To Whom Does Christ’s Words in Matthew 24 Apply?
There are five prominent indicators that show us to whom Christ's answer in Matt 24 pertains.
1) The word elect is used three times in Matt 24 (Vss 22, 24, 31), referring to believers, those who are in Christ.
- Israel is distinguished from the elect
Rom 11:7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded Among all who are Israelites, only the believers are elect.
- The church, all those who are justified by faith, are the elect
Rom 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Col 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
- The elect is made up of believing Israelites and believing Gentiles
Eph 2:19 Now therefore ye [believing Gentiles] are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints [believing Israelites], and of the household of God;
- Believing Gentiles have been graffed into the promises unto the fathers alongside of believing Israelites
Rom 11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou [believing Gentiles], being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them [believing Israelites], and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
The elect that Jesus referred to in Matt 24 were those believers, both Jew and Gentile, the church, who would experience unprecedented persecution before His return for them.
2) They are said to be hated for Jesus' name's sake
Jesus was warning those who would be persecuted, hated, and killed for Christ's name's sake. It is our association with the risen Messiah that brings the persecution, even the persecution of the great tribulation.
Mat 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
This megas thlipsis (great tribulation) is focused upon believers and ethnic Israel (Deut 4:30; 32:36; Jer 30:7; Dan 7:25; 12:1, 7; Rev 6:9-11; 12:6-17; 13:7), not the unbelieving Beast worshipers.
Please note that the use of "then", "after", and "therefore" throughout the chapter indicates that verses 4-8 speak of the beginning of sorrows which fills the first half of the week and verses 9-29 cover the period of unprecedented persecution that Jesus called great tribulation which takes place starting in the middle of the week and prior to His coming and wrath.
3) Jesus speaks to the 4 disciples in the second person
Jesus spoke as if the four who had asked Him the question in verse 3 were going to be present during that period which precedes His coming. However, we know that they have died physically, and that what Jesus spoke of is yet to come (with the exception of those words which dealt with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD). This means that these 4 disciples were representative of the body of believers who would persevere through the great tribulation. What were these disciples a part of?
- Paul tells us that the Apostles were part of the foundation of the Church
Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
They were founding members of the Holy Spirit indwelt Church.
- These are the same as those who were promised (the very same week) that Christ would return for them and receive (paralambano) them unto Himself.
Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
- These disciples are the same who were promised that Christ would be with them in the making of disciples until the end of the age, which end takes place at Christ's arrival in the clouds.
Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Mat 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age]. Amen.
This is the great commission to the present-day church.
- Jesus told them that the Gospel would be preached in all the world, then the end (of the age) would come
Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
When Jesus spoke in the Olivet Discourse about the future unprecedented persecution, Peter, James, John, and Andrew were representative of the Holy Spirit indwelt church that would soon be realized and in the last days experience that great tribulation.
4) The divine Narrator, the Holy Spirit, applies it to the readers
Mat 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
The Holy Spirit, the divine author of all Scripture, signified that the warnings Christ gave were for whoever reads them. These warnings are, in essence, the voice of the Shepherd. Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice.
Joh 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: The church is the sheep and Christ is our Shepherd. They were written for our good and protection. 5) Paul teaches the same eschatological truths to the Church In Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians, there are more than two dozen parallels to Christ’s teaching in the Olivet Discourse. These parallels are sufficient to recognize that Christ’s warnings to the four disciples with Him on the Mount of Olives were for the future church of which they are representatives.
In conclusion, the Olivet Discourse is written for all who would read it, especially those in Christ, the church. For it is we, along with ethnic Israel, who will suffer unprecedented persecution in the days prior to Christ's return for us.