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Matthew 24:29-31 Explained

Dear Mr. Malone:

Thank you for all the information you have provided on your website concerning the rapture and the end times in general. It has been very helpful in answering my questions on the events in Revelation. I still have a question, however.  In Matthew 24:29-31, Jesus describes what I assume is the rapture. However, He says that it occurs "immediately after the tribulation of those days..." This seems to conflict with the pre-millenialist position. It could be argued that the "tribulation of those days" refers to the pre-rapture "wars and rumor of wars," the "famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes," etc., but, then again, Jesus speaks of the Rapture occurring after the appearance of the abomination of desolation, which occurs during the 7-year reign of the antichrist.

Chris:

Here's what I believe the Bible plainly teaches regarding this passage.  

Many today, who hold to the belief that Christians will go through the tribulation period, would have you believe that Matthew 24 states that the rapture will happen at the end of the tribulation period (Second Coming of Christ).  Unfortunately, they have completely misinterpreted this scripture. 

Let's take a look at the scripture you are talking about:

[29] Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
[30] And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
[31] And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Let me start by saying that Matthew 24 is a summation of the beginning church age through the Second Coming of Christ. Verse 29 speaks about the latter part of the tribulation period just before the appearing of our Lord.   Verse 30 picks up with Christ visibly coming with the Saints of God who have already been raptured prior to the beginning of the tribulation period.  Revelation 19:14 describes this great event: 

"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean."

This is a consistent Biblical description of the Saints (Zechariah 14:5; I Thessalonians 3:13; 4:14; Jude 1:14; Revelation 4:4).    

Itís also generally believed by most Bible scholars that the rapture will happen as a thief in the night (I Thessalonians 5:1-4) or someone who comes unannounced and steals something away during the night.  Certainly, the rapture will take the world by surprise, but after it occurs, will cause great panic the next day.  But no where does it allude to anyone visibly seeing Jesus, this thief in the night, in the clouds.  Matthew 24:30 couldn't possibly be talking about the rapture because the "tribes of the earth [will] mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven".  This is not consistent with any of the scriptural descriptions of the rapture.

Verse 31 continues with the events of the Second Coming.  At this time, Jesus will send His angels with the sound of a trumpet and they will gather up the elect from around the world.  This angelic gathering of the Saints is inconsistent with the description of the Biblical rapture found in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.  This is what it says:

[13] But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
[14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
[15] For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
[16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
[17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
[18] Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Verse 15-17 explains that we that are alive when the rapture occurs will not prevent those that have gone before us from rising (being raptured).  In fact, it states they (the dead) will be raptured first...then we which are alive will be caught up (raptured).   There is no mention of Jesus sending His angels throughout the world to gather the elect (Christians) in this passage, which describes the rapture in detail.  When the trumpet sounds we will be immediately ushered up without delay "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye".

The swiftness of the catching away is made evident in I Corinthians 15:51-52:

[51] Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
[52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Do you know how long a twinkling of an eye is?  It's believed that a twinkling of an eye is faster than the eye can see which is much faster than sending angels throughout the world to gather the elect.

So who are the elect of Matthew 24:31?  They are those who have come to know the Lord during the great tribulation period and have not been slain by the antichrist.  Two things you should know about the tribulation period...it will be a time of unprecedented horror and it will also bring about the greatest revival the world has ever seen.  Many untold millions will come to know the Lord during this timeframe.  One thing is for sure, there will be no lukewarm Christians, atheists or agnostics during the tribulation period.  It will literally be a matter of life and death and you will either be sold out for the Lord or sold out for the antichrist.  

It should also be stated that those who die for their faith during this period will immediately go to be with the Lord as describe in Revelation 7:9-17.  For they are those who will come out of great tribulation.  So it is plain that they are executed during the tribulation period.   But not every Christian will be slain during the tribulation period. God will protect many Christians during the tribulation period who will refuse to take the mark and choose to worship God.  They are the elect that Matthew 24:31 is speaking of and they will go into the millennium and repopulate the earth.  Christ will at this time set up His earthly kingdom and those Christians who come back with Him (slain and raptured) will share in His 1000-year reign.

Matthew 24:44 leaves Christians with a stern warning to be ready for we do not know the hour of His coming.

Itís plain to me that the rapture will be a surprise and will shock the world.  This could not be the case at the end of the tribulation period, the world will be totally destroyed and in turmoil.   They will mourn and it will be for good reason.   It should also be noted that the tribulation period is clearly stated in scripture as lasting two halves of 1260 days (forty-two months x 2) with the start of this period beginning with the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and the antichrist.  Simple math would obviously take away the "thief in the night" Biblical description of the rapture.

Lastly, here is a question that I have presented to many a believer in the post-tribulation rapture.  To date, no one has ever been able to step forward with a Biblical answer.  Here's the question:

If Christian's who are alive today go through the tribulation period (not raptured before) then who will Christ rule over when He (Jesus) comes to reign for one-thousand years on earth (Millennium)? According to those who believe Christians will go through the tribulation period, if the rapture and the Second Coming occur at the end of the tribulation period who will be left on the earth for Christians to reign over?  You must remember that I Thessalonians 4:13-18 says that every Christian will be raptured who is on the earth.  The Bible also says that everyone outside of Christians will take the mark and it's clear they will be executed at the Second Coming of the Lord (Matthew 25:31-32). With that said, I ask again, who will be left on the earth to enter into the Millennium once Christians are raptured (if they are raptured at the Second Coming)? 
 
Until I get an intelligent answer to this question I'm afraid I will continue to believe that I Thessalonians 4:13-18 (among other scriptures) supports a pre-tribulation rapture.

I hope this has cleared up any questions that you may have had.

Are you ready to meet the Lord?  If not, your time is running out!

Terry Malone

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If you haven't had a chance to take a look at my book "Revelation Revealed", I encourage you to go to my website and explore what this book has to offer.  I believe it will give you a clear understanding of the end times and the order in which it may come.  Pick up a copy today for yourself or a loved one who does not know the Lord.  I know it will be a spiritual blessing to you and will help support this ministry.  To order a copy of Revelation Revealed please click here.

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