Lately, I’ve been hearing many in the church insist the Olivet Discourse – found in Matthew 24:1-51, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:7-36 – does not mention the rapture of the church and is solely for Israel in light of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). What troubled me most is that some of these people believe in a pre-Tribulation rapture. This vexed me so much that I thought I should write an article on the subject. Is the rapture of the church in the Olivet Discourse?
The Lord is teaching His disciples – the very men who would start His church – about the end-times and His second coming. The confusion comes about because of our Lord’s focus on what Israel will be going through during the Tribulation and, once that is completed, He seemingly turns to another subject – a “mystery” the Apostle Paul would later reveal in His divinely inspired epistles (1 Corinthians 15:51-28 & 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, and others). Why wouldn’t our Lord allude to the rapture? He has the seed of His church listening intently to his revelation of the end-times. What better opportunity to show them this than at this time?
I believe He does reveal the mystery of the rapture of the church at the end of all three discourses found in the synoptic Gospels. It’s as if He is saying, “What I’m about to share with you, you won’t understand now – but you will.”
The verses that we’ll be studying are: Matthew 24:36-51 and 25:1-13 (The Parable of the 10 Virgins); Mark 13:28-37; and Luke 21:28-36.
Let’s go in reverse order and start with Luke.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Emphasis mine)
As most know, the fig tree represents the nation of Israel (the other trees are the surrounding enemy nations of Israel). This passage tells us that the end-times can’t take place until Israel is reestablished in her land, as she is today. Jesus goes on to say that when we see the things he had previously mentioned begin to come to pass, that the Kingdom of God would be near; and we see these things – the “birth pangs” – in our current generation.
Always remember to differentiate between “them” and “us/we” in prophetic Scripture. The “snare” will come on “them that dwell on the face of the whole earth,” not on us, the Lord’s bride.
If anyone attacks you for your belief in a pre-Tribulation rapture of the church by calling you an escapist, point them to Luke 21:36 and remind them that Jesus Himself commanded us to “pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.“ This statement goes hand in hand with Revelation 3:10, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.“ I can think of no clearer way for the Lord to communicate the resurrection of His church at the rapture.
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Emphasis mine)
Whenever the prophetic Scriptures allude to the “day or hour” that “knoweth no man,” or our Lord coming as “a thief in the night,” rest assured that this is always referring to the rapture of His church. Such verses include: 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 2 Peter 3:10 (a fascinating verse covering the rapture until the Lord recreates the heavens and the earth after the millennial Kingdom in one short statement), Revelation 3:3, Matthew 24:43, and others.
We will know the season – and we see those signs today – but we can’t know the “day or the hour” when it comes to the imminent rapture of the church.
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 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. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Emphasis mine)
This passage is not talking about the Second Coming and the separating of the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), as some claim. Those that say this are trying to tie the two together, but it just doesn’t work.
First, in Matthew 25:33, it says, “and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.“ There is no “taking away” as they are all gathered together unto Him in the same place.
Second, Matthew 25:31-46 is a Second Coming passage and not a rapture passage. In the rapture passage above (Matthew 24:40-42), it is happening all over the world; hence the “two in the field” and “two… grinding at the mill.” In a parallel passage in Luke 17:33-36 (after Jesus warns the Jews of their fleeing from Jerusalem after the Abomination of Desolation), He immediately shifts to the rapture, and says, “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.“
Notice we have added here two men in a bed, presumably at night, showing that this event is happening all over the world at the same time. There is no other prophetic event that accurately describes what is being said here, other than the rapture of the church. (I do have a commentary on Luke 17:37 and Matthew 24:28 – a difficult passage to be sure – that I may publish at a later time, but is not in the scope of this article).
Important Note: Some might say, “How can you say that? How can Jesus immediately jump from a description of the Abomination of Desolation that happens in the middle of the Tribulation to an account of the rapture?” The answer is that, just like He put the rapture verses at the end of His Olivet Discourse, He is putting the rapture at the end of this teaching as well. There is ample precedence for the blending of two things together in prophetic Scripture. Prophetic Scripture is littered with near and far-ranging predictions leveled against the same empires at different times in the future.
One example of this blending is in Isaiah 61:1-2 (which the Lord Himself quoted in Luke 4:18-19, leaving out the Second Coming portion of this Scripture): “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.“
Notice the two comings of the Lord Jesus Christ – His first coming and His second coming wrapped up into two verses. This is where rightly dividing of Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15) is so essential. Jesus is the Word of God, so this consistency of melding different aspects of future prophecy should be a surprise to no one. The fact is, these verses can be nothing other than the rapture – it does not, and will not, fit the Second Coming.
Lastly, notice that everyone mentioned in these verses is carrying on their daily activities as if nothing is unusual. There is no chance whatsoever that “life as normal” will be happening at the Lord’s Second Coming, as all will be expecting and looking for Him.
Everyone will know when Jesus is coming back, as everyone will be waiting for Him – from Antichrist and his armies with the other armies of the world at Armageddon, to believers and unbelievers alike – as all they have to do is count exactly seven years from the signing of the covenant Antichrist makes with Israel (Daniel 9:27). Jesus will come on the exact day assigned to Him, just as He did on His first advent (Daniel 9:24-26). Again, everyone will know and be waiting for the Lord at the Second Coming – some in an attempt to battle Him and some to welcome Him with gladness, joy, and worship. This will not be a surprise to the remnant left on earth after seven years of the wrath of God being poured out on man.
Those that insist the rapture is not in view in Christ’s Olivet Discourse, I humbly assert, do much harm to the intent of the message of the text. As we can see, the rapture is clearly in view at the end of each of the synoptic Gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse.
Why did Jesus say that only the Father knows the day and the hour His Son would come back for His bride in what is known as the pre-Tribulation rapture of the church? Because of the event’s relationship to the Jewish wedding (The movie/documentary Before the Wrath documents this well, as do many fine articles and books).
We should conclude our study with the most picturesque of all of Christ’s allusions to the rapture of His bride in relation to this Jewish wedding – The Parable of the 10 Virgins…
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”
Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!