The major theme in the gospel according to Matthew is the King and His Kingdom. The word “kingdom” occurs not less than 50 times, and the expression “Kingdom of heaven” occurs 31 times. The King of that kingdom is the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore, the theme of this first New Testament book is all-important.
In Matthews gospel we have the record of the three kingdom discourses given by the Lord Jesus. They appear in the following order:
1. The Principles of the Kingdom (Matthew 5-7). This first discourse is best known as “the Sermon on the Mount.” This is the manifesto in which our Lord presents the ethics of the kingdom.
2. The Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13). This second discourse contains seven parables in which our Lord presents the mysteries of the kingdom. The emphasis is the present existence of the kingdom.
3. The Prophecies of the Kingdom (Matthew 24, 25). In this third discourse, the King Himself predicts future events leading up to the manifestation of His kingdom on earth. It is His promise of the eschatology (fulfillment) of His kingdom.
This last discourse, known as the Olivet Discourse, is the key to our understanding of the future of the nation of Israel in particular (Matthew 24:1 through 25:30) and the Gentile nations in general (Matthew 25:31-46). All of the events recorded here, and which relate to Israels future, are designed to prepare that nation to accept Jesus Christ as Messiah at His second coming.
In a very real sense, Matthew is a Jewish book. Only Matthew records the visit of the wise men from the East to Jerusalem, who, when they arrived, asked, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2). In Matthew 1:1-17, the genealogy of Christ is traced back to David the king. By presenting Christs royal genealogy, Matthew shows that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
It is puzzling to see that a few Bible teachers struggle to find some references to the rapture of the church in the Olivet Discourse. However, neither the church nor the rapture are mentioned in Matthew 24 and 25. The first specific mention of the rapture appears in our Lords upper-room discourse when He said, “In My Fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 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” (John 14:2,3). In contrast to this statement, the Olivet Discourse contains our Lords teaching on the period of time that follows the rapture and leads up to His second coming to the earth to setup His kingdom.