Some have used this passage to teach a secret rapture just before or at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. However, that is not what Christ was referring to in this Scripture.
Mark 13:24-27 discusses the VISIBLE return of Jesus Christ (verse 26), AFTER the Great Tribulation and the heavenly signs (verse 24). Verse 27 reads: “And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of the earth to the farthest part of heaven.”
In the past, we discussed at length the false teaching of a secret rapture. For more information, please re-read our Q&A on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
In that Q&A, we also wrote regarding Mark 13:27:
“The Bible does not teach a secret rapture. Rather, God’s Word reveals that Christ will return ONCE, NOT TWICE (Hebrews 9:28). He will come openly, not in secret (Matthew 24:21-31; Revelation 1:7; Acts 1:10-11), and He will END the Great Tribulation at the time of His Coming by establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth (Revelation 11:15-18). Mark 13:24-27 specifically states: ‘But in those days, AFTER that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. THEN they will SEE the Son of Man COMING in the clouds with great power and glory. And THEN [not before then] He will send His angels, and GATHER TOGETHER HIS ELECT…’
“Christ will come at the time of the LAST TRUMPET when His elect will be resurrected from the dead or changed to immortality (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-52). There can only be ONE last trumpet, which means, there can only be ONE return of Christ… He says in Matthew 24:26-27: ‘Therefore if they say to you, “Look, He is in the desert!” do not go out… For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.’ His return will be clear and obvious and visible for all alive. Revelation 1:7 says: ‘Behold, He is coming with clouds, AND EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM…’
“We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that we will meet the returning Christ, at His coming, in the air. This is not referring to the third heaven, but to the atmosphere of our earth, which has air and clouds. We read that we will be with Christ from that time on. We read that Christ will descend on that same day to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4), and we will be with Him (Zechariah 14:5)… Christ’s disciples will meet Christ in the air and will accompany Him back to earth. The angels had told the apostles that Christ would come back in the same manner as He had left them. They were on the Mount of Olives, and He left them visibly on a cloud (Acts 1:9-11)… Christ GATHERS His elect when He returns VISIBLY (compare again Mark 13:24-27).”
But what is meant, then, by Christ’s statement in Mark 13:27 that the angels will gather the elect “from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven”? Literally, it says: “… from the end of earth to the end of heaven.” Notice the wording of Christ’s statement in the parallel passage, in Matthew 24:31: “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
The reference to the “four winds” (as in Mark 13:27) can be found throughout the Bible. In Daniel 7:2 we read that Daniel saw in a vision that “the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.” In Daniel 8:8, he describes a vision of four notable horns or generals, coming up “toward the four winds of heaven.” In Zechariah 2:6, we read that the inhabitants of Jerusalem who were scattered into the “land of the north” had been “spread abroad like the four winds of heaven,” and in Jeremiah 49:36 we read that God will punish Elam or modern Persia (Iran) by bringing “the four winds From the four quarters of heaven, And scatter them toward all those winds; There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.” Finally, we read in Revelation 7:1 that John sees in a vision “four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.”
The reference to the four winds, then, is meant to convey global effects and dimensions. The same is true regarding the additional emphasis that the elect would be gathered from “the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”
A similar wording is used in Deuteronomy 4:32, where we read: “For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard.”
Notice how modern translators render the phraseology in Matthew 24:31:
Richard Francis Weymouth, The New Testament in Modern Speech, writes: “…from north, south, east and west, from one extremity of the earth to the other.” Charles B. Williams, The New Testament: A Translation in the Language of the People, states: “…from the four points of the compass, from one end of the sky to the other…” E.V. Rieu, The Four Gospels, renders it this way: “…from one horizon to the other…”
Commentaries seem to agree that Christ’s reference to “the four winds” and “from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven” describes a worldwide, all-encompassing gathering of the elect.
The New Bible Commentary:Revised states that the elect will be gathered “from all over.” The commentary quotes Deuteronomy 30:4, stating: “If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.”
The Broadman Bible Commentary adds in volume 8, page 220, that Christ’s coming is “in judgment… [and] to gather his elect from all parts of the world.” It adds on page 377 that “‘the four winds’ here means simply the four directions or points of the compass. Similarly, ‘from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven’ must mean ‘from everywhere,’ though the first phrase may refer particularly to all the land mass east of Palestine, and the second to the horizons of the west, where lay the blue waters of the Mediterranean.”
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible gives the following additional explanation to Matthew 24:31:
“‘From the four winds’ – That is, from the four quarters of the globe – east, west, north, and south. The Jews expressed those quarters by the winds blowing from them… ‘From one end of heaven, etc.’ – Mark says [in Mark 13:27], from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. The expression denotes that they shall be gathered from all parts of the earth… The word ‘heaven’ is used here to denote the ‘visible’ heavens or the sky, meaning that through ‘the whole world’ he would gather them.”
How and why will the angels gather Christ’s elect from “everywhere”?
Consider that some converted Christians will be at the place of safety when Christ returns (compare Revelation 12:14; 3:10). But this is not true for everybody. Others will have survived the Great Tribulation in their respective localities, but some, if not many, will have been, as captives, brought to all kinds of places all over the world (compare Deuteronomy 28:64-68). Others, over the millennia, died in Christ, and they were buried in diverse places. When Christ returns, they will hear His voice and be resurrected to immortality, coming out of their graves (John 5:28-29), or they will be changed to immortality (if they are still alive and Christ’s Spirit dwells in them, 1 Corinthians 15:50-52). Then, the angels of God will gather all of them (Psalm 50:5) and bring them to Christ to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Christ and His saints will then descend together to the Mount of Olives to begin to rule in the KINGDOM OF GOD here on earth (Zechariah 14:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Jude 14-15; Daniel 7:14, 22, 27; Revelation 5:10; 20:4).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link