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Many teach that the coming of Christ in Mat. 24 to gather his elect is His descent to the earth to establish God's Kingdom, rather than a descent to the sphere of the clouds to gather the elect and bring them to heaven.

...and they shall gather his elect from (out of Gr.1537) the four winds (the four corners of the earth, the earthy sphere) from (away from Gr.575) one end of the heavens (plural, not being used in contrast with the earth. See Companion Bible, note on Mat.6.10) to (unto Gr.2193) the other.

When we turn to Mark 13:27 we shall get more insight into this passage.

shall gather his elect from (out of Gr.1537) the four winds (earthy sphere) away from (Gr.575) the one end of earth unto (Gr.2193) the end of the Heaven (sing, being contrasted with earth, cp. Mat.6.10).

The end of the heavens in Matthew is defined in Mark as being the end or tip, of the earth; "unto the other tip or end of the heavens", in Matthew is is further defined in Mark as being "the" Heaven; used in the singular, being that it is in contrast with the earth; which is the heavenly abode of GOD, which the great multitude who will come out of (Gr.1537) the tribulation, are to be delivered unto (Rev.7:14; Mt.24:13,22,29-31).

After the day of the Lord's judgments, the Lord will indeed return to establish his kingdom, but before this, the elect will be saved from the persecutions of the tribulation and delivered from the wrath of God that is to come upon the earth.

Is the Greek here saying that the elect will be gathered out of the earth (the four winds) away from one end of the heavens (the earthly sphere), unto (delivered unto) the other (the heaven, the abode of God), which is in accord with the three-tiered universe of (ANE) cosmology?

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    This is a theological question about the systems of eschatology and would be better asked on Christianity SX.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 21:52
  • See 1 Thess 4:16, 17.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 22:33
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    yes but has to do with greek words Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 22:56
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    Glad to have you on Hermeneutics! This question could stay here on this site if you tone down the "disproves ...dispensational positions" talk. So, please edit that out and just ask if the Greek has any insight on the nature of this "Gathering of the elect" and, if not, then what do we learn from the Greek about this. I am concerned that if we migrate this to C.SE, you'll just get a systheo debate and the question will likely be seen as a duplicate. If you want to focus on the Greek, then cut out 90% of that debate content C.SE would address; like doing one question at a time. Cheers!
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 0:15
  • ...addressing two passages is fine for this if they are from Gospels covering basically the same content. But, we can't bring in other passages, such as Revelation, in the same question because that would indeed be systheo. If you want to ask about the Greek's bearing on the same topic from Revelation, just ask another question. This is because questions need to be about specific Bible passages, usually only one with exceptions, and never systems.
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 0:17

3 Answers 3

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It’s an interesting question, but requires way more background to understand.

Language in general is often ambiguous, requiring linguistic context and semantic domain, cultural context, historical context, the identity of audience, the trajectory of the communication past and future, and recognition of symbolism, hyperbole, and allusions among other factors.

For example, what does the sentence, “The man dropped the ball.” mean? Do you assume that this applies to a sporting event, a police encounter, or a failed follow-up?

To put it another way, what can you determine about a jigsaw puzzle from two pieces when the cover of the box isn’t available? Will you sort them by color categories? By shape (some have a flat side)? Do you orient them the same direction? How about forcing them together?

One of the books I studied in the last six months was Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew by Jonathan T. Pennington, which he based primarily on his PhD thesis. Dr. Pennington’s book provided me with several significant new perspectives.

The heaven/heavens is always plural in Hebrew and Aramaic. For grammatical reasons, Greek generally uses the singular. They mean different things. The typical conflation of medieval cosmology with Hebrew and Greek cosmologies notwithstanding, the Hebrew concept of the heavens is trifold—the domain of birds and clouds, the domain of celestial objects, and the domain of God and the angels.

However . . .

Jesus introduces a new term in Matthew, “the kingdom of the heavens.” Here’s an excerpt to illustrate the critical point.

“The typical scholarly explanation that plural οὐρανοί in Matthew is merely the result of the plurality of the Semitic words for heaven likewise proves mistaken. Examination of the use of οὐρανοῖς throughout the Septuagint and other Second Temple Greek literature will show that plural οὐρανοί did not come about as a result of Semitic morphology. Moreover, Matthew develops a unique usage of the singular and plural forms of οὐρανοῖς: the singular is used to refer to the visible realm (and in heaven and earth pairs), and the plural refers to the invisible and divine. This special Matthean practice serves as part of his broader goal of presenting two separate and competing realms: heaven and earth.”

I noticed that Jesus also switches terminology when speaking to his opponents, which leads me to believe in other cases that he was fluent in Greek as well as Aramaic and Hebrew.

In some cases, Jesus used different expressions in a single passage, which I interpret as his switching to Greek as he turned to different parts of his audience, and it included copying the circumlocution of his opponents (which was emerging at that time) in one of his exchanges.

So, at the very least, one should be aware that “the heavens” is emphatically NOT the same as "the earth." Thus, when Jesus says that “He will send the angels” to “gather together the elect” “from [the] ends of the heavens,” Jesus chose the words “heavens” rather than “the earth” and that this is significant, though usually glossed over.

Without an understanding of how Jesus used these terms, how much less likely would be an accurate understanding of what Jesus meant in the quoted scriptures (a hat tip to kal v'chomer arguments).

And without considering the parables of Jesus such as the one about the “wheat and the tares” or the one about “the dragnet at the end of the age,” how can anyone hope to make any sense of two isolated puzzle pieces?

The only reasonable option is to study the Word thoroughly and the gestalt in context to piece together this jigsaw puzzle. I believe that this is exactly what Jesus had in mind for us. Unfortunately, not being an expert in Hebrew and in Greek is a massive handicap as I’m personally and painfully aware.

What I’m beginning to realize is that just as Messiah will have come twice rather than once, there are good reasons to believe that there will also be more than a single harpazó event in the future.

I know that this doesn't answer your question directly, but it's for the reason that it's not possible without first gaining a wider perspective to escape the distortion of superimposed eschatological categories and the problems of Procrustean pronouncements (not to mention the agony of avoidable alliteration). ;-)

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  • "Jesus introduces a new term in Matthew, “the kingdom of the heavens.”". I always understood that to be a euphemism for "Kingdom of God", Matthew's target audience being Jews, and therefore directly referring to God being something to avoid. Commented May 15 at 1:26
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    @Ray, yes, this is a very reasonable conclusion and has often been used, however the phrase that Jesus used in Matthew over 80 times, the kingdom of the heavens, is not found in any pre-Matthean literature according to Pennington's research. Without getting into a lot of detail, Chapter One of Pennington's book is titled, "Challenging the Circumlocution Assumption." Believe me, I started reading this first chapter with a high degree of skepticism!
    – Dieter
    Commented May 15 at 2:00
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Matthew 24:31 - The Greek of that verse does not say even a single word about where the elect might be taken TO. They are gathered, from all over. But there is no Greek about going TO anywhere else to analyse.

Jesus goes on in verse 35 to inform us, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

Mark 13:27 - The Greek of that verse does not say even a single word about where the elect might be taken To. They are gathered, from all over.

Jesus goes on in Mark 13 verse 31 to inform us, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." But there is no Greek about going TO anywhere else to analyse.

This means that the answer you seek cannot be obtained from any hermeneutic examination of the Greek in the verses in question. That being the case, this question might best be removed to the Christianity section, with all reference to Greek words removed.

EDIT in view of the many comments this answer has generated: There is no Greek in the two verses in question that say anything about where the elect are gathered TO. They only say where they are gathered FROM. Hermeneutics can delve into that (the meaning of 4 corners etc, in other words, where the elect are gathered from) but not likely without invoking other passages of scripture, as various answers do here. Thus the question fails to be suited to this hermeneutics site on two counts -

(1) There are no Greek words in the 2 verses that state where the elect go to.

(2) The question has become a topic requiring interpretation of other verses.

This means that - to stay on this site - the question would best be changed to, "What does the Greek of Mat. 24:31 and Mark 13:27 teach about the elect being gathered out of the earthly sphere?"

A separate question would best be asked about whether they are taken to the heavenly sphere of God's throne. And that would only be appropriate in the Christianity site, I suggest. That is why I am studiously avoiding the second part of the question, as it presently stands.

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  • Annie, it must be able to be understood by those who heard Jesus say this. The phrase "heaven and earth" was an idiom God used for the Mosaic covenant (Deu. 4:26; 31:26). The agreement between God and man. The Jews used that phrase as an idiom for the temple where God met with man. So for our understanding, set "heaven and earth" as the temple & the old mosaic covenant against Jesus's words, & the understanding is that Moses words were going to pass away. It is not speaking of the literal heaven and earth passing.
    – Gina
    Commented May 14 at 13:08
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    Anne says "This Q is not suited for Hermeneutics". At least three of us agree with that (see @Dottard's comment on the question). I wonder why it wasn't moved. Commented May 14 at 15:53
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    @Dieter. The paragraphs about Kingdom and Tribulation are what make this question confusing about whether it is about hermeneutics or doctrine (i.e. if it really is about hermeneutics, they are irrelevant noise). Commented May 15 at 0:46
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    @Anne, I'd prefer a neutral question rather that one framed to support a peizogetical position, such as "Does the Greek in the following two verses completely refute the white-privilege doctrine about the rapture?" :o Instead, how about the more neutral question of "What can the Greek in the following two verses tell us about the origin and destination of the people involved?"
    – Dieter
    Commented May 31 at 17:14
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    @Dieter Yes, neutral Qs are ideal. Some can appear to be trying to squeeze scripture into preconceived ideas/teachings (the meaning of peizogesis as you explained elsewhere here). My suggestion to the OP was not that. I loved the way you recently quoted the saying, "one can always torture the scriptures enough to make them confess to anything." That's why careful wording of Qs here is so important.
    – Anne
    Commented May 31 at 17:42
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Revised:

No, and yes. It is very difficult to answer complex questions in this limited platform. Apocalyptic language is very figurative and symbolic. The use of "heaven" and "earth" in God's prophesies are in relation to the nation / country / people that the judgment is pronounced against. The heaven of that country is the ruling authority over those people - kings, queens, princes, governors, magistrates, etc - whomever the king / Caesar designated with power and authority to rule.

The earth of the specific prophesy is the land region of that country and includes the people who live in that country. They are the subjects of the rulers of that land region, and live beneath their authority. It is a picture, or microcosm of God's rule over all the earth. God sits on His throne in the heavenly, spiritual sphere. He raises men to power and authority in a smaller earthly sphere, and they enjoy a type of "heaven" under God's rule.

"And Moses speaketh in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, till their completion: -- `Give ear, O heavens, and I speak; And thou dost hear, O earth, sayings of my mouth!" (Deu. 31:30-32:1, YLT)

Moses wasn't telling God to hear him. He was speaking to the people of Israel, to two classes of the people. Those of the ruling class that God and He had appointed over the people - the Levitical priesthood - their heaven; and to those under that authority - the people of Israel - the earth.

The four corners of the earth mean the borders of that land, or country / region. We have to know which nation is under judgment in order to know which borders, or corners are being defined. It is a limit upon the area or region that will be affected by God's judgment.

"And there is a word of Jehovah unto me, saying, `And thou, son of man, Thus said the Lord Jehovah to the ground of Israel: 2 An end, come hath the end on the four corners of the land." (Ezek. 7:1-2, YLT)

In most of God's prophesy the "earth" was usually Israel / Judea. The pagan nations around Israel were the "seas" that came up as floods against them (Isa. 59:19; Jer. 46:7-8; Amos 8:8; 9:5; Dan. 9:26, etc).

So we must ask which nation was Jesus pronouncing judgment upon in Matt. 24? The chapter begins with His news of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. His disciples ask Him specifically when that "end of the age" would happen, because they knew the destruction of that temple was the end of the Mosaic worship system at that temple. The prophesy concerned the Jews and Jerusalem. Therefore, which "earth" (people) and which "heaven" (rulers) was this prophesy speaking against? The Jews, Jerusalem, and the Sanhedrin (Counsel), scribes and Pharisees.

We also have to recognize that Judea was under Roman rule at that time, so there is also the "heaven" of Caesar's rule and dominion, and all of the "nations" Rome had conquered in that century. So, in one context the "end of heavens" was the end of the dominion and rule of the Sanhedrin and the high priest; and in the next higher authority was the end of the dominion and rule of Caesar.

Then, in context, Matt. 24:31 should be understood as:

"and he shall send his messengers with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his chosen (those who had obeyed the gospel) from the four winds (same as four corners of the earth), from the ends of the heavens (plural heavens were both earthly dominions under Jerusalem & Rome) unto the ends thereof (the ends of all the nations under Roman rule)."

Remember that the disciples had asked when that temple would be torn down, so the time frame is set to be before the temple is torn down for the gathering of His chosen people out of harm's way before the Roman-Jewish war of AD 66-70. And, that is exactly what Rev. 9:4 referred to.

"and it was said to them that they may not injure the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but -- the men only who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads," (YLT)

The grass of the "earth" or land under judgment - Jerusalem and all Judea - was not to be hurt, BUT only those MEN who did not have God's seal upon them. The little words matter. The word "but" signaled an antonym and opposite. The grass of the earth was opposite to the men that did not have the seal of God. Therefore, the grass of the earth were the men that did have the seal of God.

The gathering of the elect / chosen was to gather them away from the wars, away from Jerusalem and Judea. It was not gathering living people into heaven. Those who had obeyed the gospel were given warning and they left the area, fleeing to the mountains just as Jesus told them to do (Matt. 24:16; Mark 13:14).

But, the use of the trumpet brings in the totality of the fall harvest feast days for the Feast of Trumpets (Yom TeRuah) on the 1st of Tishri, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) on the 10th of Tishri, and THE last and greatest Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) on the 15th of Tishri. The last trump, or the last "shout" of the ram's horn, the shofar is the last great blast of the shofar on the Feast of Trumpets, also known as Yom Hadin, day of judgment.

The coming of Christ in judgment at the last trump is directly pointed at the pattern of the Feast of Trumpets for the judgment against Jerusalem and those who had crucified Christ. While gathering the elect away from the wars happened before the war and the destruction of the temple in AD 70, there is also the gathering of the elect, or chosen of God at the resurrection out of Hades, which took place during those 15 days of the fall harvest feasts.

So, yes there is the resurrection gathering of those who had died in the Lord throughout all the earth into God's heavenly realm which Jesus spoke of in Matt. 25:31ff which is directly tied to His prophesy in Matt. 24 of the destruction of the temple. This involves a thorough study of the realm of the dead - Hades - which was a prison of all those of all previous generations who had died previously, and were waiting for Christ to release them; the righteous to their heavenly reward, and the unrighteous to eternal damnation.

That happened in AD 70 and that was when Daniel stood in his lot. And, afterwards, Christ threw Hades into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).

So, there was the gathering out of Jerusalem for those living at the time to take them away from the dangers of the war; and then after the destruction of Jerusalem there was the gathering out of Hades of those dead at that time.

All of this is incorporated in one verse in Matt. 24:31. All of it encompasses the last fall harvest feast days of judgment and atonement. The last and greatest feast of Tabernacles, Booths, Sukkot, also called Feast of Ingathering, Feast of Nations, Season of our Joy are now the symbol and condition of our tabernacling with God in His established, eternal kingdom (Rev. 21:3).
And ever since, "henceforth" (Rev. 14:13) those who have died, or will die in the Lord are gathered into heaven hour by hour, day by day.

All of this requires a complete and thorough study of the feast days, their shadows of Christ's coming in the flesh, and second coming in judgment in AD 70 that completed and fulfilled all of the OT feasts and prophesies.

We must know God's apocalyptic language of metaphors and symbols to be able to understand His prophesies. They are all defined within His word in the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament. See more at:

The Signs of Revelation Part II: Codes & Symbols of Nature

Judgment Language in the Old Testament

Judgment Language in Both the Old and New Testaments

The Four Corners of the Earth

Heaven and Earth...

Testing The Spirits - Part II: The End

Testing The Spirits - Part III: Daniel's Lot

Hades Is No More

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