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Matthew 24:32-44 by Robert Dean
Is the Rapture going to happen during this generation? Listen to this lesson to learn that in the parable of the fig tree Jesus is not talking to Church Age believers but is referring to Jews in the Tribulation. See the fallacy of trying to set dates for the Rapture and the Tribulation. Learn the meaning of “day and hour” and how Jesus was referring to His humanity when He said He didn’t know the timing. Find out how Jesus compares the circumstances of His Second Coning to Noah’s Flood as they were both times of judgment.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:48 mins 9 secs

This Generation: Watch – Be Ready
Matthew 24:32-44
Matthew Lesson #158
April 9, 2017

Opening Prayer

“Our Father, we’re thankful that we have this opportunity to study Your Word, to be informed about things that You have planned for the future, to come to understand a biblical framework for history, and to understand that there will indeed be resolution in the future in terms of judgment—in terms of unrighteousness and righteousness.

“Father, we pray that as we study these things, that You will help us to understand them, and though they are not directly applicable to us, there are implications that are important for our own lives in this Church Age.

“We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”

Slide 2

We’re in Matthew 24, and this morning I want to complete what I started last time, when I finished by introducing the parable of the fig tree. That is crucial for understanding what is happening within this particular passage.

But in the middle of that there’s this interesting phrase that comes along in Matthew 24:34 where Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

I finished with a quote from Hal Lindsey—kind of leaving you hanging a little bit for the rest of the story—because there are many who have been influenced by not only him but many other, what I would call, popular prophecy teachers. They have taken this view that “this generation” is the generation that sees the return of the Jews to Israel, the restoration of the modern State of Israel in 1948, or the restoration of Jerusalem—the reunification of Jerusalem—in the Six-Day War in June 1967.

This year is the 50th anniversary of that, so there some interesting things. I will send out a link before long, but CBN has produced a feature film that, from the trailer that I have seen, looks fabulous. It is taking one of the paratrooper brigades and reenacting—a docudrama—of the Six-Day War, following them up onto the Temple Mount, the recapturing of East Jerusalem and the return of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount to Israel’s possession. This is an interesting time.

Now if either one of those dates were the beginning of the signs and a generation was 40 years, which is what many people say, then we would be in the Tribulation; the Rapture would have occurred. So how are we to understand “this generation?”

This brings up several issues related to several other key things that Jesus says in relation to the Parable of the Fig Tree. The main idea is that this generation—once we identify “this generation”—there the focal point of the commands that come up are the exhortations to watch, to be prepared, and to be ready.

If “this generation” is the generation that begins to see the signs, and those signs occur now in the Church Age, then we’re to watch and be ready, and it’s talking about the Rapture.

If “this generation” is the generation within the Tribulation, then these passages are talking about the Second Coming of Christ, which is what has been the focal point up to this point and not the Rapture.

Among dispensationalists that is the prominent view, although there is a vocal and growing minority that take the view that this is going to be talking about the Rapture.

Slide 3

1.      Review: a few key things to remember.

2.      Address the meaning and significance of the parable of the fig tree.

3.      Address the question of the meaning of the phrase, “this generation.”

Following that there’s a comparison made with the time of Noah, then following that you have the statements about two people in the field; one is taken, another’s left behind. Many people think that’s the Rapture. What exactly does that mean?

4.      Who is taken and who remains?

Slide 4

#1. Review: a few key things to remember—I want to remind you of some of things that we’ve studied.

Slide 5

A. First of all, we have to keep in mind that this is Jewish background. Matthew is written to a Jewish audience.

Matthew says very little, as I pointed out last time, about the church. The word “church”, EKKLESIA, has only occurred two times in the Gospels, both in Matthew, but only one has the technical sense of the church. No content is given, no teaching is given. At this point the disciples know nothing about the church or the Church Age.

B. All of the events described in Matthew 24:4-31 take place within the seven-year period of the Tribulation of Daniel’s 70th week.

I spent a lot of time covering why that was so. Sometimes people think that I’m mired down in these details, but I do it for a reason, because if you take the views of several dispensationalists that some or part of Matthew 24:4-14 are occurring in this time: for example, seeing wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and famines and all of those things.

If that that we see today is what is talked about there, then we could be that generation that sees these things. But if those things—they’re unique distinct wars, famines, earthquakes—if they’re within the seven years, as I pointed out, then this generation who sees these things is talking about those within the seven year Tribulation Period.

If you remember, I pointed out that there is a parallel between what is described in verses 4-8, called “the beginning of sorrows,” and the seal judgments of Revelation 6.

C. In Matthew 24:27, Jesus describes the circumstances surrounding His return. That’s

the Second Coming: He comes to the earth.

What He describes when He talks about the fact that the sun is darkened, the moon doesn’t give its light, Matthew 24:29, “sun will be dark and the moon will not give its light,” that is clearly “Day of the Lord” description from Joel.

However, the term “Day of the Lord” is not used. Now that seems technical, but you will hear this from some who are arguing that the Rapture occurs in the second half of the chapter: that what is here that is imminent—using the thief analogy—is “The Day of the Lord,” because in 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul talks about “The Day of the Lord” will come like a thief in the night.

But I’ve pointed it out in our study “The Day of the Lord,” that there is a broad reference which would include all the Tribulation. But in all the passages that talk about the sun being dark and the moon not giving its light, that’s all just the final, final few days—if not only two or three days, probably no more than a week— the final, final, final part just before Jesus returns.

So that limits, in those passages, “Day of the Lord” to the end of the Tribulation period. The point is that when Jesus begins to talk in Matthew 24:36, “but of that day and hour no one knows,” those who say that “that day” equals the “Day of the Lord” have no textual basis for that.

Because in the Old Testament whenever you see “that day” describing “The Day of the Lord”, there’s always a precedent within the passage: “The Day of the Lord” is already mentioned, either earlier or little bit later. So when they say afterwards “that day,” it refers to the phrase “Day of the Lord.”

Jesus never used the phrase “Day of the Lord,” so claiming that is really reading other passages into this text when it’s not justified.

Slide 6

D. There are key differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming.

Now a key principle of interpretation that I talked about last time was consistently violated in a lot of studies, especially when the contrast is between pre-Trib and post-Trib, where they see certain similarities: Jesus is returning, there it talks about PAROUSIA—which is a general not a technical term for His coming—clouds, angels, trumpets. If any of those things are mentioned, even though the details may be different, there is the assumption that because there are similarities, there are differences.

Slide 7

I talked about these illustrations. There’s a difference between a car and a truck, a difference between a bush and a tree. It’s not the similarities that are important, it’s the differences; it’s those details that are significant.

Slide 8

Also I talked about the difference between a jet fighter and a transport plane or cargo plane; difference between a daffodil and a sunflower. It’s the differences, the details that are important.

Slide 9

Then we covered a variety of differences between the Rapture and the Second Coming. I’m adding one to that list today, and that is number 14; I covered 13 last time.

Christ gathers believers to meet Him in the air. There is a gathering, and that’s described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout… the dead in Christ will rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds… and thus will be with the Lord forever.”

However, in Matthew 24:31—a passage that many will take as the Rapture—reads, “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other.”

There are those who will say that’s the Rapture. Well, if that’s the Rapture, then we’re talking about a Rapture at the end of the Tribulation. But there are definite differences: we meet the Lord in the air in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

Slide 10

This passage talks about the angels regathering the elect—the saved Jewish believers of the Tribulation period—and returning them to Israel.

This is seen in passages like Jeremiah 16:14-15, where we’re told by the Lord, “‘Therefore, behold, the days are coming’—in the future—“says the Lord, ‘that it shall no more be said, “The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt’”—looking back to their restoration to the land at the time of the Exodus—“‘but The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’”

What will happen is in the future they will look back to another event where the Lord restored them from all over the world. That is the regathering that occurs at the end of the Tribulation Period. ‘”For I will bring them back into the land which I gave to their fathers.’”

Slide 11

Isaiah 27:12-13 is significant because it mentions a trumpet with this particular thing: “And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will thresh, from the channel of the river to the Brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel.

“So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”

That’s talking about the future return of elect Israel. That’s not talking about anything going on today. It’s talking about this miraculous return, then the angels gather the elect together.

Slide 12

2. What’s the meaning and significance of the parable of the fig tree?

We have to remember the question that is being answered.

Slide 13

The disciples have just heard Jesus say that the temple is going to be destroyed: not one stone will be left on another. They asked Him two basic questions: When will this happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?

They’re asking from a Jewish perspective about Jewish issues: the destruction of the Temple and the time when the Messiah will come and establish His Kingdom. Nothing here is related to the church, the Church Age, or the Rapture.

He’s talked about the sign in Matthew 24:27: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” That is the sign.

Matthew 24:30, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven.” Notice! Sometimes some things don’t hit me right away, but I was reading another passage related to a peripheral issue and it really hit me: all these verses in the parallels uses the title “Son of Man” again and again and again. That comes from Daniel 7.

Daniel 7 uses the term. Daniel is looking into the future when the Son of Man will be given the Kingdom by the Ancient of Days, and He immediately comes to the earth, so this is clearly Second Coming passage. He doesn’t have the Kingdom yet; it’s not given to the “Son of Man” until just prior to His return to the earth.

So we’re not in any form of the Kingdom right now, but it reinforces what I’m saying here because we will see this “Son of Man” terminology in related passages that make it clear this it is not and won’t be talking about the Rapture. It’s talking about the “Son of Man” receiving the Kingdom, coming to the earth to establish his Kingdom.

Slide 14

He gives the parable, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree.”

Now He could have used any tree. He’s not making a point out of the fact that this is a fig tree versus a sycamore tree, but I think the fact that He uses a fig tree, which is a symbol for Israel, is an indication that He’s talking about God’s plan for Israel. He’s not talking about the church.

Now He’s not making a point out of that, but the fig tree has been used by Him to symbolize judgment on Israel, so that’s in the background of this imagery. In the spring—and we see this with other trees now—the trees begin to put forth little sprouts and the leaves come forth and we know spring is here, summer is near. That’s His basic point here: that you can tell what is going on.

Slide 15

Now this is a parable. As I pointed out last time, the word “parable” in the Greek, PARABOLE, is a broader term than what it means in English. It’s generally a broad term for some kind of illustration where something in the realm of reality is taken—some story is told—to compare and to instruct about something in the unseen or spiritual realm.

The purpose of a parable is to give instruction. Sometimes it was given in a parable form to sort of cloak what was being said, so that only those who understood the keys to the parable, would understand. Then Jesus would tell his disciples what each part that had significance meant.

The parable here just simply says, “When its branches already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.”

Now let me give you a couple of points about interpreting parables.

  • First of all, unless parables are specifically connected, one parable doesn’t interpret another parable.

The reason I say that is we will see this a little later on in Matthew 25, when we talk about the parable of the talents, that there is a parallel—similar—the parable of the minas in Luke 19. There are those who because of their similarity, will use Luke 19 to help them interpret the parable of the talents. That’s not justifiable.

If you have two parables that are given, one after the other, where one builds on elements in the previous one, that’s different. But what I’m talking about here is going to another book, another context, to take a parable and then use it to interpret another parable.

  • Two extremes to avoid:

a.       Overgeneralizing a parable on the one hand

b.      Secondly, to try to make every detail of the parable mean something.

Jesus usually tells us what the point is, and describes which elements of the parable have significance for the point that He is making. So we don’t want to under-interpret or over-interpret the parable.

  • The parable must be interpreted in the light of the immediate context first and then in terms of the context and argument of the specific book.

There many times when people come along and take parables completely out of context and use them for whatever reason or purpose they want to. And it just sort of free floats: it doesn’t have anything to do with the original context in which it was given. We have to interpret in terms of the immediate context and then the context and argument of the specific book.

Since the immediate context here is talking about Israel and the return of Jesus at His Second Coming to establish His Kingdom, then we must interpret this in that light and in terms of the context and argument of the book.

This is a Jewish book talking about the Kingdom and the establishment, then the offer of the Kingdom, and then the postponement of the Kingdom; so that must inform our meaning or interpretation.

Slide 16

Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” Matthew 24:32-34

Matthew 24:33, I want you to notice something: He is talking to the disciples, but He’s really talking through the disciples to those who will see these things take place—they won’t.

He says, “So you also, when you see all these things”—not some of these things, not just, you know, wars and rumors of wars and an increase in famines and pestilence, but—“when you see all these things, know that it is near.”

What is the “it”? The “it” is the Second Coming to establish the kingdom. It’s not talking about the Rapture. It can’t be talking about the Rapture because then the Rapture would be at the end of the Tribulation because the people who are seeing it would be waiting for the Rapture.

So since the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation, Church Age believers won’t be witnessing the “these things,” these signs that all take place within the seven year Tribulation Period.

He says, “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!”

Question: what generation is He addressing? He’s addressing the generation that will see “all these signs.” That’s not you and me: we’re not seeing that yet, we’re not within the Tribulation.

Then He says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

Slide 17

3.      What is the meaning of “this generation?”

I showed you last week this quote from The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. He takes this view that has been very influential for people to date-set.

Now date-setting has never been part of dispensational theology. Date-setting was part of historicism. Historicism, if you remember, is the view— the idea—that I can look at the current events and figure out where I am between Revelation 4 and Revelation 19.

Unfortunately, especially in the earlier years of dispensational theology, many were still influenced to varying degrees by some Historicism, so they would identify certain things and try to figure out what the “signs of the times” were and how close we might be to the Rapture. That is borrowing from another system.

I think in the last 20 or 30 years a lot of work has been done by Dispensational scholars—recognizing that that’s a problem—and we need to be pure Futurists: that all of this is in the future. None of it is being seen in terms of current events.

We see from this that Hal’s interpretation was that in “1948 the fig tree first put forth its leaves. Jesus said (this is the last paragraph) that this would indicate that He was at the door ready to return. Then He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.’ ”

Slide 19

He says, “What generation?” Obviously, in context the generation that would see the signs.” (That’s true, we would agree with that. It’s the generation that sees the signs.) But he says, “… chief among them is the rebirth of Israel.”

We don’t see that anywhere in the passage. That’s not what is being talked about. So he’s reading things in there and came to the conclusion that 1948 was the beginning. 40 years was a generation; that would be 1988, seven years earlier would be 1981.

I guess we missed the Rapture! Later, I think he—and I know others—shifted it to ‘67. 40 years later would be 2007: the Rapture would’ve occurred in 2000. Oops! We missed it again! See, date-setting’s a problem because no one knows when the Rapture will occur. No signs are necessary before that.

Slide 20

“This generation” has been basically interpreted three ways:

1.      First of all, that this generation was addressing the first generation Jew. Two groups take this view:

First of all, Preterists take this view. They believe that everything was fulfilled by AD 70, and this is all code language for God’s judgment on Israel in AD 70. That’s the Preterists’ view.

But liberals also take that view: “See Jesus was talking to that generation in front of Him. None of this happened, Jesus was wrong, end of story. Poor Christians, they believe Jesus.” That’s just an attack on the historicity and inerrancy of the Scripture.

2.      Second, this is an interesting view because the word that is used here for “generation” can at times mean race or an ethnic group, and this is the interpretation that it refers to: the race of Jewish people.

Jesus would be saying then that this race, i.e., the Jews, will not disappear from the earth until all of this has been fulfilled. That’s true, but that’s probably not the best option in context.

3.      The third option is the best and that is that the Tribulation generation that sees these things.

Not those who are still in the Church Age who witnessed the stage-setting—which was Hal’s view—but this is referring to the Tribulation generation. It’s after the Rapture that these events that are listed from Matthew 24:4 and following take place. That’s the best interpretation.

Slide 21

So “this generation” then equals the generation within Daniel’s 70th week: that is, those that are the Tribulation generation who witnessed the event spoken about from Matthew 24:4 and following.

Thus, “this generation” shows that God’s judgment had a time cap. As Jesus said earlier “If these days weren’t cut short.” That doesn’t mean it’s going to be less than seven years, but that seven years is a shortening of what it could have been. If it had been allowed to go longer, then man would completely destroy himself. So God has a time cap on the limits for this judgment.

Matthew 24:32 emphasizes that this generation that sees these things should learn from the parable of the fig tree. This isn’t talking about us. It’s not talking about the church or the Church Age. It’s clearly talking about “this generation” of the Tribulation Era. They are to learn something from the parable of the fig tree.

Slide 22

Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

What Jesus is doing here is comparing the temporal, unstable reality of creation that is finite, to His Word and to His thought that His Word is eternal: His Word is unshakable, His Word is absolute stability and that it will not ever be destroyed.

Heaven and earth”—that is, all the universe—is finite, and it’s not stable. “But My Words” are infinite “they will by no means pass away.”

What is He doing? He is reminding that generation that is in the Tribulation that they can count on His Words being true, so that they can have stability in the midst of the most horrendous period of human history. They can count on His promises that He will return and establish His Kingdom, and that they can survive.

That takes us to the next section Matthew 24:36-44. Before we go on to that, I want to point out something: the Parable of the Fig Tree is a parable to show that you can, within the Tribulation, see that the coming of the Messiah is near. However, you can’t pinpoint it. That’s what comes up in verse 36.

Slide 23

This next section talks about the judgment that will occur during that time:

4.      Who is taken and who remains?

There’s more debate about that. There are two views within dispensational futurists:

1.        That this is talking about the Rapture—those who are taken in the Rapture—and those who remain. If it’s the Rapture, those who remain are those who will go through judgment.

2.        If it is the Second Coming, then those who remain are the believers—the survivors—of the Tribulation Period.

Slide 24

What throws people off is the sense of imminency that is expressed in Matthew 24:36. People say, “Well, we don’t know when the Rapture is going to occur. It could be at any at any moment. No one can set a date. Jesus seems to indicate that’s what He’s talking about here in verse 36.”

Well, if you just took this verse out of context, that might be so, but we can’t do that. “Of that day and hour.” Notice it’s not just that day. If this was an Old Testament passage talking about the day of the Lord, which had already been mentioned, it would just say of that day. It never adds this phrase “and hour.”

Hour indicates He’s talking about something with greater specificity, not just the day, but down to the hour. “Of that day and hour,” He says, “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

There are people who ask questions about this: how can Jesus not know? Jesus in His humanity—in His role as the incarnate Son of God during the first Advent—this was not part of His portfolio of knowledge, did not include this in His humanity.

He was not to know when the Second Coming would be, and He’s emphasizing that it’s imminent in a sense, just as we’ll see in the analogy with Noah’s flood; there was a certain sense of uncertainty or imminence, even at that time, with the coming of the flood.

You could see Noah for example, and Noah started preaching and he just laid out the basic structure of the ark. You could say, “Well, it’s been taking a while to complete the ark, I have a lot of time.” But once he completed the ark, you might say, “Well, I still have time; he doesn’t have the animals there.”

Then it would take time to gather the animals, but once Noah went in and closed the door, “Well, this could happen right away!” But then a day goes by, two days go by … you don’t know precisely when it’s going to happen. You know it’s soon, but you don’t know precisely when it’s going to happen.

That’s what Jesus is talking about here, with that precision, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”

This is not saying that Jesus in His deity would not know when this would happen because He is Omniscient, but that in His humanity this was not part of what was given to Him to know.

It’s not talking about the Rapture because the analogy that is given in the next few verses doesn’t fit the Rapture: it fits the Second Coming.

Slide 25

Matthew 24:37-39, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” This is an illustration where Jesus is comparing the circumstances prior to the Second Coming with the circumstances prior to the flood.

It begins with this phrase “as the days of Noah.” In the Greek this is the phrase HOSPER, which it’s a comparative attitude, and it indicates that it is “in the same way” based on other words that are used in the text.

Jesus’ point is that the coming of the Son of Man is going to be exactly like the coming of the flood at the days of Noah. The coming of the flood was a judgment. The coming of the Son of Man to the earth is going to begin a series of judgments.

The focal point here is on judgment, not on the rescue or deliverance of believers from the judgment.

He describes the situation, Matthew 24:38, “For as in the days before the flood, they we’re eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.”

People say, “Well, wait a minute! If you’re living in the Tribulation, you’ve got all these prophecies telling you that it’s only going to last seven years, and you can count it down almost to the day. Why would people in the midst of all of these judgments still be living as if things were normal?”

Well the phraseology here is talking about the life before the flood. In the days before the flood what were they doing? They were going through life’s normal activities as if no judgments were coming because they were suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

Slide 26

Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness because what may be known of God is manifest in them for God has shown it to them.”

In essence, unbelievers who are rejecting the revelation say it’s not going to happen. So they are in as much denial about the return of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom at the end of the Tribulation as those before the flood were. They were in complete denial of everything that Noah said, so they were going about normal activities of life.

This is the same thing that we see, people will be going to the degree that they can in those horrific times. They will be going through the normal activities of life as if there is no end of everything about to happen. They are suppressing the truth. They’re living in a fantasy world.

What is happening in Matthew 24:38-39 is this focus on the normality of life before the flood, and it’s going to be the same kind of thing before the coming of the Son of Man.

Notice we had that phrase again “the coming of the Son of Man.” “Son of Man” is related to His taking the Kingdom, not the church. Then it’s described: the kind of suddenness that will take place.

Slide 27

Matthew 24:40-41, “Two men will be in the field. One will be taken and the other left.”

If we go back and we look at the description in Matthew 24:39, they “did not know until the flood came and took them all away.” Who’s taken away? Noah and his family in the ark—or everybody else on the earth—the unbelievers? The unbelievers are taken away: they’re taken away by the judgment.

When Jesus says the “two men will be in the field: one will be taken…” he’s taken in judgment. That fits the illustration: it’s a given, it fits the context. The other is left on the earth. He survived the Tribulation to go into the millennium.

Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken”—in judgment—“and the other will be left.”

Slide 28

Matthew 24:42, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

He’s not talking to the disciples about the Rapture. He’s talking to “this generation” who sees the signs. He’s still talking to that Tribulation generation; He says, “You don’t know what HOUR.” Notice He uses the time word, not the broader word. He doesn’t say, “What DAY that Your Lord is coming,” He says, “You don’t know what HOUR your Lord is coming.”

Slide 29

Luke 12:39-40 is a similar passage talking about the same thing. He says, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come”—using this thief illustration again—“he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Same kind of meaning. The “you” there refers to the disciples, but He is speaking through them to that generation that will be in existence when the Son of Man comes to establish His Kingdom.

Slide 30

Back to Matthew 24:43 says, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would’ve watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.”  

Slide 31

Now that thief illustration is used again in Revelation 16:15, where we have Jesus speaking directly. If you have a red letter Bible, Revelation 16:15 is in red letters; Jesus speaks.

When I taught Revelation 16, I wasn’t aware—this often happens in studies as you grow and mature—that there was a whole certain web of interpretations that were grounded by a couple of different groups on an article written identifying “the Day of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 5 as imminent, just as the Rapture is imminent.

The author of that article believes the Rapture is what starts the seven-year-period of the day of the Lord. The author of that article was Robert Thomas. He’s the only one who takes this view, but that’s his view.

He also has written arguably the best—although I disagree with him in a number of places—but it is overall the best exegetical, two-volume commentary on Revelation, which I was studying through when I taught Revelation.

I didn’t realize that the interpretation he took of this passage was connected to his interpretation of Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5. Now I’m aware that there’s this whole connection.

I went back, and in order to demonstrate this is what he says it is, which is what I taught when I went through this, that this is an aside to the church that is listening to John. In order to really prove that, you have to show that John makes these kinds of asides to his present AD 90 audience in more than just this one passage.

I’ve been trying to find time to do this all week. I got up at five this morning, read all of Revelation. There is no other aside like this in the entire book of Revelation. That’s what I was guessing, but I wanted to make sure, so I read everything through. There’s nothing like that anywhere else. As he says, it could be either way. It could be an aside, or it could be using the same language addressing the Tribulation generation just before Jesus comes back to say, “Keep watching, keep your garments, lest you walk naked, and they see his shame.”

What happens is there’s similarity here with a couple of things that are said to the overcomers in the seven letters to the seven churches. What is a primary rule of hermeneutics? Similarity doesn’t mean they’re identical. He violates a fundamental rule.

“Mr. Hermeneutics” violates a fundamental rule of hermeneutics by saying that, basically, he argues similarity here means that it must be talking to Church Age believers not to Tribulation saints.

And having gone through all that, I saw some other things as well. It’s very clear that this idea of a thief coming in the night, this illustration of sudden unexpectedness, is used of different things in the Scripture. It’s used of the Rapture, it’s used of “The Day of the Lord” and it’s used of the arrival of Jesus at the Second Coming.

This, I think, really shows that the parable of the fig tree is a warning to the generation that sees the signs to be ready, to be watching, so they won’t be taken by surprise when the Lord returns at the Second Coming. Because there will be judgment.

That’s what sets up the next set of parables: they’re all talking about judgment of those who survived the Tribulation. But you have a whole group of people in the Free Grace Alliance who have been following Joseph Dillow for a while, and they are going to argue that all these coming parables talk about the church because the Rapture got introduced starting in Matthew 24:36.

The argument they always cite goes back to those articles I mentioned by Bob Thomas. But what’s interesting is Thomas gives them a foundation, but Thomas doesn’t believe the Rapture’s in the last part of Matthew 24. So they cherry-picked what he said to go forward.

The reason I say that is because there are people listening to me, people who are in this congregation for whom that information is important. Some of you are just saying, “Well, that’s interesting; I’m glad to know this isn’t the Rapture; I’m going to move on.”

That’s fine, but there are others who been going to Pre-Trib Rapture Study Group for the last 10 or 15 years; they’re a little more knowledgeable and they want to know answers to specific questions. So I’ll come back, pick it up a little more next time, as we go in.

I had debated within my head about whether or not to do an Easter Special. I’ve been gone, missing, this and that—too much. I’m sticking with Matthew 24 and 25 over the next few weeks because we’re just losing too much continuity by interrupting with other things, so we will continue with this next Sunday morning.

Closing Prayer

“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this morning and to recognize that even though this is talking about the Tribulation generation and the suddenness and unexpectedness of Christ’s return and the need to be prepared and ready, it has application to us because as Church Age believers, we are anticipating our Lord’s return at the Rapture, which could be at any moment, and we need to be prepared, and we need to be ready.

“If there’s anyone listening who has never trusted Christ as Savior, then you’re not ready, you’re not prepared, for when Jesus returns at the Rapture, those who are alive will be caught up to be with Him in the clouds. We will not go through the Tribulation.

“Those who have not trusted in Christ as Savior will go through the Tribulation, the most horrific period of violence and turmoil that has ever been experienced in the history of mankind.

“If we trust in Christ we don’t go through that. Doesn’t mean we don’t go through tribulations and testing and wars and famines and pestilences, but not to the degree that they will be experienced in the Tribulation Period.

“We need to be ready also because the Judgment Seat of Christ immediately follows. We will be evaluated in terms of our Christian life, our Christian growth, our Christian maturity, our service to you.

“Father, we pray that we might take that to heart, that those who are not believers need to trust in Christ. For those who are believers, we need to make sure that we are spiritually prepared by growing, serving You, walking by the Spirit.

“We pray that you challenge us with these things this morning in Christ’s name, Amen.”