Bringing the Truth Without the Snare – Are there signs for us in Matthew chapter 24?

Acts1-11LikeMannerBy John & Kathy Beardsley

“Most Christians who believe in a rapture at the beginning of the tribulation do not know how this theological belief came into existence or what their biblical basis is for believing it. They have simply been taught it by teachers they respect, and therefore have accepted it, without doing personal research into the origins and the biblical basis of the pretribulation rapture theory.” (Quote from Dr. James McKeever in the forward to The Incredible Cover-Up by Dave MacPherson) (underline added)

I have said as much as Dr. McKeever and I would add that if a teaching is not from God’s word it is important to know the origin so that it may be refuted with scripture. Most often for those who believe in a rapture, (whether pre-, post-, or anything else) it is usually studied and debated with one intent—to prove the position they so confidently hold. Many however, though they may understand and teach much of God’s word correctly, still don’t see they unwittingly cling to certain privately interpreted views within the teaching that began in the early 1800s. In that vein, I respectfully disagree with Dr. McKeever and Mr. MacPherson concerning their position on the rapture, not because I believe I am right and they are wrong, but because God’s word is right and God’s word tells us the correct position to take; none of the above, and I’ll show you why.

To begin with, there can be NO compromise—no private interpretation, no borrowing from this religion or that one, this Bible version or that to achieve the interpretation desired, no using a variety of extrabiblical sources, or believing “everyone has something to bring to the table,” and “we are all God’s children.” These quotes are lies of Satan.

I have noted, and my husband agrees, that Daniel 9:24-27 is the hub of the rapture teaching wheel. Because private interpretation was inserted, a false teaching (a rapture, and a seven-year tribulation period they dubbed as Daniel’s seventieth week) made adding a prophecy (aka dual fulfillment) necessary. Without this hub, the spokes of the wheel, or, various elements of the false teaching cannot be supported.

One sure way to avoid scriptural errors resulting from the rapture teaching is to move away from believing that a prophecy already fulfilled has a place for a second fulfillment. No other prophecy in God’s word has been fulfilled more than once so ask yourself, why this one? Why is this “rapture” prophecy and our generation singled out for dual fulfillment? What makes us more deserving to escape tribulation than the apostles or the most devout believers of their time? It is true that some events prophesied in the Old Testament were later fulfilled in the New Testament but that is not the same as being fulfilled first in the Old and then a second time in the New. It is also true that if the possibility of dual fulfillment existed then the door is open for any and all prophecies in God’s word to be fulfilled multiple times—including the prophesied death of Jesus on the cross. We know this will never happen because Hebrews 10:10 tells us that we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Jesus will not be crucified again! (Hebrews 6:6)  Either all prophecies are fulfilled once, or they all have equal opportunity for multiple fulfillments. Regardless, no prophecy in God’s word is open to private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).

Daniel 9:24-27 paired with Matthew 24:2-34 is one such prophecy—in the former revealed to Daniel and in the latter prophesied by Jesus and fulfilled. But rather than accept this truth, some have taken the past destruction of Jerusalem and interpreted it to be signs preceding a future rapture that appears to be in an indefinite and at the same time imminent holding pattern.

What do the scriptures actually tell us? It was approximately 538 BC when Daniel was first informed of the prophecy by the angel Gabriel (Dan. 9:21-27). He was given a brief synopsis of the same prophecy that Jesus conveyed to his disciples in greater detail in approximately AD 33. Verse 26 of Daniel chapter 9 speaks to the destruction of Jerusalem but it is verse 27 that Jesus refers to when he relates the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place as a sign to flee (Matt. 24:15, 16).

Jesus foretold the complete destruction (24:2) to his disciples but did not reveal to them how, by whom, or when it would take place. Daniel was provided with those nonspecific answers. How—a war that shall end like a flood (v. 26); by whom—the people of the prince that shall come (v. 26); when—after sixty-two weeks (or 434 yrs) and Jesus is cut off in the midst of the week (vv. 26, 27). There is debate about 1) who the “people of the prince” are, and 2) whether or not the two halves of the seventieth week are immediately consecutive. First, some say the people are the army of prince Titus who led the war, but if that were the case it is likely that “army” would have been used as it was throughout the Old Testament where war took place. Others believe (of which I am one) they are the people of “Messiah the Prince” (v. 25). Aside from the fact the Prince has already been named, these verses are continued in context so there can be no other conclusion but that the people of the prince are the Jews. Moreover, the people have a history of rebelling and bringing judgment upon themselves Deut. 9:7, 8; 2 Chron. 24:18; Ezek. 2:3 just to begin with. But regardless of who the people are, it does not negate the truth and reality that Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled.

Second, again we are given the answer in Daniel. Verse 24 seventy weeks are determined; vv. 26, 27 after sixty-two weeks (concluding the sixty-nine) Jesus (Messiah) confirms the covenant (Is. 42:6; Matt. 26:26, 27; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:24-26, “testament” is also translated as “covenant”). Messiah is cut off in the midst of the week v. 27, but before he is cut off he prophesied the second half and conclusion of the seventieth week by reaffirming v. 26—the city and sanctuary shall be destroyed. Leaving no question as to the kind of destruction that will take place Jesus tells his disciples at the end of Matt. 24:2, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” This verse is cross-referenced to v. 21 of the same chapter in my old Bible. Keep in mind, if Isaiah can prophesy about a king two-hundred years in his future why can’t Jesus prophesy about the destruction of Jerusalem 37-40 years in their future? The city was already spiritually desolate and now it will be left physically desolate. Being on the other side of the fulfillment of this prophecy we know that it occurred in A.D. 70 for at no other time since Daniel was the city destroyed to the point of leaving no stone unturned—nor will it be, thus fulfilling Matt. 24:21. That also takes away support for one of those spokes in the wheel that claims Russia will come down and destroy Israel.

During Jesus’ three-and-a-half-year ministry prior to his crucifixion, he spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees in various towns rebuking them for their hypocrisy and for their insistence on seeing a sign to prove who he was. Jesus responds, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas (Jonah)…as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matt. 12:38-41. Jesus repeats himself to a different group of Pharisees and Sadducees in Matt. 16:4. Six days later he was transfigured on the mount and shortly thereafter crucified, buried three days, and rose again. That sign has come and gone never to be repeated! Regardless of the reason for the insistence on seeing a sign, the fact remains that one sign Jesus said would be given, was, thus it was fulfilled.

Let’s look at the alleged second fulfillment of Matt. 24 more closely. Beginning with the last few verses of Matt. chapter 23, the house (temple) of the people is already in a desolate (spiritually barren; wretched) state. The Pharisees who oversee the temple deserve the rebuking they receive from Jesus for their disobedience, arrogance, greed and persecution of the prophets, even to death—the consequence for which is bearing on their own shoulders all the blood of the righteous shed on the earth from Abel to Zacharias v. 35, and their house remaining desolate v. 38. The ultimate consequence is Jesus will not be seen by them from that point forward until they say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” v. 39. They have yet to say that.

Then Jesus departed the temple and thus begins in 24:2 his telling of the destruction of Jerusalem to his disciples. The disciples then ask three questions: “When shall these things be?” “what shall be the sign of thy coming?” “and of the end of the world?” To examine each and every “sign” as if for our future is unnecessary because “these things” were prophesied to their generation. Even for them, they were things that were going to happen, not signs of things to watch for before the main event, so to speak. The “things” included what Jesus had just finished informing them of in chapter 23 and everything He chose to describe in detail in 24:4-24. They are only told in 24:33 “when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, and 34 This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” In verse 25 Jesus tells them they’ve been told this before and in v. 26 He issues a warning against believing the previously mentioned false Christs and prophets by saying “if they shall say unto you.” In v. 27, Jesus partially answers their second question by giving them a picture of how His coming will be so notable there will be no mistake that it is Him. Verse 28 could be literal, figurative or both. Literal because of the war; figurative because like verse 27 paints an image in describing Jesus’ coming, verse 28 could be doing the same to describe the reaping of the saints wherever they may be.

Verse 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days,” referring to v. 21 (again, occurring in A.D. 70 not in our future), the sun will be darkened, etc. This is not the first time that occurred as part of God’s wrath. (Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15 Zion 800 BC), (Amos 5:20; 8:9 Israel 787 BC), (Isaiah 13:10 Babylon 712 BC), (Ezek. 32:7 Egypt 587 BC). Like most, I used to think v. 29 was part of a prophetic future so I assumed those things had not happened yet. If they happened then, they can happen in A.D. 70.

Tribulation: Trouble or affliction of any kind Deut. 4:30; Matt. 13:21; 2 Cor. 7:4. In Rom. 2:9 “tribulation and anguish” are the penal sufferings that shall overtake the wicked. In Matt. 24:21, 29 the word denotes the calamities that were to attend the destruction of Jerusalem. (Easton)

Verses 30 and 31 is Jesus coming in judgment at His second coming. Jesus finishes the answer to the second question but now He is saying “they” instead of “you.” “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall 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.”

The parable of the fig tree in v. 32 is an example for their sake, not a sign—in any generation. Verses 33 and 34 are addressed above which brings us to 35 and 36. The answer to the disciples’ third question—the end of the world. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man,” Jesus is not referring to a rapture. He is in fact referring to heaven and earth passing away as described in 2 Peter 3:10 which occurs after believers are caught up to Him at His second coming—His next and only return.

If you (the reader) feel the urge to counter with “but there is no record of the things in v. 29 happening then” I refer you to John 21:25 “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” Jesus told his disciples those things would happen immediately after the tribulation of those days and followed it with “This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” Except for His return, they have been fulfilled. That’s good enough for me.

As a Christian, it should be easy to acknowledge the fact that as long as sin remains on this earth, the history of violence whether by man or nature, has and does repeat itself. If you do, then you should also acknowledge that events previously fulfilled do not prevent similar events from continuing to happen and that they have no connection to the original fulfillment i.e. wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, false prophets, and apostasy. All these things have continued since A.D. 70 and are recurrent of themselves, nothing more.

The Jewish Historian Josephus recorded signs that were seen by others during that time:

  1. There was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.
  2. A great light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour.
  3. A heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple.
  4. The eastern gate of the inner court of the temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. When told of this, the captain of the guard was able to shut the gate again without difficulty.

Josephus then says:

“Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”

You have been shown that the “signs” of this chapter are not signs at all which brings us to another unsupported spoke in the wheel that seems popular among some—the fleeing to Petra (aka the rock). It does not matter who is fleeing, but it does matter to whom Jesus is referring. In verse 16 he instructs those who are in Judaea, not from any other land, past, present, or future to flee to the mountains. No specific mountain or ancient city is named as their destination. There is no symbolism in this, it is strictly an instruction for those people alone to follow. It was not until a man centuries later inserted his own interpretation and unstudied hearers accepted it without question that there is a debate over these verses—and it is continuing to be accepted.

Not all Rapurists agree on all the points (spokes of the wheel) yet they are all trying to support their spokes with the same hub. As I pointed out near the beginning of this article, the hub (Dan. 9:24-24) is a vision revealed to Daniel but it was fulfilled in Matt. 24. They all claim several of the same verses as proof of their position. They each accuse the others of dividing or joining verses where they ought not to as well as misinterpreting them in one form or another, but none of them see that all those verses point only to Jesus’ second coming; period. What they and many others fail to see is, so much time and effort is put into proving the timing of a rapture that they don’t take the time to study God’s word close enough to recognize all the verses they quote speak only to Jesus’ second coming. This is the reason I do not agree with Dr. McKeever and Mr. MacPherson (or any Rapturist for that matter). Meditate on Hebrews 9:28 “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” He will appear the second time; a statement of one-time finality which I think would end the debate of multiple returns. “Without sin unto salvation” (because He will not be crucified again) should also end the debate of a second chance to be saved during a seven-year tribulation that like the rapture does not exist except in a private interpretation.

So why teach a second fulfillment of Daniel 9 and Matthew 24? Besides causing confusion and spending too much time in debate about the Lord’s return, believers are turned away from sound doctrine and toward subtle deception; a tactic that Satan uses to distract and mislead believers from their true calling—spreading the gospel. Additionally, the money trail is easy to see. There is no shortage of books and movies based on a rapture scenario regardless of the numerous scriptural errors they all contain.

No human being in any generation is beyond the capability of being deceived and that includes any and all teachers, pastors, or professors whom you may hold in high regard. If you still cannot accept this because it contradicts what they and you were taught to believe, ask yourself why? Do you think perhaps it is because changing your position now would cause those who believed what you said or taught will scoff and think you don’t know what you’re talking about after all? That if you had this wrong what else do you have wrong? In the flesh it is much easier to just stay the course with the majority and avoid the negativity, patronizing or outright ostracizing, but who are you more concerned about pleasing? Sometimes it is necessary to go against the flow to teach the scriptures accurately.

The moral of the story: The hub of the end-time scenario of a rapture is false and what is claimed to follow afterward (7-year tribulation etc.) cannot be supported. Instead, it has been used and turned into a springboard for so-called “Christian” related material for decades. Like “based on a true story” means liberties are taken to change the story for the greatest emotional affect, so liberties are taken to rewrite a fulfilled prophecy which in turn tolerates the creation of offshoot movies, the newest creations being: The Left Behind series, The Passion, and The Jesus Revolution not to mention the television series The Chosen and so on. As long as you keep buying the goods; a compromised message sold for the alleged purpose of a “biblical foundation,” you are supporting false teaching. Like Eve in the garden, too many have already been beguiled by the serpent. Do not allow Satan to have his way.

Jesus coming in the clouds and we being caught up to meet him will be at the end of this world—all things being fulfilled! For any who will hear His Word, let them hear!

FYI links should you want to know more about four titles above.

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