“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage—right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone who is on the roof, with his goods in the house, must not come down to take them away, and likewise the person in the field must not turn back.” (Luke 17:26–31)
“For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt 24:38–39)
“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into.” (Matt 24:43)
The traditional pretrib interpretation views the gathering of the elect in Matt 24:31 as occurring at the end of the future seven-year period, where they see the elect as saved Israel and the wicked left behind having already gone through the trumpet and bowl judgments and about to face the judgment of Armageddon.
However, Jesus’s Noahic, Lot, and thief analogies in his end-time discourses that illustrate the great separation at Jesus’s second coming contradicts pretribulationism.
In those three illustrations, Jesus is teaching that, before his return, the world will be going on with their ordinary business, completely oblivious to impending divine judgment.
The pretrib interpretation, however, makes no sense and is contradicted by the fact that pretribs at the same time believe that the unprecedented wrath of God through the trumpet and bowl judgments occur before the battle of Armageddon. In other words, how can the world be going on with their ordinary business completely oblivious during the trumpet and bowl judgments? How would Jesus’s return at the judgment of Armageddon catch the ungodly off guard as a “thief.” It makes no sense.
Rather, what Jesus is depicting through his illustrations is that the separation pictured at Matthew 24:31 occurs—not in the context of Armageddon—but instead at the rapture which will take place just before the day of the Lord’s wrath begins followed then by the trumpet and bowl judgments.
When Armageddon does finally arrive, the world by that time will have already been beleaguered from God’s wrath. In fact, the armies of the world will be going after Jesus himself who will be king in Jerusalem. This is a far cry from the world being oblivious to Jesus’s coming for them as a thief after God’s trumpet and bowl judgments have transpired!
The prewrath interpretation makes much better sense of Jesus’s illustrations: during the Antichrist’s great tribulation, the world will be saying “peace and safety,” completely oblivious of God’s impending judgment. Those days of great tribulation will be cut short at some unknown day and hour when Jesus returns in the clouds and rapture his people. On the same day the trumpet and bowl judgments begin, which will be culminated by Armageddon.
Incidentally, the apostle Paul is consistent on this point as he notes “sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains.”
“For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come in the same way as a thief in the night. Now when they are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will surely not escape.” (1 Thess 5:2–3)