A mysterious prophecy of Jesus [Hebrew: Yeshua] is largely ignored by the church. Why? Is it because it takes believers out of their comfort zone – even though the prophecy offers great hope for true believers in an ever more chaotic world?
Covid-19 has led to talk of conspiracies and world government and advanced technology leading to “the mark of the beast”. There is fear and lack of hope even in Christian circles. Maybe its now time to read Jesus’ mysterious prophecy concerning true believers at the end of this age.
It is mysterious because it describes an end-time event beyond normal comprehension. Yet it is no more mysterious than the concept of the risen Jesus being taken up into the clouds as He bid farewell to His followers (Acts chapter 1). In fact – the mysterious event is very similar. The prophecy is also a dramatic illustration of the parable of the ten virgins.
Let’s consider chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew’s gospel.
Sudden End of the Church Age
In His parable of the wise and foolish virgins (unmarried girls), Jesus strongly implies that the so-called ‘age of grace’ or ‘church age’ will end: “the gospel door shuts”:
And while they [the foolish virgins] went to buy, the bridegroom [Jesus] came, and those who were ready [the Bride, the wise virgins, the true church] went in with Him to the wedding; and the door was shut.Matthew 25:10, emphasis added
In this parable, the five wise virgins were actively watching for the coming Messiah, the bridegroom of the church. And when He came they went with Him to the heavenly wedding. The five foolish virgins knew about the coming bridegroom, but they had grown weary of watching and waiting. Sin and worldliness had crept in and their (spiritual) lamps were going out. As lights in spiritual darkness, they were becoming less visible to an unbelieving world.
In fact, Jesus implies that the foolish virgins never really knew Him in the first place (verse 12). Some look and act like believers, but are not born again by the Holy Spirit. So when the bridegroom comes the foolish cry to Him but are left outside the kingdom – they find the door has shut! Put bluntly, many who outwardly appear to be followers of Christ will find themselves outside the kingdom when the end-time traumas start and God judges the world. More on this parable here and here.
Another View of the Same Event – Jesus’ Mysterious Prophecy
The end of the Church Age implied by this parable appears to be graphically described by Jesus’ mysterious prophecy in Matthew 24 and Luke 17. The parable and these texts refer to the same event – the sudden and mysterious taking of the true church to be with her husband.
Daniel’s 70 Weeks: In order to emphasise the connection between the virgin parable and Jesus’ prophecy it is helpful to first mention Daniel’s 70-Week prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27). Let’s take the Pre-tribulation view of this prophecy since it fits well with today’s world scenario. This view takes Daniel’s 70th week as still future and provides the short time epoch (seven prophetic years) during which God judges the earth. Some maintain that Christians then come under intense pressure and most are martyred (Revelation 7:13-17, 13:15).
But does this include the true present-day church? The parable and Jesus’ mysterious prophecy suggests not. Rather, they suggest an instant is soon coming when the true church will no longer be on this earth. Why does the church ignore the very clear teaching Jesus gave on the mysterious removal of believers before the traumas of Week 70?
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage … they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
At that time there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.Matthew 24:36-41, emphasis added
The text highlighted in bold is perhaps too mysterious and radical for most churches to handle. It implies that there will be a supernatural event as true believers (the wise virgins) are separated from an ignorant, rebellious world – just like Noah was removed prior to the Flood, or Lot was removed from Sodom before fire and brimstone fell (Luke 17:26-37). As John Wesley comments on Matthew 24:40
One is taken into God’s immediate protection: and one is left to share the common calamities
The Philadelphia-type church that Jesus loves appears to be “kept from the world’s hour of trial” (Revelation 3:10).
The apostle Paul sees this mystery as “instantaneous immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54) as true believers are caught up to meet with Christ in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
It seems that whilst unbelievers suffer God’s wrath, those caught up (the Bride of Christ) enjoy a wedding feast (Matthew 25:10) prior to their return to earth with Him.
Doesn’t this view of Jesus’ mysterious prophecy give the true church hope in an increasingly chaotic and godless world? Doesn’t it give the born-again, watching church an urgency to reach out to the unsaved before the gospel door shuts? And doesn’t it warn those with dim and flickering spiritual light to get real with Jesus?
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13)
More at the rapture.