“Don’t Miss Jesus’ Return”
& Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 04 Aug 2013
“Therefore, if they happen to say to y’all, ‘Look, He is in the wilderness!’
going out [there,
or if they
say,] ‘Look in the inner rooms!’
believe [them – even for a second]!
just as the lightening comes out of the East and flashes as far as the West,
be the coming of the Son of Man.
wherever the carcass happens to be, it is there that the raptors will be
24:29 And immediately after the distress
of those days,
will be darkened and the moon will not give off her glow,
stars will fall from the heavens,
powers of the heavens will be shaken,
24:30 and then the sign of the Son of
Man will be revealed in the sky,
and then all the families of the earth
will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the heavens with power and
24:31 and He will commission His angels
with a great sound of a trumpet
will gather together His chosen ones out of the four winds
end of the heavens over to [the other] end of them.
Missing out on the second coming – story of mom at BJHS
My mother tells the story of when she was at Bob Jones High School as a boarding student. As I recall, one Sunday she got up with her alarm and rushed
over to the cafeteria for breakfast before church, but not a soul was there.
Suddenly, it occurred to her that Jesus must have come back and taken everybody
else and left her behind. She panicked and went back to her dorm, and it was
then that she realized it was time-change Sunday. Her roommates were still
there, and she hadn’t been left behind by the rapture after all.
We are in the middle of Matthew 24, where Jesus is talking about His
coming. So far we’ve seen that it will demand perseverance of His disciples
through persecution and through deceptive teaching, and, while the details up to
v.26 fit the context of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the prophetic
details are not so prominent as to focus on figuring out the date of the coming
of Christ; the point is more to obey the same directives Jesus gave His
disciples, which include:
- Keep your eyes on
Jesus, believing in His name, even when Christians are persecuted for it.
- Keep loving people
even when everybody’s love has grown cold.
- Keep preaching the
good news of the kingdom.
- Don’t hang around
- By the way, I do
not believe that Jesus was teaching His disciples to be conscientious
objectors to defending their homeland. We have to keep the parallel
passages together. Jesus was telling His disciples that fleeing to the
hills was appropriate when the armies surrounding Jerusalem (spoken of in
Luke 21:20) were in fulfillment of the abomination of desolation prophecied
in the book of Daniel (which is Matthew 24’s wording). I just thought I’d
make that clarification for the sake of soldiers who are called to defend
communities that should be defended.
- Don’t prioritize
- Don’t forget God’s
sovereignty when the pressure is on, and
- Don’t take shortcuts
to comfort and safety when you’re tempted to quit waiting on Jesus.
Now I’m going to try to cover the next six verses, and I want to answer
three questions as I do so:
How does this text relate to the rest
of prophecy in the Bible?
Was this text fulfilled in 70AD, or
is it yet to be fulfilled?
And what are we, as Christians,
supposed to do with this information?
We start back in at v.26
if they happen to say to y’all, ‘Look, He is in the wilderness!’ don’t start
going out [there, or if they say,] “Look in the inner rooms!” Don’t believe
[them – even for a second]!
ειπωσιν ‘υμιν Ιδου
εν τη ερημω
εξελθητε Ιδου εν
- Jesus knew that He
would depart bodily from His disciples soon and they would be tempted to
doubt that He was really God’s ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King.
- In the parallel
passage in Luke 17:22-25 He said to the disciples, “The days will come
when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will
not see it. They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away,
and do not run after them. For
just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky,
shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.
But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
- Jesus knew that
imposters would come onto the stage of world history and claim to be a
greater prophet or priest or king than Jesus. These false prophets and
false Christs would promise deliverance and happiness and invite many
people to follow them. Jesus says, “Don’t let them lead you astray.” Only
Jesus is able to save and bring happiness; no one else.
- Furthermore, Jesus is making the point that His
coming will be impossible to miss. You won’t need anybody to tell you when
He has come because you – along with everybody else – will see it. More on that in a minute.
- But once Jesus
ascends to heaven, what should the disciples be looking for to mark His
return? Where should their eyes be focused?
- In the
desert/wilderness? John the Baptizer had been out in the wilderness doing
his preaching, and many other prophets – like Elijah and David and Ezekiel
– had spent at least a season in the wilderness somewhere, so it would not
be strange for the Messiah to show up in the wilderness, but Jesus
says not to train your eyes toward the desert. That’s not where He’s going
to show up.
- Well, maybe they
should look in the inner rooms or secret chambers – perhaps a scholar’s
study at the center of a college or perhaps the inner sanctum of the
temple – the holy of holies? That might be a logical place to look for the
presence of God’s special anointed leader, but no,
Jesus had left that temple desolate; God wasn’t there any more. Jesus
didn’t want His disciples to focus their attention on the temple anymore
or any other human building, for that matter.
- Where should his
disciples focus their attention? Heaven. That’s where Jesus would be – and
still is. God’s word tells us in Colossians 3:1-4, “Therefore if you have
been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ
is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above,
not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is
hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then
you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (NASB)
24:27 for just as the lightening
comes out of the East and [shines] flashes as far as the West, thus will be the coming of the Son of Man.
‘ωσπερ γαρ ‘η
‘εως δυσμων ‘ουτως
‘η παρουσια του ‘υιου
- When we have a lightening storm, it doesn’t
matter how tightly you are shut up in your house, you still see that flash
of light when the lightening rips across the sky; the light somehow finds
its way around the blinds over the windows, and then the terrific crash of
thunder that follows a close lightening strike quickens the heartbeat of
everyone. You can’t mistake it for anything else.
- Lightening is often
associated in the Bible with God in His glory, and here
Jesus compares His coming to lightening – it can’t be missed; it will be
experienced by everybody.
- The words “East” and West” are used in other
places like the Psalms (50:1; 103:12) and in Isaiah (45:6; 59:19) to picture
not merely points on the compass, but to picture the whole earth as the
sun sweeps across the entire planet each day.
- Later on we see this same phrase “thus will be
the coming of the Son of Man” in vs. 37-39, comparing it to the flood
during Noah’s day which covered the entire surface of the planet.
- The “coming” of God
– also called the “Day of the Lord” – is described in many places
throughout Scripture, including:
50:1-6 God, our God, shall come manifestly, and shall not keep
silence: a fire shall be kindled before him, and round about him there
shall be a very great tempest. He shall summon the heaven above, and the
earth, that he may judge his people. Assemble ye his saints to him, those
that have engaged in a covenant with him upon sacrifices. And the heavens
shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge. (Brenton)
- 1 Thessalonians
4:15-17 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are
alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede
those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from
heaven with a shout... (NASB)
- 2 Thessalonians
2:1-12 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be
quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or
a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the
Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come
unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…
they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who
did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. (NASB)
- 2 Peter 3:10-18 But
the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens
will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with
intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.(NASB)
- The question should arise in
everyone’s mind after reading verses like these and recognizing the
similarities between them and this passage in Matthew 24, “Is
this all referring to the same event in history, the second coming of
Christ at the end of time?”
- I believe the answer is No and Yes.
- I believe that
Jesus is speaking of 70 AD, and that the judgment poured out upon Jerusalem at that time was a coming of Christ, where He destroyed
covenant-breaking evildoers and revealed Himself to be a just judge
through a cataclysmic act of judgment.
- However, the many parallels between Jesus’
description of that judgment on Jerusalem and the descriptions in other
parts of the Bible of an even greater day of judgment make me conclude
that the judgment of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is a type of God’s judgment to
come upon the entire earth, just as the flood of Noah is held up here in
Matthew 24 as a type of God’s judgment.
- God acts with
consistency throughout history, and there are similarities among the
times that He intervenes in history with judgment in Noah’s day, in the
Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem, in the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, in the destruction of Nineveh, the destruction of Babylon, etc. up to the
destruction of the world by fire. There will be similarities in each of
these events because they are all orchestrated by the same God.
- Because the kinds of things described in Matthew
24 are also described in other passages of scripture about the final
judgment, it is natural to see in Matthew 24 a transition from the
destruction of 70 AD to the judgment day at the end of time. The problem
is pegging the exact point where that transition occurs. There is no
consensus among Bible scholars over this
because there is no obvious transition; it just kinda happens.
- The one position that I strongly disagree with is
the position which says that not only is Matthew 24 about the destruction
of 70 AD, but that all the other prophecies about the coming of Christ in
judgment are also about the events of 70 AD, and therefore all the
prophecies about the final judgment day of the Lord are fulfilled and we
are now living in the new heavens and new earth and cannot expect anything
better to come. That is a radical extreme of the preterist position and it
is a dangerous heresy.
Jesus held the Jews accountable for their rebellion against Him in the
judgment of 70 AD, but He is still coming back to judge the entirety of
mankind for their rebellion against Him and to raise all the dead and give
us bodies that won’t decay and put an end to death and burn up the earth
with intense heat and put an end to sin and make a new heaven and earth
where righteousness dwells. Whatever happened in the first Century, and
whatever happened in the 20th Century, we still can look forward
to the fulfillment of those glorious promises.
- The complete
preterist position is just one example of the very problem Jesus is
talking about – people claiming that Jesus already came and you missed it.
“See,” they say, “Jesus made His final appearance in 70 AD, and you never
realized it!” Jesus combats that fraud by saying nobody can miss it when
He comes. And He uses the strangest metaphor to illustrate this point:
for wherever the carcass happens to be, it is there that the raptors [eagles/vultures]
will be gathered together.
εαν ᾖ το πτωμα εκει συναχθησονται ‘οι αετοι.
- I couldn’t bring
myself to translate aetoi as
“vultures” because, in the other 29 occurrences of the word in the Greek
Bible, everybody translates this word “eagles” – which is what the KJV
does here too. Now, I’ve never seen eagles gathered at a carcass,
but there are carrion fowl of the same class of bird as eagles –
called raptors, including vultures. So whatever kind of bird this is, it’s
like an eagle or a vulture. (A
different word is used in Revelation 19:17-21 for the carrion fowl that
show up at the battle of Armegeddon.)
- Have you ever seen a dead animal lying on the
road that has been hit by a car and a couple of vultures picking at it?
How did those vultures find their meal? Did a game warden have to walk
through the woods saying, “Hey all you vultures! Calling all vultures!
Dead skunk at the intersection of 68th and Vinton! If you don’t
want to starve to death, come and get it!” NO? Well, how did the vultures find
it? Did they call the sheriff, “Hey sheriff, we’re getting awful hungry;
can you tell us where we could find a dead animal to eat?” No! Vultures
just know; don’t they? They figure it out easily for themselves where to
get their next meal. Nobody has to tell them. In a similiar way, I think
Jesus is saying, “You’ll just know when I return. You won’t need anybody
to tell you.”
- “If the birds are so
wise that many come together from distant regions over one corpse, it
would be shameful for the faithful not to be drawn to the Author if life,
from whom alone they take true nourishment… [W]hoever adhere to Him in
pure faith are beyond the danger of schism.” ~John Calvin
- Luke tells us that Jesus made this statement
after the disciples asked Him where He would take them. So you
could look at the metaphor with us as the carcass and Jesus as the bird
and see it as an assurance that we will be wherever He is. If he catches you
up into the air like an eagle grabs a fish out of the lake, there’s no
point in that fish worrying about where it’s going next, it’s dead meat
and it’s going with the eagle wherever it goes. So too, if we have died
with Christ; we are united with Him, and nothing can separate us from Him.
24:29 And immediately after the distress
of those days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give off her glow,
and the stars will fall from the heavens and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
δε μετα την θλιψιν
εκεινων ‘ο ‘ηλιος
και ‘η σεληνη ου
δωσει το φεγγος
αυτης και ‘οι αστερες
και ‘αι δυναμεις
- The phrase “those days”
matches the same phrase in verses 19 and 22, and verses 9 and 21 also used
the word “tribulation/distress” (“there will be wars… famines, plagues,
and earthquakes, then they will put y’all under distress/tribulation and
they will kill you… But when you see the abomination of desolation… let
the ones in Judea be fleeing to the mountains… for then there will be
great distress... woe to those who are pregnant and nursing in those days…
unless those days had been cut short, there would be no survivors.”) and
now Jesus speaks of signal events in the skies which will happen – not a
long time after but – “immediately after the distress of those days.”
- Jesus seems to be using phrases from the first
two chapters of Joel to describe these events: “And on my servants and on
my handmaids in those days will I pour out of my Spirit. And I will shew
wonders in heaven, and upon the earth, blood, and fire, and vapor of
smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness,
and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord
come... (Joel 2:31-32 Brenton)
- I see in Joel chapter 2 a great sweep of the
history of the Jews, first using these words about blacking out the sun
moon and stars to describe the Babylonian army overrunning Jerusalem,
then God preserving a remnant and blessing His people in Jerusalem after
the Babylonian exile, then sending His son into the midst of Israel, then
pouring out His spirit, and then another catastrophic event using the
same words about sun and moon being darkened in some sort of event.
- Later on in Acts 2, after Jesus had ascended
into heaven and the Holy Spirit had come upon the apostles, Peter quotes
from this very passage in Joel and says that it has been fulfilled.
- Although stars being darkened
refers to individuals dying in Job (3:9) and Ecclesiastes 12, the
closest we get to this scenario of sun, moon, and all the stars being
Revelation 6:12 “…He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great
earthquake; and the sun became black [different Greek verb from Mt. 24] as
sackcloth made of hair, and
the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the
earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind…. 17
for the great day… has come [of the wrath of Him who sits on the throne of
the Lamb], and who is able to stand?” (NASB)
- When I see phrases like the sun being
extinguished and stars falling from the sky, my mind immediately jumps to
the end of the universe. However, this language has been used to describe
many visitations of God’s judgement upon nations in the past, such as:
- The 10 plagues in Egypt : “He sent
forth Moses his servant, and Aaron whom he had chosen. He established
among them his signs, and his wonders in the land of Ham. He sent forth darkness, and made it dark; yet they rebelled against his words. He turned
their waters into blood…” (Psalm 105:26-29, Brenton) (It happened again
to Egypt later under the Chaldean empire in Ezek. 32:7 “And I will veil the heavens when thou art
extinguished, and will darken the stars thereof; I will cover the sun
with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light.”)
- The same language was used to prophecy
the destruction of Edom by the Babylonians: “And all the powers of the heavens shall melt,
and the sky shall be rolled up like a scroll: and all the stars shall
fall like leaves from a vine, and as leaves fall from a fig-tree. My
sword …shall come down upon Idumea, and with judgment upon the people
doomed to destruction.” (Isaiah 34:4-5, Brenton)
- And then there is
the destruction of Jerusalem
by the Chaldeans, which we saw earlier in Joel chapter 2, described in
these same kinds of phrases.
- The overthrow of Babylon by the Medes: “Behold!
the day of the Lord is coming which cannot be escaped, a day of wrath and
anger, to make the world desolate, and to destroy sinners out of it. For
the stars of heaven, and Orion, and all the host of heaven, shall not
give their light; and it shall be dark at sunrise, and the moon shall not
give her light… 17 Behold, I will stir up against you the Medes… And Babylon, which is called glorious by the king of the Chaldeans, shall be as when God overthrew
Sodoma, and Gomorrha. (Isaiah 13:1-19, Brenton) We read of the fulfillment of that prophecy in
the book of Daniel when Darius the Mede conquered Babylon.
when we see this kind of language in the Bible, it should not
automatically make us assume this is talking about the end of the world. The
book of Revelation does use this terminology, and 2 Peter uses similar
terminology to speak of the end of the world, so that is a possible place
in history to look for the fulfillment of Matthew 24, but since other
Biblical prophecies have used this to refer to historic nations being conquered
by human armies, it is possible that this verse in Matthew 24 could still
be referring to the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD
and that the destruction of 70AD is a type of the worldwide judgment day
- The parallel passage
in Luke 21:23-26 seems to fit 70 AD more than the end of the world, “Woe
to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those
days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this
people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led
captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by
the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be
signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in
perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the
things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will
be shaken” (Luke 21:23-26, NASB).
- The “powers of the
heavens” (which the NIV renders “heavenly bodies”) is a phrase found
throughout the Greek Old Testament, sometimes describing pagan
the worship of Baal and Asherah (2 Kings 17:16, 21:3-5, 23:4-5),
and sometimes describing angels and demons (2 Chronicles 18:18-21, Daniel 4:32, cf. 2 Thess.
Here in Matthew 24, taken together with the sun and moon, it probably is
just speaking of the stars and planets.
- Job (9:6-7) seems to have seen a
shakeup affecting heaven and earth before, and David uses language like
this in some of his Psalms (18:6-14, 46:6, etc.) to describe times when
God helped him,
but the only real shakeup of the heavens I can find is
future to the later New Testament book of Hebrews: “And His voice shook
the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH,
BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.’ This expression,
‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken,
as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may
remain.” (Hebrews 12:26-27, NASB).
- God created the sun and the moon and stars for
signs and seasons (Gen. 1:14, Psalm 104:19), and the regular appearance of
these heavenly bodies is an indication of God’s earthly blessing and favor
in this age of the earth.
removal of the sun and stars symbolizes an end to the status of blessing
on earth, so in times of judgment on the wicked, the
blotting out of the sun means they will no longer enjoy the common
graces of God because it is time for them to experience the punishment
they deserve (Josh.
10:12-13, Ps. 69:23 & 105:28, Ezek. 32:7). To the
extent that this verse speaks of a day in the past when Jesus brought
judgment on the Jews who rejected Him, we can praise God for His justice
and renew our faith that He will come again to bring justice on all the
people who seem to be getting away with evil now.
- But the darkening of the sun and
end of the stars should not cause God’s people to fear, because it means
the beginning of a new age of blessed life with God. There will be no need
for the sun in heaven because we will be continuously in the light of the
presence of God Himself! (Isa. 60:19 , Rev. 21:23) Inasmuch
as this verse speaks of the final judgment to come, we can look forward
to life in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells!
24:30 and then the sign of the Son of
Man will [appear] be
revealed in the sky, and then all the families of the earth will mourn, and
they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the heavens with power
and much glory,
και τοτε φανησεται
το σημειον του ‘υιου
του ανθρωπου εν
και τοτε κοψονται
πασαι ‘αι φυλαι της
γης και οψονται
τον ‘υιον του
- What is the “sign of the Son of Man”?
- Remember that the disciples have asked in v.3
about the “sign” of Jesus “coming” into His own as Messiah, so Jesus is
telling them that the “sign” will be when everybody sees Him in the sky
coming through the clouds with glory and power.
- This Greek word for
“sign” appears at Jesus’ birth in the angels’ announcement to the
sheperds, “This will be the sign: you shall find the baby wrapped
in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). Jesus’ first
coming was marked by a very humble earthly sign, but when he comes
into His own, it will be marked by a very impressive sign in the heavens.
- Joel (2:30) had
prophecied that God would display “signs (LXX=different word terrata) in the heavens and on the
earth” “after” God is “in their midst” and “before the day of the Lord.”
- For now, Jesus was
performing “signs” on the earth. The Gospel of John focuses on these
earthly signs by saying that turning the water to wine was the “first
sign (semeion)” Jesus gave
(John 2:11), then the “second sign” was the healing of the official’s son
in Capernaum (John 4:54), then, after the feeding of the 5,000, John
quotes the locals as saying, “This sign proves that He must be the
Messiah.” (John 6:14, cf. 7:31), then in John 12:18, Jesus gets the
attention of the folks of Jerusalem by performing the “sign” of raising
Lazarus from the dead.
Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign
from heaven, to test Him. Sighing deeply in His spirit, He *said,
"Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no
sign will be given to this generation." (Mark 8:11-12, NASB)
- The next time we
see signs in the sky, it is in the book of Revelation, where there is the
sign of a woman giving birth in the sky and the sign of a 7-headed dragon
in the sky
and then the sign of seven angels in the sky. None of which are the Son
of Man, by the way. But Revelation 1:7 does corroborate the heavenly sign
of the Son of Man, “coming with the clouds.”
- The events of
Matthew 24:30 are pretty clearly from the messianic prophecies of
Zecheriah and Daniel. This is the stuff the Jews were looking for Jesus to
do if He claimed to be the Messiah.
prophecied to the Jews who were getting re-established in
Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile: “And I will pour upon the house of David, and
upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and compassion: and
they shall look upon me, because they have mocked me, and they shall make
lamentation for him, as for a beloved friend, and they shall grieve
intensely, as for a firstborn son... And the land shall lament in separate
families, the family of the house of David by itself, and
their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself,
and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself,
and their wives by themselves; the family of Symeon by itself, and their
wives by themselves; all the families that are left, each family by
itself, and their wives by themselves. Zechariah 12:1-14 Brenton
- I see in Zechariah’s prophecy the coming of the
Messiah prophecied, when the Spirit is poured out on people in Jerusalem, followed by a time when the Jews will mourn, tribe by tribe or family by family.
- Rev. 1:7 “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS,
and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the
tribes of the earth will mourn over Him” (NASB) seems to be a quote of
Zechariah, indicating by the future tense that it hadn’t happened yet. Most
scholars believe the book of Revelation was written around 95 AD, so this
would not indicate 70 AD, but rather a future coming.
- Does this mean they are Mourning over their sin in
The Greek word used here is different from the one in the beatitude,
“Blessed are those who mourn” – which is penthew;
the word here in Matthew 24 is koptw,
and koptw only refers to
death dirges in the Bible. I think
that this is mourning over the judgement they receive for their rebellion.
Matthew 16:27 would support the fact that when they see Jesus coming in
glory with His angels, it will be Him coming to judge everybody (“For the Son of Man is going to
come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO
HIS DEEDS. Matthew 16:27, NASB) Hearing that you are doomed
to the lake of fire would certainly be reason to mourn.
- The scene of the Son
of Man coming on the clouds of heaven comes from the book of Daniel: “I
beheld in the night vision, and, lo, one coming with the clouds of heaven
as the Son of man, and he came on to the Ancient of days, and was brought
near to him. And to him was given the dominion, and the honour, and the
kingdom; and all nations, tribes, and languages, shall serve him: his
dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his
kingdom shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14, Brenton)
70 AD, Jesus was glorified and in heaven, and all the tribes of Israel
represented in Jerusalem probably shed bitter tears, and, although it’s
possible that people saw visions of Jesus in the sky at the time, I think
that the imagery of this prophecy has shifted from the type to the
antetype, from first century Jerusalem’s response to its temporal judgment
to the response to the whole world at the final judgment. Everyone will
see Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven with such a display of power that
they realize resistance is useless and they’re in for it when He starts
holding people accountable for the wrong things they have done.
- The only way to
escape eternal death is if this powerful judge Himself were to save you.
He did that during His first coming (described in the rest of the Gospel
of Matthew), when He paid the price of death on the cross in order to
redeem people like you and me who were otherwise doomed. The next verse is therefore Good News!
24:31 and He will commission His
angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together His chosen
ones out of the four winds from [one] end of the heavens over to [the other]
end of them.
και αποστελει τους αγγελους αυτου μετα σαλπιγγος φωνης μεγαλης και επισυναξουσιν
αυτου εκ των
ακρων ουρανων ‘εως
- After the Israelite nation escaped from slavery
in Egypt, God visited them at Mt. Sinai with clouds and trumpet blasts and
earthquakes and lightening and gave them the law and gathered them into a
covenant people under His care. (Exodus 19)
- Trumpets were then used to call the Israelite
people together to worship on holidays (Lev. 23:24, 25:9, Numbers 10:2,
- Trumpets were also used to announce that your
army was about to attack somebody (Num. 10:9, Josh. 6, Job 39:24-25), and
trumpets are associated with God coming to the earth to judge the nations:
- Moab: “I will send forth a fire on Moab, and it shall devour the foundations of its cities: and Moab shall perish in weakness, with a
shout, and with the sound of a trumpet” (Amos 2:2, Brenton).
judge Israel: Hosea 5:8-10 “Blow ye the trumpet on the hills, sound aloud on
the heights… Ephraim has come to nought in the days of reproof: in the
tribes of Israel I have shown faithful dealings… I will pour out upon
them my fury as water” (Brenton).
- To judge Judah: Ezekiel 7:2-16 “…An end is come
to the land of Israel, the end is come on the four corners of the land…
8 Now I will pour out my anger upon thee near at hand, and I will
accomplish my wrath on thee: and I will judge thee for thy ways, and
recompense upon thee all thine abominations... 14 Sound ye the trumpet,
and pass sentence on all together. 15 There shall be war with the sword
without, and famine and pestilence within: he that is in the field shall
die by the sword; and famine and pestilence shall destroy them that are
in the city. 16 But they that escape of them shall be delivered, and
shall be upon the mountains: and I will slay all the rest, every one for
his iniquities” (Brenton). (cf. Joel 2, which begins, “Blow the trumpet
in Zion…” and Zepheniah 1:12-16 “And it shall come to pass in that day,
that I will search Jerusalem with a candle, and will take vengeance…15 A
mighty day of wrath is that day, a day of affliction and distress, a day
of desolation and destruction, a day of gloominess and darkness, a day of
cloud and vapour, a day of the trumpet and cry against the strong cities,
and against the high towers.”)
- To judge the nations:
“God is gone up with a
shout, the Lord with a sound of a trumpet… For God is king of all the
earth: sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations: God
sits upon the throne of his holiness. The rulers of the people are
assembled with the God of Abraam: for God's mighty ones of the earth have
been greatly exalted” (Psalm 47:5, Brenton).
- And then there is the “last
trumpet” 1 Corinthians 15:52-54 “…for the trumpet will
sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed….
when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal
will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is
written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED
UP in victory’” (NASB).
- What is this event in Matthew 24 describing?
- I think that a secret, silent rapture can be
ruled out here, because in Matthew 24, everyone has seen Jesus, all the
tribes are mourning, there is a loud trumpet blast (the word “sound” is
in the majority of Greek manuscripts dating all the way back to the
earliest-known ones), and parallel passages indicate that Jesus is coming
in judgment when He comes on the clouds in power and glory, which is
exactly what the Messiah is supposed to do when He comes into His own is
to get rid of all the bad guys, and that’s what the disciples were asking
- I think another thing we can rule out is the
destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, because of many of the same reasons. Add
to that that a literal reading of the Greek words gives me the picture of
these elect people in the air, driven by air currents and then gathered
together by God’s angels so that there’s a line of them from one end of
the sky to the other. It’s not the sort of thing anybody’s ever seen
- But it does sounds
very much like what the Apostle Paul described later in 1 Thessalonians
4:16-17 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with
the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then
we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the
clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the
- This also seems to match the seven angels which
each sound a trumpet in chapters 8-11 of the book of Revelation, and when the last trumpet
sounds, “…there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the
world has become the kingdom
of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’ ...
And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your
bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name,
the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.’ And
the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His
covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and
sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”
(Revelation 11:15-19, NASB)
- This picture of “Gathering the elect from the
four winds” was pre-figured in the restoration of the Jews from captivity
in Babylon five and a half centuries before Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24.
The language of those pre-exile prophets is very similar:
- “If thy dispersion
be from one end of heaven to the other, thence will the Lord thy God
gather thee, and thence will the Lord thy God take thee” (Deut. 30:4,
- “…I will gather you
from the four winds of heaven, saith the Lord, even to Sion: deliver
yourselves, ye that dwell with the daughter of Babylon” (Zech. 2:6-7,
- “And it will come
about in that day that a great shofar will be blown, and those perishing
in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt
will come and worship Jehovah on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (Isa.
27:13)… “From the East I will bring your seed, and from the West I will
gather you. I will say to the North, ‘Give,’ and to the South, ‘Don’t
quit; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name.’” (Isa. 43:5-7) … “Jehovah, who
gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, ‘I will gather yet others...’”
(Isa. 56:8, NAW)
- The ingathering of the Jews to Jerusalem was a
type of the ingathering of the elect from all the nations to faith in Jesus
and salvation, as it says in Ephesians 1:10-12 “His plan for the fullness
of time, to gather all things in [Christ]… the purpose of Him who
works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were
the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.”
- The parallel passage in Luke 21:28 adds, “When
you see these things, lift up you head, for your redemption is drawing
- The final step will be the gathering together of
all God’s people, including resurrecting those who have died in the past,
into the special presence of Jesus as He reigns as the ultimate Prophet,
Priest, and King in a world without sin.
Conclusion: I started out this study with three
does this text relate to the rest of prophecy in the Bible?
I think I have demonstrated that prophecy throughout scripture is
closely interrelated and that Jesus is the same author who inspired Daniel and
Joel and Zecheriah, as well as the Apostles Paul and John the Revelator.
this text fulfilled in 70AD, or is it yet to be fulfilled?
I think I have shown that there is fulfillment to be found in 70 AD,
but not ultimately until the return of Christ. The events of our sovereign
Lord’s judgment in the earth have similarities with the final worldwide day of
judgment, so what we see in Jesus’ prophecies about the destruction of
Jerusalem in 70 AD typifies what will happen at that future time.
what are we, as Christians, supposed to do with this information?
Remember to “Set your mind on heavenly
things, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is
hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you
also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col. 3:1-4)
Don’t be afraid of missing the second
coming like my Mom was. Instead, prepare yourself by repenting of sin and
placing your hopes of salvation upon Jesus’ death and resurrection so that when
He does come, you will go to be with Him rather than be among the mourners who
are cast into hell.
Rejoice that justice will be brought
to bear on all the hidden corruption and against all the injustices of people
who are too powerful to challenge right now. Evil will not be left unpunished.
There will come a day when Jesus will settle every score and establish perfect
justice and righteousness! Praise the Lord!
Look forward with eager anticipation
for the return of Christ! When He makes His glorious appearance in the sky and
gathers us up and we meet Him in the air, those are going to be marvelous and
exciting times! I can’t wait to see what it will be like!
“…lift up you head, [Christian,] for
your redemption is drawing near!”