|By: Dr. Renald Showers, Dr. David Breese; ©1996|
|Bible Prophecy Questions Answered by Leading Christian Scholars.|
Dr. Renald Showers: The question here is this: "Who are the elect that he gathers with a great sound of a trumpet from the four winds of heaven? Are they the Church saints?" I’m convinced that they are not. Let me tell you why. For one thing, if you’re going to say these are Church saints, you’re overlooking some extensive revelation that’s given to us in the Old Testament. What kind of revelation? There are passages in the Old Testament where God calls the whole nation of Israel "His chosen," literally "His Elect." Then there are prophetic promise passages in the Old Testament to the effect that in the end times He would gather together His chosen ones, His elect, particularly the believing remnant of Israel from all corners of the earth, gather them together even from the four winds, gather them together again so that they could go into the Millennial Kingdom with the Messiah whenever He reigns.
Let me read to you a fascinating promise that God delivered to Israel through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 27:12-13: "O ye children of Israel, and it shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria and the outcasts in the land of Egypt and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount of Jerusalem." God here was promising toward the end times if you read the whole context that He’s going to re-gather His scattered people of Israel from many different places around the world and He will do that in conjunction with the blowing of the great trumpet. Matthew 24:31: "He shall send his angels with the sound of a great trumpet and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other."
In light of those Old Testament parallels, I’m convinced that the elect here in Matthew 24:31 are not Church saints but the people of Israel who have been scattered throughout the world, perhaps even more specifically the faithful remnant of Jews who have become believers in the Lord during the seven year Tribulation period and are still alive on the face of the earth at His glorious second coming back to the earth immediately after the Tribulation period. He will gather together this faithful remnant of Jews from all over the world back to the land of Israel with the sound of a great trumpet.
Now, there’s a second reason I’m convinced this is referring to the elect of Israel and not to the Church elect or Church saints. The whole context of Matthew 24 is a Jewish context, not a Church context. Jesus, as we saw in verse 15, speaking ahead of time to Jews of that future Tribulation period, said, "When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in your holy place." Well, who had the holy place? The Gentiles? No, the people of Israel did. That’s a reference to a temple of God in Israel, "standing in your holy place, then let them which be in Judea [these are Jews living in their own land of Israel] flee unto the mountains. Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house," etc., and then He says to them that they really ought to be concerned that their flight not be on the sabbath day, verse 20, "but pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day." He’s talking here about Jews and how this will affect Jews. The whole context is a Jewish context. And so I take it that the elect here are Jewish people whom He will gather together through His holy angels from the four winds, really the idea is from all four directions, under the heavens here on planet Earth back to their homeland of Israel in conjunction with His second coming.
4. When Jesus comes in relation to the tribulation indicates two events
Dr. David Breese: Well, the Bible teaches that Christ is coming at the end of the age (that’s at the end of the Tribulation) "in power and great glory" and He’s coming with "ten thousands of His saints." And that will be the great denouement of history whereby He establishes His Kingdom. But the Scripture then teaches that preceding that glorious return of Christ there will be a seven-year period called "The Tribulation," but it’s about the Tribulation the Scripture says to Christians: "...because you have kept the word of my patience, I will keep you from that hour of trial [temptation, tribulation] that will come upon the whole world to try them that dwell on the earth." Therefore, we see in Scripture that the Bible says that Christ will come for His saints before the beginning of the Tribulation and take all believing Christians up to be with Him in Heaven. Spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4, "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God: the dead in Christ shall rise first: 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 so shall we ever be with the Lord" [1 Thess. 4:16-17].
Paul expands on this a little bit in 1 Corinthians 15 saying to the Corinthians, he says, "Behold, I show you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump: the trumpet shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed." So we can assure every believer within the sound of this voice that there’s coming a moment when they will be caught up in their physical bodies into the presence of Jesus Christ so as to ever be with the Lord. Perhaps in short we might say that Christ is coming at the end of the Tribulation with His saints but before that He is coming for His saints. We will then be formed into that army that shall return with Him to the conquest of earth.