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The Gathering of Israel
Israel - Middle East
Friday, March 18, 2016
Alf Cengia

Is the gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 the rapture, as non-pretribulationists insist? Or is it the final gathering and salvation of national Israel? 

I've covered this subject before. Much of the following will be repetition but I think it's worth revisiting.

A leading pretrib opponent recently rejected Dr. Thomas Ice's use of Deut 30:4 in context to v 31's gathering of the elect. One reason given by this prewrath proponent was that "one cannot merely link words or expressions simply because they are similar." He claimed this was the "similarity = identity fallacy" and that context should determine meaning.

Allegedly this context begins with Jesus' coming in the clouds (Matt 24:30-31). It's then asserted that God's wrath hasn't occurred before this time, only "Antichrist's great tribulation." Connections are drawn between v 31, Revelation 6 and Revelation 7:9-14 to justify that the great multitude is the raptured church.

Walter Scott and A. T. Robertson point out that the arrival of this multitude is while the great tribulation is occurring, not after (Matt 24:29). Saints are continually arriving. Hence this multitude isn't the result of the rapture.

He argues that Israel's salvation occurs at the end of the seven-year period so Matt 24:31 must be the rapture, which occurs before then. This commits the fallacy where evidence is provided for the validity of an assertion, which assumes the validity of that assertion. It assumes the rapture occurs before the end of the week based on the presumption the great tribulation is cut short for the church.

Other reasons given are that Jesus' use of Daniel 12:2 provides for the resurrection event missing in Matt 24:31. Unfortunately this chapter describes a tribulation period lasting three-and-a-half years with the resurrection after the end of the week (Dan 12:7, 13) for Daniel's people Israel, not the church. Note also that Dan 12:2 spans over 1000 years (see Rev 20:4-13).

It's also maintained v 31 is the rapture because Jesus used rapture language (episunago). Is this not a similarity fallacy? Jesus used this same expression for Israel's physical gathering (Matt 23:39).

There are a number of OT verses (not just Deut 30:1-5) which speak of a future gathering of saved Israel (Isaiah 27:13, 11:10-12; Zech 10:8-12 etc). In fact, the writer of the article believes Jesus returns from heaven after the rapture to gather Israel into the land, and then returns to heaven. From this we see that:

1) His system teaches more than one future appearance of Christ

2) It recognizes a future gathering for Israel

Speaking of fallacies, pretrib opponents use "similarity" to bundle all rapture and second coming verses together to argue for a single Parousia. And Robert Van Kampen includes four different comings within that Parousia.

Apart from v 31, there aren't NT verses explicitly referring to Israel's gathering. We get this information from the Old Testament, whether it is Deut 30 or some other verse. The questions posed to Jesus by the disciples were driven from their OT expectations regarding Israel's future. The final premillennial gathering of Israel is a natural outcome flowing from the disciples' questions.

Commentators have noted that Matt 24:29-30 hearkens back to Zechariah 12:10. That the context points to Israel is further corroborated in Acts 1:6-7. The disciples weren't concerned about the rapture at that time. Why would that be?

The expression "Antichrist's great tribulation" doesn't appear in Scripture either. This term is strategically used to focus away from God's wrath and onto "Satan's wrath." The latter idea is taken from Rev 12:12. Yet the presence of God's wrath in the seal judgments is clear when comparing the language of the 4th seal with Ezek 5:15-17, 7:3-19, 14:21. Wrath, judgment and Day of the Lord themes are all present in these verses.

This period is known as Jacob's trouble, not "Antichrist's tribulation." It is a time of unprecedented tribulation always spanning three-and-a-half years. We derive this from the following verses: Jer 30:7; Dan 12:1, 7; Matt 24:21; Rev 13:5, 7, 12:6, 14.

The expression "cut short" in Matt 24:21 means that, unless this period is limited by God (i.e., not allowed to continue indefinitely) - no one would be saved alive. Jacob's trouble is designed to bring Israel to repentance (Hos 5:15). Christ will return upon Israel's contrition (Matt 23:39).

We routinely hear the objection that the term "elect" only applies to the church (not unsaved Israel) - therefore the gathering of v31 must be the rapture. First of all the disciples understood the term "elect" to be national Israel based on the OT (Deut 7: 6-7; 2 Sam 7:23-24; 1 Chron 16:13; Isaiah 43:1-7, Isaiah 45:4). This status is affirmed in the NT by Peter and Paul (Acts 3:12, 13-15, 25; Rom 11:26-29).

By the time Israel has endured Jacob's trouble and calls out to its Savior, it will have entered into covenant relationship with the Lord. This is what the 70th week (especially the 2nd half) is designed for. Once Hos 5:15 and Matt 23:39 have come to pass, the gathering of the elect nation Israel will follow.

On the other hand, the promise to the faithful church is to be kept from God's wrath (1 Thess 5:9) and the hour of trial which will overtake the world:

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

We've seen evidence that Israel's gathering is what's in view in Matt 24:31. The Book of Revelation provides the church with a promise to be kept from the hour of trial which comes upon the world. A normal reading of the nature of the seal judgments strongly suggests they are included in this trial.

Sometimes - for whatever their personal reasons - non-pretribulationists complicate things too much in order to debunk pretribulationism. See Richard Mayhue's Why a Pretribulational Rapture?

Jesus could come for His church at any time.

So keep looking up.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: The Weight of the World and Christ's Coming



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