I have been contacted by three RR readers with similar questions. I thought these were important enough to answer in another article on Matthew 24, so here we go. These three I want to address as best as I can.
QUESTION NUMBER 1:
“Matt 24:42[-44] Word says to keep watch because you don’t know when the thief will break into the house. I’ve always been confused as to who or what that image represents – some people seem to think the thief represents Jesus Christ coming for us during the rapture. Your context, the one that I think makes the most sense, that doesn’t work. Here’s the verse I’m talking about; let me know what you think: “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
QUESTION NUMBER 2: (Two people)
“I like the explanation you gave on Matt 24, and do ask God to show me truth and understanding in his word. If you would be so kind, maybe give me a little clarity on Matt 24:42. My understanding is that we do know when Jesus will return. Thought the 2nd coming was after the rapture and happens then 7 years after the antichrist signs the peace treaty with Israel starting the 7-year clock?”
There is a very important truth in all biblical understanding and interpretation, and when we apply that, it can help so much in all the Bible. It is this: “There is ever only one interpretation, but there can be several applications.” The true interpretation is nearly always associated with the first reference of that in the word. It is called “The principle of first mention.” I shall give an example –
Look at this verse – Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” That is the first mention of that verse in scripture. Israel was in great apostasy, married to idolatry. This is the Lord speaking through Hosea, declaring when in the early part of its history, God had great compassion on Israel and called her out of the bondage of Egypt (in the exodus). That is the interpretation, and there can be no other interpretation.
Now look at this passage – Matt 2:14-15, “And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled saying, ‘Out of Egypt did I call My Son.'” Note the words, “through the prophet might be fulfilled.” Hosea did not state that verse as a prophecy, but the Holy Spirit through Matthew was pleased to APPLY that verse to the baby Jesus leaving Egypt where He was in refuge from Herod. That is an application made from the original verse.
One more application. Egypt is a type of the world in scripture. Of each one of us it could be said, “Out of Egypt, I have called my son,” meaning that the Lord called us out of the world system and saved us. A broader application could be applied at the Rapture – “Out of Egypt I have called my son,” meaning that the Lord will call us out of the world literally. Remember though, there is ONLY always one interpretation, and it is that used in the first reference by Hosea.
With that in mind, we look at the Matthew reference to thief – Matt 24:43-44, “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
The coming of the thief in verse 43 is bad news. Thieves are always bad news. For whom is the bad news, and how is it going to affect the world? Well, the bad news is for the whole unrepentant world because the wicked ones will be taken away in the Lord’s judgment (Matt 24:39-41). BUT it will also be bad news for the Jews who are not ready for the Second Coming of the Messiah, and this is spelled out clearly in chapter 25 where the consistent ones waiting expectantly were received and entered into (the Millennial Kingdom), but those unprepared were rejected when the bridegroom came.
As Jesus addressed the Tribulation Jews here (speaking to His disciples in chapter 24 but over them to where the correct fulfillment lay, and that will be at the end of the Tribulation), He is telling them they must be prepared or they will miss out just like a householder, unprepared, loses everything to the thief. For these unprepared Jews, and the unrepentant world, Jesus’ coming will be as a thief. The thief image is bad for those who miss out.
It is interesting to note also that this expression, “the Son of Man,” when used by Matthew, is always in connection with the bond between Jesus and the Jews.
Because the true interpretation of Matt 24:43-44 is His coming as a thief to close the Tribulation, and it is centered on the Jews, so there is no way can it be applied to the Church. In fact, it is absolutely opposed to any application to the Church as it is taught by these verses, and to try to make it fit the Church is a great dishonor – 1 Thess 5:2-5, “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child and they shall not escape, but you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief, for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of (the) night nor of darkness.”
Even the simplest reader of these verses can see that Jesus is NOT coming as a thief for His Church. In fact, He is coming as its redeeming Saviour and the Bridegroom who sought His Bride and died for her. All that is a loving, open, glorious Lord receiving His chosen and blood-bought Pearl, the Bride. There is no way is He coming like a criminal thief to do mischief to the ones He loved and saved. To say “the thief” image applies to the Rapture is a monstrosity. To clarify another matter, the term “The Day of the Lord” is an Old Testament term used over and over by the prophets to refer to the events nearly always applying to the great Tribulation, especially the Second Coming.
I have a prepared sheet on all these references I may get to send to RR sometime. We are children of the day and dwell in the light as He is in the light. A thief comes to the darkness; the Saviour comes to the light.
I think that shows beyond doubt that the thief image can not, and should not be used in association with the Rapture. All this confusion happens because Bible students do not look at exegesis properly. You need to put down the two comings, then list all the references about “coming” which fit one or the other, NOT both, because not one of them will fit both. Rightly divide the scriptures.
I will add one other thing here that is a very difficult one, and I am not totally certain on it. It is this passage – Matt 24:12-13, “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.”
The one who endures to the end will be saved. The corollary is that the one who gives up, or is not continuing, will not be saved. How do we understand this? The critical thing we must establish absolutely is that Matthew 24 belongs to the Tribulation period and not to the Church age. The previous two articles I posted, I am sure, does cement that fact. Therefore, it is very wrong and inappropriate to apply that to Christians. A backslidden Christian is not in view in those verses.
I am not going to go on a tangent in this article about Calvinism and Arminianism as it gets applied to Christians, for it is not relevant here. Any doctrine that says a Christian must persevere until the end, and uses this verse for that support, is wrong because you are yanking a condition for the Tribulation and pushing it into the Church age. Remember, Gentile and Jew; Church and Tribulation.
Therefore, we have only one interpretation here with verse 13. It applies to the Jewish believer, or (maybe) the professing Jewish believer during the Tribulation. These will be very hard times, and lawlessness will abound throughout because the man of lawlessness is the world ruler (Antichrist), and people will betray one another, even members of one’s own family; and the true Jewish saint may starve by not having the mark of the beast. They are terrible times, and some might think, “It is too hard, or I am too hungry, or it is not worth it.” There may come a point where it is too much, and the love will grow cold and the person shrinks back.
However, in these times after the Rapture, that won’t be good enough. It almost seems the Lord puts a hard rod on the backs of these Jewish believers. We recall these verses that I am sure fit the Tribulation possibly more than our age (but applicable in both) –
Matt 10:34-39, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword, for I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.”
In those days of dark Tribulation, the Lord is expecting full loyalty, total love, and continuing endurance where He must hold first place. Another verse here is applicable both to these times and also to the Church age – Luke 9:62, “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'”
Strong’s and HELPS Word Studies give the following on this word “endure” – (ὑπομένω) – “I remain behind” (as in not defecting); “I stand my ground“ (as in hold your position); “literally, remaining under (the load)”; “bear up against” (against adversity). All that means to remain on top of the situation, and don’t sink in failure.
THE SECOND QUESTION
Let’s move on to the second question, which is this: “I like the explanation you gave on Matt 24, and do ask God to show me truth and understanding in his word. If you would be so kind, maybe give me a little clarity on Matt 24:42. My understanding is that we do know when Jesus will return. Thought the 2nd coming was after the rapture and happens then 7 years after the antichrist signs the peace treaty with Israel starting the 7-year clock?”
All this is interesting, and I don’t think the easiest to answer. Let me begin this way. We must keep the Rapture and the Second Coming absolutely separated. One must not be confused with the other, or worse still, be shared with the other. Too much confusion exists already. Briefly, for the timing of the Rapture, we cannot say when that is.
(Refer to https://www.raptureready.com/2020/07/05/the-rapture-how-soon-is-soon-by-ron-ferguson.) We will move to the Second Coming.
We know the Tribulation is 7 years. I know some have the idea that it could be longer or shorter, but we can’t interfere with scripture. The 70th week of Daniel is 7 years, and that is that! The question is, “When do the seven years begin?” As I understand it, there are three main ideas that seem to float around. (1). It begins right after the Rapture. (2). It begins with the breaking of the first seal, which is the revelation to the world of this rider on the white horse in Rev 6 (beast, Antichrist, Man of Sin, World Leader). (3). It begins with the signing of a peace treaty with Israel for 7 years >
Dan 9:26-27, “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come, will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war. Desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
In verse 26 above, the 62 weeks is when Messiah is cut off (the crucifixion), followed about 41 years later by the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman Titus (city destroyed). God’s time clock for Israel stopped at the crucifixion, for that was the end of 62 weeks (49 years + 434 years [Jewish prophetic years of 360 days]). So, the big question, “When does it begin again for Israel for the last 7 years before the end of the age?”
I dismiss point (1) of the three because there is a great worship scene in heaven in Rev 4 and 5. It cannot happen before this. With point (2), the breaking of the first seal, that is when the attention will then turn to the Tribulation. Yes, it could start with the revealing of this wicked man who won’t come at a precise hour and day. With point (3), it links in Daniel and the covenant and 7 years (verse 27). This is a strong case because of the mention of the 7 years. It seems something scriptural to connect the idea with.
To be honest, I have been in both camps of (2) and (3) and am not 100% sure of either. I will say this, if point (2) is true, then there will be a longer time than 7 years between the breaking of the first seal, and whatever time lapse with signing the covenant, until the coming of the Lord in the Second Coming.
And are these years each of 360 days (12 x 30 days for each month)? Yes, they are. Rev 11:3, “I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” (In 11:1, the time is 42 months. 42 x 30 = 1260 days). That makes the Tribulation 7 x 360 days. Daniel is clear on the 7 years, and I suspect it is 7 years, not roughly 7 years. Point (3) is probably the best one. If that is so, then how long after the breaking of the first seal does this wicked man sign the covenant with Israel? We don’t know; no value in speculation. I think it would be very quick though.
In the Olivet discourse, Jesus said in Matt 24:36, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Some might wonder about two things. Firstly, why will no one at that time know when it is stated it is 7 years? We cannot be definitive about all this, but “that day and hour” could very well be the exact hour that God has set for the beginning, with events playing out to end at the Second Coming. I know people say it refers to the Second Coming itself, but it may not. I am stating the obvious = I don’t know, and I definitely won’t be there!
Secondly, why did Jesus, the omniscient God, say He did not know? When Jesus came, He came as a servant, though perfect Man and perfect God. In this one particular case, it seems in the Godhead that Jesus when on earth was not to know that time. A servant does not know what his Master plans. Jesus was the divine Servant on earth. Verse 36 is not easy, and I would like to leave it at that.
Undoubtedly, there are some who might disagree with some of the opinions that have been outlined, but we must all be aware that everything in prophecy cannot always be pinned down exactly.