Wicked Taken – Righteous Left
“Then will two men be in the field, the one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and the other left.”
Here is another similarity between the times of Noah and the destruction of Jerusalem. When the flood came, righteous Noah and his family entered the ark. The flood then came and took away the wicked. Only the righteous were left safely in the ark. So it would be in the destruction of Jerusalem. The wicked would be taken and the righteous would be left. Those who use this arrangement to refer to the final coming seek to reverse order.
This is not, therefore, a context for “rapture theology” that is so prevalent among theologians today. Jesus said, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” Those who propagate rapture theology reverse the illustration of Jesus. In their attempt to force this passage to have some reference to the end of time, they twisted the order (See 2 Pt 3:15,16). We must keep in mind that Jesus’ use of the flood of Noah’s day to illustrate the events of the destruction of Jerusalem are to show that in the destruction “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). The wicked unbelieving Jews would be taken. The righteous would be left.
At the end of time when Jesus comes, He will take the righteous from the earth (1 Th 4:17). In the context of Matthew 24, however, it is the wicked who are taken. For this reason, we must affirm that Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24 and not the final coming of Jesus.
“Therefore, watch, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming.”
The term “hour” is here used with a generic meaning. It is not a specific 60-minute hour, as “the day” of verse 36 was not a specific 24-hour solar day. Reference is to a time when all the events of Jesus’ discourse would take place. Emphasis is on the fact that there would be a specific time in history when all this would happen, though the time will occur over a period of weeks and months.
The point is that those who believe in what Jesus was saying must continually watch, lest they become caught up in the affairs of this world. These were not things for which one could prepare. They were things for which those who were living the gospel must be concerned lest they be caught up in the hysteria of the pleas of the nationalistic Jews.
The emphasis of Jesus on the encouragement to “watch” might be good advice for some today who seek to excite people into looking for the “signs of the times” in order to prepare for the final coming of the Lord. Since Jesus’ exhortation was to always be prepared, then the coming in judgment on national Israel would not be a surprise on the part of the disciples, but an expectation. Since He gave the warnings, then those who believed in Him would expect all His prophesied events would come to pass.
The saints did not need to know an exact hour when the carcass would be consumed. They just needed to know that it would happen when the vultures showed up in Palestine. Jesus gave them all the dots to connect. Once they started to connect all the prophetic dots in the few years before A.D. 70, then they knew that the time had come.
The Unexpected Presence
“But know this, that if the head of the house had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”
In this context Jesus has given “generic signs” from which they should deduct the end of national Israel and the fall of Jerusalem. No specific details were given. No names were stated. No calendars were distributed to the disciples. He gave just enough information to generate “watching” on the part of those who believed what He said. Those who believed would need no more information.
After the establishment of the church in A.D. 30, the apostles evidently stayed in Jerusalem for as long as ten years. The reason for this was obvious. Jerusalem was where devoted and nationalistic Jews came to offer sacrifices at the altar during the Passover/Pentecost feast. It was the prime opportunity to call through the gospel the lost sheep of the house of Israel. In A.D. 58 or 59 Paul made a last trip to Jerusalem in order to make a final plea to Jews who might obey the gospel (At 21). However, their vehement rejection of the gospel and attempted murder of Paul were evidence that at this time (A.D. 58,59) the radical nationalistic Jews were ready for the judgment of God. What Jesus had pronounced in Matthew 23:34-36 was ready to happen. The “righteous blood” of all innocent prophets of God was about to be brought on this generation of defiant Jews.
It was a time when the beloved Israel was coming to a close because the Jews failed to understand that the nation of Israel was only God’s means to an end, but not the end in itself. So Jesus mourned over the nation that had preserved a segment of world society until the Son of God was incarnate in the flesh of the Messiah. It was a time when Jesus was sorrowful for God’s people.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house [temple] is left to you desolate” (Mt 23:37,38).
In Jesus’ pronouncements of Matthew 24 He wanted to give the faithful adequate indications of when to stay away from Jerusalem and Judea. Jewish Christians must not become trapped in the “traditions of the fathers,” nor in the materialistic vanities of Jewish economics. It would be best that they sell “their possessions and goods” and divide them among all believers according to the needs of the people (At 2:45; see At 4:32-37). Residents of Jerusalem were going to lose their possessions anyway in the coming destruction. Why keep that which they would eventually lose? In some way, therefore, the resident Jewish Christians sensed that eventually they were going to lose all investments in national Israel. If not one stone would be left upon another in Jerusalem, then forty years before the event, it was best to sell it all and move on. “And they sold their possessions and goods and divided them to all, as everyone had need” (At 2:45). “Many as were owners of land or houses sold them” (At 4:34).
[Next in series: Aug.16]