Matthew 24, Context in Detail: Explanation :: By Ron Ferguson

I suppose I made a target for myself when I challenged any reader to prove to me that the Rapture is not included in Matthew 24. I have had a lot of replies ranging from some awful ones to others who were decent and respectful with questions and a few verses for me to consider. Normally I write to people who email me, but I did let the ones who asked questions to allow me to do a posting on it, as my reply to them would have been longer than my usual reply to people. Of course, no names are mentioned, as that would be a travesty of trust.

All my life since 16 (now 77), I have been very careful with the Lord’s help to arrive at the correct exegesis for any passage. It is critical that this is done, and if not, it will lead to errors in context and contrary harmonization throughout the Bible. God did not give us a hedgehog of a Bible but a seamless, homogenous collection of 66 books. Exegesis is meant to arrive at the correct interpretation of any passage that dovetails with any other relevant and applicable passage. That applies most definitely to Matthew 24 and 25. I think this will be the last time for a long while that I will dwell on these two chapters.

In any examination of scripture, questions must be asked, “Why was this passage written?” and “What is the context?” and “What’s its connection with other similar passages?” and “If I see a contradiction or a misfit because of a particular interpretation, then where does the problem lie?” It is important to identify a key verse in a passage, and here it must be verse 3.

Let us look at the opening of Matthew 24:

Matthew 24:1-3, “Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him, and He answered and said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another which will not be torn down.’ As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?'”

In response to the disciples’ comment about the temple buildings, Jesus then shocked them by saying that the temple complex would be destroyed (inferred from His statement). For the next little while, the disciples pondered on this inquisitively, and when on the Mount of Olives, they asked Him three questions –

  1. When will these things be?
  2. What will be the sign of your coming?
  3. What will be the sign of the end of the age?

It is of utmost importance to understand the reason for questions and the background for those questions. The timeframe is critical also. Let us look at the questions –

  1. Question 1 is based on the statement of Jesus in verse 2. The disciples wanted to know when the temple was going to suffer this catastrophe because the stones that were used in the complex were huge, and if it was going to suffer such calamity, then the destruction would be immense. They were very curious. Jesus skipped over this question and did not reveal any time for it. It was going to be one generation in the future (40 years after Jesus revealed it would happen A.D.70). He did not answer their question but went to the next two questions because they are so closely connected that they are one question in effect.
  2. The second question is simple enough, but it is really a complex one. It is absolutely important here that we understand the background in the disciples’ minds. The critical word is “coming.” We must ask ourselves, “What is this coming?” Secondly, we must ask, “What did the disciples know about this coming?” The disciples knew a lot about this coming, as their question made clear. They knew about the coming alright; they just did not know the time of it.

And what is the coming? I will approach this in two ways; the first is what it is NOT, and the second is what it IS. It is not the Rapture, and immediately I can see some opponents shut their minds off. Why is it not the Rapture? If I were sitting with you, I would look at you and ask you, (1). “What teaching had Jesus given to the disciples about the Rapture up to this point? (2). “Where is the teaching on the Second Coming/the Coming in Glory/the Coming to Israel, found?”

To answer those questions – (1). NONE! Absolutely no teaching on the Rapture. Why? They were still under the Covenant of the Law. They operated under the Old Testament. The Rapture relates to the Church, and the Church had not yet been formed. God chose the writers of the New Testament letters, the writers of the Church, to reveal to the Christian world what this special coming (Rapture) for the Church would be. There is no teaching in the Old Testament about the Rapture, and to say there is, is a great distortion of scripture. The Rapture is under the New Covenant and was not revealed until later on.

Consider these two important verses: Even at the ascension we read in Acts 1:10-11, [“And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, and they also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'”] Even at that point, there was no mention of the Rapture, and the Coming that is described is the Second Coming because Jesus left the Mount of Olives and will come back to it, actually stand on it. The Rapture is a meeting in the air, not on Olivet.

(2). The teaching on the Second Coming is found in the Old Testament, and it is what the disciples knew. They are not going to ask a question relating to something they had not the slightest knowledge about to start with. They were not going to ask about a Rapture coming when they had not the slightest inkling of a rapture. Their question related to the coming taught in the Old Testament.

There are so many passages one could choose from the prophets about this coming. It is not my purpose here to do so, but I will mention that I have the whole Restoration of Israel done from the prophet Ezekiel. I did Isaiah and Jeremiah one year ago, posted in Rapture ready. I also will post all the references to the DAY of the LORD in future posts. It is in that Old Testament material on which the disciples’ thoughts were based. Do not twist it to make it the Rapture. They did not ask that! They had no idea about that!

I will give the following passages, though –

  1. Zechariah 14:2-4, “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished, and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.”
  2. Daniel 7:13-14, “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. To Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”

These two prophets identify the Second Coming. This, and only this, is what the disciples knew. There are hundreds of references to this coming by the Old Testament prophets.

  1. The third question – 3. “What will be the sign of the end of the age?” The important question we must ask is, “What age is this speaking of? The answer is the age spoken of in the Old Testament often. It is the culmination when Messiah comes to set up his kingdom.

Understand this carefully. It is NOT the Church age, which will end at the Rapture. It is the age of mankind’s rule and history. The end of the age, as known by the Old Testament, is that time when all of mankind’s rule will cease and the Messiah is King over all the earth (see above for how Daniel described it). The Second Coming wraps up all man’s governance and all man’s self-directed effort in the world. That is the coming taught by the Old Testament and the only one the disciples knew. To call that coming the Rapture is a horrible distortion.

The Rapture does not end the age of man. It will still have 7 years or a little extra to go. The “end of the age” is as I described. Neither is it the “end of the world,” which is the KJV translation. I am not being dogmatic about this. It is clear and consistent, so what is clear and consistent will be all Old Testament scriptures proven to be correct in the correct application. Someone mentioned to me that the understanding of Matthew 24 is not a “salvation matter,” in other words, not a critical point of doctrine. That is fully correct, and we need to understand that.

As you work through Matthew 24 from verse 4 onwards, you will see that each event parallels Revelation chapter 6. That will be the fulfillment for the beginning of Matthew 24, after verse 3. As you get further into Matthew 24, you bring in the events of Revelation and all the concurrence of the Old Testament prophets. If you want to pursue that further, find the Rapture Ready post called “Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 in Parallel.” There are 2 parts posted around a year ago (a search should find it).


One question I was asked by a couple of people is this, “What is your explanation for Matt 24:36-44?” It is a very legitimate question because so much divided opinion exists on this. I will attempt to answer that question, but first, here is the passage relating to the Second Coming (not the Rapture)–

Matthew 24:36, Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

Matt 24:37, The coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.

Matt 24:38, For as in those days which were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark,

Matt 24:39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away – so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

Matt 24:40 Then there shall be two men in the field – one will be taken and one will be left.

Matt 24:41 Two women will be grinding at the mill – one will be taken, and one will be left.

Matt 24:42 Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming,

Matt 24:43 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.

Matt 24:44 For this reason you be ready too, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

Here is a caveat – if you won’t accept that Matthew 24 is the Second Coming and not the Rapture, then you won’t accept this explanation. It reminds me of the old adage, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” I hope I can explain as best I can, not force any opinion onto you.

The basis for this answer has been established. Matthew 24 is all about the Second Coming, not the Rapture. Therefore, the interpretation lies with the Second Coming and events leading up to it. Let us mention them briefly –

Verse 36. No one knows the exact time. We know it ends the 7-year Tribulation. The verse refers to the Second Coming, but incidentally, the same thing can possibly be said for the Rapture. [A thought I don’t know – only the Father knows this exact Second Coming time, but does Jesus know the time of the Rapture? He is the omniscient God].

Verses 37-39. I think this is a much-misunderstood passage that a lot of teachers and preachers have inverted. It is the time of Noah. The unbelievers continued life until destruction broke on them. The Lord is telling us here that the suddenness of the destruction related to the Second Coming is such that it will catch people unawares. Mind you, they will be preparing for their own destruction without knowing it. Every single nation will have sent its armies (extremely reduced in numbers because of the Tribulation judgments) into Israel for the great battle of Armageddon, and the Lord will suddenly come upon them just like the flood came on the evil people of Noah’s time.

It is important to note in verse 37 – “The coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah” – note the parallel. Also, “so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” The term Son of Man relates to Jesus and His own people, mainly the Jews. He will be coming back to Israel in the Second Coming, but He first has to deliver the nation from Satan’s clutches, who brought all the world’s armies against Israel. It is the same time as Zechariah 8:1-3, “Then the word of the LORD of hosts came saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.'”

Verses 40-41. These two verses are the most misunderstood ones. Again, this is where correct exegesis must apply. What was the setting for these verses? Answer: in the time of Noah. What will be the setting for these verses? Answer: in the time of the Second Coming.

Two working in a field and two working at the mill. One taken away, one remaining. Let’s go back to Noah – who was taken away in the flood? In other words, “Who was taken away in judgment?” Well, it was NOT Noah, for he was taken out of the flood before it started. Christians will be taken out of this world before the Tribulation begins. So, at the end of the age (the one of man’s history), who will be taken away in judgment? Clearly, the enemies of God, the unbelievers. And who will be left? Well, that will be the Tribulation saints who will inherit a new kingdom, that of the Millennium. They will be left, just as Noah was when he inherited a new earth. The unrighteous are taken away, and the righteous left to enter into a new age.

Look back at the expression in verse 39, “took them all away.” As it was in the days of Noah (that happened), so also when the Son of Man returns (it will happen).

I know so many books and preachers make this refer to the Rapture, but it is not.

It is a hedgehog. It must be understood in context properly.

Verses 42-44. Matthew 24 is spoken to Jesus’s disciples, Jewish. In the Tribulation, this is also speaking to Jewish disciples, the Jewish saints of the Tribulation. They are the ones told to flee from Jerusalem when that abomination is erected in the Temple (Rev 13) by the beast of Revelation 13. It is to those Jesus tells to be alert, to be ready. The parables of Matthew 25 develop this idea further.

Another proof! Verse 43 speaks about a thief. Too many preachers say about the Rapture, “Jesus will come as a thief in the night.” That is nonsense. Does a Bridegroom come for his Bride as a thief? Certainly not. He comes in gentleness and love and triumph. When Jesus comes in the Rapture, He comes for His Bride as Lord in the light, in openness for Her. He does NOT come as a thief. No way. So, those verses 42-44 cannot be the Rapture. The Rapture is nowhere in Matthew 24.

However, when the Lord of Lords and King of Kings comes at the Second Coming, He will come as a thief bringing with Him destruction as in Noah’s time as judgment at Armageddon. Thief means He will catch out ALL the wicked ones of the earth, and it will come suddenly.

This is getting long, so I will stop.

God bless,