Comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5

Today a Facebook friend, Chris Palios, shared a chart comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. I’ve seen this comparison before, and his post was a good reminder that I’ve been meaning to post it here as well. As Chris said, the similarities between these two passages are fascinating.

While it’s still popular to view Matthew 24 as yet unfulfilled, there are plenty (and even more in church history) who recognize that Jesus was prophesying there concerning Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD and other events which would take place within His own generation. [A detailed study on the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) can be seen at the top of this page.] However, among those who view Matthew 24 as fulfilled, some believe that I Thessalonians 4-5 speak of future events. Here is the well-known passage that speaks of the resurrection of believers, which others take as being about a “rapture”: 

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18).

As I’ve promised Steve (who posted a 3-part series here as a guest last year), a deeper study on the resurrection of believers is still in the works. For now, though, here is a chart showing the strong similarities between Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5. The relationship is so close that I don’t believe it’s possible to view one passage as being fulfilled in the first century AD and the other as not yet fulfilled:

Statements Regarding Jesus’ Coming Reference in Matthew 24 Reference in I Thess. 4 or 5
1. Christ Himself returns Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
2. From heaven Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
3. With a shout Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:16
4. Accompanied by angels Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
5. With the trumpet of God Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:16
6. In clouds Matthew 24:30 I Thess. 4:17
7. Believers are gathered Matthew 24:31 I Thess. 4:17
8. At an unknown time Matthew 24:36 I Thess. 5:1-2
9. He will come as a thief Matthew 24:43 I Thess. 5:2, 4
10. People unaware of coming judgment Matthew 24:37-39 I Thess. 5:3
11. Judgment comes as travail upon an expectant mother Matthew 24:8 I Thess. 5:3
12. Believers are to watch Matthew 24:42 I Thess. 5:4
13. Warning against drunkenness Matthew 24:49 I Thess. 5:7

Benjamin L. Corey: Jesus Says Those “Left Behind” Are The Lucky Ones (the most ironic thing the movie won’t tell you)

This is an excellent article written by Benjamin L. Corey at Formerly Fundie (Patheos): 

In the lead up to the release of the remake of Left Behind hitting theaters in a few weeks, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie (or rapture believers) won’t tell you about getting “left behind.”

The basic premise of the theology is this: the world is going to get progressively worse as “the end” draws near. Before the worst period of time in world history (a seven year period called the “tribulation,” though there’s no verse in the Bible that discusses a seven year tribulation) believers in Jesus are suddenly snatched away during the second coming of Christ (which rapture believers argue is done in secret and without explanation, instead of the public second coming described in scripture).

The entire premise of the theology and the Left Behind movie is based on a passage from Matthew that you’ll see in the official Left Behind image included to your left. The passage states:

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left.”

And this is where we get the term “left behind”… Jesus said “one shall be taken and the other left.”

Pretty simple, no? It appears from this passage that Jesus is describing an event where some people actually do “get taken” and the others are “left behind.” It must be a rapture then.

Or maybe not.

As I have explained before, the chapter of Matthew 24 is a chapter where Jesus describes the events that will lead up to the destruction of the temple which occurred in AD 70. That’s not so much my scholarly opinion as it is what Jesus plainly states in the first few verses of Matthew 24; it is a context pretty difficult to explain away since Jesus says “this temple will be destroyed” and his disciples ask, “please, tell us when this will happen.” The rest of the discourse is Jesus prophesying the events that will lead up to the temple’s destruction, which we know historically unfolded as Jesus had predicted. (As I have alluded to in What Jesus Talked About When He Talked About Hell and Don’t Worry The Tribulation Is In The Past, if one does not understand the significance of the destruction of the temple to ancient Judaism, one will have a very hard time understanding what Jesus talks about when he talks about “the end.”)

Anyhow, during the end of this discourse in Matthew we hit the “rapture” verse: “one will be taken and one will be left.” Surely, this part must be about the future, and Jesus MUST be describing a rapture. Since that’s what my childhood pastor taught me, it’s probably a good idea to stick with that.

Just one problem: Matthew 24 isn’t the only place where Jesus talks about “some being taken and some being left behind.” Jesus also discusses this in Luke 17 when he says:

 “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

Building a compelling case for the rapture yet? Not quite. Check this out: Jesus’ disciples in the Luke version of the discourse must have been interested in this left behind stuff, because they ask a critical followup question. However, they actually seem more concerned with those who were “taken” than those who were “left behind” and ask Jesus for a little more information on this whole getting taken away stuff.

“Where, Lord?” is the question of the disciples. Where did all of these people go??

If this were a passage about the “rapture” as depicted in the Left Behind movie, one would expect Jesus to answer something to the point of “they were taken to be with me to wait out the tribulation.” But, that’s not what Jesus says. Instead, Jesus gives them a blunt answer about those who were “taken”: “just look for the vultures, and you’ll find their bodies.” (v. 37)

That’s right. The ones who were “taken” were killed. Not exactly the blessed rapture.

The Roman occupation was brutal, and when they finally sacked the city and destroyed the temple in AD70, things got impressively bloody. To be “taken” as Jesus prophesied, was to be killed by the invading army. This is precisely why, in this passage and the Matthew version, Jesus gives all sorts of other advice that makes no sense if this is a verse about the rapture. Jesus warns that when this moment comes one should flee quickly– to not even go back into their house to gather their belongings– and laments that it will be an especially difficult event for pregnant and nursing mothers. He even goes on to warn them that if they respond to the army with resistance (the very thing that causes the mess in the lead-up to AD70), they’ll just get killed (“whoever seeks to save his life will lose it”). Jesus, it seems, wants his disciples to get it: when the Roman army comes, flee quickly or else you might not be left behind!

Surely, Jesus is not talking about a rapture. He’s not warning people to avoid missing the rapture because they went home to get their possessions… he’s talking about fleeing an advancing army and not doing anything stupid that will get them killed (v 30-34).

Very practical advice for his original audience and would have come in handy for those who wanted to avoid being “raptured” (slaughtered) by the Roman army.

And so my friends, this is the most ironic thing the Left Behind movie won’t tell you: in the original “left behind” story Jesus tells in the Gospels, the ones who are “left behind” are actually the lucky ones.

So the next time folks tell you that they don’t want to be “left behind,” you might want to tell them to be careful what they wish for.

In our study of Matthew 24:36-51, I also proposed that Jesus said it would be better to be “left behind” than to be “taken,” and noted that 2-3 centuries ago this was taught by John Gill (1746-1763) and Albert Barnes (1834). Benjamin Corey does an excellent job showing the revealing connection between what Jesus says in Luke 17 and what He says in the more frequently quoted Matthew 24:40. His article also comes at a good time, less than two weeks before the remake of the Left Behind movie hits the theaters on October 3rd. Hopefully the theology in this film will soon be left behind by many followers of Christ.

Revelation Chapter 4


Adam/Dave: August 20, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 4


“The preterists consider the letters to apply to little else than the contemporary situation of the seven churches as they existed in John’s time. As with all biblical epistles, however, application to similar churches of any time is acknowledged” (Steve Gregg, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), p. 81).

Verse 1: John’s eyes are opened to see a door standing open in heaven. A voice like a trumpet invites him upward, and he is told that he will be shown “what must take place after this.” As Steve Gregg states, “Since John was told (in the first century) that these things were ‘about to take place,’ a first-century fulfillment is to be looked for” (p. 84). This is what John’s original audience would have understood and expected. “To the dispensational view,” though, says Gregg (p. 85),

after this…means after ‘the things of the church,’ or after the church age. Thus the material in Revelation after this point will be fulfilled after the church is gone. Some believe that John’s transportation to heaven may be viewed as a type of the Rapture of the church, and the mention of a voice…like a trumpet (v. 1) here may recall the language of the Rapture passages in I Corinthians 15:51-54 (which refers to ‘the last trumpet’) and I Thessalonians 4:16-18 (which refers to the ‘voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God’). Dispensational futurists note that the church is not seen hereafter on the earth—only in heaven (7:9-17).

Others, however, would “note that the terms saints (5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:7-10; 14:12; 15:3; 16:6; 17;6) and redeemed (5:9; 14:3-4) are indeed ‘terms which are characteristic of the church, the Body of Christ,’ when found elsewhere throughout the New Testament” (p. 87). Therefore, the church IS seen throughout the book of Revelation.

Verse 2: John, now “in the Spirit,” beholds Christ seated on His throne. Steve Gregg, speaking for the Preterist position, writes, “We are introduced, most probably, to a heavenly courtroom scene. The Judge sits on the throne (v. 2) where, as we shall see in chapter 5, He is about to hand down sentence upon the accused. The plaintiffs are the martyrs of Christ, whose complaint against their persecutors is recorded later in the vision (6:9). The accused (Jerusalem) is about to be condemned” (p. 84). This is not stated explicitly in the text, but would have to be deduced from the overall context as a possible explanation.

Verse 3: The One on the throne appears as “jasper and carnelian” (fiery red and sparkling white), and His throne is surrounded by an emerald (green)-colored rainbow.

Verse 4: How are the 24 elders to be identified? There is a difference of opinion as to who these elders are. Steve Gregg writes (p. 89), “The majority opinion among dispensationalists (e.g. Gaebelein, Ryrie, Walvoord, Lindsey, and others) identifies the 24 elders as the New Testament saints, who were raptured into heaven (in v. 1).” Henry Morris, another Futurist, suggests that they are “the first 24 ancestors of Christ (Adam through Pharez) listed in Genesis 5 and 11,” while George Eldon Ladd and Robert H. Mounce believe them to be angels. Jay Adams, a Preterist, however, believes this is not possible because “they are distinguished from angels throughout chapters 5 and 7. David Clark sees them as representing the church, and David Chilton suggests that they are “the representative assembly of the Royal Priesthood, the Church” (pp. 86, 88).

I personally favor this explanation from Mark A. Copeland, a Preterist: “Summers and Hailey suggest that they depict the twelve patriarchs of Israel and the twelve apostles, who represent the redeemed of both covenants now united in Christ.  Note that in 5:8-9 they do seem to speak [on] behalf of the redeemed.”[2] Further support for the idea that the 24 elders depict the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles can be seen by the fact that the names of both groups are displayed on the gates and foundations of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12, 14).

The elders are pictured clothed in white garments (which generally denotes the righteousness of God’s people; cf. Rev. 19:8), and with golden crowns on their heads. They are later (verse 10) shown casting their crowns before the throne in worship to God. We know elsewhere in Scripture that there are crowns laid up for believers, a crown of rejoicing (I Thess. 2:19), a crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8), a crown of life (James 1:12; cf. Rev. 2:10, 3:11), and a crown of glory (I Peter 5:4).

Verse 5: Steve Gregg remarks (p. 88),

The lightnings, thundering and voices (v. 5) recall Mount Sinai, where God first established His covenant with Israel [Exodus 19:16; cf. Rev. 8:5, 11:19]. Similar phenomena are mentioned here to suggest the end of that covenant and its replacement with another. The writer of Hebrews (citing Hag. 2) likened the overthrow of the first covenant (publicly demonstrated by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70) to the time of its establishment at Sinai, but the latter would be accompanied by even more fearful phenomena (Heb. 12:18-29).

We will see these same phenomena (thunder, lighting, and rumblings) two more times in this book, in response to the cumulative prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:5) and at the sight of the ark of the covenant and God’s temple in heaven (Rev. 11:19). The final occurrence of these phenomena serves to validate what Steve Gregg has suggested, that the reader is to understand that what is being pictured is the overthrow of the Old Covenant in favor of the New Covenant. One purpose, then, of the judgments which are to follow is to establish the New Covenant within the Church in the exclusive sense. The total destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 AD facilitated this purpose (in the remaining chapters, we will see many examples of how the events during the Roman-Jewish War of 66-70 AD fulfilled what was written in Revelation). Ever since 70 AD, the New Covenant has been unencumbered by the vestiges of the Old Covenant and Judaism, which never has recovered as an intact system. The Judaic age was brought to an end, and the Kingdom of God from that point on has fully belonged to the Church (cf. Matthew 21:33-46, Hebrews 8:13). God came in judgment to take away the Kingdom from the Jewish nation, just as Jesus said He would (Matthew 21:33-46), and it was given to the Church (cf. Daniel 7:13-28).

Pastor Mike Blume sees a series of parallels between Revelation 4:2-11 and Exodus 25:10 – 26:37.

“The sequence of furniture God spoke to Moses to build, which we learn in Hebrews 9 was a pattern of the tabernacle in Heaven, follows with John’s sequence of sights in Heaven.

Ark of the covenant – Exodus 25:10-22
Throne of God – Rev 4:2

Table of Shewbread – Exodus 25:23-30
Twenty Four seats – Rev 4:4

Candelestick – Exodus 25:31-40
Seven Lamps Burning – Rev 4:5

Barrier of Curtains and Veil with Cherubims embroidered: Exodus 26:1-10; 31-37
Barrier of Crystal Sea and Four Beasts (Cherubims): Rev 4:6-11.”

Q: How are the four living creatures described in verses 6-8?
They are full of eyes in front and behind, and also “around and within,” and each has six wings. One is like a lion, one like an ox, one has the face of a man, and the last one is like a flying eagle. They constantly cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and is to come!”

Verses 6-8: See Ezekiel 1:5-14 and 10:14, where the four creatures that Ezekiel saw were very similar. In Ezekiel’s vision, each creature had all of the four faces mentioned above (human, lion, ox, eagle). If John saw the same creatures Ezekiel saw, perhaps they were turned in four different directions since John describes them as if each had only one of the four features. See also Isaiah 6:2, where Isaiah beheld the seraphim which also had six wings.  According to Jay Adams,

the creatures, like the 24 elders, are neither angels nor men, ‘since they…are distinguished from both in chapters 5 and 7. They are rather to be identified with the Cherubim of Ezekiel, to which they most closely conform. Their function is to guard and bear the throne of God. In this passage, they serve the purpose of emphasizing the majesty of the vision. Like the elders, they are to help the revelation unfold’ (p. 90).

Q: What happens whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to the One seated on the throne?
The 24 elders fall down in worship before Him, and they cast their crowns before His throne.

Verses 9-11: If we are to receive literal crowns one day, I’m pretty sure that we won’t be holding onto them as emblems of our achievements on earth. We will know (as we ought to know now) that we could do nothing without Him. We will be extolling His worthiness, as the 24 elders did in John’s vision. The 24 elders proclaimed that God is worthy of glory, honor, and power because He “created all things, and by [His] will they existed and were created.”


Our study of Revelation 5 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.


[2] Source: Mark A. Copeland, Revelation: A Study Guide,