel would be preached and then, projecting to the end of time when they would be resurrected, Jesus would come.
   To understand the pattern, notice that the discussion about the destruction of Jerusalem begins with a conclusion v15.  "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:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains. . . ." (Matt. 24:14, 15). Jesus emphasized that, after times of difficulty, He will truly come. Therefore, endurance is essential. In the chart below, we see that we must expect deception, apostasy and tribulation, then the time of victory when our Lord comes in glory. Of course Jesus does not come four times, but that event is the hope to be realized by the faithful of all ages. We are nearing the climax of the last cycle.

Periods of apostasy in the Christian era Matthew 23 and 24
Christ's Coming / End
Jewish rejection of Christ and His church
Matt. 23:13 - 24:1
13:28 Hypocrites 34 Ones sent would be persecuted 23:37 Refusal to accept Christ's gathering 38, 39 House (temple) desolate. Jesus to be seen next in glory. 
Early church corruption; pagan persecution
Matt. 24:2-20
24:5 Deceivers in Christ's name 9 Hated and killed 13 Love becomes cold, re0204 14 End after gospel preached to all
Dark Ages apostasy; pagan practices Matt. 24:21-28 24 False christs showing signs (false way of salvation) 21, 22 Great tribulation, [1260] days shortened for elect [Dragon and beast worshipped, re1304] 27 Jesus' coming visible like lightning. Cf. re0107.
End-time apostasy after [1260] days of tribulation Matt. 24:29-31 [The beast from the earth deceives the world, re1313a] [Time of Jacob's trouble je3006f] Also v49. (30 Tribes of earth mourn) 29 Sun and moon darkened.... (Light of Reformation dimmed) 30, 31 Jesus comes with power and glory

   See re0612d for a table about the tribulation. We may compare the apostasy and desolation here with what we see in the first four trumpet calls, re0802g.

    Below is a table including the periods of apostasy and adding two more significant topics in Jesus' explanation.

Christ's Coming in Matthew 23 and 24 - Outline
Events / situations
Jewish rejection of Christ and His church Matt. 23:28 - 24:1
Early church corruption; persecution by pagans Matt. 24:2-20
Dark Ages apostasy - pagan practices Matt. 24:21-28
End-time apostasy after [1260] days of tribulation Matt. 24:29-31
of the
Signs of nearness: fig tree, etc. Matt. 24:32-34
Certainty of Christ's prediction Matt. 24:35
Secrecy; the specific time unknown Matt. 24:36
Unready at ends of probations People in the days of Noah preferred ignorance Matt. 24:37-41
Sodom destroyed when Lot went out Luke 17:28-30
The head of house wasn't ready Matt. 24:42-44
One servant taught delay Matt. 24:45-51

The assaults on Jerusalem and the flight of Christians
    The Jews had been rebelling against the Judean procurator Florus. Cestius Gallus, Roman governor of Syria and next higher in command, brought troops to settle the matter in A.D. 66. He made some poor military choices and withdrew from Jerusalem after surrounding it. Later Titus, serving under his father, Emperor Vespasian, set siege to the city which finally fell in 70. Titus would have spared the temple and even the people had they not persisted in rebellion and had his troops cooperated with his command of restraint. Jesus described the moment for the Christians to flee while the Jews were chasing Cestius. See MIcah's description of an earlier time mi0311.

The great tribulation, already past?
    The tribulation of verses 21 and 22 stands out in the chapter v21. It is a time of trouble worse than any before. In the time line as I have shown it above, it is in the past. I see it as the persecution during the dark ages where millions who would not bow to the church of Rome, were tortured and killed. Human church officials assumed the position of Christ as able to forgive or excommunicate. Time has covered the blood of martyrs. Of course there have been terrible wars, too, and they will continue, but Jesus said that these would not mark the end. I believe the 1260 years of papal supremacy is more significant because it carries spiritual as well as physical evil re1305a. Will God save any of the people who have been a part of this system? Certainly. Many of them were and are living up to all the light that they know.

Another time of trouble worse than any before
    Daniel describes a time of trouble when MIchael stands up da1201. In comparison, Daniel's future people will be delivered. It is at the conclusion of a judgment and at the time of the resurrection. By contrast the great tribulation of Matt. 24, we see as earlier. It is compared to trouble before and after while the trouble in Daniel compares only with the past.
    How could they both be the worst? Each is, in its own way. The "tribulation" described in Matt. 24 is primarily trouble for the righteous while the evil one stood in the holy place or area around Jerusalem. The time described to Daniel is for the "nations." The Hebrew go-ee is also translated: heathen, Gentiles, and people (although Israel is also a "nation"). The time in Daniel is seen on our chart as when "all the tribes of the earth mourn" (Matt. 24:30). The tragedy at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. serves as the primary sign or model to help us understand the other times. Thus, to some degree, we can use the language of any of the tribulations to understand the others.

The two tribulations pictured in Revelation
    Remember first that "trouble" and "tribulation" are synonyms. The Greek word in Matthew is translated "tribulation" while the Hebrew in Daniel 12 is "trouble." From a casual reading we might assume that the two writers refer to the same time.
    The first and fourth rows in the table show trouble for the wicked. The second and third rows, beginning with v2 show trouble for the righteous.
    Do we find two tribulation times elsewhere in the Bible? Yes, in Revelation, we see the blood of the martyrs re0609, then the signs in the sky re0612, then the trouble of the wicked who call for the rocks and mountains to fall on them. A chart shows this sequence re0612x. The two are in chapters 13 re1305 and re1315.

   Praise God. He has shown us the final victory of those who endure to the end. May you and I be among that number!

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