For an introduction to this series, click here.
Jan. 4, 2007Matthew 24 and 25 are a minefield to try to interpret, especially 24. This is Jesus' great Olivet Discourse, where He gives a prophetic view of the future. Here's the problem I have with prophecy: it's impossible to predict with certainty what a prophecy means or how it will be fulfilled. That is why there are so many different beliefs out there about the end of the age, even among brethren who would agree for the most part on the rest of Scripture.
Primarily, this chapter in particular deals with the Tribulation Period, although the first part of Chapter 24 may be partially fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. And then there is a section that seems to deal with the Rapture, although there are some who dispute that.
In 24:4-14, Jesus describes the end of the age, which definitely includes our time. The next section, 24:15-26 deals with the abomination of desolation. Jesus speaks of "the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel." Well, that verse was already fulfilled (Jesus' audience would have thought) by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. But Jesus tells us here that the ultimate fulfillment will come later. This section clearly refers to the Tribulation.
The last section of the chapter is the hardest to interpret. There are parts that seem to refer to the Rapture: "Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left." (24:40) There are those who teach that this example and others refer to being taken away to fall under God's judgment. I just don't see it. Maybe I haven't done enough study, but it seems to me that the last part of chapter 24 and the first two parables of Chapter 25, which speaks of being ready for the Lord's return, seem to be more indicative of the Rapture than of the Second Coming. Maybe I've misunderstood it, but it seems to me that for the Jews the Second Coming will be a time of absolute desperation, and they will all be looking for their Savior, but maybe they won't be. Certainly the lessons of this section are applicable to those of us who look forward to the Rapture, but I guess primarily they are for Jews to remain confident that God will not abandon them in their darkest hour.
Passages like this are not worth crossing swords with a brother over. This is certainly by no means a simple passage, and the most important lesson we need to learn is to be ready and faithful. In my experience, getting bogged down over the little details of these passages will only cause trouble where none is necessary.