So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16 NIV)
“Watch out that no one deceives you.” With this warning in Matthew 24:4, Jesus began his detailed description of events preceding the sign of his coming and the end of the age. Deception will be rampant, so our Good Shepherd shows his love for the flock by sounding an alarm. As in the past, many disciples will turn away from following Christ (Matthew 24:10-11, cf. John 6:66, Revelation 12:4, 9). How will this happen? The answer is by severe trials and deceit in the mouths of trusted leaders (cf. Matthew 16:21-23).
“If the plain sense makes sense, we have the right sense.” This is a general rule for interpretation. Nothing can be plainer than Matthew 24. In this prophecy and its parallels in Mark and Luke, Jesus gave a chronology of signs that are introduced with terms like following, then or immediately after. So, we have a sequence of events.
Many Pre-tribulation rapture teachers (PTR) who are fond of advocating for a literal interpretation of the Word, attempt to muddy the waters of Matthew 24. They do this to protect their doctrinal view. Other passages will invite a verse-by-verse exposition, but not Matthew 24. Some go so far as to say Matthew was written specifically for Jews. (They rightly point out the Church is not mentioned in Matthew 24-25. An argument from silence; the weakest of all arguments.) Watch out for this deception! Esteemed Bible teachers will use this or similar frail arguments to hinder disciples from gaining a proper understanding of prophetic events–all to preserve the PTR position.
They imply Jesus’ Olivet Discourse does not matter, since it was written for Jews, not the Gentile Church. “Christians,” they say, “will be raptured prior to the tribulations described in Matthew 24.” According to these teachers, Jews, will have to endure the Great Tribulation, along with the highly fictional “Second Chance Christians.” Jews have a history of suffering, some argue they deserve it. Anti-Semitism is alive and well in the church.
If Matthew 24 was simply for Jews, to whom did Mark (chapter 13) or Luke (21) write their Gospel version of the same Olivet Discourse? Common sense must be used. Jesus was addressing disciples, whether Gentile or Jew. As a warning, “Make sure no one deceives you” is only relevant to followers. Many will fall away at the end. This pertains to Christians led astray by false prophets and false christs.
Let the reader understand could not have been directed at contemporary Jews. Who among them would read Matthew? The command was intended for Bible-toting Christians. It is for us, those who name Jesus as Savior and live in the end times.
Let the reader understand are Jesus’ words to modern-day the Church, particularly Bible students. They have God’s Word; so, they are without excuse. If we do not know what takes place, how can we prepare. Ahead of a favorite PTR verse, Matthew 24:36, Jesus summarized his prophecy by saying, “See, I have told you ahead of time.”
The Word judges us, so let the reader understand. Not reading prophecy to take it to heart denies disciples of great blessing (Revelation 1:3). Neglecting Jesus’ warnings begs another question, “How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)