Matthew 24, Part 2
David Brandt Berg
We’re continuing the study of Matthew 24, in which Jesus Himself tells us what’s going to happen during this period of the last three and a half years of world history, the last three and a half years of the Antichrist reign, the Great Tribulation. He tells us what is going to be the cue when it begins—and that will tell us when it ends, because it lasts exactly three and a half years.
In the first half of the chapter, He tells us that it will begin with the setting up of the abomination of desolation, the image of the beast, in the holy place. He speaks of it as the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24, and we find out it’s an image of the beast in Revelation 13. This is revealed to Daniel as well in Daniel 9, and they all speak of it as occurring at the same time, exactly in the middle of the seven-year reign of the Antichrist, at the beginning of the last half, which is three and a half years. At that point will begin the Great Tribulation.
Jesus warns not to expect Him sooner than has been predicted, and that there will be many false Christs and false prophets who will try to deceive people into thinking either that they are Christ or that Christ is coming nearby somewhere, He is here or there. And He finally says, “Don’t believe any of them, because when I come, you’ll know it!” The sky will light up like permanent lightning from one end to the other, and there will be such a sign in the heaven that you couldn’t possibly mistake the fact that Jesus is coming.
Not only that, the greatest sign that Jesus has come is that His people will start levitating! Suddenly their feet won’t be able to touch the ground; they’ll start floating upward. He will gather them together to His body, and we will meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
So when is He going to come? Most who have followed Scofield’s Bible have been erroneously taught that Jesus was going to come before the Tribulation and rapture them out of the earth before all this trouble begins, before the Antichrist appears. But that’s not so! By reading this one chapter alone, you can see that that is not so.
Jesus says that the Tribulation will begin “when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15). When you see it standing there, you’ll know the Tribulation has begun. He doesn’t say a word about taking Christians out of the world immediately! He warns everybody to head for the hills.
Jesus said the Tribulation would begin with the abomination of desolation, which is the image of the Antichrist, and a compulsion by law to worship it and to take his mark in your hand or forehead. And then He warns you what you should do during this period—flee!
This is Jesus Himself talking. Was He wrong? Could He have made a mistake? Maybe He forgot to read the Scofield Bible! Maybe He should have listened more to the people who teach that He was supposed to come and take them out of this mess before the Tribulation. A lot of them are going to be very upset because He will have failed to rescue them before He put them through such a trial.
Christians who expect to get raptured by the Lord in His second coming before the Tribulation are going to get the shock of their lives, because He’s not going to do it. He said so in the 29th verse, as plain as day.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all of 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. And then He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29–31).
Jesus is going to come after the Tribulation. It says it as plain as day in that 29th verse: “Immediately after the Tribulation of those days.” It says after the Tribulation shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. After the Tribulation, then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn. After the Tribulation they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. After the Tribulation He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather together His elect. That’s when Jesus is going to come back for His elect, to rapture His saints, to gather them together.
That’s when Jesus is going to come—after the Tribulation—in fact, at the very end of the Tribulation. Not a day before! He’s even got the days numbered in several places in the Scriptures. The exact number of days from the setting up of that idol of the Antichrist in the holy place in Jerusalem to His return is going to be 1260 days. God’s Word says so!
When is Jesus going to come? After the Tribulation. When shall His sign appear in heaven and when shall all the tribes of the earth see Him and mourn? After the Tribulation. You know, some teach that it’s going to be a secret rapture, that nobody’s going to see Him except the saved. Nobody’s going to know He has come. All of a sudden, people are just going to disappear and those left behind won’t know what’s happened to them! That’s what secret rapturists teach, which originally came straight out of Scofield’s Reference Bible, a study Bible that has led millions of people astray from the truths of Bible prophecy
It’s a good Bible in some ways, good and strong on eternal salvation, good and strong on the coming of Christ, and it talks about the Antichrist and his period and all of these things. But it’s just very sadly wrong on that one thing, badly wrong, because that was his pet theory, his pet doctrine.
As you can see by what we’ve read here, Jesus said after the Tribulation He’s going to come! After the Tribulation you’ll see Him in the heavens! After the Tribulation He’s going to gather together His elect. Not a minute before the end of it. It’s going to last three and a half years, and believers are going to have to go through all of it or die, one or the other!
Everything in this passage (Matthew 24:29–31) is a sign of the second coming, and this passage fulfills all the other signs and scriptures. Turn with me to Acts 1:9:
“And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” He went up in the clouds. “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10–11).
How did He go away? He was lifted up into the clouds. It says that the same way He went away, He’s going to come back. He’s going to come back in the clouds, just as we read in Matthew 24.
Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians, the 15th chapter, 51st verse. “Behold, I show you a mystery.” Paul has been explaining the resurrection, what it’s going to be like and what it’s not like. It’s pretty hard to explain, because how do you explain that an old, corrupt, rotten body that’s been in the grave for thousands of years is going to come to life and be perfectly whole and even better than it was before?
He says it’s going to be like the difference between sowing a seed and what comes up out of the seed. He says it’s going to be new and different, and yet we’ll recognize each other, “we’ll know even as also we are known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The disciples definitely recognized Jesus after He was resurrected, but not always. He was different enough that sometimes they didn’t, but that was only because He was even more beautiful and more perfect and more holy, if that’s possible. He had a new spiritual body that would never die again, and that’s what we’re going to have.
If you want to know what it’s going to be like or what you’re going to be like after the resurrection, you’re going to be like Jesus was and is now after His resurrection. He walked with them and talked with them. He even ate with them and drank with them, think of that! He even cooked for them once (Luke 24:43; John 21:9–14).
He was not only able to do all these normal, natural things, but when they were in a locked room with the doors barred, all of a sudden He came walking right through the door without unlocking it (John 20:26). You’ll be able to walk through walls and doors, fly up through ceilings, and appear and disappear just as Jesus did. You’ll be able to travel from one place to the other not just with the slow speed of sound or light, but with the speed of thought!
But we’re getting ahead of our story here. We’re getting into the resurrection and what we’re going to be like afterward, when we haven’t finished the resurrection yet.
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52).
There’s another sign of the coming of the Lord. Jesus says there’s going to be light shining in the sky from the east to the west, like lightning The whole sky’s going to light up and stay lit when Jesus comes, while all who are alive and remain are gathered to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The whole world is going to watch it: “Every eye shall see Him,” God’s Word says in Revelation (Revelation 1:7).
All the tribes of the earth shall mourn, because they’re going to know what’s happening; they’re going to “see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
A part of our triumph is our rapture, our great exodus from this world. Like Moses and the children of Israel, a part of their triumph over pharaoh—a type of the Antichrist and his evil forces, a type of the Antichrist kingdom. They didn’t just vanish into thin air. They got to pass right out from under their noses through the Red Sea on dry ground and then stand on the opposite side as all of pharaoh’s armies drowned! The Egyptians saw them as they escaped so that God could be glorified and the world would know that God is God and able to save His people.
When Jesus comes, this world is going to know about it! The sky’s going to light up from one end to the other and Jesus is going to appear in the clouds of heaven in power and great glory. Light. Thunder. Lightning. Clouds. Jesus appears, and suddenly all Christians dead or alive—He said some people would be in bed, some people working in the fields, some people here and there—but wherever you are, you’ll instantly be changed, along with all the dead who are going to pop out of their graves and tombs! No walls, no coffins, no caskets are going to be able to restrain them.
Picture this scenario: You’re walking around and all of a sudden you feel a wonderful change go over your body; all the aches and pains and weariness disappear and you feel light as a feather, like you could fly, and maybe you start floating. You look down at your clothes—that old pair of pants or dress or whatever you had on—compared to the robe of light that you suddenly discover you have on, anything else would look dirty and old! You’re going to have a beautiful new robe of light and righteousness—white raiment from the Lord (Revelation 3:5).
You may be so busy looking up at the sky, at all the lightning and thundering going on and Jesus appearing in the clouds, that you may not even have time to look down and see what you’re wearing. But you’ll sure feel different because you’ll “be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
The trump is another sign. There’s going to be a trumpet sound, another big noise. A trumpet is going to be blown. That’s going to sound like the biggest P.A. system you ever heard!
For more about the coming of the Lord, we can turn to 1 Thessalonians 4, verse 13: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” Paul’s trying to tell us, “Don’t worry about death and don’t sorrow for those who are gone, like the people who have no hope to ever see them again.” He goes on to say, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus”—those who’ve died in the Lord—“will God bring with Him.”
God’s going to bring all your departed loved ones and relatives who have gone on to be with the Lord with Jesus when He comes. At the end of the 14th verse, it says that those that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him when Jesus comes. What a reunion! The biggest ever!
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent”—or go before—“them which are asleep.” The Lord’s not going to let us beat them to the punch to get up into heaven to be with Jesus. He’s not going to let them say, “It’s not fair, they got there first!” The Lord says He’s going to let them be resurrected and rise first. The folks who have died in the Lord and have gone on to be with the Lord are going to go first.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout.” Another big noise. No secret rapture here! “And with the voice of the archangel.” Jesus is going to shout, and the archangel is going to shout. “And with the trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The trumpet’s going to sound. Three loud noises to wake everyone up!
“And the dead in Christ shall rise first.” What will the world think when it sees all these dead people rising out of the graveyards and out of the ground?
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). They’re going to go first, because they had to go through the experience of death and be buried. The Lord’s going to raise them first and then He’s going to catch those of us who are alive up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
There’s a beautiful picture of the coming of the Lord. No secret rapture, no sudden disappearance of the saints. In fact, there’s going to be a sudden shocking appearance of a whole lot of dead saints. And then we’re all going to rise right in front of their eyes! They’re going to watch us go up into the sky to meet the Lord in the air in a glorious, well-lighted rapture. Nothing secret about it! A great triumph over our enemies, a great triumph over the demonic forces of the Devil and his Antichrist and False Prophet, right out of the Tribulation. Right there at the end when they’re trying to torture and kill and wipe out God’s people, the Lord’s going to rapture us all.
So according to these passages, the signs of His coming are clouds, the light in the sky, noises, trumpets, and the gathering together of His elect. Let’s turn back to Matthew 24 and see if Jesus was talking about these same signs.
“Immediately after the Tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (v. 29). There’s going to be a big shakeup and everybody’s going to know something’s happening. “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all of 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” (v. 30). There are the clouds and there’s that brilliant light shining from one end of the heavens to the other. “And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect” (v. 31). This is clearly the second coming of the Lord and the rapture of His saints. Jesus Himself said it happens immediately after the Tribulation!
“Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:7).
When I was a boy I was taught it was supposed to be a secret rapture, and someday you’d come home and find all your loved ones had disappeared. Several times I came home from school and nobody was home, and I thought, “Oh my god, the rapture has occurred! My mother and father have gone to be with the Lord, and all those dear Christians. They were all ready. They loved the Lord and weren’t such terrible sinners like me, and they’ve already gone to be with the Lord. And here I am, left behind all by myself!”
What a terrible thing to teach little children, that even if they loved Jesus, if they’re not good enough, they’re not going to be ready for Jesus when He comes. Nobody’s ever good enough. Nobody can ever love Him enough. Nobody can ever be perfect enough, clean enough, pure enough, holy enough, except by the blood of Jesus Christ.
You’re saved when you receive Jesus as your Savior. You’re already a saint in His eyes, perfected by His blood, purified by His sacrifice on Calvary. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re good enough or not! You’re saved, because Jesus is the one that saves you, not yourself! Not your own goodness, your own righteousness.
Nobody’s going to be left behind who loves Jesus. Nobody’s going to be left behind who has received Jesus as his Savior. No one is going to be left behind who is saved. Not a single genuine, Bible-believing, Christ-trusting, Jesus-loving Christian is going to be left behind, not one.
For “we shall all be changed,” Paul says, “in the twinkling of an eye, in a moment, at the last trump” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). And we will all be raised. Jesus said He’ll send His angels out to gather us from everywhere, from the four winds, and He won’t leave one behind. He won’t forget one, not one! Jesus is not going to forget you. He’s not going to leave you behind when He comes, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
If you have the Lord now, you’re ready. You won’t have to worry about whether you’re good enough, or you’ve been too bad, or you’re perfect, or you always do the right thing or not. You should try to be good. You should try not to be bad and you should try to do the right thing, try to obey the Lord and try to be perfect in His sight, because you have Jesus in your heart. But whatever you do, have Jesus, and then you’re ready.
Let’s put all these signs together from all these various verses. Suddenly the sun’s going to be darkened on the sides of the earth where the sun’s shining, and the stars will fall from heaven. On the night side of the earth, the moon won’t give her light, while on the day side of the earth, the sun will be darkened. No matter whether it’s day or night, no matter which side of the earth you’re on when Jesus comes, there will be signs in the sky.
“And the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). You’ll hear rumblings and thunderings and mighty sounds. You’ll see the whole sky light up with permanent lightning—not just a flash and then it’s gone.
“Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints” (Jude 14). “Every eye shall see Him,” and it’s not going to be any secret. The sky will light up, there will be great noises, thunder, lightning, and Jesus will shout and call His people to come. The voice of an archangel will be shouting, “Come!” A trumpet will be blown.
You couldn’t possibly miss it! You’re not going to be able to miss the rapture. There’s going to be so much noise going on—Jesus shouting, the archangel Michael shouting, the archangel Gabriel blowing his trumpet, the thunderings of the heavens and the shaking of the earth, the stars falling from heaven, the moon and the sun darkened, and great earthquakes. And you’ll see Jesus coming in the clouds.
“Every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Revelation 1:7). When they see us rising to meet Jesus in the air, leaving this horrible Tribulation and this terrible Antichrist kingdom, right in front of the Antichrist and the False Prophet and all the beast-marked followers, rising to meet Jesus in this glorious, thunderous, lightning-like, earthshaking, heaven-quaking event that raises the dead from the graves and the living from the ground, they’re going to be scared almost to death, because then they will know that they have been wrong. They will know that we have been right and that Jesus has come to rescue us and to save us.
Jesus comes back with all the saints who have already gone to be with the Lord through death! They come back with Him to pick up their dead bodies, now new resurrected bodies. It has to have something to do with that old buried body. God wants to prove that He can raise the dead, so He’s going to raise you from the dead, but in a new body. A new resurrected body like the one He rose in, which is going to be beautiful, arrayed in white garments like a bride (Revelation 19:8).
So the whole world’s going to know something very unusual and very apocalyptic is happening. And it’s going to be the apocalypse for sure—the revelation of Jesus Christ Himself coming in the clouds of heaven, in great power and glory, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God. Christ Himself will shout and call us from every part of the earth, and we’ll be gathered together to be with Him! “And so,” He tells us, “shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Aren’t you glad you’re saved? Aren’t you glad you’re going to be there? Won’t that be some feeling when all of a sudden you see and hear all of these things going on around you, and all of a sudden your clothes are changed to that beautiful wedding gown, and suddenly you feel your body is changed? You feel like a young bride longing for her lover, and you jump into the air and you don’t come down again! You jump for joy for Jesus and you go sailing right off into the air, clear on up into the clouds to be with the Lord!
It’s going to be so wonderful you’re going to forget about all those things that happened before, the things you’ve been through.
Oft times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We’re tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His bride away,
All tears forever over in God’s eternal day.
It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.
—“When We See Christ” by Esther Rusthoi
Copyright © March 1981 by the Family International