By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
One of the major problems of the Rapture doctrine deals with a misunderstanding of the 24th chapter of the Gospel Of Matthew.
In this passage, Jesus taught many “signs” that would herald the destruction of Jerusalem (which were all fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 A.D.).
Rapture proponents maintain that these “signs” will actually herald the Second Coming of Christ. As such, many Rapture teachers and preachers look for these “signs” to be fulfilled, seemingly unaware that these were already fulfilled nearly two thousand years ago!
Let’s study in detail.
The Context Of Matthew 24
Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a donkey (in fulfillment of Bible prophecy-see Zechariah 9:9). The Lord had gone throughout the city, preaching against the false doctrines and wicked lifestyles of the Jewish denominations known as the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matthew 21-23). Near the end of chapter 23, Jesus declared:
Matthew 23:34-36-34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,
35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
As Jesus continued preaching against the wickedness of Jerusalem, the Bible tells us about a statement He made regarding the Temple:
Matthew 24:1-2-1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.
2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
The Questions Of The Apostles
It is here that the disciples ask three questions:
Matthew 24:3-3 Now as He sat 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?”
Now it is important to realize that the disciples may have thought that these statements of Jesus would all be fulfilled at the same time. In other words, it is possible that they believed the destruction of the Temple would happen at the very end of the world.
“We begin to surmise this split possibility when we realize the disciples are asking two questions: “Tell us,  when will these things be, and  what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end [sunteleia] of the age?” (Matt 24: 3). By these “when” and “what” questions they are asking about the time of the temple’s destruction and the sign of his coming which heralds the temple’s end —which they (wrongly) associate with the end of the world. 7 In the Greek one definite article governs the last phrase: “the sign of your coming and end of the age,” thereby showing that this is really only one issue. 8 The disciples could easily believe that the temple’s destruction would herald the end of the world. Hence their linked questions responding to his surprising prophecy. Consider the following evidence in this direction: (1) Before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (John 15: 26; 16: 13; Acts 2: 1ff) the disciples are frequently confused about Christ’s teaching. 9 For instance, they do not even realize he is going to die and arise again until after these occur (John 20: 8–9; cp. 2: 22; Matt 28: 17). And this is despite his repeatedly teaching them these very things (e.g., Matt 16: 21; 20: 18). Also some of them continue to hold Zionistic national expectations (Luke 24: 21; Acts 1: 6), though he resists such (John 6: 15) and defines his ministry in contrary terms (John 18: 36–37). (He corrects them on these very issues; Luke 24: 25; Acts 1: 7.).” (Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Olivet Discourse Made Easy: You Can Understand Jesus’ Great Prophetic Discourse, 994-1005 (Kindle Edition); Apologetics Groups Media)
In other words, the Apostles were of the belief that the very end of the age would commence at the same time that the Jewish Temple would be destroyed. However, the answer of Jesus makes it clear that these would be two very separate events.
In describing the answer of the Apostles regarding the destruction of the Temple, Jesus tells them several signs that will lead up to this horrific event. There will be many who say that they are the Christ and they will deceive many people (Matthew 24:5), and there will be wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6). Nations will rise up against nations, and kingdoms against kingdoms; and there will be famines, pestilence, and earthquakes in various places (Matthew 24:7). The followers of Christ will be delivered to persecution and death for His Name’s sake; many will be offended (will fall away), will betray one another, and will hate one another (Matthew 24:10). Many false prophets will rise up and deceive several people (Matthew 24:11). In fact, because sin will abound so much the love of many people will grow cold (Matthew 24:12). The Gospel will be preached to all the world(Matthew 24:14), and the abomination of desolation would be manifested (Matthew 24:15). When these things took place, the disciples were to flee from Jerusalem without concern about their houses or goods (Matthew 24:16-20). In this time, there would be “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21-22). There would be many false christs and messiahs who would do great signs and try to deceive the elect (Matthew 24:23-28). Following this, there would be great signs in the heavens so that the sun and moon would be darkened and the stars would fall from Heaven (Matthew 24:29), and the sign of the Son of Man would appear in Heaven as all the tribes of the Earth mourned (Matthew 24:30). The Angels would be sent forth to gather together the elect of God (Matthew 24:31). &
After giving the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-33), Jesus makes this declaration:
Matthew 24:34-Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
The phrase “this generation” was used throughout the ministry of Christ with the meaning of “the generation then living.” In other words, Jesus is teaching us that the generation of people who were then living would see the fulfillment of all of these “signs.”
“The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament is a voluminous and scholarly study of the Greek New Testament. It records that genea in the New Testament “mostly denotes ‘generation’ in the sense of contemporaries.” This is, of course, the sense in which we use the word “generation.” It refers to those who live at the same time or age. The term is used some 40 times in the New Testament. Although some instances may have a broader meaning than the above, there is not one case where such is demanded. In every instance it could refer to the people of a single life span. Consider some of the ways Jesus used this word. Jesus declared that the men of Nineveh would rise up against “this generation” (Matt. 12: 41; Luke 11: 32). He could not have meant the Jewish race in this instance for He adds, “because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” Now, only Christ’s contemporaries heard Jesus, hence only His contemporaries could be intended by this denunciation. The Jews then living are intended. A very similar statement is made in regard to the queen of the South condemning that generation (Matt. 12: 42; Luke 11: 31), and again He points out that one greater than Solomon was then present. Jews then living is the only meaning possible for these verses. Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees followed by His lament over Jerusalem is even more pointed. Jesus concludes His denunciation by placing all of the blood of righteous people, which previous generations had shed, upon the generation then living. This was no doubt based on the fact that He, Christ, was greater than all others who had been slain; hence the generation which crucified the Son of man was guilty of all others who had been slain before Him. His words are, “All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matt. 23: 36; Luke 11: 50-51). That Jesus was denouncing the Jews living at that time is not subject to debate. Unquestionably He meant His contemporaries—those who were plotting His death. Just as “this generation” in the foregoing texts had reference to Christ’s contemporaries, so is the meaning in that verse which has been designated the “time-text” of the Olivet discourse. When Jesus said, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled,” He meant that all He had said down to that point would be fulfilled during the life span of some then living. The idea that it refers to the Jewish race, or to the body of believers is untenable in the face of the above….Lindsey’s claim for contextual support for his position is void of any validity. The only acceptable meaning is this present generation. Had Jesus meant a future generation He would have had to use a different demonstrative pronoun. Just as we have the term “this” for something close at hand, and “that” for something at a distance, so did the Greeks. Jesus said, “This [Greek haute] generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” For Him to have meant a future generation, He would have had to have used ekeine which has the significance of “that.” Thus the “time-text” stands. The things mentioned prior to our “time-text” had to be fulfilled while the generation living at the time Jesus spoke these words still possessed physical life here on this earth.” (Everett I. Carver, When Jesus Comes Again, 5137-5167 (Kindle Edition); Prestonsburg, Ky; Reformation Publishers)
When our Rapture friends tell us that the signs of Matthew 24 will be fulfilled shortly before the Second Coming, they set themselves in opposition to Jesus, Who taught that these “signs” had a first century fulfillment.
In fact, all of these signs were brought to pass before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. For example, the Gospel was preached to all of the nations of the world in the first century (Colossians 1:6, 23). The “great tribulation” was well underway when John wrote Revelation in the first century (Revelation 1:9).
The language of the sun and moon darkening and stars falling were symbolically used in the Old Testament to refer to the downfall of political leaders and nations (Isaiah 13:10; Jeremiah 4:23-28; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10), and the imagery of God coming on the clouds is used in the same way (Isaiah 19:1). The abomination of desolation is explained by Luke as referring to the armies of Rome which surrounded and destroyed Jerusalem (Luke 21:20).
Early Christian writings remind us that the Christians fled from the city of Jerusalem when they saw these signs being brought to fulfillment when Rome attacked. They understood that Jesus had spoken of these things in the Gospel of Matthew. For example:
“But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come there from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men.” (Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History Book I, 5:3)
“1. It is fitting to add to these accounts the true prediction of our Saviour in which he foretold these very events.” (Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History Book I, 7:1)
“4. These things took place in this manner in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, in accordance with the prophecies of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who by divine power saw them beforehand as if they were already present, and wept and mourned according to the statement of the holy evangelists, who give the very words which he uttered, when, as if addressing Jerusalem herself, he said: 5. “If you had known, even you, in this day, the things which belong unto your peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, that your enemies shall cast a rampart about you, and compass you round, and keep you in on every side, and shall lay you and your children even with the ground.” 6. And then, as if speaking concerning the people, he says, “For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” And again: “When you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” 7. If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvellously strange.” (Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History Book I, 7:4-7)
There can be no doubt that the early Christians understood that the “signs” in Matthew 24:4-34 had a first century fulfillment.
So clear were they on this that fact they knew exactly when to leave the city!
The signs of Matthew 24:4-34 have already been fulfilled and so not apply to the times just before the Second Coming.
“That THE Day”
Yet there is one more point which needs to be made about this chapter and how the Lord’s Word highlights another serious problem with the proponents of the Rapture doctrine. You see, Jesus makes it very clear that there will be NO SIGNS of His Second Coming in clear contradiction to Rapture adherents!
In Matthew 24:36, Jesus begins answering the disciples other question: what will be the sign of Your coming at the end of the age? Look at how He answers:
Matthew 24:36-“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
Now, some teach that Jesus is here continuing to talk about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. However, the language and the context make it clear that He is actually now discussing the Second Coming. Gentry explains:
“Let us now look at the evidence that Jesus is shifting his attention from the destruction of the temple in AD 70 to his second coming at the end of history. I will present more than a dozen arguments for the transition in Matthew 24….In Matthew 24: 36 we come upon an subject-matter transition device: “But of that day and hour no one knows.” The introductory phrase here in the Greek is: peri de (“ but of, concerning, regarding”). This grammatical structure suggests a transition in the passage involving a change of subject. We may see this phrase frequently marking off new material, as in Matthew 22: 31; Acts 21: 25; 1 Thessalonians 4: 9; and 5: 1. Allow me to quickly focus on several very clear subject-transition uses of peri de in 1Corinthians. There we see that Paul is turning his attention to one question after another that the Corinthians asked him: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote” (1 Cor 7: 1). “Now concerning virgins” (7: 25). “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols” (8: 1). “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren” (12: 1). In each case he is clearly introducing new subjects that respond to different questions presented to him….Focusing once again on Matthew 24: 36 we read: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Here Christ states that in his state of humiliation (the period from the time of his earthly conception within Mary’s womb until his glorification at his resurrection) he himself has no knowledge as to when “that day and hour” will occur. But of what “day and hour” is he speaking? He must be speaking of his future second advent because in the preceding section of his Discourse he tells his disciples that numerous signs will be given, but that “the end [of the temple] is not yet” (Matt 24: 6). This indicates that he definitely knows when that event will occur. He also dogmatically teaches them that these earlier things will certainly happen in “this generation” (24: 34). Thus, as Nolland notes: “there is a deliberate contrast between the confident tone of the predictive materials thus far in the chapter, climaxing in v. 34, and the present insistence that only the Father knows.”…By the very nature of the case, the numerous events leading up to the Roman military destruction of the temple in AD 70 will require a number of days. Hence, in the portion of his Discourse prior to Matthew 24: 36 Jesus mentions “those days [plural]” (v 19, 29) and even comforts his disciples by noting that “those days” will be “cut short” (v 22). This mention of the days of the tribulation period are set in stark contrast to the singular day —indeed, the exact moment —of the second coming: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt 24: 36). After this transition at 24: 36 he repeatedly mentions the singular “day” (24: 42, 50) or “the day” and “the hour” (25: 13). The second advent does not involve a series of historical actions, as is the case with the Roman military operations against the Jews, Jerusalem, and the temple. The second advent is a one-time, catastrophic event conducted by a singular individual, Christ himself…In the first section Christ urges desperate flight from the area, clearly implying there will be time and opportunity to flee: “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt 24: 16). In fact, one particular sign —the abomination of desolation —will be the cue to leave the area. Because of this opportunity of flight, many lives of God’s elect will be saved: “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” (24: 22). But upon entering the second section of the Discourse we hear of no commands to escape, no opportunities for flight.” (De. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Oliver Discourse Made Easy: You. An Understand Jesus’ Great Prophetic Discourse, 2453-2589 (Kindle Edition); Draper, VA; Apologetics Group Media)
Our friends who teach the doctrine of the Rapture say that there will be many signs which herald the Second Coming; yet throughout the Oliver Discourse, Jesus teaches that there will be no signs of the Second Advent.
Matthew 24:39-and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:42-Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
Matthew 24:44-Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Matthew 24:50-the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
Matthew 25:13-“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
There are no signs given of the Second Coming. The emphasis in the Bible is that we need to be ready to meet the Lord whenever He comes.
Friends, the Rapture doctrine is not true. Jesus could come at any moment, and then we will all stand before Him in judgment.
In His First Coming, Jesus went to Calvary to pay for the price of our sins by dying for each and every person (Hebrews 2:9). He died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Why not today believe in Him (John 8:24), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess Him as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and be buried with Him in baptism so you may walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4)? If you are an erring Christian, why not repent of your sin today and confess it to the Lord in prayer to be forgiven and restored (1 John 1:9)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.