End Time Distinction Between Israel and the Church: Matthew 24:16-22
“16) then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17) Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18) Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19) But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20) But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21) For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22) Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” Matthew‬ ‭24‬:‭16‬-‭22‬
As a young Christian, these verses confused me. I didn’t understand how they applied to me. Jesus talked about things like being on a house top and heading to the mountains. There are no mountains in Minnesota and Iowa. Over time, my confusion began to clear. Let me explain.
When studying end time events, I believe it is important to distinguish between Israel and the church. In the above verses, Jesus was describing events that will unfold for the nation of Israel.
Notice, in this text He warns them to flee into the mountains. This is consistent with Revelation 12:14 that says God has prepared a place for the woman, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she will be nourished for a time and times and half a time. I believe that God will not abandon His promises to Israel made in the Old Testament. Jesus specifically says this will be during the tribulation period. (See the full context of Matthew 24:15-28)
Much confusion comes when Christians try to apply Matthew 24 to the church. Nowhere in the New Testament does God instruct the church to flee into the wilderness. Revelation 12:17 does say the dragon will be enraged with the woman and will go off and make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandment of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus Christ.
I do not claim to be an end time scholar, but it appears to me that Israel will make a flight into the wilderness, while the church will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18) I must add that this distinction is still a mystery to me, but I see it clearly taught in Scripture.
Much confusion comes when people try to force the church into texts like Matthew 24-25. Jesus was describing how end time events will unfold from the perspective of the nation of Israel.
The book of Revelation retains this distinction. Revelation 7:1-17 is a prime example. The first half of the chapter is dedicated to the 144,000 who are the remnant of Israel (Revelation 7:1-8) The balance of the chapter talks about the great multitude from every nation that cannot be numbered. (Revelation 7:9-17)
This perspective of the end times may raise questions in your mind, but I believe it is important not to force texts about Israel in the end times into what the Bible teaches about the Body of Christ in the end times. Granted, there will be overlap especially related to the rise of the rise of the anti-Christ and his one world government, but he will war differently against Israel than the church.
This is why it is important to keep an eye on Israel in the news. The Middle East is the stage for much of end time prophecy.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global