When Jesus spoke to Peter, James, John and Andrew on the Mount of Olives, was He speaking to the nation of Israel, or was He speaking to the church? Eschatology students understand the tension here. Some dispensationalists maintain that Jesus was speaking to the nation of Israel since the church had not yet been formed. So, in their thinking, everything contained therein cannot apply to the church, but only to the nation of Israel. Others, like myself, believe that Jesus was speaking to those who would form the church in just a few days. Should we take the approach of continuity or discontinuity in this case? Can the Olivet Discourse be linked to the ministry of the church, or should it be linked to the ministry of Israel?
The 12 apostles will form the church in less than two months from the time of the Olivet Discourse. Jesus states in the Olivet Discourse that before the end could come, that the gospel message would be preached through his disciples and many others who would later become His disciples. This preaching of the gospel would occur throughout this age which would be characterized by wars, famines, plagues, and false messiahs. The end as mentioned in Matthew 24:14, can be none other than the end of the age. The question which the disciples were asking hinged on the end of the age which would occur at the glorious coming of the Messiah. Later, after the resurrection but before the ascension, Jesus gave the apostles His very own authority to preach the gospel until the end of the age, Matthew 28:18-20. With this in mind, look at Matthew 24:14.
9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Since Jesus was answering their question concerning what would precede His coming, Jesus’ words show a group of believers preaching the gospel throughout all nations in the midst of persecution during this age. Jesus also gives them other events that will precede His coming. Beginning at verse 15 we have a more chronological arrangement describing the great tribulation. So other events that will precede His coming are…
-the abomination of desolation
-the great tribulation
-signs in the sun, moon, and stars
Then He gathers His elect to be with Him as He comes in power and glory. But the issue here is that all throughout the entire age that is occurring now, the gospel is being preached. The gospel is being preached throughout all nations. The gospel is being preached in the midst of intense persecution. And shortly, the gospel will be preached in the midst of the great tribulation.
So the question is, "Who is preaching that gospel throughout these different circumstances?" This can be none other than the church. The disciples to whom Jesus is speaking in Matthew 24 will be the church in a few short days. Why would Jesus mean anything else but the remnant who had believed on Him as Messiah? Why would Jesus mean the nation of Israel, which by and large, had not believed on Him? Jesus had to mean His disciples who would form the church. Otherwise, who is the great commission directed at in Matthew 28:18-20? Isn’t that directed toward the church?
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
So far from the church, or any disciples of Jesus Christ being removed before His coming, Jesus states that His disciples will be here to preach the gospel through the great tribulation until He comes in power and glory. Then at that time Jesus will gather His elect (the church) to be with Him. You cannot believe that the Great Commission is for the church and maintain a PreTrib Rapture framework. The church, not unbelieving Israel, is commissioned with preaching the gospel throughout this age until He comes in power and glory.
I came across a PreTribber who has conceded this type of thinking, but they still maintain their position of a PreTrib Rapture. They maintain that there are two types of tribulation spoken of here, tribulation and the great tribulation. They state that the church will go through tribulation, but not the great tribulation; and that the rapture will occur before the great tribulation, but the glorious coming will occur in the sequence that Jesus gives in Matthew 24. So while understanding the truth that it is none other than the church preaching the gospel throughout this age, this PreTribber still fails to see the true continuity between the preaching of the gospel and the end of the age when Jesus comes in power and glory. Once again, it’s the two second comings theory; one second coming to match up with a PreTrib Rapture, the other second coming to match up with scripture. They have just added a twist of two tribulations; one tribulation to match up with the PreTrib Rapture, the other to match up with scripture. While we can distinguish between persecution all throughout this age and the great tribulation which follows the abomination of desolation, there still is a direct continuity between those who preach the gospel during persecution and those who preach the gospel during the great tribulation which ends at the end of the age.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman