Rethinking the Olivet Discourse, Its Literary Structure, and Christ’s Teaching on the End Times


This paper asserts (1) that Jesus indeed teaches the disciples about the Rapture of the Church in the Olivet Discourse, (2) that Jesus teaches that the Rapture of the Church will be unexpected, unannounced, and at any moment—the pre-tribulation Rapture position, and (3) that the doctrine of Imminency is taught by Jesus Himself, not just by Paul.

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Table of Contents


Part I:

  • Introduction
  • The Literary Structure of the Olivet Discourse
  • The Writer’s Outline of the Olivet Discourse

Part II:

  • A Section-by-Section Analysis of the Olivet Discourse
  • Summary of Christ’s Olivet Discourse Teaching
  • Conclusion

Footnotes

Appendices



Part I

Introduction:

Except for the book of Revelation, Jesus teaches more about the end-times events in Matthew 24-25—the Olivet Discourse—than in any other part of the New Testament.  Christians from different theological perspectives use the Oli­vet Discourse to argue their respective positions on the end times, particularly their position on the Rapture of the Church.  For example, some Christians contend that the Olivet Discourse teaches a post-tribulation Rapture.  Other Christians suggest that the Discourse teaches a pre-tribulation Rapture.  Still others contend that the Rapture isn’t even pictured in the Olivet Discourse.  It is the premise of this pa­per, how­ever, that Christians from all theological views may have overlooked one of the nuances of the Discourse’s literary struc­ture.  Specifically, most Christians assume that Christ’s teaching in the Olivet Dis­course is entirely chrono­logical in nature.  This writer suggests that it is not.

This paper will attempt to make clear the literary struc­ture of the Olivet Dis­course; will suggest an appropriate outline for the Discourse, given its unique literary structure; and will analyze each section of the Discourse.  In this analysis the writer will assert (1) that Jesus indeed teaches the disciples about the Rapture of the Church in the Olivet Discourse, (2) that Jesus teaches that the Rapture of the Church will be un­ex­pected, un­announced, and at any-mo­ment—the pre-tribulation Rapture position, (3) that the doctrine of Imminency is taught by Jesus Himself not just by Paul, and (4) that Matthew 24:29-31 describes the bodily return of Christ to the earth, not the Rap­ture.

In addition, the paper will show that although Jesus refers the dis­ciples to Daniel 9:24-27—and its seminal prophecy on the prophetic program for Israel—He focuses His teaching in the Olivet on events which take place before He es­tablishes His Millen­nial Kingdom—events which include the Church Age, the Rapture, the Tribulation pe­riod, His bodily return to the earth, and His judgment of the earth’s remaining inhabi­tants.  In the writer’s view the major theme of Matthew’s gos­pel is “The Revela­tion of God’s Inter-Advent Kingdom” [see Appendices A & B].  The Jewish audience to which Mat­thew writes wants to have one basic question an­swered:  “If Jesus Christ is Israel’s Messiah, then why isn’t He reigning from Jeru­salem this very moment?”  Matthew an­swers this question by unveiling in the sec­ond half of his gospel the unforeseen Inter-Advent Kingdom of Messiah, which is designed to take root in the hearts of Jews and Gentiles who put their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior from sin.  Jesus (in Mat­thew’s gospel) discloses a number of the principal characteristics of this inter-advent kingdom through the use of twelve parables—similes which begin with the words “the kingdom of heaven is like” or “the kingdom of heaven is compara­ble to.”  These twelve parables are found in chapters 13, 18, 20, 22, and 25 of Mat­thew’s gospel—the final two being portrayed in the Olivet Discourse [see Appendix C].  To be sure, Jesus up­holds this inter-advent context when, on the morning of His cruci­fixion, He tells Pon­tius Pilate:  “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36). 1

The Literary Structure of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 – 25):

The writer contends that Christ presents four clearly defined chronological vignettes in the Discourse and seven clearly defined parenthetical vignettes.  Accordingly, the Olivet Dis­course is a mixture of (1) the future sequence of human events and (2) parenthetical exhorta­tions, de­scriptions, promises, and warnings which relate in some way to this future sequence of events—but which do not advance the sequence of events.  This “chronological vs. parenthetical” pattern in the Olivet Discourse is similar to that found in the book of Revelation.  Both C.I. Scofield2 and John Wal­voord3 recognized a chronological-parenthetical pattern in the book of Reve­lation and used it as the basis of their Revelation outlines and com­mentaries.  Likewise, J. Dwight Pentecost acknowledges that certain parts of the Olivet are parenthetical.4

Appendix F contains the writer’s analysis of which sections of the Discourse, in his view, are chronological and which sections are parenthetical

The Writer’s Outline of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 – 25):

I.          CHRIST’S PROPHECY ABOUT THE JERUSALEM TEMPLE  (24:1-2)

II.         THE DISCIPLES’ QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS PROPHECY  (24:3)

III.        CHRIST’S ANSWERS TO THE DISCIPLES’ QUESTIONS AND CHRIST’S EXPLANATION OF THE END-TIMES EVENTS  (24:4 – 25:46)

A.        THE CHURCH AGE  (24:4-8)

B.        THE TRIBULATION PERIOD  (24:9-14)

Parenthetical:  Christ’s Exhortation to Flee the Abomination of Desola­tion and His Pronouncement of the Severity of the 2nd Half of the Tribulation (24:15-22)

Parenthetical:  Christ’s Exhortation to Avoid False Christs While He is Away (24:23-28)

C.        THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST TO THE EARTH                                             (24:29-31)

Parenthetical:  The Parable of the Fig Tree—and the Sign of the End of the Age (24:32-35)

Parenthetical:  Christ’s First Teaching on the Rapture and His Exhortation to Be Alert for It at All Times (24:36-44)

Parenthetical:  Christ’s Promise of Blessing and Reward for Faithful, Sensible Servanthood While He is Away (24:45-51)

Parenthetical:  The Parable of the Ten Virgins—the Picture of Christ’s Coming for His Own at the Rapture (25:1-13)

Parenthetical:  The Parable of the Talents (25:14-30)

D.        THE JUDGMENT OF THE REMAINING NATIONS BY CHRIST (25:31-46)



Part II


A Section-by-Section Analysis of the Olivet Discourse:

Having reviewed the literary structure of the Olivet Discourse and having out­lined the Discourse in light of its chronological vs. parenthetical structure, let us now ana­lyze what (in the writer’s view) Jesus teaches about the Church Age, the Rapture, the Tribulation period, His bodily return to the earth, and His judgment of the earth’s remaining in­habitants.  [Note:  The writer has used an upright font style for the text of the chronological passages in the Olivet Discourse and an italic font style for the text of the paren­thetical passages to help the reader distinguish between the two.]

I.    Christ’s Prophecy About the Jerusalem Temple  (24:1-2)

24:1 And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disci­ples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him.  2And He answered and said to them, “Do you not see all these things?  Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

Commenting to Jesus on the majesty of the temple buildings, the disciples still seem to believe (as they had a few days earlier—Luke 19:11) that Jesus is going to set up His prophesied kingdom on earth in the immediate future.  Jesus, however, stuns the disciples by stating that the temple will be destroyed at some point in the future—destroyed to such a degree in fact that “not one stone here shall be left upon another.”

II.    The Disciples’ Questions About this Prophecy  (24:3)

3And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

Sometime later, after mulling over what He has told them about the temple, the disciples come to Jesus in private and ask Him three questions:  (1) when will the tem­ple be destroyed, (2) what will be the sign of your coming, and (3) what will be the sign of the end of the age.

III.    Christ’s Answers to the Disciples’ Questions and Christ’s Explanation of the End-Times Events  (24:4 – 25:46)

Jesus, in the Olivet Discourse, answers all three of these questions.  Further­more, because He knows from the disciples’ questions that they expect Him to come back in the near future at a single moment in time, Jesus gives them a two-part answer to ques­tion #2 (“what will be the sign of your coming?”).  Jesus develops this two-part answer in three of the eleven major sections of the Discourse.  

In terms of their historical and still future chronology, the disciples’ ques­tions (and Christ’s answers) will unfold as follows:

  1. When will the temple be destroyed? Answer:  the temple will be destroyed during the Church Age.
  2. What will be the sign of the end of the age? Answer:  when the “leaves” of world events begin to burst forth in such a way that the end-times events can be fulfilled in a literal fashion exactly as conveyed in Scripture, then you will know that My return is near.
  3. What will be the sign of your coming (part 1)? Answer:  I will come for my own (the Church) unexpectedly and unannounced “like a thief in the night.”  Therefore, there will be no sign pre­ceding My coming for My own; instead, you must be alert at all times for this any-moment return.

4.         What will be the sign of your coming (part 2)? Answer:  When you see the sign of the Son of Man in the sky, then I will come with my own to judge those who remain on the earth and to set up my earthly king­dom.

In addition to giving specific answers to the disciples three questions, Christ also shows the disciples the broad outline of future events—and He peppers His ex­planation of the future with several powerful exhortations, parables, and pro­nouncements.

Let us now examine what Christ teaches about the end times in the Olivet Dis­course.

A.   The Church Age  (24:4-8)

4And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one mis­leads you. 5For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.  6And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not fright­ened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be fam­ines and earthquakes. 8But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

At the beginning of the Discourse, Jesus describes what will happen on earth during the Church Age (Matt. 24:5-8)—the period of time between the day of Pen­tecost and a pre-tribu­lation Rapture.  Specifically, people will claim to be the Christ and, in doing so, will mislead many.  The Church Age will be filled with wars and ru­mors of wars.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdoms will rise against kingdoms.  As well, the Church Age will see famines and earthquakes.  [Note:  one in­stance of a “king­dom rising against another kingdom” occurred in the first century when Gen­eral Titus of the Roman Empire led his armies into Israel in 70 A.D.  Among other things, Titus utterly destroyed the Jerusalem Temple, thus pro­viding the answer to the disci­ples’ question: “when will the tem­ple be destroyed?”  The Apostle John was still alive when the temple was destroyed.]

Nevertheless, such oc­currences are “not yet the end” but are merely “the begin­ning of the birth pangs”—either a reference to “false labor” or the more modest pain of early contractions rather than the more severe pain (of birthing labor) yet to come during the Tribula­tion itself.  All of these events have been taking place during the past 1,900 years and are still taking place today.  For example, Hindu and Eastern mystics routinely claim to be the Christ. Cult leaders in the West often claim to be Christ.  World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War scourged the earth during the most recent century.  Famine has ravaged many parts of the world.  Earthquakes have occurred all over the globe for centuries.

Furthermore, while many Christians see Matthew 24:5-8 as describ­ing the first half of the Tribulation rather than the Church Age, such an interpreta­tion should be questioned for the following reasons:

1.         If Matthew 24:5-8 represents the first half of the Tribulation, then Je­sus never answered the disciples’ first question: “when will the temple be destroyed?” (Matt. 24:3).  It is unfathomable that Jesus would not answer this crucial question, and indeed He did an­swer it.  Today, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we know that the temple was de­stroyed in 70 A.D.—during the Church Age.  The Apostle John would have either seen the destruction first hand or would have known of it through eyewitness re­ports—thus witnessing a vivid example of a “kingdom (the Roman Empire) rising against a kingdom (Israel)” and receiving confirmation in his heart that Jesus had answered the temple question.  As a result, we can reliably con­clude that Matthew 24:4-8 represents the Church Age.

2.         “Wars and rumors of wars” have occurred frequently and profusely over the past 1900 years.  For centuries wars have occurred through­out the earth—in Europe, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, and so on.  During the 20th century alone, World War I, World War II, Korea, Viet­nam, the Falklands, the Iran-Iraq War, the Persian Gulf War, the Bos­nian conflict, plus countless tribal wars in Africa and elsewhere marred the century.  The Tribulation period, how­ever, will last just seven years, not centuries.  Indeed, Scripture re­cords just four con­flicts (albeit catas­trophic) during the Tribulation period:  the Anti­christ-middle eastern nation confrontation (Dan.11:36-45; Joel 2:1-8; Rev. 12:13-16; Rev. 6:3-8); the Antichrist-“kings of the east” conflagra­tion (Rev. 9:13-19); the descent of Gog and his hordes into Israel (Ezek. 38 – 39); and the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:12-16; 19:11-21).  Thus, Christ’s statements in Matthew 24:6-7 that “you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars” and “nation will rise against nation, and king­dom against kingdom” best fit a Church Age context, not a first half of the Tribulation context.

3.         The phrase “but all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” in Matthew 24:8 applies to the Church Age not the Tribula­tion period.  The “birth pangs” expression could mean one of two things. First, any obstetrician will attest to the fact that a pregnant woman will begin to have “false labor” during the sixth or seventh month of her preg­nancy.  This false labor might take the form of a sharp pain last­ing but a min­ute or two, not to return again for several days or even weeks.  This false labor is contrasted with the actual birth­ing labor which takes the form of sharp pain for two to three min­utes followed by a respite of ten minutes, and then sharp pain once again for two to three minutes followed by another respite of nine to ten minutes.  As the delivery grows nearer after an hour or two, the time between the con­tractions (the respite) grows less and less—until the delivery oc­curs.  Thus, World War I would represent an example of “false labor.”  Though twenty million persons lost their lives in Europe, such a num­ber is a minor loss compared to the Tribulation pain of losing more than a bil­lion persons during the Seal judg­ments.  Simi­larly, World War II would represent another example of “false la­bor”—or the “be­ginning” of birth pangs but not the continuous birth pangs them­selves.  Though sixty million persons lost their lives throughout the world during WW II, such a number again is a small loss compared to the more than two bil­lion persons who will lose their lives during the Seal and Trumpet judgments.  Alternatively, the “be­ginning of birth pangs” could repre­sent the more modest pain of the early and less fre­quent contractions twelve to fifteen hours before the actual delivery com­pared to the more intense and more frequent contractions of the final hour of labor.  Whichever explanation is being referenced, it is clear that Christ is telling us today that the wars, famines, and earth­quakes which have taken place so far (dur­ing the Church Age) are only mod­estly difficult (“the beginning of birth pangs”) com­pared to what lies ahead in the Tribulation pe­riod (“then they will de­liver you to tribula­tion”).  In short, the “begin­ning of birth pangs” best fits the Church Age.

4.         The natural flow of the text at the beginning of Matthew 24:9—“Then they will deliver you to tribulation”—readily points to a chrono­logical transition from the Church Age into the Tribulation period.  Once again, Matthew 24:4-8 best represents the Church Age.

5.         The statement later in the Discourse that “My master is not coming for a long time” readily pictures the Church Age (Matt. 24:48).  Likewise, the state­ment in Matthew 25:19 that “after a long time the master of those slaves came and settle accounts with them” assuredly pictures the Church Age.  The statement in Matthew 25:5, “Now while the bride­groom was delay­ing,” also pictures the Church Age.  Consequently, with three clear allusions to the Church Age in parenthetical sec­tions of the Discourse, it seems logical that Christ would include the Church Age in His Olivet Discourse chronology.

The writer would thus assert that Jesus describes the Church Age in Matthew 24:5-8, not the first half of the Tribulation.

B.   The Tribulation Period  (24:9-14)

9“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.  10And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another.  11And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.  12And because lawlessness is in­creased, most people’s love will grow cold.  13But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.  14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.

Jesus now transitions the disciples from an overview of the Church Age to an overview of the Tribulation period:  “Then they will deliver you to tribulation.”  In this chronological section (Matt. 24:9-14), Jesus describes some of the difficulties that take place during the seven-year Tribulation period:  post-Rapture Christians (“on account of My name”) will have to deal with extreme hardship and will be hated by all nations.  Many in post-Rapture Christendom will fall away from their nominal faith and will de­liver up true post-Rapture Christians to be killed.  False prophets (including the False Prophet) will arise during the Tribulation and will mislead many.  Lawlessness will in­crease, and most people’s love will grow cold.  Never­theless, despite the horrors of the Tribulation, the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and of Christ’s im­pending Millennial Kingdom will be preached to all nations throughout the world dur­ing this period—principally, it seems, by the 144,000 post-Rapture Jewish believers of Revelation 7:1-8 and 14:1-5, who are the first ones saved after the Rapture (“as first fruits to God and to the Lamb”) and who are saved before the Tribulation begins (“do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bondservants of our God on their fore­heads”).  Once the Gospel is preached in the whole world [during the Tribulation] for a witness to all nations, “then the end shall come”—i.e., the next chronological event taught by Jesus in the Discourse:  His bodily return to the earth to establish His 1000-year Kingdom of righteousness over the entire earth.  [Note:  al­though some Christians believe that the Rapture cannot occur until the “gospel of the king­dom is preached in the whole world for a witness to all nations,” this interpretation is incor­rect:  The pronouncement in Matthew 24:14 is not a Church Age pronounce­ment but a Tribulation Period pronouncement.  Jesus teaches that the gospel will be preached to all nations during the Tribulation period.  In short, nothing precludes the Rapture from happening at any moment.]

Parenthetical:  Christ’s Exhortation to Flee the Abomination of Desolation and His Pronouncement of The Severity of the 2nd Half of the Tribulation  (24:15-22)

15“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spo­ken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader un­derstand),16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 17let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; 18and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak.

19“But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days!  20But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; 21for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the be­ginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.  22And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short.

In His first parenthetical teaching during the Discourse, Jesus now points the disciples (and the reader or hearer of the Olivet Dis­course) to Daniel 9:24-27 (“when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place [let the reader un­der­stand]”).  Daniel 9:24-27 teaches the following key information about Israel, Messiah, the Antichrist, and the Tribulation period—in­formation which Christ wants the disciples (and us) to learn:

  • Seventy years times seven, or 490 years, have been decreed for the Israelites (and for Jerusalem) to finish their transgression and to bring in everlasting righteousness. 
  • Messiah will be presented to Israel exactly 483 years (or 69 “weeks”) after the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.  [Jesus had just fulfilled this prophecy a day or two earlier when He was presented to Israel on the “Palm Sunday” triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:35-40).  Seven years (or one “week”) yet remain to finish the transgression and to bring in everlasting righteousness.]
  • Messiah will be presented to Israel—and subsequently killed (“cut off”)—before Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed
  • An invading people, from whom will come the 70th week Antichrist, will destroy Jerusalem and the temple
  • A time gap of an unspecified length of time will occur between the 69th and 70th weeks during which time Messiah will be killed and the temple will be destroyed
  • The Antichrist will be a descendent of the people who destroy the temple
  • The Antichrist will sign a seven-year peace treaty with Israel at some point in the future
  • Jerusalem will have a rebuilt temple during the time when the seven-year treaty is operative
  • The Antichrist will both desecrate the temple and break the peace treaty at the mid-point of the treaty
  • Upon breaking the peace treaty, the Antichrist will put an end to Israel’s reinstated Levitical worship system
  • The Antichrist will make Israel and Jerusalem desolate after the mid-point of the Tribulation
  • The Antichrist will eventually be destroyed

Christ also knows that the reader of Daniel can go to Daniel 12 for additional in­formation about end-times events—particularly Daniel 12:11-12 where he/she will dis­cover that Messiah will return bodily to the earth exactly 1,290 days after the Anti­christ’s dese­cration of the temple:  “And from the time of the regular sacrifice is abol­ished, there will be 1,290 days.  How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!” Thus, thirty days after the end of the tribu­lation, Jesus Christ will return bodily to the earth with His elect (I Thess. 3:13) and His holy an­gels (II Thess. 1:7).  The reader can be sure that this Daniel 12 quotation refers to the bodily return of Christ because it correlates perfectly with the Lord’s teaching in Mat­thew 24:29: immediately after the tribula­tion of those days the sun will be dark­ened  .  .  .  and then the sign of the Son of Man will ap­pear in the sky  .  .  .  and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with great power and great glory.” Forty-five days after Christ’s bodily return to earth (or exactly 1,335 days after the Anti­christ’s desecration of the temple), Christ will begin His Millen­nial reign over the earth, thus fulfilling Dan. 9:24: “to bring in everlast­ing right­eousness.” [Note:  though there is some debate whether the Lord’s bodily return occurs 1,290 days or 1,335 days after the desecration of the temple, it is clear that either time­frame fits the Lord’s declaration in Matthew 24:29:  immediately after the tribula­tion of those days the sun will be dark­ened  .  .  .  and then the sign of the Son of Man will ap­pear in the sky  .  .  .  and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with great power and great glory.” It is this writer’s view that the “1,335 day” refer­ence—“how blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days”—points to the blessing of a post-Rapture believer surviving the Tribulation period and then being able to enter the Millennial Kingdom.  Thus, in the writer’s view the Lord will return to the earth 1,290 days after the desecration, will slay all those who have gathered against Jerusalem (Rev. 19:11-21), and will gather to Jerusalem and judge all the earth’s remaining inhabi­tants (Matt. 25:31-46) before the 1,335th day arrives.]

After pointing his hearer to Daniel 9 and its picture of the Anti­christ dese­crating the Jerusalem temple, Jesus exhorts those living in Jerusalem and Judea during this time to flee to the mountains when they see the Antichrist standing in the temple.  Further­more, by faith, they are to flee immediately and are to leave eve­ry­thing behind because of the urgency of the situation.

Jesus also describes the severity of what will take place on earth during the sec­ond half of the Tribulation (Matt. 24:19-22).  He states in these verses that “at this time there will be great tribula­tion—such has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be again.  And except those days be cut short, no life would be saved.” Clearly, the Great Tribulation will be a time of unparalleled horror on earth, and Christ’s pronouncement here in the Olivet Discourse readily corresponds with the horrors and the death toll depicted in the book of Revelation.

Parenthetical:  Christ’s Exhortation to Avoid False Christs While He is Away (24:23-28)

23“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him.  24For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.  25Behold, I have told you in advance. 26If, therefore, they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wil­derness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.  28Wherever the corpse is, there the vul­tures will gather.

Jesus continues His break from the end-times chronology by exhorting the disci­ples and all Church Age Christians to avoid false Christs and false prophets while He is away.  The exhortation can likewise be applied to post-Rap­ture Chris­tians; they too are exhorted to avoid false Christs and false prophets during the Tribulation pe­riod.  Ac­cord­ingly, Church Age believers (“the elect”) and post-Rapture believers (“the elect”) are to ignore any pronouncement that Christ has already returned and is lo­cated in the wilderness or some remote building.  The rea­son:  Christ’s bodily return will come from the sky and will be “announced” by signs in the sky (“for just as lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be”).  Because these signs (to be described in the Olivet’s next section) have not yet occurred, the reader of the Discourse can know with certainty that Jesus is not “in the wilderness” or “in the inner rooms” as some might claim Him to be.

C.   The Second Coming of Christ to the Earth (24:29-31)

29“But immediately after the 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, 30and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and 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.  31And 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.

Jesus now resumes His unveiling of the end-times chronology and describes the four signs in the sky which will “announce” His bod­ily return to the earth:  the sun will be darkened; the moon will not give off its light; the stars will move out of their cus­tomary positions in the sky; and the celestial laws which govern the solar systems and galaxies will be altered (v.29).  Jesus then tells the disci­ples that after these four signs the sign of His return will appear in the sky (v.30).  Thus, Christ, in Matthew 24:29-30, an­swers the disciples’ second question from Matthew 24:3: “what will be the sign of your coming?”

After describing the signs which immediately precede His return to the earth, Jesus then tells the disciples that He will send forth His angels to gather His elect “from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”  Notice that Jesus does not say in Matthew 24:31 that He will send forth His angels to gather His elect from the earth, or from under the earth, or from under the seas.  In contrast, Christ tells John in the Revelation that, at the Second Resurrection (after the Millennial Kingdom and in conjunction with the Great White Throne Judgment), “the sea gave up the dead which were in it  .  .  .  ; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds” (Rev. 20:13).  If Matthew 24:31 represents the Rapture of the Church, the assertion of post-tribulationists, then why isn’t the same type of language present?  To be sure, Matthew 24:29-31 offers no hint of a translation of believers from the earth up into the sky.  Nowhere in v. 31 are the Greek words for “earth” or “sea.”

What, then, is Jesus teaching in v.31?  First, the Greek word for “sky” in v.31 is the same word for “sky” in v.29 (“and the stars will fall from the sky”).  This suggests that the gathering of the elect in v.31 will take place somewhere in the far reaches of the uni­verse—where the stars reside and where the abode of the Trinity exists—not from the earth itself (as would be the case if this were the Rapture of the Church).  In John 14:1-2 Jesus teaches the disciples (and us) that He will prepare a heavenly abode (“in My Father’s house”) for each believer: “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 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.” Second, Christ uses the ex­pression “from the four winds,” rather than saying, for example, “from the North wind.”  By using the “four winds” expression, Christ is teaching (1) that His angels will gather the elect from all directions above rather than from one direc­tion—indeed “from one end of the sky to the other”—and (2) that, just as we don’t know from where the wind comes (John 3:8), we won’t know from where in the heavens the elect will be gathered.  But from John 14:1-2 we do know that they will be gathered from “many dwelling places”—in fact, most likely from a myriad of dwelling places in heaven, indeed “from one end of the sky to the other.”  To be sure, the Apostle Paul makes it clear in I Thess. 4:16-17 that, at the Rapture, Christ (1) will descend from heaven, (2) will raise the dead in Christ first (from the earth), (3) will translate the living in Christ next (from the earth), and (4) will meet both groups—His resurrected saints and His translated saints—in the air.  Paul also makes it clear that Christ will raise His dead saints and translate His liv­ing saints from the earth to a particular location in the air—specifi­cally, where Christ Himself is lo­cated.  Paul does not teach that, at the Rapture, dead and living saints will be resur­rected/translated into a multitude of loca­tions—“from one end of the sky to an­other”—only to then be collected by Christ’s an­gels from these lo­cations to be joined with Christ, an interpretation the post-tribulation rapture position would be forced to suggest

In short, when Christ’s angel’s gather His elect “from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other,” His angels will gather together the en­tirety of the elect—specifi­cally, all resurrected Old Testament saints, all resur­rected Church Age saints, and all res­urrected Tribulation saints (i.e., those post-Rapture be­lievers who either died or were martyred during the Tribulation period)—from their dwelling places in heaven for their bodily return to the earth with Christ (I Thess. 3:13) and with His holy angels (II Thess. 1:7).  All who remain on earth thirty days after the end of the Tribulation period will witness Christ’s bodily return to the earth with His saints and holy angels (Rev. 1:7).  What will be the response of re­main­ing mankind?  “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” (v.30).

[Note:  Post-tribulationists contend that the Church will have to go through the en­tire Tribula­tion period, though being preserved through it.5 So the question must be asked:  Are Christians divinely sheltered from the wrath of God during the Tribulation period?  What do the Scriptures teach?  In the writer’s view, the Scriptures teach just the opposite.  Far from being divinely protected during the Tribulation period, millions and millions of Christians, accord­ing to Revelation 7:9-15, either die in the judgments them­selves or are martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ:  “After these things I looked; and, behold, I saw a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Sal­vation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.  .  .  .”   And one of the elders an­swered, saying to me, "These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and from where have they come?"  And I said to him, "My lord, you know."  And he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribula­tion, and they have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb." If a “great mul­titude” of be­lievers “which no one could count” has been mar­tyred or killed during the Great Tribula­tion, then how has God sheltered them from wrath?  It seems to this writer that the Law of Non-Contradiction would rule out any such interpretation.]

Parenthetical:  The Parable of the Fig Tree—and the Sign of the End of the Age  (24:32-35)

32“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already be­come tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.  34Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  35Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.

In the Parable of the Fig Tree, Jesus tells the Christian how to discern when the “sea­son” of His return is near:  Just as a person knows that summer is near when the leaves begin to burst forth in the spring, so too a person can know that Christ’s return is near when the “leaves” of world events begin to burst forth in ways which could allow for a literal fulfill­ment of the End-Times prophecies, including the death tolls portrayed in the book of Reve­lation (death tolls to which Christ clearly alludes when He states in Matthew 24:22a: “and unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved”).  Thus, Christ, in Matthew 24:32-35 (a paren­thetical pas­sage), answers the disciples’ third question from 24:3: “what will be the sign of the end of the age?”  Answer:  When the “leaves” begin to burst forth.  In 1948, Israel once again be­came a nation.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the nightmare of potential nuclear holo­caust—and a potential literal fulfillment of the death tolls de­picted in the Revelation—became a reality with the collective warhead and I.C.B.M capability of the United States and the Soviet Un­ion.  In 1967, Israel once again gained possession of Jerusalem.  The 1970’s saw the begin­ning of legalized abortion (Isa. 5:20), the cast­ing off of sexual restraint, and the stark reality of the West’s dependence upon Middle East Oil.  The 1980’s saw an explo­sion of pornography, the increasing acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism as an “alterna­tive lifestyle,” global communications capabili­ties, and the emer­gence of the AIDS epi­demic.  The 1990’s saw the maturation of global satellite TV (Rev. 13:8), the “safe sex” campaign, the threat of Islamic nuclear prolifera­tion, microchip technology implanted into animals, and the global Internet.  The current dec­ade has already seen the attempted cloning of humans (Gen. 11:6), the drive in the West to le­galize same-sex mar­riage (Lev. 18:23), the reve­lation that China has eleven nuclear-tipped I.C.B.M.’s aimed at major U.S. cities, the sobering reality of Radical Islam (and its call for the elimina­tion of Israel and the Western world), the efforts of Iran to develop nuclear weapons, and the much publicized efforts of North Korea to test and perfect I.C.B.M.’s which could reach the west coast of the United States.  Dozens of other “leaves” could also be listed.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight it is reasonable to sug­gest that Jesus has in mind with this Fig Tree Parable a “summer-fall-winter-spring” pic­ture of the entirety of Church history.  Indeed, any broad overview of Church history from today’s twenty-first century perspective tends to support this premise.  In the writer’s view, the Day of Pentecost—when Peter and the “120” are filled with the Holy Spirit and the “3000” are “on fire” for Christ—repre­sents the first hour of “summer” in Christ’s parable.  Next, given that we are now nearly 2000 years into Church history and that the destruction of the Jerusalem tem­ple took place forty years after Pentecost (or one fiftieth into a 2000-year Church his­tory), Titus’s destruc­tion of the temple in 70 A.D. thus takes place at the end of the first week of “sum­mer” in this par­able.  During the next 240 years of Church history a significant portion of the Church is still largely “on fire” for Christ—hot, if you will, and alive in the Holy Spirit—though the “on fire” part of the Church begins to decrease in number and fervor as “sum­mer” ends.  By 500 A.D., after Con­stantine’s “Christianiza­tion” of the Roman Em­pire and the subsequent institutionalization of the Church, the Church enters into the cooler weather of “fall”—a lukewarm period, if you will, and a period of an increasingly quenched Holy Spirit.  The reality and efficacy of the “priesthood of all believers” dimin­ishes dramati­cally.  By the time 1000 A.D. arrives, the Church has entered into the long nights and frigid cold of “win­ter”—and a time of near lifelessness in the Church.  Five hun­dred years later, however, during the Refor­ma­tion, the Church moves into early “spring­time,” and new life is breathed into the Church.  An on-fire remnant of true believers once again begins to infiltrate the Church both in number and fervor.  Over these past five hun­dred years a significant por­tion of the Church has grown ever warmer as “summer” ap­proaches.   During this time­frame, the Gospel has penetrated into the Western Hemi­sphere, Af­rica, Asia, and recently into the Middle East.  The “mustard seed” in the Par­able of the Mustard Seed has now be­come the full grown plant prophesied by Jesus nearly 2000 years ago.  To be sure, today’s under­ground church in China is radically on fire for Christ and is probably the most vivid por­trait of the early church seen by Chris­tendom since the first cen­tury.  During the past sixty years a significant number of evangelical churches in America have seen the number of on-fire be­lievers increase in both number and fervor.  In certain parts of Christendom the reality of the priesthood of all believers once again has emerged, as mil­lions of born-again Chris­tians today use their spiritual gifts in the Body of Christ.  To sum up, this easily recog­nizable “summer-fall-winter-spring” pattern to Church history also points us to the conclusion that the spring­time “leaves” of world events indeed now seem to be bursting forth in antici­pation to Christ’s coming at the end of “spring” or the be­ginning of “sum­mer.”

Jesus concludes His answer on the “season” of His coming by explaining to the disciples (and us) that the generation which sees the “leaves bursting forth” will not pass from the scene before His return.  Perhaps after the long delay pictured in Matthew 24:48 and 25:5, the Lord’s coming indeed is at hand.

[Note:  Jesus at this point in the Discourse has now answered all three of the dis­ci­ples’ questions—and has answered them in the order they were asked:  (1) “When will the temple be de­stroyed?” (Chronological section 1: During the Church Age); (2) “What will be the sign of your return?” (Chronological section 3: Immediately after the Tribulation pe­riod—Daniel’s 70th Week—when the sign of the Son of Man appears in the sky); and (3) “What will be the sign of the end of the age?” (Parenthetical section 3: When the “leaves” of world events begin to burst forth in such a way that the end-times prophecies can be ful­filled literally).  In the remainder of the Discourse, Jesus goes beyond these three questions to give the disciples additional information about the end times—including answers, if you will, to questions they didn’t ask.  Jesus obviously knows the gaps in the disciples’ understanding of what the future holds, and He wants to help them see the entire end-times panorama with complete clarity—including the previ­ously undisclosed Rap­ture of the Church, the long delay before His return, and His judgment of the earth’s remaining nations after His bodily return.]

[Additional note:  Up until this point the disciples have probably been thinking to them­selves:  “What have we gotten ourselves into?  Jesus is telling us that there’s going to be a seven-year period of judgment on the earth before His bodily return and that the second half of this period is going to be utterly horrific.  Are we going to have to go through all of this?”  Knowing what is in their hearts (in­cluding their fear), Jesus in the next section begins to comfort the troubled hearts of His disciples.  He does so by introducing them to the doctrine of a pre-tribulation Rapture—an unan­nounced, any-moment coming for His own children before the seven-year judgment takes place.]

Parenthetical:  Christ’s First Teaching on the Rapture and His Exhorta­tion to be Alert for It at All Times  (24:36-44)

36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  37For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  38For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

40“Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.  42Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

43“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  44For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

In His introduction of the Rapture to the disciples, Jesus makes it clear that, even though a later (“springtime”) generation of Christians will be able to discern the “season” or nearness of His coming (at the Rapture), no Christian—indeed no one at all—can know the day or the hour (v.36) of this previously undisclosed coming—a coming which He describes in vv.40-42.  Only the Fa­ther in heaven knows the day and the hour (v.36) of this particu­lar coming.

Jesus then points out that most persons on earth at any time between His first ad­vent and the coming described in vv.40-42 will be wholly preoccupied with their day-to-day lives and will pay no attention to God’s pro­nouncement of impending judgment (de­spite the fact that it is taught in many parts of Scrip­ture)—just as man was wholly preoc­cupied with day-to-day activities and paid no at­tention to God’s pronouncement of im­pending judgment in Noah’s day:  “For the com­ing of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in the days of Noah which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were mar­rying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark; and they did not understand un­til the flood came and took them all away.  So too shall the coming of the Son of Man be” (vv.37-39). Notice that Jesus twice uses the phrase “the coming of the Son of Man.”  So the first question that needs to be asked is this:  which coming is He talking about?  The coming for His own (which He will shortly substantiate in Matt. 25:1-13), or the coming with His own (the “elect” of Matt. 24:31), which He has just described for the disciples (in Matt. 24:29-31)?  The answer is the former:  Jesus begins to teach the dis­ciples about the Rapture—His com­ing for certain people be­fore the Tribulation judg­ments begin.  (The “who” He comes for and “who” He leaves behind will be ex­plained by Christ in Matt. 25:1-13.)  [Note:  Christ’s teaching in vv.36-44 is parenthetical in nature.  Thus, even though this teach­ing occurs after Christ’s description of His bodily return to the earth in vv.29-31, the placement or position of this teaching in the Dis­course has nothing to do with where the event being described fits into the end-times chronology.  Where it fits chronologically must be deter­mined by the meaning of the passage itself.]

After He presents the “days of Noah” comparison, Jesus then describes the nature of this future unannounced and un­expected coming of the Son of Man—a coming for which the disci­ples (and Christians today) are always to be alert (v.42).  Specifically, Jesus teaches the disci­ples that this collection will involve the taking of some and the leav­ing be­hind of oth­ers:  “Two men will be 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.” Though Jesus does not yet reveal who will be taken and who will be left (He will shortly do that in the Parable of the Ten Virgins), the implication at this point—given the context of His “days of Noah” comparison—is that believers will be taken from the earth at this coming (by the Rapture) and that unbelievers will be left behind (to face the Tribula­tion judgments).

Christ then goes on to solidify His teaching about the unannounced and un­ex­pected nature of this particular coming by comparing it to the unan­nounced, unex­pected nature of a thief entering a home at night:  “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was com­ing, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.   For this reason you be ready too, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (vv. 43-44). Once again Jesus exhorts Christians to be alert for this coming be­cause no one except God the Father knows the exact time of this event.  This exhorta­tion to be alert at all times for Christ’s unex­pected coming for His own stands in sharp con­trast to Christ’s coming with His own thirty days after the end of the Tribulation, a timeframe explicitly stated in Scripture and which Christ (in Matthew 24:15) implores every Christian to learn.  Thus, because the timeframe of His bodily return to the earth is known (i.e., thirty days after the end of the Tribulation), Christ’s statement in v.42—“for you do not know which day your Lord is coming”—cannot possibly be referring to His bodily return to the earth.  Instead, His statement refers to an unannounced, unex­pected coming for His own.

Many Christians nevertheless assign a Second Coming to the earth context and a “prophetic plan of Israel”/Millennial Kingdom interpretation to Matthew 24:36-44.  These Christians would interpret the passage as follows:  “But when He comes, ‘two men will be in the field; one will be taken [away into judgment] and the other left [to go into the mil­lennial kingdom].  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken [away into judgment] and the other will be left [to go into the kingdom].’ ”  Thus, some will be allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom; others will be taken away into judgment.6 It seems to this writer, however, that such a position has not scrutinized the con­text of the Lord’s “days of Noah” simile carefully enough.  In the vernacular of our day the condition on earth at the time of the coming described in vv.36-44—and the interpretive key to the passage—is “busi­ness as usual.”  It is “business as usual” in Noah’s day—people are eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage—until Noah enters the ark and the flood comes to judge those not in the ark.  Similarly, it will be “business as usual” on the earth just prior to the coming described by Jesus in these verses.  People will be eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, until a coming of the Lord in which “some will be taken and some will be left.”

On the other hand (and in sharp contrast to this “business as usual” scenario), it will not be “business as usual” on earth during the second half of the Tribulation period, the timeframe which immedi­ately pre­cedes the Lord’s bodily return to the earth.  For example, during the fifth Trumpet Judg­ment, those who have not turned to Christ will face five months of excruciating tor­ture—like that of the sting of a scorpion (Rev. 9:1-6).  It is hard to imag­ine any non-believer “marrying or giving in marriage” during this timeframe.  Furthermore, few believers will be “marry­ing and giv­ing in mar­riage” dur­ing this time­frame because all of them will be in hiding.  [Note:  By the time the first Bowl judgment takes place toward the end of the Tribulation, one-half of the earth’s post-Rapture population will no longer be “eating and drinking” or “marrying and giv­ing in marriage” because they will be dead—having been killed during the Seal and Trumpet judgments (Rev. 6:7,9; Rev. 9:18).]  It will hardly be “busi­ness as usual” when the first Bowl judg­ment takes place and ma­lignant sores break out on all persons who have the mark of the beast on their right hand or fore­head (Rev. 16:2) (and when the world’s medical facilities find them­selves overwhelmed with frantic people).  It will hardly be “business as usual” when the second Bowl judgment takes place and the earth’s oceans turn to blood and all marine life dies (Rev. 16:3) (and when millions of dead car­casses cover the earth’s coast­lines, and trillions of dead sea creatures cover the surface of the earth’s oceans).  It will hardly be “business as usual” when the third Bowl judgment takes place and the earth’s entire fresh water supply turns to blood (Rev. 16:4-6) (and when people throughout the earth will have to strain the blood out of their drinking wa­ter).  It will hardly be “business as usual” when the fourth Bowl judgment takes place and men are “scorched with fierce heat” (Rev. 16:8-9) (and when no one will be able to find relief).  It will hardly be “busi­ness as usual” when fifth Bowl judg­ment takes place and unbe­lievers in the Antichrist’s em­pire suffer excru­ciating pain (Rev. 16:10): “and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.” And, finally, no one on earth will be marrying or giving in marriage after the cataclysmic destruction of the seventh Bowl judgment thirty days before the Lord’s bodily return [see Appendix D].  Hence, because it fails to recog­nize the business-as-usual human condition which exists immediately prior to the com­ing de­scribed by Jesus in vv.36-44—erroneously applying instead a not business-as-usual context to this “one will be taken, one will be left” passage—the “pro­phetic plan of Israel”/Millennial Kingdom interpreta­tion of Matthew 24:36-44, in this writer’s view, is contextually impossible and must be ruled out as a plausible interpretation of the passage.

To reiterate, Jesus teaches in Matthew 24:36-44 that it will be “business as usual” on the earth before He comes unexpectedly (“be on the alert for you do not know which day your Lord in coming”) for certain people at the Rapture.  Jesus teaches in Matthew 24:9-22 and in the Revelation, however, that it will not be business as usual before His bodily return to the earth.

[Note:  the post-tribulation rapture position also fails to distinguish between the business-as-usual human condition described by Christ in vv. 36-44 and the not business-as-usual human condition before His bodily return to the earth.  Because of the entirely differ­ent human conditions which immediately precede these events, the two comings of the Son of Man portrayed in the Olivet (1) are mutually exclusive, (2) cannot occur simultaneously, and (3) must be separated by a reasonable amount of time (e.g., the fifth Trumpet judgment itself lasts five months) while the human condition erodes from “eating and drinking and marrying” into torture, panic, and fright (“and unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved”).  Thus, the con­tention of post-tribulationists that the Rapture of the Church occurs at the end of the Tribulation (after the horrors of the Bowl judg­ments) only to be followed immedi­ately by the Second Coming of Christ with the resur­rected Church is Scripturally un­ten­able—and must be ruled out.]

Parenthetical:  Christ’s Promise of Blessing and Reward for Faithful, Sensible Servanthood While He is Away  (24:45-51)

45“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?  46Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.  47Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his posses­sions.

48“But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51and shall cut him in pieces and as­sign him a place with the hypocrites; weeping shall be there and the gnashing of teeth.

In still another parenthetical pause from the chronology of events, Jesus chal­lenges each born-again Christian to set his heart on doing the Lord’s work and to be a faithful, sen­sible servant while He is away (vv.45-47).  Jesus teaches that such a Chris­tian is blessed—and will be rewarded for his faithfulness during the Millennial King­dom (“when He comes”):  “Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions” (v.47).  In Matthew 19:28-30 Christ promises the twelve apostles that they will rule over and judge the twelve tribes of Israel during the “regeneration”—the Millennial King­dom.  [Note: We can be certain that this promise is a Millennial Kingdom promise be­cause sin will not exist in the Eternal Kingdom; hence, there will be no need to have “judges.”]  Conversely, Jesus states that the person who rejects His salvation offer (the “evil slave”) will be punished in a horrible place of torment where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Notice, too, that Jesus for the first time teaches His disciples that His coming will not take place for a long time (alluding to what we now know to be the lengthy Church Age):  “My master is not coming for a long time” (v.48).  As well, Jesus (in v. 50) reiter­ates the unexpected nature of this particular coming (as He had previously taught in Mat­thew 24:42-44):  “The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know.”

Parenthetical:  The Parable of the Ten Virgins—the Picture of Christ’s Coming for His Own at the Rapture (25:1-13)

25:1“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.  3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.

5“Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.  6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’  7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  9But the prudent answered, saying, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.

11And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’  12But he an­swered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’  13Be on the alert, then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

Christ now provides, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, additional information about the Rapture.  Previously, in Matthew 24:40-42, Christ has given the disciples a de­scription of what happens at the Rapture:  some will be taken and some will be left be­hind.  Here Christ explains who will be taken at the Rapture and who will be left behind.  [Note:  the context of the Ten Virgins parable is the (now long) Church Age:  “now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep” (v. 5).]

In the Parable of the Ten Virgins Christ uses the metaphor of a typical Jewish betrothal, mar­riage, and marriage supper to augment His earlier teaching on the Rap­ture.  The first century Jewish betrothal was unlike the typical Gentile engage­ment of today.  In the Jewish betrothal, the bridegroom, after proposing to his loved one, would “go away” to his “father’s house” to “make a place” for them to live on the father’s land.  Often he would be away for a year while he completed their home.  Then, when the home was ready and all the arrangements had been made for the wedding feast, the bride­groom, in a touch of Jewish romance, would come for his bride unexpectedly, usu­ally in the middle of the night.  The bride, of course, was to be alert and ready for his return, eager to have their marriage consummated.  To be fully prepared (after all, her groom might come for her in the middle of the night), she would have to have her lamp trimmed with oil so that she would have sufficient light to go out to greet him.7 [Note:  Because Christ knows that He will not return for many centuries when He presents this parable—and because He knows that the vast majority of His Bride (the true Church of born-again believers) will have died before He returns—He apparently chooses here to describe the living members of the true Church when He comes at the Rapture as five “prudent” virgins.  The prudent virgins have the “oil”—a picture of the indwelling Holy Spirit—and are that part of living Christendom which will be translated into heaven at the Rapture.  In contrast, Jesus describes that part of living Christen­dom which will be left behind on earth at the Rapture as five “foolish” virgins.  The foolish virgins have no “oil”—no indwelling Holy Spirit—because they have not come to Christ on the basis of faith in His finished work (but instead have come to Christ on their own terms, typically by sacraments, good works, church membership, or universalism).]

And so it is to be today with the living Church, the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-32; Rev. 19:7).  All persons indwelled with the Holy Spirit (the “oil”) are to be alert and ready for an any-moment coming of the Bridegroom (Christ) to take them to the Father’s home for the consummation of their wedding (the completion and per­fec­tion of their salvation) and for the subsequent wedding feast prepared for them by the Father.  Those having the “oil” (the indwelling Holy Spirit)—the “wheat” of Matthew 13:36-39, or born-again Christians—are taken by the Groom (Christ) to the wedding feast in heaven (Rev. 19:7-9).  Those not having the “oil”—the “tares,” or counterfeit “Christians” of Matthew 13:36-39—are left behind on the earth.  It is too late for the tares (counterfeit Chris­tians):  the door to the “ark” (heaven in this case) has been closed, even though some of them will perhaps finally embrace salvation by grace through faith and will want to be with the Lord:  “And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’   But he an­swered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you’” (vv. 11-12). It is also now too late for all other unbelievers on earth; all of them will have to face the Tribulation judgments, just as all unbeliev­ers in Noah’s day had to face the Flood after the door to the ark was closed.  In addi­tion, for a fourth time in the Oli­vet Discourse Christ exhorts the listener to be ready for this any-moment coming for His own: “Be on the alert, then, for you do not know the day or the hour” (v. 13).

In short, Jesus once again teaches the disciples about an unexpected, any-mo­ment Rapture in this parable.  Moreover, Christ teaches the “who” of this any-mo­ment coming:  He will come for His own at the Rapture.  In contrast, Christ teaches that those who are not His own—“Christians” who are not born again and all other non-be­lievers (as taught by Christ previously in the “days of Noah” simile)—will be left behind on earth to face the Tribulation judgments.

[Note:  so far Jesus (1) has taught the disciples about the human condition prior to the Rapture—people will be eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage  (“business as usual”); (2) has taught the disciples what happens at the Rap­ture—some will be taken and some will be left behind; (3) has taught the disciples who will be taken into heaven at the Rapture—born again believers in Jesus Christ (the “wheat”)—and who will be left behind—counterfeit Christians (the “tares”) and all other unbelievers; and (4) has taught the disciples that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation judg­ments.  It is Paul who later adds that the Rap­ture will be in­stantaneous (“in the twinkling of an eye”); that the dead in Christ will be raised first and the living in Christ will then be translated; that the raptured will meet Christ in the air; that the raptured will be given eternal, imperish­able bodies; and so on.  To be sure, however, it is Christ who first intro­duces the Rap­ture, not Paul.]

Parenthetical:  The Parable of the Talents  (25:14-30)

14“For it [the kingdom of heaven] is just like a man about to go on a jour­ney, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them.  15And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.  16Immediately the one who had re­ceived the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.  17In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.  18But he who received the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

19“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled ac­counts with them. 20 And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’  21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’  22The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.  25And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’  26But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. 27‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.  28Therefore, take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’  29For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  30And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus once again instructs the disciples that He will be gone for a long time before He returns:  “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and set­tled ac­counts with them.” Jesus then goes on to teach the disciples that faithfulness with however much or little the Lord gifts each believer is all that He asks of His chil­dren—and that equal faithfulness will be rewarded equally (vv.14-23).  Christ also makes it clear, however, that all counterfeit Christians—the “tares” of Mat­thew 13:24-30, 36-40 and the “wicked, lazy, worthless slaves” depicted here—will be cast out “into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 24-30). In no uncertain terms, Jesus teaches that Hell will be a place of utter separation from God (and from God’s people) and will be a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

D.   The Judgment of the Remaining Nations by Christ (25:31-46)

31“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  32And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  37Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?  38And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  39And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’  44Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’  45Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus, after several parenthetical parables and exhortations in which He ex­plains to the disciples (among other things) His unannounced, unexpected, any-mo­ment return for His own, now transitions the disciples back to His final major chronological teach­ing on the end times:  His judgment of the remaining nations after His bodily return to the earth (“when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all His angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne”).

Jesus tells the disciples that upon His return He will judge all persons who survive the horrors of the Tribulation:  “and all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another as a shepherd the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on the right and the goats on the left” (vv. 32-33). Christ then teaches that all remaining persons on earth who have put their faith in Him will be allowed to enter the Millennial King­dom (“inherit the kingdom prepared for you”).  Those who have not put their faith in Him will be slain (“depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels”) (vv. 34-46).


——


Summary of Christ’s Olivet Discourse teaching:


Christ presents a four-fold chronology of future events in the Olivet:


(1)    the Church Age (24:4-8)

(2)    the Tribulation period (24:9-14)

(3)    the Second Coming of Christ to the earth (24:29-31)

(4)    the Judgment of the earth’s remaining nations by Christ before He begins His Millennial reign over the earth (25:31-46)


Christ teaches that the Church Age will be characterized by the following phenomena (Matt. 24:4-8):


(1)    many will come in Christ’s name, claiming to be Christ

(2)    many will be misled by these claims

(3)    there will be wars and rumors of wars

(4)    nation will rise against nation, and kingdom will rise against kingdom

(5)    there will be earthquakes in various places

(6)    there will be famines in various places


Christ teaches that the Church Age will last for long time and that His return will not take place for a long time (Matt. 24:48; 25:5; 25:19)


Christ confirms, by referring the disciples to Daniel 9:24-27, that the Tribula­tion period will last for seven years


Christ teaches that the seven-year Tribulation period will be characterized by the following phenomena (Matt. 24:9-14):


(1)    Many Tribulation Christians (i.e., post-Rapture Christians) will be killed

(2)    Tribulation Christians will be hated by all nations because of Christ

(3)    many so-called “Christians” will fall away, will hate Tribulation Christians, and will deliver up Tribulation Christians to be killed

(4)    false prophets will arise—and will mislead many

(5)    lawlessness will increase

(6)    most people’s love will grow cold

(7)    those Tribulation Christians who endure to the end will be saved

(8)    the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world for a witness to all nations


Christ teaches that the second half of the Tribulation will be a time of unimaginable horror on earth—and that “unless those days be cut short no life would survive” (Matt. 24:19-22)


Christ teaches that His bodily return to the earth will be “announced” by four signs in the sky—the sun will be darkened; the moon will not give off its light; the stars will move out of their cus­tomary positions in the sky; and the celestial laws which govern the solar systems and galaxies will be altered—and then by the sign of His return (Matt. 24:29-30)


Christ introduces the disciples to the doctrine of the pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church in two parenthetical passages:  Matthew 24:36-44 and 25:1-11.  Unlike the Second Coming of Christ to the earth, which will be announced by signs in the sky, the Rapture will be unannounced and will occur unex­pectedly


Christ teaches, in four separate verses, that the born-again Christian is to be ever-expectant and always ready for this any-moment Rapture (Matt. 24:42; 24:43-44; 24:50; 25:13)


Christ teaches that those within Christendom who are born-again believ­ers will be taken from the earth at the time of the Rapture—and that the Rapture will occur before the Tribu­lation judgments (Matt. 24:36-44; 25:1-11)


Christ teaches that those within Christendom who are not born-again believ­ers will be left behind on earth at the time of the Rapture—and will not be able to escape the Tribulation judgments even if some of them want to turn to Christ after the Rapture (Matt. 24:36-44; 25:1-11)


Christ teaches that the born-again Christian, even though he/she cannot know the day or the hour of the Rapture, can nevertheless discern when the Lord’s return is near:  Just as a person knows that summer is near when the leaves begin to burst forth in the spring, so too a person can know that Christ’s return is near when the “leaves” of world events begin to burst forth in ways which could allow for a literal fulfillment of the end-times prophecies (Matt. 24:32-35)


Christ teaches that all persons who survive the horrors of the Tribulation will be judged by Jesus Himself after His return.  Those who have put their faith in Him will be allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom.  Those who have not put their faith in Him will be slain (Matt. 25:31-46)


Christ points out that most persons during the Church Age—including persons today—will pay no attention to God’s pronouncement of impending judgment, just as humans paid no attention to God’s pronouncement of impending judgment in Noah’s day (Matt. 24:36-39)


Christ teaches that virtually all of Christendom—including His own children (those indwelled with the Holy Spirit)—will be drowsy and asleep (i.e., not alert) when He comes unexpectedly at the Rapture  (Matt. 25:1-11)


Christ exhorts today’s believer to set his heart on doing the Lord’s work and to be a faithful, sensible servant of the Lord while He is away (Matt. 24:45-51)


Christ teaches that all who name the name of Christ (i.e., both the “wheat” and the “tares) will one day give an accounting of their lives to Christ.  Those who are born again will enter into the joy of their Master; those who are not born again will be cast into Hell (Matt. 25:14-30)


Christ teaches that faithfulness with however much or little the Lord gifts each born-again believer is all that Christ asks of His children and that equal faithfulness will be rewarded equally (Matt. 25:14-29)


Christ teaches that Hell will be a place of utter separation from God (and from God’s people) and will be a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30)



Conclusion


Jesus describes two very different comings of the Son of Man in the Olivet Dis­course.  These comings not only are two separate events, but they are mutually exclu­sive events (i.e., an event cannot be both unannounced and announced at the same time; an event cannot simultaneously be unexpected and expected).  In addition, these two events are sepa­rated in time, thus allowing the hu­man condition to disintegrate from the one de­scribed in Mat­thew 24:37-38 to the one described in Matthew 24:15-22.  Appendix E shows the con­trasts and the mutual exclu­sivity of these two comings of the Son of Man.

One coming is unannounced (like a thief in the night), unexpected, and occurs when the human condition is one of “eating, drinking, and mar­rying.”  Scoffers in fact will ask during this timeframe:  “Where is the sign of His coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all contin­ues just as it was from the be­ginning of crea­tion” (II Pet. 3:4).  This previ­ously undisclosed coming of the Son of Man (intro­duced and explained par­enthetically in Matthew 24:36-44 and Matthew 25:1-13) is the pre-tribula­tion Rapture of the Church—Christ’s sudden, unan­nounced, un­ex­pected, in­stantane­ous coming in the air for His own.  To be sure, Jesus provides sig­nifi­cant in­formation about the Rapture in the Olivet Discourse.  First, He describes the hu­man condition prior to the Rapture—people will be eating and drinking, and mar­ry­ing and giving in marriage.  It will be “business as usual” on earth at the time of this unexpected coming.  Sec­ond, He describes what happens at the Rap­ture—some will be taken and others will be left behind.  Third, He teaches who will be taken into heaven at the Rapture—born again believers in Jesus Christ (those having in­dwell­ing Holy Spirit)—and who will be left behind on earth to face judgment—coun­terfeit Chris­tians (those not having the indwelling Holy Spirit) and all other un­believ­ers.  And, fourth, He ex­plains that the Rap­ture will occur be­fore the Tribula­tion judg­ments.

The other coming is announced (by signs in the sky), expected (thirty days after the end of the Tribulation period), and takes place immedi­ately af­ter the final three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation period—a period filled with death, horror, terror, panic, and fright.  It will not be “business as usual” on earth prior to the Lord’s bodily return.  This particular coming of the Son of Man (presented chronologically in Matthew 24:29-31) is the Second Com­ing of Jesus Christ—the bodily return of Christ to the earth with His own (including resurrected Old Testament saints, resur­rected Church Age saints, and resurrected Tribulation saints), in order to save Israel from annihilation, to judge the earth’s remain­ing nations, and to set up His long-awaited Millennial Kingdom.

Finally, Christ’s revelation of two very different and mutually-exclusive comings of the Son of Man—separated in time by two entirely different human conditions—renders the post-tribulation Rapture position Biblically impossible.


Footnotes

  1. Some Christians believe that Matthew’s “Kingdom of Heaven” parables teach “new truths concerning the Millennial Kingdom” rather than the unveiling of Messiah’s “Inter-Advent” Kingdom. [“Matthew 13:  The Church or the Kingdom?”  Couch, Mal. general editor.  Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2000.  pp. 210-220.]  But how accurate is this contention?  Do the “kingdom of heaven” parables of Matthew 13 reveal new truths about the Millennial Kingdom?

First, let us look at Matthew’s Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matt. 13:23-30, 36-43).  Jesus teaches that in the “kingdom of heaven” He (the Son of Man) is the one who sows the “wheat” (the good seed, the sons of the kingdom) in the world.  But He also teaches that the enemy, the devil, sows the “tares” (the counterfeit seed, the sons of the evil one) in the world.  Furthermore, Jesus teaches that both types of seed will be allowed to grow together until the harvest (v.30).  Jesus also gives us the timeframe of the harvest and the judgment of the evil ones:  the end of the age (vv.39-40).  So the question must be asked:  Does this parable have the Millennial Kingdom in view?  All Christians holding to consistent literalism would agree that Satan is bound during the Millennial Kingdom.  Thus, it would be impossible for Satan to sow counterfeit seed during the Millennial Kingdom—in turn making any “Messianic Kingdom” interpretation of this parable difficult, if not impossible.  As distasteful as this conclusion is to those who hold to the “new truths concerning the Millennial Kingdom” view, it seems clear that the plain normal interpretation of the Wheat and Tares parable precludes the Millennial Kingdom view.

Let us now look at Matthew’s Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23).  Jesus teaches that the “word of the kingdom,” when preached to unbelievers, will find a wide spectrum of response among those who hear the message—from outright re­jection, to shallow profession, to carnal reception, to whole-hearted reception.  Once again, however, persons holding to the Millennial Kingdom view of this par­able finds themselves in a difficult dilemma:  Satan (v.19) is seen as the one who, in the case of the unreceptive hearer (v.20), “comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.”  Because Satan is bound during the Millennial Kingdom, it is difficult to see how Christ’s Parable of the Sower can have a Millennial context.  What interpretation is left?  Most assuredly, in this writer’s view, the Parable of the Sower is dealing with the inter-advent sowing of the Gospel of Christ—the good news that Christ died for the sinner and rose again on the third day.

Let us also look at Matthew’s Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matt. 13:31-32).  Jesus teaches that the “kingdom of heaven” is like a tiny mustard seed which a man sows in a field.  Jesus then makes it clear in the parable that there is a growth process involved.  And though this “kingdom of heaven” starts out as something utterly insignificant, it will grow to become the largest of kingdoms.  Because of the presence of this growth dynamic in the Mustard Seed parable, the writer sees still another dilemma, if not impossibility, for the Millennial Kingdom view.  At the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, Christ will reign over a large kingdom:  His Kingdom, in fact, will be vast:  “And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:10).  It will include surviving Jewish tribulation believers and resurrected Jewish believers from all prior Ages, living in the land promised the Patriarchs. It will include surviving gentile tribulation believers and resurrected gentile believers from all prior Ages, living in the surrounding nations.  There will be nothing small or insignificant about the Messianic Kingdom, even at its beginning.

In the writer’s view, at least nine of Matthew’s twelve “kingdom of heaven” parables have significant difficulties or contradictions when one attempts a Millennial Kingdom interpreta­tion—thus suggesting, to this writer at least, that an inter-advent understanding of the twelve parables is the best position.

2.             Scofield, C.I. editor.  The New Scofield Reference Bible.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.  p. 1351.

3.             Walvoord, John F.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1966.  pp. 169, 187, and others.

4.             Pentecost, J. Dwight.  Thy Kingdom Come.  Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1995.  p. 255.

5.             Ladd, George Eldon.  The Blessed Hope.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956; reprinted November, 1992.  pp. 85-86, 163.

6.             Pentecost.  Thy Kingdom Come.  p. 240.

7.             Levitt, Zola.  In My Father’s House.  Self-published, Zola Levitt, 1981.  pp.1-18.



Appendix A


THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW:


THE REVELATION OF GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM OF HEAVEN


I.            CHRIST’S GENEALOGY   [ 1:1-17 ]

II.          CHRIST’S BIRTH AND GROWTH   [ 1:18 – 2:23 ]

III.        CHRIST’S BAPTISM AND TEMPTATIONS   [ 3:1 – 4:11 ]

  • THE ANNOUNCEMENT (BY JOHN THE BAPTIST) OF THE IMPENDING KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

[ 3:1-12 ]

IV.        CHRIST’S MINISTRY TO THE MULTITUDES   [ 4:12 – 16:12]

  • THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN TO ISRAEL (BY JESUS CHRIST)

[ 4:17 – 11:30 ]

  • THE REJECTION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BY ISRAEL’S RELIGIOUS LEADERS

[ 12:1 – 12:50 ]

  • THE UNVEILING OF GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (THE “MYSTERY” KINGDOM) IN CHRIST’S FIRST SEVEN K.O.H. PARABLES

[ 13:1-50 ]

V.         CHRIST’S FOCUS ON THE TWELVE   [ 16:13 – 20:34 ]

  • THE EXPLANANTION OF HOW A PERSON ENTERS GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

[ 18:1-3 ]

  • THE CONTINUED UNVEILING OF GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IN CHRIST’S EIGHTH K.O.H. PARABLE

[ 18:23-35 ]

  • THE PROMISE OF REWARD IN THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW CHRIST FAITHFULLY IN THE INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM         [ 19:27-29 ]
  • THE CONTINUED UNVEILING OF GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IN CHRIST’S NINTH K.O.H. PARABLE

[ 20:1-16 ]

VI.        CHRIST’S TRIUMPHAL ENTRY  [ 21:1-17 ]

VII.       CHRIST’S FINAL CONFRONTATIONS WITH THE PHARISEES [ 21:18 – 23:39 ]

  • THE CONTINUED UNVEILING OF GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IN CHRIST’S TENTH K.O.H. PARABLE

[ 22:2-14 ]

VIII.      CHRIST’S FINAL MINISTRY TO THE TWELVE  [ 24:1 – 26:19 ]

  • THE FINAL UNVEILING OF GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IN CHRIST’S ELEVENTH AND TWELFTH K.O.H. PARABLES

[ 25:1-30 ]

IX.        CHRIST’S ARREST AND CRUCIFIXION   [ 26:30 – 27:66 ]

X.         CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND APPEARANCES   [ 28:1-20 ]

  • THE EXHORTATION TO TAKE THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST—THE CORE MESSAGE OF GOD’S INTER-ADVENT KINGDOM—TO ALL NATIONS

[ 28:19-20 ]


Appendix B


MATTHEW’S INTERADVENT “KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” PARABLES (in approximate chronological order, though the first eight mostly overlap)


  • THE SOWER   [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 13:3-9,18-23; Mark 4:3-8,14-20; Luke 8:5-8)

  • THE MUSTARD SEED   [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)

  • THE WHEAT & THE TARES   [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 13:24-30,36-43)

  • THE LEAVEN   [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)

  • THE HIDDEN TREASURE   [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 13:44)

  • THE PEARL OF GREAT VALUE    [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 13:45-46)

  • THE KING WHO SETTLES ACCOUNTS   [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 18:23-35)

  • THE LANDOWNER WHO OFFERS WORK   [ throughout the Church Age ]

(Matt. 20:1-16)

  • THE TEN VIRGINS    [ The Rapture ]

(Matt. 25:1-13)

  • THE TALENTS   [ The Judgment Seat of Christ, 25:19-23 ]

(Matt. 25:14-30)   [ The Great White Throne Judgment, 25:24-30 ]

  • THE WEDDING FEAST  [ Revelation 19:7-9 ]

(Matt. 22:2-14)


[ Christ’s bodily return to the earth ]


  • THE FISHING NET   [ Christ’s post-return judgment of the nations ]

(Matt. 13:47-50)


[ The Beginning of Christ’s 1,000-Year Reign over the Earth ]



Appendix C


MATTHEW’S INTERADVENT “KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” PARABLES (in order of presentation)


  • THE SOWER

(Matt. 13:3-9,18-23; Mark 4:3-8,14-20; Luke 8:5-8)

  • THE WHEAT & THE TARES (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43)

  • THE MUSTARD SEED (Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)

  • THE LEAVEN (Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21)

  • THE HIDDEN TREASURE (Matt. 13:44)

  • THE PEARL OF GREAT VALUE (Matt. 13:45-46)

  • THE FISHING NET (Matt. 13:47-50)
  • THE KING WHO SETTLES ACCOUNTS (Matt. 18:23-35)

  • THE LANDOWNER WHO OFFERS WORK (Matt. 20:1-16)

  • THE WEDDING FEAST (Matt. 22:2-14)

  • THE TEN VIRGINS (Matt. 25:1-13)

  • THE TALENTS (Matt. 25:14-30)



Appendix D


THE SEVENTH BOWL JUDGMENT—AND ITS AFTERMATH

On the final day of the Tribulation period God concludes His wrath against the na­tions by subjecting the entire world to the greatest earthquake in human history—and by radically changing the whole topography of the earth:

And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air; and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.”  And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earth­quake was it, and so mighty.  And the great city [Babylon the Great, the Antichrist's Empire] was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell.  And Babylon the Great [the Anti­christ's Empire] was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.  And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found (Rev. 16:17-20).

Listen to the magnitude and finality of this judgment:  The entire earth (“and the cites of the nations fell”) is rocked by this greatest earthquake in human history (“such as there has not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty”); the Antichrist’s Empire is throw down with violence (by way of this greatest earthquake in human history); and the Antichrist’s Empire is split into three parts.

Furthermore, God completes His full retribution against the Anti­christ’s Empire by destroying it utterly and forever (described parenthetically in Revelation 18):

After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.  And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  And she has become a dwelling place of demons, and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.  For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immor­ality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.  .  .  .  Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.”

And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with vio­lence, and will not be found any longer” (Rev. 18:1-3, 20; 18:21).

Not only does God split the Antichrist’s Empire into three parts (Rev. 16:19), but He causes it to fall into the earth’s oceans, never to be found again (Rev. 18:21).

Hear, too, the prophet Isaiah’s description of the final day of the Tribulation: “Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devas­tates it, distorts its surface, and scatters its inhabitants.  The earth will be completely laid waste and completely despoiled, for the Lord has spoken this word. . . .  The earth is broken asunder, the earth is split through, the earth is shaken vio­lently.  The earth reels to and fro like a drunkard, and it totters like a shack, for its transgres­sion is heavy upon it, and it will fall, never to rise again” (Isa. 24:1-2,19-20). The earth is “completely laid waste” and is “shaken violently;” the earth “reels to and fro like a drunkard.”  Anyone who has seen the television footage of the 1964 Alaskan earth­quake (8.5 on the Richter scale) has a vivid mental picture of the earth’s crust reeling “to and fro like a drunk­ard.”  Unfortunately for post-Rapture man­kind, this world­wide—and most violent of earthquakes in human history—will be far more powerful on the Richter scale than the Alaskan quake.  Listen also to Revelation 16:20, Psalms 46:2, and Psalms 97:5:  “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (Rev. 16:20); “. . . though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Ps. 46:2); and “the mountains will melt like wax at the presence of the Lord” (Ps. 97:5). The material trappings which the nations wor­shipped will be laid waste in minutes.

The prophet Ezekial also pictures the scope of this seventh Bowl judg­ment: “And the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My pres­ence; the mountains also will be thrown down; and every wall will fall to the ground” (Ezek. 38:20). Notice that every living creature, including all men on the face of the earth, will shake in sheer terror as the judgment takes place.  Notice that the mountains will be thrown down and that every wall will collapse.  No high-rise in the world will remain standing.  No build­ing—no matter how great or strong—will survive.  All buildings will fall.

[Note:  Given the symmetry of the Seal and Trumpet death tolls—one fourth of man­kind for the Seal judgments and another one third of remaining mankind for the Trum­pet judg­ments (and therefore one fourth of the earth’s initial post-Rapture popula­tion for the Seals and another one fourth of the earth’s initial post-Rapture population for the Trumpets)—it is reason­able to postulate that one half of the earth’s remaining popu­lation (or another one fourth of the earth’s initial post-Rapture popu­la­tion) will be killed during the Bowl judgments, principally on this final day of the Tribulation.  Thus, it can be sug­gested that, by the end of the seventh Bowl, three fourths of the earth’s post-Rapture popula­tion will have been killed during the seven-year Tribulation period—and that three fourths of the earth’s post-Rapture popula­tion will no longer be “mar­rying or giving in marriage” or “eating and drinking” immediately before the Lord’s bodily return to the earth.]

Clearly the seventh Bowl judgment brings forth a massive up­heaval and re-arrange­ment of the earth’s crust.  First, every island on earth will “flee away”—will sink back into the oceans.  The Hawaiian Islands, New Guinea, the Solomon’s, the Fiji’s, the Philippines, Ma­laysia, Bor­neo, the West Indies, and hundreds more—indeed every island on earth—will dis­appear (Rev. 16:20).  Second, all of the earth’s mountains will likewise disappear (“and the mountains were not found”—Rev. 16:20).  They will simply melt like wax (Ps. 97:5).  As some of the moun­tains of the world heat up and melt, their melting mass will spread over the surrounding ter­rain—and will wipe out and cover whole vil­lages, towns, and cities.  Still other mountains will melt and run off into the seas (Ps. 46:2).  Thus, on the final day of the Tribu­lation pe­riod, every moun­tain and all the great mountain ranges (includ­ing the Andes, the Rockies, the Appa­la­chi­ans, the Pyrenees, the Himala­yas, and the Urals) will be leveled.

[Note:  it is likely that topography of Israel—though touched somewhat by the sev­enth Bowl judgment—will be spared from the most severe manifestations of this judgment, if for no other rea­son than to protect the Israelites who, by faith, fled into their Is­rael-Jordan mountain hideouts at the mid-point of the Tribulation.  Nev­erthe­less, the topography of Israel will be radically changed during the end times according to Zechariah 14:10—perhaps be­tween the time of Christ’s bodily return to the earth and the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.  We can deduce—from Zech 14:10, Rev. 20:9, and from the disappearance of the earth’s islands and mountains—that Jerusalem will be the high­est point on earth once the trans­formation of the earth’s topography is complete.]

Hear again what happens on this final day of the Great Tribu­lation.  First, God moves all of the earth’s fault lines simultaneously and brings forth the greatest earth­quake in human history.  So massive is this earthquake that every wall on earth falls to the ground (Ezek. 38:20).  Second, God heats up the earth’s islands and mountains—and then causes every island to sink back into the oceans (Rev. 16:20) and every mountain to fall—to simply melt like wax (Ps. 97:5).  Perhaps a half a billion people will be killed during the worldwide earthquake and the removal of the earth’s islands and mountains.  Third, God causes the Antichrist’s Empire (the Western world) to break into three parts (Rev. 16:19)—and then to sink to bottom of the ocean, never to be found again (Rev. 18:1-3, 20; 18:21).  It is likely that at least another half a billion people will be killed (drowned) as the Anti­christ’s Em­pire disappears beneath the sea.  Indeed, when Jesus Christ sets up His Millen­nial reign over the earth seventy-five days after this final Bowl judgment (Dan. 12:11-12), no vestige of the Antichrist’s Em­pire will remain on earth (Rev. 18:21).

In conclusion, it can safely be argued, given Scripture’s various descriptions of the final day of the Tribulation, that no one will be marrying and giving in marriage during the thirty days between the seventh Bowl and the Lord’s bodily return to the earth.  Virtually every remaining person on earth will live in sheer survival mode, clinging to life in utter desperation.  In addition, most of these people, be­cause of the destruction of the sev­enth Bowl’s stagger­ingly-powerful world­wide earth­quake—with every remaining village, town, and city lying in rub­ble—will no longer rou­tinely be “eating and drinking” (the word-picture given by Christ of the human con­di­tion before the unan­nounced and unexpected coming of the Son of Man portrayed par­en­thetically in Matthew 24:36-44) but instead will have diffi­culty even finding food to eat.  Because of the shortage of food—and the disease quickly being spread by decomposing bodies and ripped-open sewer lines—it is easy to see how Jesus tells His disciples that “unless these days had been cut short, no life would survive.”  Thirty days after the seventh Bowl judgment, these days will be cut short when Jesus Christ returns bodily to the earth.

Let every Christian understand that this is the human condi­tion which ex­ists on earth im­mediately prior to Christ’s bodily re­turn.  The writer would therefore suggest that the widely-held “prophetic plan for Israel”/Millennial Kingdom inter­preta­tion of Mat­thew 24:36-44 is contextually impossible—and must be ruled out if we are to handle this passage of God’s Word accurately.

[Note:  though the cities of the earth lie in utter rubble upon Christ’s return, it can be postulated that Jesus Christ—the one who spoke the universe, including the earth, into exis­tence (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26)—will simply speak a word and the rubble will disappear, thus making the earth once again inhabitable for those humans who enter the Millennial Kingdom.  It can also be postulated that Christ will speak a word and some type of shelter (housing) will come forth on the earth.  It can be postulated that Christ will sim­ply say the word and all those entering the Millennial Kingdom will be clothed with fresh covering.  Furthermore, it is easy to see how Christ would simply say, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, and fruit trees after their kind; and it was so” (Gen. 1:11) in order to provide food at the be­ginning of the Millen­nial Kingdom.]



Appendix E


THE TWO COMINGS OF THE SON OF MAN IN THE OLIVET DISCOURSE


THE RAPTURE

THE SECOND COMING:

BEFORE THE TRIBULATION
AFTER THE TRIBULATION
“just like the days of Noah . .”
“immediately after the tribulation . . ”
RETURNS FOR HIS SAINTS
RETURNS WITH HIS SAINTS
UNANNOUNCED (LIKE THIEF . .) ANNOUNCED (BY SIGNS IN THE SKY)
UNEXPECTED
EXPECTED
UNKNOWN DAY OR HOUR KNOWN DAY 1
CONDITION ON EARTH PRIOR:
CONDITION ON EARTH PRIOR:
“business as usual”
not “business as usual”
eating & drinking
woe to those with child . .
marrying & giving in marriage
unless those days be cut short . .
INVISIBLE RETURN 2 VISIBLE RETURN (THEY WILL SEE . .)
A CATCHING UP 3 A COMING DOWN
UP INTO HEAVEN
DOWN TO THE EARTH
FOR DELIVERANCE FOR JUDGMENT


1 Dan. 12:11-12,  2 I Cor. 15:50-52; I Thess. 4:15-18,  3 I Thess. 4:15-18; I Cor. 15:50-52



Appendix F


The Text of the Olivet Discourse—and an Analysis of Which Sections of the Discourse are Chronological and Which Sections are Parenthetical:

24:4And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one mis­leads you.  5For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.  6And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not fright­ened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.  7For nation will rise against nation, and king­dom against kingdom, and in various places there will be fam­ines and earthquakes.  8But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Jesus begins His explanation of the future in vv.4-8.  Most evangelical commentators hold this section to be chronological in nature; the only debate is whether it represents the Church Age or the first half of the Tribulation pe­riod.  This writer holds to the former view (and will present five rea­sons why he favors the former view).  The final sentence of this sec­tion (v.8) is a “sending” transition to the next chronological sec­tion: “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.”  Matthew 24:4-8 is Chronological Section 1]

9“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.  10And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one an­other.  11And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.  12And because lawlessness is in­creased, most people’s love will grow cold.  13But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.  14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Jesus now mentions the word “tribulation.”  Most evangelical commentators hold this section to be chronological in nature.  Many of these commentators contend that Jesus describes the second half of the Tribulation pe­riod in this section; other commentators, however, suggest that it represents the entire Tribulation period.  This writer holds to the latter view.  The first sentence of this section (v.9) is a “receiving” transition from the previous chronological section:  “Then they will deliver you to tribulation,  .  .  .”  The final sentence of this section is a sending transition to the next chronological section: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world .  .  .  and then the end shall come.”   Matthew 24:9-14 is Chronological Section 2]

15“Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation which was spo­ken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader un­derstand),16then let those who are in Judea flee to the moun­tains; 17let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; 18and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak.

19“But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days!  20But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; 21for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the be­ginning of the world until now, nor ever shall.  22And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  It is here, in verses 15-22, that Jesus (in the writer’s view) presents His first parentheti­cal vignette in the Discourse.  Notice that verses 15-17 do not ad­vance the chronology of events but instead present an exhortation.  Jesus refers the reader to Daniel 9:24-27 and then ex­horts those who see the tem­ple being desecrated by the end-times Anti­christ to flee to the moun­tains.  In verses 21-22, Jesus de­scribes the severity of the second half of the Tribulation period—so severe in fact that no life would survive unless God intervenes to put an end to the tribulation.  Thus, when one carefully analyzes the sub­stance of Christ’s teaching in verses 15-22, it is clear that Jesus is not ad­vancing the chronology of events in these verses; instead, He is (1) giving a parenthetical exhortation and (2) describing the se­verity of the second half of a period of time He has already un­veiled to the disciples in verses 9-14.  Matthew 24:15-22 is Paren­thetical Section 1]

23“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him.  24For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possi­ble, even the elect.  25Behold, I have told you in advance. 26If, therefore, they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wil­derness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.  28Wherever the corpse is, there the vul­tures will gather.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Jesus intro­duces, parenthetically, another future and end-times con­cern—the emer­gence of false Christs and false prophets—and simultaneously ex­horts the disciples to be alert for them dur­ing the two periods of time He has just described in 24:4-8 and 24:9-15.  Once again it is clear that Jesus is not advanc­ing the chronology of events in these verses.  Matthew 24:23-28 is Paren­thetical Section 2]

29“But immediately after the 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, 30and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and 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.  31And 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.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Verse 29 is a re­ceiving transition from the previous chronological section—“but immediately after the tribulation of those days”—and tells the reader that the Lord’s un­veiling of the chro­nology of events has once again begun.  Most evangelical com­mentators regard this sec­tion of the Discourse to be chronological in nature.  Matthew 24:29-31 is Chronological Section 3]

32“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already be­come tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that sum­mer is near; 33even so you too, when you see all these things, recog­nize that He is near, right at the door.  34Truly I say to you, this gen­eration will not pass away until all these things take place.  35Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Jesus presents a par­able and exhorts the disciples to learn from its parallel logic.  He is not advancing the chronology of events but instead is teaching the disciples (and us) to know how to discern the “season” of His return.  Matthew 24:32-35 is Parenthetical Section 3]

36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  37For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  38For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

40“Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.  42Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

43“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  44For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  In verse 36 Jesus teaches that no man can know the day or the hour of an unexpected coming of the Son of Man (which He de­scribes in vv.40-42).  He then sets up a simile which de­scribes the human condition on earth before this un­expected coming—the day and hour of which no man can know.  He also describes what happens at this coming and twice ex­horts the disciples (and us) to be alert for it.  Nevertheless, though the section describes an event which takes place somewhere in the end-times chronology, and though Jesus exhorts all Christians to be alert for it, careful analysis of the passage (including the fact that it contains no sending or receiving transitional phrases) shows that the section it­self is par­enthetical in nature. Furthermore, any as­sessment of where this event fits into the end-times chronology must be deter­mined by an analysis of the text itself and not by its place­ment or position in the Discourse.   Matthew 24:36-44 is Paren­thetical Section 4]

45“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?  46Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.  47Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

48“But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51and shall cut him in pieces and as­sign him a place with the hypocrites; weeping shall be there and the gnashing of teeth.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  In this section Jesus promises that those who have been faithful and sensible slaves dur­ing His absence will be rewarded—and that those who have been indifferent slaves (and in fact counterfeit slaves) will be pun­ished in a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The passage does not ad­vance the chronology of events and is parenthetical in na­ture.  Matthew 24:45-51 is Paren­thetical Section 5]

25:1“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.  2And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.  3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.

5“Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.  6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bride­groom! Come out to meet him.’  7Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  9But the prudent answered, saying, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.

11And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’  12But he an­swered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’  13Be on the alert, then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Jesus again sets up a simile to describe an event which will take place some­where in the end-times chronology.  During this event, some are prepared to leave with Christ and do in fact join Him at a wedding feast; others are not pre­pared, are left behind, and are excluded from the wed­ding feast.  Jesus then exhorts the disciples, in language identical with the ex­hortation language of Parenthetical Section 4, to be alert for this coming—the day and hour of which no man knows.   Even though this section de­scribes an event which takes place some­where in the end-times chronology, and even though Jesus exhorts all Christians to be alert for it, careful analysis (including the fact that the passage contains no sending or receiving transitional phrases) shows that the section it­self is par­enthetical in nature.  Furthermore, any as­sessment of where this event fits into the end-times chronology must be deter­mined by an analysis of the text itself and not by its place­ment or position in the Discourse.  Matthew 24:36-44 is Par­entheti­cal Sec­tion 6]

14“For it [the kingdom of heaven] is just like a man about to go on a jour­ney, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them.  15And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.  16Immediately the one who had re­ceived the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents.  17In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more.  18But he who re­ceived the one talent went away and dug in the ground, and hid his mas­ter’s money.

19“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled ac­counts with them. 20 And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’  21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’  22The one also who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

24And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.  25And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’  26But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed. 27‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.  28Therefore, take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’  29For to everyone who has shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  30And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Jesus uses a simile to teach the disciples about the doctrine of reward for those who have been faithful ser­vants of the master and lack of reward for those who have been counterfeit servants.  The latter will be pun­ished in a place of weeping and gnash­ing of teeth.  The passage does not ad­vance the chronol­ogy of events and is parenthetical in na­ture.  Matthew 24:45-51 is Paren­thetical Section7]

31“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  32And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one an­other, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  37Then the righteous will an­swer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?  38And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  39And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  40And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, ac­cursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’  44Then they themselves also will answer, say­ing, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or na­ked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’  45Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the right­eous into eternal life.”

[Chronological vs. parenthetical analysis:  Verse 31 is a receiv­ing transition (“but when the Son of Man comes in His glory”)—and refers the reader back to Matt. 24:30 (in Chronological Section 3): “and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”  This receiving tran­sition in Matt. 25:31 then sets up the rest of this fourth and final chronological section in the Discourse (“then He will sit on His glorious throne.  And all the nations will be gathered before Him”).  Matthew 25:31-46 is Chrono­logical Section 4]

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