Matthew Chapter 24, Verses:17-43Jun 20th, 2009 | By admin | Category: Matthew, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Matthew Chapter 24, Verses:17-43
Matt. 24:17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Who is on the housetop? Who is being instructed not to go down into the house to get any possessions? What principle is involved here? If one sees a proper course in life (ie, if one sees that the Lord has condemned a particular system or arrangement), then the longer one delays decision-making and action based on that decision, the greater the danger that action will not be taken. If one procrastinates, he may never come out. A delayed response leads to rationalization and hence inactivity. The point is that when the Lord issued the command to come out of Babylon and it was recognized, those who obeyed promptly were more apt to be rewarded than those who hesitated because of wanting to make arrangements whereby there would be a minimum loss of friendships. Along natural lines, if one wants to minimize his losses, he tries to preserve his most precious possessions—as in a fire, for example. But spiritually speaking, to delay is dangerous.
The “housetop” in olden times was a prime position where one could go to commune privately with God in prayer. Also, from there one could watch and have a good vantage point. Thus those “on the housetop” are the “cream of the crop.” One illustration is that Peter was on a housetop praying when he had a dream related to the call of the Gentiles into the Gospel Church. It was customary for the Jew to pray two times a day, morning and evening, at the highest elevation available. Jesus did that by climbing a mountain. Verse 17 is saying that from the housetop position, the Christian was (or is) to flee.
Matt. 24:18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
The “field” is the Christian world. Hence this verse is a call to the evangelist, the active Christian, the mission worker, to flee to the truth recognized and to obey it accordingly. Physically, one can stay where he is, but he should disassociate himself spiritually from the system of Babylon.
Matt. 24:19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
Why did Jesus say, “Woe unto them that are with child”? Because such Christians feel a responsibility to nurture the spiritual babes, and to flee would leave the babes unattended. For example, if a Sunday School teacher has a class of adolescents and is attached to them and is trying to nurture them in the Lord and in knowledge, it is extremely difficult to separate under that circumstance and to obey the call to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4). The Master is suggesting that obedience (flight) is much harder for those in such positions.
Those in the field are also nurturing spiritual babes and will, in addition, have to accept a severing of financial ties if they obey.
Jesus is suggesting that many would be like the rich, young ruler who could not make the one decision that the Master required and went away sorrowing. The implication is that obedience under the condition of being with child and giving suck is much more difficult.
Matt. 24:20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
The “sabbath day” is the 1,000-year period of the Seventh Day, beginning in 1874. It is the “Seventh Day” since the fall of Adam. The usual literal sabbath is 24 hours long, but a sabbath can also be seven days long, and here it is 1,000 years in length.
Matt. 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
When verses 20 and 21 are combined, the thought is, “Pray that your flight will not be in the time of great tribulation, which will occur on the ‘sabbath day.’” In other words, “winter” is the “great tribulation.” The opposite of winter is summer. In Hebrew the day was divided into two parts: morning and evening. And the year was divided into two parts: winter and summer. At the time the Lord was speaking, it was “summer” under the favor of the gospel sun. In Jeremiah 8:20 the Great Company speaks of summer as being over: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” When that time comes, the Great Company class will recognize that the summer of special favor has terminated, and the winter Time of Trouble, darkness, and clouds has come.
The point is that the great tribulation will occur (1) in the winter (2) of the Sabbath Day. These two conditions are necessary to pinpoint when the great Time of Trouble starts. It will begin when summer has ended. In other words, in the 1,000-year sabbath period, there will come a point in time when “winter” will start. Pray that your flight will occur prior to that “winter.” Luke 21:36 says, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things [the Time of Trouble) that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” In this regard Jesus warns us to WATCH and PRAY ALWAYS!
Matthew 24 and Luke 21 discuss two different times of trouble. In AD 70 Vespasian surrounded Jerusalem in a siege. But when the emperor in Rome died, Vespasian returned to Rome. Of the several contenders for the throne at that time, Vespasian emerged the victor. When Vespasian departed for Rome, he left his son Titus in charge. With this change of authority, the siege around Jerusalem was temporarily relaxed, allowing those who believed Jesus’ words to flee. The length of this interim period is unknown—it may have been only one week or even one day. Those who hesitated and/or did not seize this opportunity to flee were doomed once the cordon was again tightened. None escaped after that time.
The point is that in Luke 21 Jesus gave advance notice, and those who took his advice, acting on faith, were able to escape with their lives. Matthew 24:20 identifies an even greater Time of Trouble as occurring future, down here at the end of the age (“in the sabbath day”), and Jesus’ instruction is to flee before the “winter” Time of Trouble.
Q: We have been discussing these verses the way we have always explained them in the past, which certainly is valid, but wouldn’t an additional urgency to flee be seen by those who are on the scene later in the Harvest period, that is, when Papacy, Protestantism, and the civil powers croak the unclean message in unison? At that time Papacy will again be elevated and thus “stand in the holy place.” Wouldn’t this future application be a third way of interpreting verses 15–20?
A: There is no harm in so viewing these verses, and certainly the principle would apply.
Urgent action will be taken by the faithful—they will take a stand. And that is where problems will occur. The Great Company class will suffer, but not for Christ’s sake in the sense of being part of the sin offering. They will not be quite as alert and responsive as the feet members. Which is worse—to be taken out by the civil authorities and shot against a wall or to be in a period of mob violence? The first condition would be preferable, and there would be joy in knowing that one had been responsive to the Lord’s dealings and that the sufferings were meritorious. The Little Flock suffers voluntarily, whereas the Great Company will be forced to suffer under very distressing conditions of anarchy and injustice, that is, in a time of no law and order.
The great Time of Trouble is still future. In verse 20 the word “flight” is very important. The call since 1878 to come out of Babylon has been an invitation. There is no compulsion. One must make that decision himself. But the “flight” in the “winter” will be a forced flight.
The Great Company will have to flee when the nominal Church systems fall. When the Harvest or summer is over, those in the systems will be forced to flee. Thus it is advantageous to flee earlier, while it is still summer. Those who do not immediately flee from the housetop position but go down to take things out of the house, spiritually speaking, are those who are too self-centered in their possessions in the present life.
Just as we can extend certain principles of Matthew 24:15–19 into the future based on the knowledge that Papacy will come into power, so we can say that “Babylon” is not just the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations but that it will even be, in time, the Bible Student movement itself. As individuals, we should follow the Lord’s leadings and not be wed to an institution, organization, or individual. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil [and the good too] thereof” (Matt. 6:34). We are to take things day by day, step by step.
Consecration is a daily matter. If we are truly following the Lord and matters develop unfavorably, we must take a stand no matter what is involved—the immediate family, the immediate fellowship we are identified with, the ecclesia, etc. We must take the same action as we would for “Babylon.” “These [the 144,000] are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Rev. 14:4). True, the Lord has used, and still uses, institutions and individuals to a certain level or extent, but none of them are on a par with obedience to Christ. Reverence to God, to His Word, and to Jesus are inviolate.
The spiritual flight at the end of the age is a progressive matter too. At consecration we make a vow to follow the Lord from that moment until the end of our course. And that consecration is progressive, just like baptism. Until we finish our course, our consecration is not finished, and neither is our baptism. Thus consecration is ongoing and progressive from the moment our vows are made. Similarly, the invitational “flight” has a chronological beginning and then continues so that, hopefully, we will not have to “flee” after the “winter” Time of Trouble has begun. It is like saying that even though we fled Babylon and are consecrated, we should keep seeking out the best sources of meat. We are to get more and more instruction from God’s Word and never stop. We must keep on fleeing to more and more truth, devotion to the Lord, obedience, character, etc. We should keep growing in knowledge and grace. Both are needed to get to maturity as a Christian (that is, as far as we are capable of doing, for we each have limitations).
Matt. 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
What is the thought of “for the elect’s sake”? “By means of” or “through” the elect, these days will be shortened because the Church, glorified and with Jesus at this time, will stop the trouble. The word “sake” is not in the original Greek—it should be italicized in the King James as a spurious word. “But through the elect those days shall be shortened” or “But if it were not for the elect …” In other words, the elect, the Church, as well as Jesus, are the instrument who will cut short the trouble. Obadiah 21 reads, “And saviours [plural] shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S.” This prophecy about cutting short the trouble is addressed particularly to Israel, but by inference the stoppage will be worldwide. The trouble will be stopped in connection with the rescue of Israel at the end of the age. If that rescue did not take place, not only would Israel be destroyed but all mankind; that is, “no flesh [would] be saved.”
The Greek word dia, translated “for the elect,” can be rendered “by the elect” or “through the elect.” This Greek word, which can be used with the ablative or the accusative case, has various meanings. Therefore, it should be translated with the word that best fits our vocabulary according to the meaning of the context. The word “but” has a larger thought; namely, “If it were not for the elect shortening those days, there would be no flesh saved.”
It is through or by the elect—and not on their behalf—that the days will be shortened. The Church will be the benefactors, and not the recipients of the benefaction. The elect class will be the instrumentality for cutting short those days and thus terminating Jacob’s Trouble by delivering Israel.
“Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” This trouble is yet future. It will occur after all the elect are beyond the veil. The trouble we see in various locations in the world today is not the great Time of Trouble, for the real trouble will shatter the nations like a potter’s vessel, causing the complete destruction of the social order. Troubles to date are merely an overthrow of one Satanic government and its replacement by another Satanic government. When the true smiting occurs, it will be accomplished by the Lord’s stone (The Christ). Hence the Church will be instrumental in the trouble as well as the salvation. As we look around the earth today, we see evil men crushing other men.
This is not the Kingdom. After the stone smites the image, it will start to GROW. At present, things are getting darker. When the stone smites, it will get still darker—and then lighter as the stone grows. In addition, many Scriptures stress the suddenness of the trouble. “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all” (Rev. 18:21). Papacy will be lifted up as a millstone and then hurled into the sea. Today we see Papacy being lifted up and the Protestants too, not their being cast into the sea. And Satan is getting stronger every day too, with more and more influence in the church systems. When the trouble comes, it will be greater than anything before or since, including
the French Revolution, Noah’s day, the Jewish trouble in AD 70, the Holocaust, etc. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).
The simplest illustration is the Flood. In those days the fallen angels materialized and took human wives, and violence was in the earth. In other words, incidental to and preceding the Flood, there was the prevalence of evil, but all that evil was not the trouble. The trouble was the Flood. The big difference is trouble caused by men and/or fallen angels versus trouble caused by nature as ordered by God. In exactly the due time, the Flood cascaded and drowned the entire human race except for Noah and his family. The hybrid race was all destroyed, and the fallen angels dematerialized and left the earth; however, they were not allowed to return to heaven. Thus, to the fallen angels, the door down here was closed (no more materializations) and also the door to God’s holy heaven. They were confined in earth’s atmosphere called tartaroo. It was like the great big genie of Aladdin’s lamp being reduced and squeezed into a little bottle. And so all of the fallen angels have been squeezed down around this tiny planet.
The future antitypical “flood,” a miraculous display, will be the destruction of the corrupt system. The anarchy will be terrible, but God will not rise up to the prey with mighty demonstrations of power until the setting of Jacob’s Trouble when He delivers Israel. At that time, Isaiah says, darkness will be on all people, but God will arise “upon thee,” that is, on Israel (Isa. 60:2). The first world ended with the loosing of water in a literal flood, and it was the God of nature who had so timed this flood. God said He would bring the Flood, but He would wait awhile—120 years (Gen. 6:3,13,17). Even the loosing of the fallen angels will be something God does. They are imprisoned in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day. When that prison door is opened and the incorrigible fallen angels are loosed and cascade into the earth, that will be like a flood. God will do that—it will be a supernatural occurrence. The materialized fallen spirits, just like the Flood of Noah’s day, will be the trouble.
“The enemy shall come in like a flood” in Jacob’s Trouble (Isa. 59:19). The forces of Gog will spread out over the land like a mighty cloud, but more is implied than just the people from the north coming down against natural Israel. The fallen angels will be loosed en masse, and an evil thought will come into the mind of Gog. What is the first thing the fallen angels will do when they materialize? They will go after the Lord’s people—first the Great Company, who may die in just one day. The fallen angels will go after anyone called a “Christian,” anyone who maintains that stand.
When Babylon falls, the people will leave the churches for one reason or another. Some will be “burned” as tares, not wanting persecution. Tares claim to be Christians out of prudence, not moral conviction, whereas the Lord’s people who remain after the Little Flock is complete will flee for moral reasons. The Great Company will have to obey to even get life.
After the Great Company, the fallen angels will go against natural Israel, the natural people of God, wanting to completely exterminate them. Therefore, it will be necessary for the elect to step in—not only to save the Holy Remnant but also to prevent all flesh from being destroyed. Only eight people survived the Flood of Noah’s day. In the coming “flood,”
more will be saved. A billion? more?—we do not know. But if the trouble were not cut short, all would die. Incidentally, a nuclear holocaust feared by many—as terrible as it would be—is exaggerated as regards killing all flesh. The materialization of the fallen angels is worse by far than bombs or plagues.
The fallen angels will first direct their efforts at the Great Company, who will die as a class suddenly. Of course some individuals will die in the interim between the completion of the Little Flock and the sudden execution of the remainder (the majority) of the Great Company at the hands of the fallen angels. The feet members will also die as a class suddenly, but earlier. At the end of the age, the nominal systems will cut them off so that none will be left. The faithful, zealous feet members will put their own heads in the noose, as it were, by speaking out. This is like Jesus—he intentionally went to Jerusalem at the end of his ministry, knowing the Pharisees were lying in wait to kill him. He went to the slaughter as meek as a lamb, for he knew it was God’s will and he was ready to die under that circumstance. It will be the same at the end of the age when Babylon is in power. Those who stick their heads out will be targets right away.
Although the coming trouble is an unpleasant subject, that is what these verses are saying. The trouble will be “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” The future trouble will be worse than anything in the past or anything to occur subsequently.
Q: Would the three backgrounds of the feet members be portrayed—and clues given as to their identity—by Matthew 24:40,41 and Luke 17:34–36 in regard to the rapture? In each case two are on the scene, and one will be taken from (1) a “bed,” (2) “grinding,” and (3) the “field.”
A: We will look into that suggestion subsequently.
Mark 13 describes a similar situation, but notice verse 18: “Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter”—period! The emphasis is clearer than in Matthew 24. Verse 19 is interesting too: “For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.” This makes the matter very plain, for Matthew 24 might convey the thought of “age”; that is, that the Flood of the first age is not included. Mark 13 plainly includes all dispensations—past, present, and future.
“And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days” (Mark 13:20). In this verse we have the liberty of understanding the tense as future. This technique is commonly used in the Old Testament where many prophecies yet future are spoken of as already fulfilled. The context determines the perspective in which the future event is being viewed.
Sometimes the prophet is transplanted in time as if he were living in our day; then he states a future event as if it is already in progress or already past.
Matt. 24:23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
Matt. 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
When will verses 23 and 24 take place? In the Harvest period—when “the end” comes (verse 14). The Harvest is the end of the age.
If we compare verses 5 and 11 with verses 23 and 24, we see that verses 5 and 11 applied more to systems than to individuals and took place down through the Gospel Age.
Verse 23 does not follow verse 22 timewise because verse 22 discusses the height of the Time of Trouble. Signs, wonders, and deceptions will precede the trouble. Therefore, inverse 23, the word “then” means a flashback and review, for the deceptions will occur just prior to verses 20–22.
The warning of verse 23 is especially directed to the Little Flock, for verse 24 shows that some of “the very elect” will still be on the scene at this time. In other words, the feet members will be here during the deceptions of “false Christs” and “false prophets.” Stated another way, verses 23 and 24 describe incidents that will occur just prior to the great Time of Trouble and just prior to the rapture of the feet members.
In verse 24 the word “very” is spurious, but the thought is correct and the meaning is the same either way.
Matt. 24:25 Behold, I have told you before.
Matt. 24:26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
Matt. 24:27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
The thought in the Greek is “For as the sunlight rises out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the presence of the Son of man be.” The reference is not to the orb of the sun but to sunlight. The sun arises in the east and makes its transit west. If the actual physical body of the sun were being referred to, there would be a contradiction with the advice given, for we are being told not to expect something we can point a finger to and say, “There it is!” Jesus will NOT appear in a “desert” (a geographic place or location) or in a “secret chambers” (a room or seance). Thus verse 27 refers to the bright shining, not to the sun itself. As the sun arises in the east and diffuses its light over the whole horizon unto the west (half of the globe is always in sunlight), so shall the presence of Jesus be.
In present truth we have been beautifully indoctrinated as to why Jesus will not appear visibly in either a physical sense (“in the desert”) or a mystical sense (“in the secret chambers”). Our risen Lord is no longer the man Christ Jesus but a glorious spirit being on the divine plane. We have been alerted not to expect a visual body in Jesus’ Second Coming. (See the chapter in Volume 2 entitled “The Manner of Our Lord’s Return and Appearing” for a comprehensive explanation.) Since we have been so indoctrinated, what is Jesus telling us? It will seem as if he is visibly appearing. Jesus is forewarning us not to be deceived, for he will not appear visibly in a geographic location or elsewhere. The suggestion is that startling deceptions will occur in the future—so startling that unless we are thoroughly indoctrinated otherwise (that is, regarding the true manner of the Second Advent of Jesus), we will be at least partially deceived temporarily. The deception will be so magnificent to see that all except the Very Elect will be deceived.
It is also suggested that this deception will be accompanied by miracles. Hence not only will there be a visual appearance but miraculous, supernatural, occult powers will accompany it—as if the appearance is coming from another planet. When something is “supernatural,” normal logic cannot explain it away.
What is the distinction between a “sign” and a “wonder”? A “sign” is something spectacular and more visual—a visual display. A wonder refers to the miracle-working power accompanying the visual demonstration. Thus the deception will have a double force. In verses 25–27 Jesus is saying, “Lo, I have told you before that I will not appear in the desert or in the secret chambers.” Hence there is the possibility of a purported occurrence of the Messiah’s making his appearance as coming in the desert. (In the past many came from the desert such as John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.) We are not told specifically that the visual display of Jesus’ supposed coming will cover heaven or be seen in the desert.
Instead the account gives a double warning—that whatever arises and purports to be the Messiah, the Christ, whether it appears in the “desert” or is visible in the heavens, BELIEVE IT NOT, FOR IT IS A DECEPTION!
It is impossible for us on this side of the veil to see Christ here or there; that is, it is impossible for him to be visibly identified with a geographic location or place. Jesus communicates with his people through the Word of God. God told Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exod. 33:20), and Jesus is now the express image of the Father. If Jesus came in his power and glory, the appearance would be too overpowering for man to see. The people would be knocked down and blinded. If in Daniel 10:7–12 just the appearance of an angel caused the prophet to lose strength and fall down, what would be the effect of the appearance of a spirit being with the divine nature?
The appearance would be so much more glorious than even an angelic spirit being that a human being could not stand it. The point is that Matthew 24 is hinting of a visual deception in the future accompanied by miracle-working power—a deception so powerful that all will be deceived except the Very Elect. This means that, at least temporarily, even the Great Company will be deceived. Only the Very Elect will be grounded well enough not to be deceived.
In Detroit a vision of Mary appeared on the side of a Protestant church. Mary appeared weeping and the vision lasted intermittently over a period of several weeks. People kept vigil night after night outside the church from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. “Mary” wept in connection with future events. The brethren in that area had good opportunities to witness. An emergency tract was prepared, and for a while they held meetings near the location.
The possibility of an “angel from heaven” appearing is also brought out in Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” The suggestion is that an angel will appear as a guide, as Christ, but the appearance will be identified as a deception because of the preaching of another gospel. The Little Flock will not be deceived at all. However, the Great Company will be momentarily deceived and then subsequently enlightened by the activities of that supernatural power. In other words, that supernatural power will produce certain effects or results, and when those results are seen to be negative and out of harmony with the Scriptures, then those of the consecrated not as thoroughly grounded in truth will understand—but not initially. The deception will be so powerful that all will be deceived except the Very Elect. This Scripture in Galatians suggests the possibility of Satan himself coming and being mistaken for Jesus. We are not to marvel if “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Moreover, of Jesus it is said, “Whose coming [presence] is after [during, alongside of, or accompanied by] the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:9,10). The Greek word kata, translated “after,” has two basic meanings: “during” and “alongside of.” In other words, the Adversary is operating during or alongside of Jesus’ presence. Stated another way, two opposing forces, Christ and the Adversary, are operating contemporaneously but separately. The Second Volume explains this Scripture along one line and gives an excellent translation based on the Greek. Other translations do not catch the exact thought because the translators did not expect Jesus to be an invisible being at his Second Advent. The point is that Satan will be involved in the Lord’s Second Advent in a very dramatic fashion with all power, all manner of lying signs and wonders, and great delusions and deceptive power.
2 Thessalonians 2:11,12 is also good: “And for this cause God shall send [permit] them strong delusion [a frenzy of delusion, a working of error], that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned [condemned] who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This text brings us down to the end of the age and also shows that even among the consecrated, those who are reckoned as being unfaithful (and thus will go into Second Death) will believe a lie and thus be condemned. In the Old Testament there is evidence that Satan will be personally involved in the deception. Isaiah 14:16,17 reads, “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?”
(The Revised Standard Version is especially good for Isaiah 14:12–20.) In the beginning of the Kingdom, the world will be apprised of Satan’s influence in order that it can be contradicted. Psalm 52:7 is related: “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.” (See also Psalm 52:1–6). The inference is not just that Satan will deceive but that he will be the embodiment of that deception (2 Thess. 2:9). He will pose as an angel of light in a special sense, as it were, coming down from heaven.
Verses 23–26 suggest that there will be multiple deceptions. Notice the plural words: false Christs, false prophets, great signs and wonders, and deceptions in both the desert and secret chambers. For example, some will be deceived by a supposed appearance from another planet. But the capping deception—the deception to supersede all others—will be the one by Satan himself. Down through the Gospel Age, Satan has used many forms to deceive those groping after God. To the intellectual class, he appears in one manner, to the superstitious he appears in another manner (weeping icons, for instance), to the irreligious he uses the Ouija board, etc. (Incidentally, the Ouija board is a very powerful deception, for it leads step by step until one is deeply entrapped with occult powers.)
If we knew all of the particulars of the coming deceptions in advance, they would lose some of their powers. However, it helps to consider all possibilities. For one thing, we must know the true manner of our Lord’s Second Advent—that it is invisible and that when the Kingdom comes, the Church will be glorified and with Jesus. Consider again the warning of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 24:25 (“Behold, I have told you before”) and Mark 13:23 (“But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things”).
In verse 26, what does “go not forth” mean? Do not pursue either physically or mentally any deceptions of Jesus visibly appearing in a geographical location or mystically appearing in a seance or other occult setting. Do not investigate the matter when you know it is a deception of the Adversary. Do not get involved. Notice: “secret chambers” (plural) and “all power and signs and lying wonders” and “all deceivableness of unrighteousness.”
Some personality will appear in the desert—a maharajah type perhaps. In the secret chambers will appear a mystical vision or apparition of some sort that talks and communicates. One would have to enter into a seance-like arrangement in order to be in a conducive climate to see this miraculous power demonstrated. Also, to be protected, we should keep in mind that the ones who recently sought after the vision in Detroit did not enter into a room but merely went to the place where the vision of Mary had been purported to occur. We must avoid all such investigation. Fortunately, mankind so far has been safeguarded to a certain extent because the visions have been few and far between and people forget, BUT in the future these great deceptions will be continuous and overpowering and will take control.
Hence the value of the Vow: “I vow to Thee that I will be on the alert to resist everything akin to Spiritism and Occultism, and, remembering that there are but the two masters, I shall resist these snares in all reasonable ways as being of the Adversary.” We are to have NOTHING to do with occult doings, not even out of curiosity.
The public has been conditioned to be ready for—and to be gullible for—“someone” to communicate with them from outer space. Any supernatural being is assumed to be wiser than a human being and more apt to bring peace. However, spirit beings can be fallen just like us. Not only is the human race composed of imperfect beings, but the spirit world has fallen spirits who are also imperfect. Our government is constantly sending beams out into space, fully expecting, sooner or later, to get some kind of communication from a more intelligent form of life elsewhere in the universe. Thus the people are primed for a deception from the fallen angels. Scientists say we are fools to think we are the only ones, the only life, in the universe. The Russians are also sending signals into outer space, trying to receive a response from afar.
It is significant that more and more women have been entering the clergy. They would be especially susceptible to occult powers and deceptions, as has been true of women ever since Eve succumbed in the Garden of Eden.
“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” The fact that the light shines from east to west (verse 27) shows that it is related in some way to the sun. The Greek word astrape, translated “lightning,” means “bright shining.” Astrape is usually translated “lightning” but should not always be so rendered. See Luke 11:36, where it refers to the “bright shining” of a candle. “If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.” The Greek astrape can also refer to the countenance of angels: “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow”( Matt. 28:3). However, this is a mistranslation, for the account says the angels appeared as “young men.” How could one look at an angel’s face and see that it was like that of a young man if the face were like lightning? The features would not be discernible because the lightning would be overpowering. But if the thought were a “bright shining,” the features could be seen as being young. Thus, depending on the context, “lightning” may or may not be the correct thought.
To think of the physical sun as being the analogy (instead of sunlight) would nullify the previous argument where Jesus said, in regard to his Second Coming, that pointing to a specific location, vision, etc., would be a deception. He was saying, in effect: “You should not believe the cry, ‘Lo, here is Christ’ or ‘there,’ or ‘Behold, he is in the desert’ or ‘in the secret chambers’; rather, my presence will be like the sunlight, which shines from east to west.”
Matt. 24:28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
The “carcase” or carcass represents the dead humanity of Christ. One of the cardinal features of the Harvest message is the understanding of the necessity for Christ’s death to offset sin. The dead humanity of Christ explains this beautifully. The Harvest message explains the doctrine of the Ransom. The reference is to the freshly slain Lamb, not to a putrefying carcass. Job tells us that the eaglets drink up the blood of a freshly slain carcass (Job 39:30).
Characteristics of an Eagle
Job 39:27–30 presents God’s view of the eagle. “Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off. Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.”
The narrative could not be referring to an old carcass. Otherwise, the blood would coagulate and dry up. The eagle prefers freshly slain meat (as opposed to a vulture or a crow, which will eat putrefied flesh). Only if there is a scarcity of food will the eagle feed on decaying meat.
The eagle sees “afar off,” suggesting prophetic vision in the Christian, an interest in prophecy. The eagle is well known for keen eyesight (having an “eagle’s eye” is a saying).
Also, an eagle can look directly at the sun.
An eagle is perpetually hungry. Every day it has to eat several times its own body weight in order to survive. Hunger plus keenness of vision go hand in hand. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). The sight is related to the appetite. Hunger seems to accentuate vision, to clarify vision.
An eagle lives on the rock, the strong place. Symbolically, the Rock is Jesus. This dwelling place provides a high vantage point, that is, seeing things from the divine standpoint (as opposed to using natural human wisdom or understanding).
The little eaglets want to grow up. Paul said that as babes, we should desire the sincere milk of the Word. Why? So that we may GROW. The “milk” of the Word would be the basic doctrines that give us life and nurture us, but the meat goes beyond to stronger truths.
The mother eagle builds the nest with downy feathers and thorns so that as the young eaglets get more and more active, the thorns will prick now and then. Think of Jehovah as the Great Eagle and the little eaglets as representing us. The eagle mounts up and spreads her wings—she stirs up her nest and then stretches abroad her wings. The allusion is to the adult eagle who realizes the time has come for her young eagles to fly. Therefore, she removes the down of the nest so that the brambles will be exposed. The young eagles, wanting to escape the thorns and get more comfortable, climb to the edge of the nest. Let us consider the nation of Israel for a moment, for God dealt with natural Israel along these lines. He made Egypt uncomfortable for the Israelites by letting Satan have more say.
The taskmasters were so severe and unmerciful that the Israelites cried to the Lord for deliverance from the “iron furnace” of affliction (Deut. 4:20). True, they were delivered into a barren land, but they were fed and clothed as well as being independent from the yoke of bondage. God likens His dealing with Israel to an eagle’s removing the down from the nest to make it uncomfortable.
The eaglets climb to the top of the nest and then tumble out into space until the mother catches them and bears them up, returning them to the nest. (The wings need to be exercised to increase the blood flow and gain strength.) As the eagle bears its young, catching them as they fall through the air, so God assisted Israel. Also, as a nursing mother nurtures a baby, giving it milk, so God helped Israel. He dealt with them tenderly.
All of these lessons apply to the Christian as well. The eagle pictures God’s Providence and instruction and also shows that discipline is needed. God does not baby the Christian.
Matt. 24:29 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:
Compare the parallel verses in Mark 13:24,25. Notice the words introducing verse 29: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days …” What “tribulation” is being referred to? It is the tribulation of the great deceptions, which will end with the feet members being taken home through persecution.
The Pastor gave a different application to verse 29. He applied the signs and wonders from two standpoints: (1) a natural occurrence and (2) a spiritual happening. In the natural application, he cited a tremendous eclipse of the sun on May 19, 1780, and later a spectacular shooting-star display on November 13, 1833. These occurrences were very startling (see the chapter entitled “Our Lord’s Great Prophecy” in Volume 4). Some of the falling stars were as large as a full moon—imagine! The meteoric shower was most impressive. The eclipse and shooting-star phenomena took place here in this country, especially in the Northeast. And this is the Land of Liberty where the Bible had special prominence and where Bible societies particularly flourished. These signs and wonders tended to alert the Christian that something would happen. They were helpful in stirring up men to investigate the Bible. Some even thought the end of the age was coming. Thus an interest in prophecy was stimulated.
But there is a problem in giving such a fulfillment to verse 29; namely, the sun, moon, and falling-star phenomena occur AFTER the tribulation, not before. For this reason the Pastor tried to show that the signing of the Declaration of Independence in America in 1776 was a great event and that the French Revolution (1789–1799) was an outgrowth of the American Revolution. Other Scriptures do point out the time of the end as dating from 1799 rather than 1776. The year 1776 was like a trigger, for it is true that when the French masses saw the example of America seceding from Britain, they took courage and precipitated a revolution that was much more violent. We had war in this country, but France had anarchy. Several Scriptures point out 1799 as the end of the 1,260 days.
The Pastor was probably disposed to thinking this way because the dark day was such a startling event, but he could not place it after the trouble of 1789–1799. That is why he put such emphasis on the date 1776—because the dark day occurred in 1780, which was before the French Revolution, not after. From the standpoint of 1776, the eclipse and the shooting stars both occurred right after the tribulation, relatively speaking. But since the trouble was really from 1789 to 1799, the chronological order of verse 29 does not fit the Pastor’s interpretation.
Therefore, we would conclude that the “tribulation of those days” will be the time of the false Christs, false prophets, great signs and wonders, the claim “Behold, he is in the desert,” etc.—deceiving all but the Very Elect. This interpretation fits the sequence of the rest of verse 29, as we will see.
When the Little Flock is gone, what will happen? Babylon, the ecclesiastical heavens, will fall. Papacy (the “sun”) and its canon law (the “moon”) and the hierarchy (the “stars”— cardinals, bishops, etc.) will cease (“be darkened,” “not give … light,” “fall”). The pope himself is the papal (“sun”) light. In contrast, the true light is in the face of Jesus Christ and in the gospel, and the true Church is likened to “stars” (the seven messengers of Revelation 1:20) and “candlesticks.” The false light is the pope, who claims to be the vicegerent of Christ (that is, in Christ’s stead). In fact, in some places he says he is in God’s stead. “Who … exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as [a] God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4).
Thus Babylon will fall “immediately after the tribulation of those days [upon the Lord’s people],” the tribulation being the deceptions with great signs, wonders, and all manner of lying powers. The sequence is: deceptions, death of feet members, fall of church systems.
The Apostle Peter tells us the same thing in saying that “the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved” (2 Pet. 3:12).
Q: Could there not also be a future natural application based on Zechariah 14:6, Joel 3:15, and other Scriptures?
A: Yes! The natural sun and moon will also undergo strange phenomena. For instance, there will be one day where around the clock it will be neither day nor night. Thus, while the earlier (1780 and 1833) natural occurrences awakened an interest in studying the Scriptures, the real thrust of verse 29 is still future (both natural and spiritual).
Q: Will the Great Company be gone at the time verse 29 is fulfilled, for there will be no light in the world?
A: No, they will be here. These heavens being darkened are the false heavens, not the true.
Moreover, just as there were literal signs in the natural heavens when Jesus died (for example, the sun was darkened), so there will be when the feet members go off the scene. Actually both the true (gospel) “sun,” etc., and the false (papal) “sun” will be darkened in the coming days of anarchy. During the anarchy there will be no respect for God, although the primary anger will be directed against “their king and their God.” “And they shall pass through it [the land], hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward [to the true God]” (Isa. 8:21). The people will be completely disillusioned by the efforts of man. The suggestion, too, is that the world will be given false hopes previously, but those hopes will be dashed to pieces. Great famine will occur because of the disorientation of all society. We are so organized today that if food is prevented from getting to the supermarket, we will go hungry. In the old days people just went to the backyard to pick vegetables or to the chicken coop, but not today. Today we are dependent upon mass transit. But the operators of mass transit will not convey food unless they get money, and the money will become worthless. And there will be no police force, no fire department, no truck drivers, etc. What a dilemma for mankind! They will have to go back to primitive conditions. If in Ethiopia the people had to eat grass and green leaves, so it will probably happen in some of the wealthy countries. Isaiah 8:21 stresses a venting of anger at “their” institutions, not against the true ones.
Basically, we should take a negative view of the sun, moon, and stars because the true Church will go off the scene in the trouble immediately preceding. The “tribulation of those days” is different from the time of anarchy (the “great tribulation, such as was not … no, nor ever shall be” of verse 21).
Severe trial will come on those who do not succumb to the deceptions. In “those days,” after the tribulation on the feet members, will come the real Time of Trouble, in which all institutions fall. Not only will the people curse their king and God, but when they are hungry and starving, they will not be interested in studying the Bible. They will be thinking of their own immediate families. The whole focus of attention will be different. The people will be angry at the dashing of their hopes by false religious and civil institutions. (They will not be angry at Jesus—they just will not be interested at that time.) Eventually the people will look “upward” to God—like a drowning person yelling “Save me! Help!”
The true gospel will be darkened. A time (an “hour”) will come when no man can work and the true Church will be imprisoned (John 9:4). However, this darkening will occur earlier, when the nominal Church is in the ascendancy. At that time the truth will be darkened, and it will seem as if all the powers of evil are triumphing over the power of good, the true light. But, actually, when that experience has had the effect of developing the Little Flock, then next will come the collapse of the false lights (verse 29).
Matt. 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all 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.
After the institutions have fallen, after the Time of Trouble, the next outward event will be the establishment of the Kingdom. In the Volumes, Pastor Russell gave one interpretation of Matthew 24:30, but a later and different thought appears in the Sermon Book, page 420, in the chapter “The Sign of the Son of Man in Heaven.” In other words, he changed his view on this verse, as follows:
“Various suggestions have been made by scholars respecting the import of this prophecy by the Master. Some guessed that the sign would be a Cross in the sky. Others thought that it would be Christ Himself, who would appear in some wrathful form to humanity, causing fear and dismay.
“We cannot say that the sign of the Son of Man in heaven will be His Parousia. [Earlier, in several places, he had said it was the parousia; therefore, he was changing his view here.] On the contrary, the Parousia of Christ will not be known to the tribes, or families, of the earth in general, but will be known only to the most saintly ones of the Church of Christ. Consequently, the sign of the Son of Man must in some sense stand related to His Epiphania, or shining forth in the ‘flaming fire’ of judgment, which the whole world of mankind will recognize.”
Thus the Pastor plainly stated later on that the sign of the Son of man is not Jesus’ parousia.
Unfortunately, the majority of brethren think that part of verse 30 has had a fulfillment. Now to show the matter another way. “They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Who are “they”? The tribes of the earth. When Matthew 24 says, “you,” it is talking to the Christian. But in verse 30, the emphasis is on “they,” not “you.” Therefore, this verse is given from the world’s standpoint—when they recognize the establishment of the Kingdom. In speaking of this time, the Prophet Isaiah said (40:5), “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” When Jesus appears to the world, it will be in power and great glory. Certainly that is not true now!
Verse 30 is a more direct answer to the question asked earlier in verse 3, namely, “What shall be the sign of thy presence?” Jesus gave two answers:
1. One answer was for the Church while the Church is still here in the flesh. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (verse 14). This answer helps the Church to be prepared.
2. The other answer pertained to the world’s recognition, which will come later. “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven” (verse 30).
Thus there are two periods of the presence: the parousia and the epiphania. We are still in the parousia period where Jesus is invisibly and secretly present, as revealed to us through the Word of God. The epiphania period applies to the subsequent revealing to the world.
Verse 30 ends another sequence. Verses 1–14 are the first sequence. Then come reviews of what happened during the Gospel Age and some advice, with an updated application to the end of the Gospel Age (verses 15–19). Verses 20–22 discuss a future event. Verses 23–28 are a flashback telling what happens prior to the great Time of Trouble. Verses 29 and 30 pertain to the trouble on through to the establishment of the Kingdom.
Matt. 24:31 And 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.
“And he [the Son of man] shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet.” Since a “trumpet” is a message, “a great sound of a trumpet” is a prominent message.
The “angels” of the Son of man are sent with a prominent message to gather together the elect “from the four winds,” “from one end of heaven to the other.” The elect are gathered from the four corners of “heaven,” from the entire “heaven,” as it were, for a square with its four corners is a symbol of completeness. Or it could be said that the “four winds” signify the four cardinal points of the compass, again showing the whole “heaven.” With the elect being gathered “from one end of heaven to the other,” the emphasis is on the four extremities, the entire ecclesiastical heavens.
The “trumpet,” which pertains to the message of truth about Jesus’ Second Presence, gathers the elect from different sectarian groups. Christians leave their respective denominations and are attracted to the Harvest message. They are extracted from the various branches of the spiritual or ecclesiastical heavens.
Mark 13:27 reads, “And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”
Matthew 24 stresses the two ends of “heaven,” whereas Mark 13 mentions “earth” and “heaven,” and thus provides further understanding. Matthew 24 is talking about the nominal spiritual heavens (this is lateral or horizontal), while Mark 13 emphasizes the vertical aspect. In other words, the elect in the nominal systems, who are on the higher plane (such as on the “housetop”), as well as those who are on the lower plane (not in churchianity but outside the systems in earth’s society), are all gathered during the Harvest.
When the two accounts are combined, the emphasis is not on the beginning of the gathering but on the completion or accomplishment of the gathering.
In connection with the gathering of the elect, there are various stages. The call to “Come out of her, my people” is a gathering (Rev. 18:4). God’s people come to, and feed on, the Harvest message or the “carcase” (Matt. 24:28). But that is not the end of the story. The Christian is called to come out of Babylon to a message, but from this message, each is to make his calling and election sure. When this happens, the Christian is gathered to the “barn” condition; that is, he is fully harvested beyond the veil (Matt. 13:30). Therefore, the emphasis is on the accomplishment of the gathering in its entirety. The elect are gathered from one end of heaven to the other, and from top to bottom—the gathering is a fully accomplished work.
Notice verse 30. Chronologically, the fulfillment of verse 30 regarding the “Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” will occur after verse 31. Verse 31 is a flashback. The apostles asked Jesus when his Second Presence and the end of the age would be. Verse 30 answers part of this question, the part pertaining to the “they” class (the tribes of earth, the world, the unbelievers), who will mourn when the fiery judgments reveal Jesus. Verse 31 is saying that almost contemporaneously with the appearance of the sign of the Son of man in heaven, the elect will all be gathered. When he appears, we shall appear with him in glory (Col. 3:4).
Luke 21 shows even more clearly that the Church will be complete just prior to the great Time of Trouble and Jesus’ revealing to the world. Luke 21:26–28 reads: “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” If the word “begin” had been omitted, the thought would be quite different, suggesting that the trouble would precede the Church’s deliverance. Many in the nominal systems believe that when Jesus appears in heaven as a literal sign, then all the saints will be caught up bodily to meet the Lord in the air. But the word “begin” is in the text: “when these things begin to come to pass.” The Church goes before the appearance of the sign of the Son of man in heaven.
Who are the “angels”? The answer depends on what is meant when the text says that the Son of man shall gather his elect. If the gathering is primarily to the Harvest message, the “angels” would be human messengers. But if the gathering is to the barn of heaven, the “angels” would be literal. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares emphasizes the beginning and the progressing of the Harvest, but Matthew 24:31 tells of the results of the Harvest, when all 144,000 have been reaped. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that the feet members will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air (to join the saints already raised and with Jesus). The last members will be collectively caught up—as Elijah was caught up in the chariot of fire by the whirlwind. Being “caught up” means being “gathered.”
Also suggested is that the last members at the very end of the age will be attracted to the truth not as they originally were but in a different sense. The bulk of the Harvest is over, complete, but the gleaning work remains. A great message was involved in the gathering of the bulk. For example, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then [afterward] we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16,17). These two verses cover the whole Harvest: (1) from 1878 when the dead in Christ were caught up, (2) through the living members who remain, and (3) down to the rapture of the feet members later. The words “first” and “remain” are extremely significant, for they indicate that some remain and are still here. A time period occurs between the dead being raised and the feet members going home. Revelation 14:13 adds more detail: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow [continue with] them.” This text applies to the individuals who die(d) since 1878 and up until the rapture. “Blessed are the dead which die [as individuals] in the Lord.” Thus the picture is comprehensive. The sleeping saints were raised first, in 1878. Blessed are the faithful individuals who have been dying ever since. The climax will be when the feet members who remain are caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. “Together” means both collectively and at the same time. That way no one will have the honor of being the last saint. The Elijah class are caught up at the end, not individuals.
The “great … trumpet” of verse 31 will complete the gathering work, and the feet members will go beyond the veil to complete the Church. Just as in the general Harvest a worldwide, very pronounced message attracted people to the truth, so at the very end of the age, a worldwide message—loud and great—will alert Christians to the conditions at hand and their corresponding responsibilities to not get the mark of the beast. Just as Gideon led three bands of 100 each, so at the very end of the age those who rightly respond, including some who will come out of Babylon at the last minute, will comprise the feet members. Thus the “great sound of a trumpet” is still a message, and the last message will be prominent just like the first Harvest message.
Matt. 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
The “fig tree” represents the Jewish nation, as shown by several Scriptures. Jeremiah 24:15 mentions two baskets of figs, and Jeremiah 8:13 also connects figs with the nation of Israel.
In the New Testament, Jesus cursed the fig tree, picturing the nation of Israel.
“When his [the fig tree’s] branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves” refers to the year 1878 when the first Jewish colony, Petatikva (meaning “Door of Hope”), was established in Israel under the Zionist movement. Leaves come out in stages starting with the green bud, and this was the earliest sign of green life. In 1878 the Jew could purchase real estate in Palestine for the first time in almost 2,000 years. As a result of General Allenby’s victory, which broke the Turkish yoke, England encouraged the establishment of a homeland for the Jew in Palestine via the Balfour Declaration of 1917. And in 1948 Israel was recognized as a nation once again; this was the “blossoming,” not the initial putting forth of a leaf. A “blossom” signifies fruit.
Luke 21:29,30 includes an additional thought: “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.” Notice the phrase “and all the trees,” meaning the springing forth of other nations too. When Cordell Hull and others started to form the United Nations, the number of existing nations was far more limited than today. A ratio was figured out to keep the superpowers (England, France, Russia, and the United States) as the top echelon. In the General Assembly, every nation, large or small, had one vote. But the organizers never foresaw the number of new and additional nations that would develop afterwards, thus upsetting the balance of power. All the little nations in Africa want their independence; they are really tribes, but each gets one vote in the United Nations. These Third World new nations keep clamoring for their rights with tremendous squabbling, confusion, and deafening noise so that the UN is unworkable today. This modern phenomenon—that in a relatively short time so many little nations have blossomed forth with their independence just as Israel did—is a sign of the nearness of the Kingdom (“summer”). “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31). This verse in Luke is telling us that the Church will still be here in the flesh when “the fig tree, and all the trees” shoot forth. Since 1948 we have seen the development of many new nations (“trees”).
Luke 21, Matthew 24, and Mark 13 are now beginning to narrow down and constrict to more specific information pertaining to our day. We are living in the time when these things are happening.
Matt. 24:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
The progression in Matthew 24 is “summer” (when the Church is still here), “winter” (the great Time of Trouble when the Church is gone), and “summer” (when the Kingdom is established)—see verses 20 and 32. The “summer” of favor at the end of the Gospel Age is followed by a “winter” of trouble and then the “summer” of the Kingdom.
Luke 21 is the same sermon as Matthew 24 except that Luke’s narration stresses some different aspects. Luke 21:33 shows the emphasis Jesus placed upon statements uttered earlier in the chapter. “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” The ecclesiastical heavens and earth’s present social order will pass away, but Jesus’ words stand and will be fulfilled. This prophecy is of the utmost importance and all the minutiae of detail will come to pass!
Luke 21:34 warns, “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.” To repeat, Luke warns us to take heed against surfeiting, drunkenness, and the cares of this life. “Surfeiting” is dissipation, a “hangover” from gluttony. The Lord’s people are cautioned not to be distracted from the momentous occasions about to take place, from the nearness of their own change, and from the need to be more zealous in making their calling and election sure. In other words, we are admonished not to let the spirit of the world become the spirit of the Church. The world is dedicated to sports, pleasure, music, etc.
The minds of the people are occupied with worldly things and distractions of one kind or another. “Cares of this life” would be anxieties over family or business (for example, worry about the status of a job). We must take heed lest these things distract us.
Jesus is warning: “Do not let the spirit of the times become the spirit of the Church. Do not be intoxicated with the pleasures of this life.” In the phrase “cares of this life,” “this life” refers to the daily, normal life of the flesh. It is normal to have some cares, but do not let them become overburdening.
Luke 21:35 reads, “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Jesus is referring to a contagious spirit that affects the whole human race except a Christian who takes heed. The implication is that this spirit could creep into the Church unless one is on guard against it.
And Luke 21:36 states, “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.” “To stand before the Son of man” means to have his approval as one of the 144,000, as one of the saints. This would be standing intimately in Jesus’ presence—an honor the Great Company will not have.
Matt. 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
What “generation”? The generation that sees “all these things” (verse 33). In Scripture a generation can have various time lengths: 38, 40, 70, 80, 100, and 120 years. Which time length is applicable here? In the Wilderness, 40 years was a generation to the Israelites. In David’s day, a generation was 70 years. In Genesis 15:13,16 a “generation” was 100 years. “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; … But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” In other words, if four generations are 400 years, then one generation is 100 years. However, none of these time spans fit except the “120,” for the others, dating from 1878, have all come and gone without these things being fulfilled. The year 1878 is the date the fig tree put forth its leaves, and thus it is the point from which to reckon the “generation.”
Genesis 6:3 identifies 120 years as the “generation.” “And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” At the end of the 120 years, the Ark was to be built and completed, it was to be entered, and the Flood would come, causing the destruction of the social order. That this 120 years is the time applicable to the “generation” of Matthew 24:34 is further corroborated in Matthew 24 itself, as well as elsewhere. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming [parousia] of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37). Verse 37 is a valuable clue, for it suggests that that which happened in Noah’s day is a close analogy to the end of the Gospel Age, to the time of Jesus’ presence.
Elsewhere in Scripture the “120” is suggested in connection with this completion work.
Jesus said in John 4:35, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” The 30 days in a lunar month are calculated thus: 30 x 4 = 120 years (a day for a year). Moses died in the prime of life at age 120; that is, he did not die a natural death, but his life was terminated at the height of physical strength (Deut. 34:7). Since Moses pictures The Christ, he could not physically enter the Promised Land because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). In the flesh Moses could see the Promised Land from Mount Nebo (Pisgah), but he could not enter it. Thus the Lord’s people look forward to, and see by the eye of faith, the “Promised Land” of heaven, but they must cross Jordan (die) first before entering (inheriting) the Kingdom.
Matt. 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
Matt. 24:36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
At that time even Jesus did not know the day and the hour, but he did know the year, and so can we know the year now in the end of the Harvest. We can be quite sure Jesus knew the year back there because of the detailed information in the chapter. (To have plainly stated the year, day, and hour would have allowed the enemies of righteousness to capitalize on the information for selfish purposes.) We need to (1) search the Scriptures and (2) watch prophecies being fulfilled. We should not interpret Scripture in the light of prophecy, but prophecy in the light of Scripture. Otherwise, all kinds of bizarre fulfillments will be predicted.
Matt. 24:37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the presence [Greek parousia] of the Son of man be.” Jesus’ “presence” (parousia) is compared to Noah’s 120-year presence before the Flood. (Noah lived after the Flood and before the 120 years began to count, but the reference is only to the 120 years.) “And the LORD said [of Noah], … yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3). In other words, man would survive for another 120 years.
In the verses next to be considered, verses 38–44, Jesus narrowed down the picture from the year to the day to the hour. As the end draws nearer, we might even be able to almost calculate the day, but not the hour. Verse 42 mentions just the “hour”: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”
Matt. 24:38 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,
Matt. 24:39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Matt. 24:40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
The “field” is the missionary field. Those employed in the Christian field are very zealous to give their life in such sacrifice. They are more than just nominal Christians, generally speaking, for they are putting their lives on the line.
Matt. 24:41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
This verse pertains to grinding out spiritual food in various ways (for example, Sunday School teachers, elders, those who print literature, etc.).
In verses 40 and 41, two are on the scene; one is taken and one is left. What are these verses saying? One will be taken to be of the Little Flock, and the other will be left to, hopefully, then end up as Great Company. (Note: Even the true Christian is a “nominal” Christian from the standpoint that he is a professed Christian who bears the name of Christ. However, among nominal Christians, there are both wheat and tares, both true and false.)
All during the Harvest period one has been dying here and there and been raised to be part of the Little Flock. But why, here, does the ratio break down to one and one? Two are there, but only one is taken. The suggestion is that one might be taken, but not his best friend. A husband could be taken, but not his wife—or vice versa. The two are supposedly working in the “field,” “mill,” or “bed” (see Luke 17:34–36) together; one will make his calling and election sure and one will not.
And where are the “more than conquerors” taken? Verse 28 mentions the “carcase,” but that had to do with coming away from nominal relationships to a more serious identity with Christ. That condition continues until the elect, the feet members, are gathered to the very source: to meet the Master himself in the air (1 Thess. 4:17), to come into his very presence.
First comes the attraction to the Harvest spiritual food down here. There follows a period of development, and finally comes the sudden rapture of the feet members. Thus verses 40–42 pertain to the rapture, which will occur during “clouds” or sudden trouble. The last members will be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
The analogy of a “snare” in Luke 21:35 also signifies the suddenness of the trouble. “For as a snare shall it [the trouble] come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” A snare takes an animal suddenly by surprise.
Matt. 24:42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
Matt. 24:43 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.
Matt. 24:44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
“In such an hour as ye think not.” Notice that verse 44 does not say, “in such a year [or time].” The “hour” is stressed rather than a year date.
There will be no last single member of the body of Christ but a collective group, so as not to detract from the Head. A group will die at the same time at the very end of the age. However, this does not preclude individual feet members dying a month earlier, five months earlier, a year earlier, etc. The point is just that the very last members will die collectively.
Therefore, an individual does not know whether he will die as part of the last group or earlier (assuming he is one of the feet members). In other words, a year date could be known in advance (1998?) but not an hour or a day.
The suggestion is that a surprise will come on those Christians who are put to death at the very end of the age. Consider John the Baptist from the standpoint of a principle, not necessarily as a type. While in prison he had some doubts until Jesus reassured him. John wondered why he was there and if Jesus was really the Messiah. Subsequently, a party was going on, during which a request was made for John the Baptist’s head. John did not know the precise hour. He was probably sitting in a dungeon with no light when all of a sudden the prison keepers came, opened his cell, removed him, and took him to be beheaded.
Similarly, certain individual feet members will experience surprise. Jesus warns us to be ready, but there will still be an element of suddenness and surprise.
“For in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” What “coming” is Jesus referring to here? It is when he comes to get the last members to complete the Church for the marriage. In other words, this “coming” is not the parousia but the rapture.
Incidentally, when the parousia began, it was not understood as a subject—not until several years later. The Lord having come found a faithful and wise servant. The precise hour that the parousia began is not as important as the fact of Jesus’ arrival. The same priority was demonstrated at the First Advent. At that time, for one to be used by the Lord, it was important for him to identify Jesus as the Messiah, but it was not as important to know the hour of Jesus’ birth or even the hour of his baptism at Jordan.
The word “cometh” is erchomai (not parousia). There is only one Second Presence but several “comings.” Jesus comes on a white horse, with a chain in his hand, seated, standing, etc. He comes to break into Satan’s house, he stands at the door knocking, etc. All of these activities are different aspects of the Second Advent. Similarly at the First Advent, there were various “comings”: Jesus came at his birth; he came at Jordan as Messiah the Prince (Dan. 9:25); he came as a king meek and lowly, riding upon the foal of an ass (his entry into
Jerusalem at the end of his ministry); etc. Hence a number of prophecies pertain to different events occurring during the First Advent. Various events are also prophesied regarding the Second Advent, and they cannot be distorted or bent to all begin in 1874—any more than all the events of the First Advent could be forced to a fulfillment in one year. In other words, the parousia has various “comings.” In verse 44 Jesus comes to take his Bride (to steal her as a thief).
The “coming” in verses 37–39 is parousia, which is different from the “coming” of verse 44. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the presence 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 presence of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37–39). There is a distinction between “days” (plural) and “the day” (singular).
The days before the Flood were the 120 years that Noah was building the Ark. When the Flood came, Noah was 600 years old—600 full years (Gen. 7:6,11). Thus Noah was 480 years old when God instructed him to start the Ark (600 – 120 = 480). God told Noah that He would tolerate man’s evil and corruption for yet 120 years and then He would terminate the situation. For the next 120 years Noah actively preached righteousness and prophesied of the coming Flood, that is, from his 480th year to his 600th year.
Genesis 5:32 says that Noah was 500 years old when Shem, Ham, and Japheth were born. In other words, the three sons were not born until after God had given the pronouncement to Noah regarding the Flood coming in 120 years, and Noah started to build the Ark before his three sons were born. Thus they grew up under the influence of Noah’s preaching of righteousness, and the plans for building the Ark were given solely to Noah. As his three sons grew up, they participated in the construction. Noah needed their help to lift the heavy beams into place, but first, a number of years were required to gather the lumber, dress it, prepare it, provide the tar, etc. Just as stones for the Temple were quarried in advance of the assembly, so the trees for the Ark were probably all cut and prepared first. The three sons came along at the right time to assist Noah in assembling the parts for the Ark.
Comment: The fact that the plans for building the Ark were given only to Noah and before his sons were born fits the antitype of Jesus’ getting the scroll before the Church was legally recognized and developed.
The sons were schooled in righteousness and in selecting upright wives. Noah, his sons, and the wives were all “perfectly generated”; that is, they were of pure Adamic stock. Thus there was a screening or Divine Providence with regard to the selection of their wives. With the fallen angels taking wives of their own choosing, violence filling the earth, and the giant hybrid race domineering over the human race, the inference is that in connection
with preparing the Ark, a shield of protection surrounded that area. Noah and family were in the circle of God’s providence. On their own they would have been no match for any fallen angel, so we know that an “iron curtain” protected them from being unduly disturbed. Nevertheless, Noah could hear through that curtain the jeers of those who made fun of him. Any fallen angels or their hybrid progeny who wanted to harm Noah and family were thwarted in their efforts. Other examples are Job and Israel, who had a “hedge” around them (Job 1:10; Isa. 5:5). With Job, Satan said sarcastically, “Just let me do a little here and there, and I will show you how good Job is!” In Noah’s case there was noninterference all the way through.
Verse 38 tells that the people went right on doing the normal activities of life—eating, drinking, marrying—and there is nothing wrong with these activities. The emphasis is not on the debauchery aspect, which Peter brings out. Jesus is simply saying that the people were unaware of the impending Flood. It was a reality; it was really coming!—but the people were oblivious. Noah preached about the coming Flood, but the people contradicted and mocked him. They found the fact amusing that Noah was building an Ark on dry land when it had never even rained before (Gen. 2:5,6).
If the people in Noah’s day had had a foreview of what the atmosphere would look like after the Flood and could have compared it to the heavens that existed prior to the Flood (the hothouse effect), they would have seen the contrast. After the Flood there was a clarity of vision instead of the previous translucent, hazy atmosphere. But the people were willingly “ignorant” or unaware (2 Pet. 3:5). After the ring of water broke, the atmosphere was clear. Before that, the hazy atmosphere was “normal” to the people, for it was what they had grown up under and was all they knew.
Even the angels probably did not know the Flood would occur, for there was no precedent. True, they had witnessed rings of minerals and materials cascading down on the earth in earlier eras. In the Vailian theory, the heavy minerals collapsed first, then the less heavy minerals, and finally the lighter ones. As these rings kept collapsing, water was left, but the angels did not think of the water ring collapsing. A satellite going at the right speed can theoretically stay in orbit forever if there is no friction. However, the obliquity of the sphere earth (the flattening at the poles) causes an imbalance, an imperfect orbit, so that rings could collapse according to God’s timetable.
Verse 38 contrasts the days of Noah (plural—a period of time) and the day (singular—a point of time) that he entered the Ark. Genesis 7:1–4 says that Noah went into the Ark for seven days. The thought is that Noah fully entered the Ark on the seventh day. For the first six days, he went in and out, leading animals into the Ark, stocking food, etc. But on the seventh day he entered into the Ark and God closed the door (Gen. 7:13–16). (Evidently there was no handle on the door, so God shut them in.) And so, at the end of the age, God will shut the last members into the Church; that is, Jesus will do this as God’s representative, for Jesus “openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Rev. 3:7).
The logistical problems regarding the Ark are greatly alleviated if we realize that baby animals were loaded—baby elephants, water buffaloes, rhinoceroses, lions, etc. They were more docile and thus easier to load than adult animals. Also, much less food was needed as well as space. Even after a year in the Ark, the animals were not fully grown.
Another point. The Flood was not universal. It covered the entire civilized earth, not the whole planet. Reasons for the Flood not being universal are as follows:
1. The water was 15 cubits over the highest mountain. If the entire earth had been covered, the water would have been more than five miles deep in many places, for the Himalayas are more than 27,000 feet high. Where would all that water drain to?
2. The earth sank in the localized area at the same time that the rains came. Thus the Caspian, Black, Mediterranean, etc., seas all drained into the sunken portion to, with the rain, cover all the civilized cities. The 15 cubits of water above the highest mountain means that the Ark could float freely and not scrape land even though loaded with cargo.
3. Had all of the planet been covered with water plus 15 cubits, the oxygen level would have been so thin that man could not breathe.
4. Some fish cannot live in saltwater; other fish cannot live in fresh water. Therefore, if the Flood had been universal, all fresh-water fish would have died with the mixing of the waters. The large oceans would have caused all water to be predominantly saline. Since fish were not taken into the Ark, they would have died. In fact, some did die, but only in the localized area where the Flood was.
5. In many places in Scripture, the word “all,” as in “all the earth,” means “part” (for example, “all the kingdoms” in Matthew 4:8).
6. The usual thought with regard to the Ice Age is that ice 10,000 feet high gouged out the Grand Canyon and went across the United States to Long Island to the ice shelf. However, this could not have happened in Noah’s Flood or the temperature would have been too cold—all would have frozen to death. Also, all that ice could not melt in one year—and where would the water go? (The rain cascaded down on the poles and ran into the designated area.) Therefore, the ice gouging took place in previous floods—before man was created.
The mastodons lived under very warm, carboniferous conditions (carbon dioxide hothouse conditions). They can still be dug out of the ice and snow in Siberia, which is the location of a huge graveyard. Water that came in and inundated large animals quickly froze, turning to ice. Subsequently God created animals that are familiar to us today.
Not only was the earth flooded with water above, but much water rushed in down here. In other words, there were two sources of inundation, namely, (1) rain plus the collapse of a ring or veil of water from above and (2) water rushing in from ocean beds down here (2 Pet. 3:5,6). The level of the earth in the Flood area changed radically, causing a great depression into which the water rushed. (That principle is shown today by little islands appearing and disappearing overnight in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Earthquakes cause the land topography to change.) It is a marvel that the Scriptures are terse and yet so comprehensive!
Comment: The antitype will also have two sources of inundation: (1) trouble arising from the anarchistic people down here and (2) trouble caused by a flood of fallen angels materializing.
See Young’s Analytical Concordance, page 11, “Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation,” Item #29, regarding “all” meaning “part.”
In verses 40 and 41, the two are together; one is taken and one is left. These verses apply especially to the very end of the age when certain ones will be selected to go when the Lord comes to take his jewels home. In a general sense this has been true since 1878, but in a special sense the verses are applicable to the rapture, when the whole “family” goes into the Ark together.
Q: Luke 17:34–36 lists three categories of those who will comprise the feet members to be taken collectively at the end: (1) Two will be in one bed; one shall be taken, the other left. (2) Two will be grinding together; one shall be taken, the other left. (3) Two shall be in the field; one shall be taken, the other left. Could these be clues as to the three backgrounds of the feet members? Perhaps the “one bed” is a description of those in the Bible Student movement, for these brethren are more doctrinally agreed on present truth. Possibly those “in the field”
are those outside the systems in a more independent condition. Then “grinding” would be those under the auspices of the systems who leave at the end, in the nick of time, so as not to submit to the Church-State system.
A: This interpretation seems harmonious and may be the case. Off the top of our head, we do not see anything to contradict the thought.
Comment: It is interesting that the translators supplied the gender; male and female (men and women). The original just says “two shall be” in one bed, grinding together, in the field. The lack of gender is more appropriate.
Matthew 24:39 reads in part: “And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away.” The period of time will come to a terminal point in the future just as it did in Noah’s day. It was a 120-year period of time—until the Flood came. That was a 120-year parousia period in the days of Noah. The Lord’s coming to take his Bride class home (verses 42 and 44) corresponds to an antitypical terminal point of the 120 years, which started with the beginning of the parousia in 1874. Thus there are two comings with regard to parousia and two comings with erchomai.
Luke 17:26,27 is similar to Matthew 24. “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” However, verse 28 introduces another picture pertaining to Lot. In substance verse 28 is very similar to that which pertains to Noah, except that additional points are brought in about buying and selling, and planting and building. Verse 29 confirms the thought in Matthew 24 regarding the day the Flood came. “But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” Here a sudden point of time is contrasted with the days of Lot. Before, it was the days of Noah being contrasted with the day the Flood came. Here the days of Lot are contrasted with the day that fire and brimstone cascaded from heaven on Sodom.
In Luke 17:30 the Lot picture substantiates what Matthew 24 is saying, but in addition, a new word is introduced: “when the Son of man is revealed.” Matthew 24 contrasts parousia with erchomai, whereas Luke 17 contrasts the presence (“the days of Noah” and “the days of the Son of man”) with apokalupto. The Greek apokalupsis is quite different from parousia.
Apokalupsis is future—when the Son of man is revealed to the world in the Time of Trouble, in “flaming fire” (2 Thess. 1:8). Judgments will reveal that a new power or control is taking over. “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9). The fiery judgments will reveal to man God’s displeasure.
Q: Is there a distinction between Noah and Lot? Noah was plainly shut in the Ark before the rain ever started, but Lot was leaving Sodom as the fire and brimstone were occurring, so wouldn’t Lot picture the Great Company?
A: Yes. And Lot’s wife pictures the Second Death class because she looked back; that is, she was sorry she had left Sodom and longed to return. The antitype would be the consecrated who regret having taken that stand and thus turn aside or away from their consecration. When we make our decision for the Lord, we are not to turn back. Consecration is a reasonable service. Once the hand is put to the plow, we must leave it there. Consecration is a contract unto death.
Sodom and Gomorrha picture, respectively, Catholicism and Protestantism—or just Babylon. We know they picture a nominally religious class because of the following:
1. Revelation 11:8 mentions Egypt and Sodom. “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” The account is telling about the situation or interplay between Christendom and God’s true people that occurred during part of the Gospel Age. The two witnesses (the Old and New Testaments) suffered mistreatment much as Jesus did, and also the Church, for 3 1/2 “years.” The Bible was kept in sackcloth and ashes for 1,260 years, Jesus was crucified at the end of his 3 1/2-year ministry, and the Church was persecuted for 1,260 years by spiritual “Sodom”—the nominal Christian element.
2. In Isaiah 1:10 God likened natural Israel to Sodom because they were sick from the top of their heads to the soles of their feet. In Old Testament times the Israelites were the nominal people of God. However, the Book of Revelation speaks of Sodom and Egypt from the Gospel Age standpoint, for there has been a nominal equivalent in the Gospel Age. Both Israel in Old Testament times and the nominal Gospel Age Christian elements are spiritually compared to Sodom in the days of Lot.
Lot’s fleeing in Luke 17 is a parallel to Matthew 24:20, “Pray that your flight be not in the winter[time] of the sabbath day” (paraphrase). The flight of Lot is quite different from that of Abraham. Abraham witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha from afar off—that is, from above, looking down. He looked down and saw Sodom being destroyed.
Matthew 24 and Luke 17 do not emphasize the sinful conditions that prevail. The activities are eating, drinking (not drunkenness), marrying, planting, building, etc. In Luke 21:34 where Jesus said to “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,” he was speaking of the innocent things of life. The Christian should be more awake and aware of the urgency of the times.
Comment: Abraham desired Lot to be saved, and yet Lot lingered and held back. Lot is an appropriate type of the Great Company.
Reply: Lot was practically pulled out of Sodom. The two angels hurried him out of the city.
Luke 17:33 reads, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” This is a very strong verse coming right after the allusion to the Great Company and the Second Death class. Those consecrated who remain after the Church goes off the scene will witness the fall of Babylon. Those still in the system will come out as Babylon collapses. Verse 33 is directed primarily to the Lot class, who must realize that they are consecrated to the Lord and that flesh and blood cannot inherit even a secondary place in the Kingdom of God. They must die and be changed to get spirit nature.
Not just the Little Flock but all those who have dedicated their lives to the Lord will realize that the time is coming when they will terminate their course on earth. They should not anticipate living through the Time of Trouble. Therefore, those who unduly seek to preserve their lives in that sense will lose all life in the final analysis. Prudence will be very dangerous at that time. The consecrated remaining should expect a change and realize that they are like the scapegoat class in the wild wilderness condition. If they make strenuous efforts to preserve their lives, it will show that the spirit of their consecration is not thorough. Those who seek to save their lives (and thus lose them) will remain dead—they will have no resurrection. Those who seek to save this life inordinately will in effect, by pursuing such a course of prudence, lose all life. It will be a very sobering situation. The consecrated who remain after the Church is gone should realize they can still be at the marriage supper, and they should look forward to that event as their goal and destiny.
The words introducing Luke 17:34–36 are significant: “I tell you, in THAT NIGHT …” Jesus is referring to the trouble that will come on the Church ahead of the world’s trouble. Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: THE NIGHT cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). The nominal systems will put a clamp on the promulgation of present truth just as they did with Jesus. He was apprehended (1) to stop him from talking and (2) to put him to death. The religious authorities wanted to effectually minimize and stop his ministry and shame him with an ignominious death, thus sending his entire ministry into disrepute. They felt his followers would forsake him if they dealt with him in this way, but they underestimated the POWER of Jesus’ message— that his followers were willing to die too. That was the right attitude. Satan thought the whole religion would collapse with Jesus’ crucifixion, but it did not.
While the principle has been true during the Harvest period that two could be close companions and only one would be taken with the Harvest message, these Scriptures have a further primary dispensational meaning. As we get closer to the end of the age, we are approaching the nighttime, the time when the truth will be stopped and the feet members will go home. This is a more specific application than the general principle applying since 1876 or so. These verses refer to the change of the last members of the Church. The three mentions of two being together, one being taken, the other left, suggests the feet members will be taken collectively. There will be a collection of individuals from different sources.
The question arises “Where, Lord, will they be taken?” Jesus replied, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together” (Luke 17:37). It is true that during the Harvest period the eagle class are attracted to the carcass, the doctrine of the Ransom (of how Jesus’ death will be efficacious for the salvation of both the Church and the world). They are attracted to what others consider repulsive: the death of Christ and what it entails.
But the context of verse 37 shows the attraction is to the Lord in heaven (in the air). The One who did die, the One whose dead humanity as the man Christ Jesus was sacrificed forever, is the One our consecration is based upon and the One whose death, having a value, is fed and acted upon in this life. However, the time will come when the last members will actually meet the risen Lord in the air. This time is referred to here, for verse 37 is talking about the rapture of the Church.
Comment: The Scriptures are marvelous! The order of Matthew 24 shows plainly that there is a feeding on the carcass during the Harvest, but by climaxing Jesus’ thoughts in Luke 17 with a similar expression, the account provides the further (or later) meaning of the rapture. The Scriptures unfold more and more unto the time the daystar arises (2 Pet. 1:19).
Comment: Noah was prepared in advance. God gave him instructions and for 120 years he did as he had been told. On the other hand, Lot waited until the last minute to flee Sodom, and so does the Great Company in antitype.
In Luke 17:29 the emphasis is on a judgment coming from God. “But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” There is a difference between divine wrath and the wrath of man (man’s inhumanity to man). Divine indignation will be the real Time of Trouble, even though God may use man to accomplish it in some instances. The trouble is more than just the law of retribution.
Matt. 24:43 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.
We intentionally repeat Matthew 24:43 in order to consider it in detail at this time. The “goodman of the house,” the householder, is Satan. The “thief” in this instance is Jesus.
Verse 43 is saying that if Satan knew in what hour Jesus was coming, he would not let his house be broken into (see RSV—paraphrased). The Pastor assumed this verse applied to the initial coming of Jesus in 1874, to the beginning of the presence, but such an application has several problems. The word “coming” can refer to any of several events during the Second Advent, just as it did at the First Advent. Which “coming” is referred to here?
First, however, let us consider what “house” is to be broken into. It is Satan’s personal headquarters in earth’s atmosphere where his power is especially entrenched. Here is an example: Russia and the United States both exist on the same planet earth with two entirely different philosophies. Yet the two countries with their citizens are thousands of miles apart. Satan, the prince of the power of the air, and his angels are in earth’s atmosphere,
confined to tartaroo. The returned invisible Lord is also in earth’s atmosphere. How can two antagonistic powers occupy earth’s atmosphere at the same time? There is no problem— they do this the same way that two antagonistic powers can simultaneously occupy the surface of the earth. Just as Russia has its capital, Moscow, in a certain area of earth’s surface and the United States has its capital, Washington, DC, in another area, so Satan and his angels have their headquarters in one part of earth’s atmosphere (probably over Rome), and Jesus and his angels have their headquarters in another part of earth’s atmosphere (probably over Jerusalem). Thus two alien powers coexist above, and two alien powers coexist down here.
Jesus had no problem returning to earth’s atmosphere in 1874. Satan could not in any way have prevented his coming here. And all down through history, holy angels have materialized off and on, even though Satan was the god of this world. Consider the Apostle Paul, for instance. Angels appeared to him and he had visions. Also, at the time of the French Revolution, Jesus came here to stabilize conditions lest worldwide anarchy break out prematurely (Rev. 10:1,2). The fact that Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection did not mean he could not come here at any time if he so desired, but his abode was in heaven (“whom the heaven must receive [retain] until the times of restitution”—Acts 3:21).
It wasn’t that Jesus could not come, but that he could not come for any length of time. Now that he is here for his 1,000-year Second Advent, it does not mean that he cannot go back to see his Father for the entire period. The following illustration is helpful. We have an ambassador in Moscow who represents our country. That ambassador is in Moscow most of the time, but he can return for vacation and consultation. Similarly Jesus’ being in earth’s atmosphere for 1,000 years does not mean he is in prison down here. He can return to the Father just as an ambassador goes back to headquarters to get further instruction. Jesus can go back and forth, but Satan, being confined in chains of darkness, cannot. He is limited as to what he can do.
In other words, it is very difficult to see how the Adversary could be a deterrent force to the personal coming of Jesus. Therefore, the usual explanation of this verse does not fit. The point is that the “house” Satan would not have allowed Jesus to enter is his own personal headquarters—the area in earth’s atmosphere where Satan and his evil angels are resident.
That area is to be broken into and Satan bound for the duration of the Millennium, until the Little Season when he will be loosed.
Verse 43 cannot refer to Jesus’ coming in 1874 because he came into earth’s atmosphere on other occasions in the past when Satan, the god of this world, could not stop him. And holy angels likewise have come during Satan’s operation as prince of this world. Daniel 10:13 says that the prince of Persia (Satan) withstood Gabriel for 21 days until Michael came to assist Gabriel and overpower Satan. Thus there is no problem in Jesus’ coming here, or for the Logos or Michael.
The point is that if Satan could know in advance the very moment Jesus will come to his personal headquarters to bind him, the Adversary would be prepared and would put up a strong fight, thus throwing off God’s timetable. The timing of the divine plan would be disrupted by such a confrontation. Therefore, Satan will not know in advance the moment his house will be entered.
See Matthew 12:29 in regard to Satan’s binding. “Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.” If this verse were a reference to 1874 and the beginning of the parousia, then Satan would have to be completely bound now, for Satan must be bound before his goods can be spoiled. If Satan is bound, then why are we cautioned to put on the full armor of God to withstand his wiles at the end of the age (Eph. 6:13)? And if Satan’s binding is not a personal binding but a binding by the influence of the truth, then how can he be loosed for the Little Season when the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Rev. 20:3,7,8; Hab. 2:14)? The view that the parousia is referred to in these verses (Matt. 12:29; 24:43) does not hold water. But to see these verses as a future event eliminates the problems.
Also, if Matthew 12:29 refers to the parousia, then Satan had to be bound before the seventh messenger was ever selected and before the Laodicean period began. How nice it would be for Christians of the Laodicean period to make their calling and election sure without the Adversary tempting them because he was bound! It is only logical that if Satan’s spiritual domain is first entered and broken up, then his influence down here is subsequently negated.
To get around these problems, some have tried to say that Satan’s binding is progressive. They say Satan is not bound but that he is being bound. However, if he is being bound, he must be getting progressively curtailed. Otherwise, the English language is a mockery. If Satan is being bound, it would mean he is more and more bound as time goes on, yet Matthew 12:29 makes very clear the fact that Satan is bound first, that is, before his house is broken into. “First” means first.
Moreover, the parallel Scripture in Luke 11:22 shows there will be a personal confrontation between Jesus and Satan. Jesus will personally overcome Satan, bind him, and then destroy his house. “But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.” Revelation 20:1–3 reads, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having … a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold on … Satan, and … cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him.”
The progressive application does not make sense. Its proponents reason that the house is being destroyed and Satan is being bound, but the word “first” cannot be ignored. Satan is bound first, and the progressive view changes the English language. This in-between explanation is not satisfactory.
Actually no one down here knew (or knows) exactly when the parousia occurred. It took place in the fall of 1874 between September 25 and October 3, so we take a date in the middle: October 1. The brethren learned about the fact that Jesus had arrived rather than being aware of the moment of his initial presence. Thus Jesus was here for a little while before his presence was revealed or made known through the unfolding of prophecy.
In Luke 12:36–38 three time periods of expectation are suggested: “second watch,” “third watch,” and an implied first watch. “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.” There was a time when many of the Lord’s people thought that the Church would be gone in 1914. Let us call that the “second watch”—not that it necessarily was, but just to establish the principle. Obviously, the expectations were not realized at that date. Inferentially, then, Jesus will come to take the last members home in the “third watch.”
1st watch as a point of time = 9 p.m. (1878)
2nd watch as a point of time = 12 midnight (1914)
3rd watch as a point of time = 3 a.m.
The Millennial day began at midnight, but 3 a.m. is predawn, before the sunrise, before the Sun of righteousness arises. At 6 a.m. the Kingdom will be inaugurated—at dawn, at sunrise.
Mark 13:35 gives four times of expectancy: (1) “even,” (2) “midnight,” (3) “cockcrowing,” and (4) “morning.” “Morning” (dawn, sunrise) would be too late for the Master to get his last members in the rapture, so it can be eliminated. Three other times remain, but two have passed, so again the third is when Jesus will come in this sense.
Note: The four times should be considered more from the standpoint of a year, not a day or an hour. A lot can happen in one year.
The four quadrants of time break down as follows:
Even = 6–9 p.m.
Midnight = 9–12 midnight
Cockcrowing = 12–3 a.m.
Morning = 3–6 a.m.
Notice that 3 a.m. in the “third watch” is the point of time common to both the Mark and the Luke accounts. (In the Mark 13:35 text, 3 a.m. occurs at the end of the third watch and the beginning of the fourth watch.) At that point in time Jesus will come for the last jewels.
Back to Luke 12:36–38. Some are troubled as to how the Church can be likened to servants awaiting the Master’s return from the wedding. They object because the Church is supposed to be at the wedding. However, the emphasis is on the readiness of the household. In order to please their Master, the servants watched very diligently for his return so that they could give the Master a warm welcome. Thus there is no contradiction. The emphasis is on watching, waiting, and praying—on being ready. Mark 13:34–37 confirms this thought by presenting it just a little differently. “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.”
An alternate explanation of the four time periods in Mark 13:35 is as follows:
Even = 6–9 p.m. (1844) (1844–1878)
Midnight = 9–12 midnight (1878) (1878–1914)
Cockcrowing = 12 midnight–3 a.m. (1914) (1914–1998?)
Morning = 3–6 a.m. (1998?) (1998–2001?)(subject to updating as Truth becomes clearer)
Here the beginning of the fourth quadrant and the end of the third correspond to the “third watch” of Luke 12:38. At any rate, Jesus is saying to WATCH, for we will not know ahead of time the hour for the invisible rapture.
“Cockcrowing” represents an important testing, for at that time Peter, who pictures the Great Company, denied Jesus three times. Also, in the beginning of the fourth watch (again this was 3 a.m.), Jesus walked on the water. Peter walked out to meet him amidst the angry, raging sea and started to sink. When he reached out, Jesus saved him, picturing the rapture. The waves symbolize the time of trouble on the Church.
The pressures on the feet members will be very great. Just as Jesus was betrayed by Judas (the Second Death class), denied by Peter (the Great Company), and crucified (put to death by Satan), so the feet members will have similar experiences. Knowing this in advance should be helpful. If these subjects are not being studied ahead of time, how can we be prepared?
The term “time of trouble” is too nebulous. Which time of trouble is being referred to? The true Church’s (the heel members)? The nominal Church’s destruction? The trouble on the Great Company when they wash their robes in the tribulation? The world’s trouble? Jacob’s Trouble? Jacob’s Trouble is the climax of the world’s Time of Trouble—the two merge together. The trouble will be focalized in Israel.