Is Matthew 24 about the Rapture?
I have heard and seen many well-intentioned Christians refer to the passage, "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." in Matthew 24:40-41 as a reference to the same event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, commonly known as the "Rapture." A long time ago a wise teacher explained to me another explanation that makes a lot of sense.
Based on that, I will show that these are two distinct future events, separated by
Specification (Target Audience) [the Church vs Israel]
Dispensation (Tenure) [Church Age vs Tribulation]
Delineation (Time) [7 years]
Expectation (Tentative Outcome) [Reward vs Judgment]
Participation (Team) [Saved vs Unsaved]
Destination (Terminus) [Heaven vs Hell]
I know that if I am still alive that I will take part in the blessed Rapture of the Church, but I hope that NONE of you is taken in that second "rapture of the condemned"!
Let us first examine the context passage (Matthew 24)
1) SPECIFICATION (Target Audience)
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these [are] the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. (Matt 24:7-9)
Christ uses wording to make it clear that he is talking about the nation of Israel, this is further confirmed by His mention of the “Abomination of desolation” from Daniel chapter nine. Biblical scholars have identified this chapter from Daniel as the timeline for the nation of Israel (with the Church a hidden mystery that doesn’t show up).
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso reads, let him understand) (Matt 24:15)
This Abomination is set up in the rebuilt temple probably at the mid-point of the “time of Jacobs trouble” or the Great Tribulation. Yes, in Matthew 24 Jesus is talking to his Jewish disciples, but at this point the Church has not yet begun, so they are standing in for the nation of Israel as Christ predicts that nation’s future and gives them guidelines on what to expect during that terrible time.
2) DISPENSATION (Tenure)
Twice in this chapter, known as the “Olivet Discourse”, Jesus Christ speaks about his listeners facing the “Tribulation” and says at the end of this period of trouble that the whole earth will see Christ in his glory.
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. (Mat 24:21-22)
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt 24:29-30)
This is a description of events that take place AFTER the church has been taken up to heaven, during the next seven years when God’s judgment falls on the earth and the nation of Israel eventually turns to the Lord. In short it is describing events in a different dispensation [rules and standards for a particular administration – like when the US government changes hands]. We currently live in the “Church Age” or the “Age of Grace”. After that will come the “Tribulation”. This passage is describing events during that later period.
3) DELINEATION (Time)
The Tribulation ends approximately seven years AFTER the Rapture of the Church when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth. From 24:30 (above), it is clear that Christ is talking about what happens at the END of the Tribulation. He tells them “then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. At the Rapture, every eye does not see the Lord Jesus: that only happens at the end of the Tribulation when He physically returns to planet earth.
4) EXPECTATION (Tentative Outcome)
The greatest reason why I feel this passage is NOT talking about the rapture is because it talks about judgment happening to those who are taken away.
But as the days of Noah [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two [women shall be] grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (Matt 24:37-42)
If you read this passage carefully you will see that it states that just like when Noah’s flood “took away” to destruction the people that weren’t in the ark, so will this event “take away” people when Christ returns to earth. The people taken in this “Reverse Rapture” are not going away to heaven, but rather to a place of death and destruction. That is why Christ backs up what He says by warning about a thief breaking in on those who don’t watch.
5) PARTICIPATION (Team Members)
Is this the only passage, where Christ speaks of a gathering up of sinners before the Kingdom begins? No, it is not. The parable of the Tares from Matthew 13 is another excellent example that teaches the exact same thing:
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matt 13:24-30)
Christ says in this parable that the gatherers will first remove the weeds (unsaved sinners) from the world for destruction and then gather together His saints (those who have survived the time of testing). This is exactly the same order as the events at the end of the Tribulation described in Matthew chapter 24.
6) DESTINATION (Terminus)
From the two passages mentioned above (Matthew 13 and 24) it is clear that those who take place in this “Reverse Rapture” are bound for destruction, like those that God took away via the flood, and burning like weeds. This is a description in figurative language of the place the Bible calls “Hell”.
Those who reject Christ during the Church Age will miss the first Rapture (to heaven), but if they are still alive at the end of the Tribulation, they definitely won’t miss the second one (to hell).
Why does this Reverse Rapture take place? God wants to clear the earth of all sinners before He sets up the Millennial Kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ, here on earth.