I’m not a pre-tribulation rapture guy. In fact, I think the rapture and the second coming are the same thing. We’ll be raptured (“caught up with”) to Jesus when he returns once and for all. Whew, I said it. I’m glad to get that out. Now, I’ll duck and cover in our eschatologically-charged, dispensational American Christian culture.
I think Matthew 24 is insightful for us when we consider our Lord’s return. But, please, let’s not go off the deep end. You can make all the assumptions you want. You have Christian freedom on your side. However, you can be so excited about your rapture graphs and charts that you forget the two most important things Jesus says in this chapter: the one who endures to the end will be saved, and false christs and prophets will rise up to try and deceive the elect.
What Jesus says in this passage is that we must be ready to stand firm and cling to the crucified Savior! If you don’t endure, you won’t be saved, he says. People will try to deceive you and if they succeed, you aren’t really elect, Jesus boldly declares. That’s quite the differnet angle than what you’ve probably heart on this passage.
The point of this chapter, as with all eschatological chapters in the Bible, isn’t to find more ammunition to prove that Jesus will rapture his church before a literal, seven-year tribulation. The point is to see that Jesus is King, he reigns, and it is an everyday battle to deny false christs and submit to the true Christ. The point is that Jesus is the center of the universe, not the day or hour of his coming. We are waiting, yes, but there is still work to be done.
Notice what Jesus does not say. Jesus doesn’t say, “When the false christ comes, beware, and look for my return.” No, he says, “Every single day of your lives you will have to face false gods and every day they will try to lead you astray. Everyday you must live like I’m going to come back and be with you.” It’s a continually thing to watch out for according to Jesus. It’ll be a constant temptation. I think we’ll be immersed in a love-relationship with Jesus, instead of a love relationship with figuring out when he’ll come back, if we remember this. False christs aren’t only people and kingdoms, either. They are pop-culture, news, sex, money, drugs, politics, knowledge, sports, internet, and anything else that we delight in more than Christ. These things perform great signs and wonders to try to lead you astray, don’t they? You probably don’t have to think far back to hear someone say, “Look, he is in the wilderness!” or “Look, he is in the inner rooms” or “Look, he’s in the bar…the strip club…the department store…the sports stadium…the internet chat room.”
Don’t just look to the future and try to figure out what people the false christs are; look to the present and test yourself. Jesus is coming back someday. Don’t try to guess the time. But prepare yourself, be ready, and violently put to death the false christs in your life so that you are not cut into pieces and put with the hypocrites when Jesus does return (Matt. 24:51).