Daily Readings and Thought for July 23rd. “A TIME OF GREAT TRIBULATION SUCH AS HAS NOT BEEN …”


‘The Olivet Prophecy’ as most of today’s reading of Matthew 24 is known – is full of challenging language about events future to that time.   Is it good to think that we have the ‘interpretation’ of its words exactly sorted out?  The key to understanding the words of our Lord is in understanding his audience. The disciples (all Jews) were eagerly waiting for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:38); that is the coming of the promised King and the establishment of the Kingdom. 

The three questions the disciples asked Jesus were 1. When shall these things be, 2.“What will be the sign of your coming and 3. Of the end of the age?” [v.3]   Jesus began by answering the last question first in Vs 4-14, speaking of the end of the Temple era, concluding in Vs 14 with the words “Then shall the end will come. In Vs 15-28 he answers the 2nd question which is punctuated by the statement in Vs 27, “ “so will be the coming of the Son of Man”, This is the coming when the “abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel” occurs. (That is the destruction of the Temple and its worship there) Part of his answer in this section is to say, “if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved, but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” [v.22].  The previous verse says, “there will be a time of great tribulation such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now” [v.21]. The elect here refer to the Jewish believers who were told to run and scatter from the Roman armies (the eagles of Vs 28)

Between Vs 28 and Vs 29 of this chapter we need to look at Lukes record to give us the beginning of the next answer to the first Question. (Luke 21:24) 

“They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  

So there will be still “the elect” living at the time of the greatest crisis in human history. Matt 24: 31 tells us the angels will be sent out to gather the elect!  Are the “elect” only the true and faithful believers that then exist?  If so, we can compare this with the time of Noah, when there were only seven God was willing to save. But Christ is not returning to destroy the world!.

When we consider that Israel is also called God’s “elect” (see Isaiah 42 v.1, 45 v.4, 65 v.9,22) and they now exist again after 1900 years in oblivion, we are inclined to see the reference by Jesus to “the elect” as being primarily to them see Rom.11:25-28) – it is for the sake of Israel that “those days will be cut short” – while the christian “elect” will have been gathered by the angels.

Jesus said, “the powers of the heavens will be shaken” [v.29].  If this is to be taken literally is this work of God or of man exploding nuclear devices?; Either way this could initiate “the time of “great tribulation” – but  God will act for “the elect’s sake” but there may well be awesome events to occur as “the angels gather his elect” [v.31].

What will Israel’s situation be at this time of world crisis?  In Micah 7 v.18,19 are the words, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance … He will again have compassion on us”

For ourselves, let us live in a way that will ensure we are among “the elect” whom the angels gather – while those “in the tombs will hear his voice” [John 5 v.28] – those who, in their mortal lives, have established a relationship with Jesus as their Lord – which essentially began when they took on his name in baptism.

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