Matthew 24:29-35 - The Second Question
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
As I have shared, after looking more into the study of eschatology, it appears to me that the futurist interpretation of Matthew 24:1-34 and most of the Book of Revelation is untenable. Eberle and Trench, in their book Victorious Eschatology, break down the questions recorded in Matthew 24:3 in their explanation that the predictions of Matthew 24:1-35 were fulfilled within a generation (40 years) of the Olivet Discourse. Previously I looked at their explanation of the first question – when shall these things be? - and showed how the disciples were asking when Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed. I would like to look into the second question asked by the disciples – and what shall be the sign of thy coming? The answer to this is spectacular.
Futurists see this question and take it to mean the disciples were asking when the Lord would return to the earth, or in other words, they were asking about the timing of the Second Coming. They take this to mean that the Lord will return to the earth after the signs of Matthew 24:4-22 have occurred. According to the partial preterist view, all of these signs preceded the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. They have already occurred. As for the question – what shall be the sign of thy coming? - Eberle and Trench argue that the mindset of the disciples was very different from the mindset of Christians today that have been led to believe in a future Great Tribulation and pre-tribulational rapture. The disciples were not asking when the Lord would return to the earth after dying, being resurrected, and ascending to heaven, for at that point, that was not something they were even sure about.
We read in Luke 18:32-34 - “For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.”
The disciples did not understand what was being said. They were still thinking of a Messiah that would set up a political kingdom of earthly power.
It is interesting to read Luke 24 and see that even after the resurrection of the Lord, the disciples were slow to believe what had happened. Notice the verses in bold letters:
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
And they remembered his words,
And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
And he took it, and did eat before them.
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And ye are witnesses of these things.
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
The words of this chapter clearly reveal to us that the disciples at that time had a different mindset than many Christians today. This occurred well after the Olivet Discourse, and even at this time, the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and return of Christ was not something that was on their minds. They had been looking for a Messiah that would deliver them from the Roman Empire. They were looking for their Messiah to set up God’s Kingdom and they were looking to reign with him on earth. Matthew 20:20-28 shows what was on their minds and how the Lord was attempting to change their way of thinking. So the disciples were not asking, when will you be coming back to the earth, they were asking when are you going to take your position as king? What are the signs of your coming into your Kingdom?
When did the Lord come into his position as King? After his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, he sat down on the right hand of God and all authority was given to him. He came into his Kingdom the moment he sat down by the Father. The scriptural truth, and the reason for their question, is found in the words of the Lord Jesus, recorded in Matthew 16:28:
“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (emphasis added)
People miss that because they have been led to believe something totally different than what the Bible actually says. The Lord said that some people alive, as he was speaking, would see his coming – but the coming being referred to was not the coming that the futurists have claimed! He came into his Kingdom over 2,000 years ago. This does not mean that the Lord is not returning to the earth; I believe in the Second Coming of Christ. The point here is, that this second question, and what the Lord was talking about in Matthew 24 up until verse 35, was not about him coming back to the earth, but was about him coming into his kingdom – just like he said in Matthew 16:28.
It is important to remember that the Lord was referencing events and a time that would occur “immediately after the tribulation of those days – (24:29). Immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the disciples would know the Lord had come into his kingdom.
Matthew 24:30a – And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven
Futurists see this as the Lord appearing in the sky, but that’s not what the verse says – it says and “then shall appear the sign.” The sign will appear, and what does the sign indicate? That the Lord Jesus is in heaven on his throne. How were the disciples to know that the Lord had made it into heaven? What was the sign of him coming into his Kingdom? The Lord had just been telling them about the signs that would end in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and once they saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, they would know that he was on the throne, that he had come into his kingdom. The Jewish nation would fall (it did), the Temple would be destroyed (it was), and that was the sign that he had been telling them about. The old Temple was destroyed and a new Temple (the Church) was being built out of living stones – that was the sign that the Lord had come - come into his Kingdom.
The Bible also says that, “all of the tribes of the earth shall mourn.” Futurists claim this is referring to all the people in a coming day, but those who hold to the partial preterist view believe this is referring to all of the tribes of Israel, all of the Jews spread over the earth. They would mourn when they saw the sign – the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
Then the Bible says, “and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
People have been led to believe that this is about the Second Coming of the Lord to the earth, but that cannot be so. The Bible does not say here that he comes back to the earth. Whatever this event was, it was to occur in the sky, in the clouds of heaven. If this isn’t about the Second Coming of Christ, what is it about? The same coming we have been talking about already, and Daniel wrote about it in advance.
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
Daniel prophesied about this very event, and it is clear he was not prophesying about Christ’s Second Coming to the earth, he was writing about Christ coming to God the Father in heaven, and Christ being given all authority on heaven and earth.
How much clearer could this be?
“And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
Futurists believe this is a reference to the rapture, but only three verses later, we read that the Lord Jesus said all these things will occur before this generation passes. How duped many of us have been in the past by faulty interpretations. When the Lord Jesus would reach his throne, all authority would be his. The blowing of a trumpet to the Jews was the sign of a royal decree, and this would be the time when the Lord’s angels would be released to begin gathering his people from every nation. The angels are ministering spirits, and along with the preaching of the disciples, who were sent to make disciples of every nation, the reaping of the harvest would begin. In the words of Eberle and Trench: “it is a simple fact of history that the Church began its vigorous growth after Jerusalem fell.”
In verses 32 and 33, the Lord was assuring the disciples, that just as one can tell the signs of the changing of the seasons, they would know that all the signs he had been speaking of would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple – the sign of the Son of Man in heaven - him coming into his Kingdom.
Finally, one will either believe the words the Lord told the disciples in verse 34 or he will not:
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
Verse 36 is believed to be the beginning of the answer to the third question, the question about the end of the world.