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Charles Swindoll: Teaching concerning the return of Christ never fails to create mixed feelings. For those who are ready for it, there’s a mixture of comfort, relief, and eager expectation. For those not ready because of unbelief, disobedience, or rebellion, the range of emotions runs from ignorant indifference to contemptuous scorn. Yet just like it’s impossible to remain neutral in our response to the gospel of the saving person and work of Jesus Christ, so it is with regard to the Second Coming. Even when we’re not thinking about it, God’s clock is ticking, moving toward that moment when the true believers will be snatched from this earth and the rest of the world will face the great Day of the Lord —the seven-year Tribulation (1 Thes. 4:16 – 5:3).

Richard Gardner: Up to this point, Jesus has been clarifying the shape of things to come before the end. A shift occurs in verse 29, where Jesus at last begins talking about the final drama that will bring an end to the time of tribulation. Symbolic of the fact that God is about to refashion all creation, the heavenly bodies cease to radiate or rule life (v. 29; cf. Isa. 13:10; 34:4; Joel 2:2, 10; 2 Esd. 5:4). As their glory wanes, the glory and power of the Son of Man who comes on the clouds of heaven is all the more apparent (v. 30; cf. 16:28; 26:64; Dan. 7:13-14).

David Turner: It is argued here that 24:29–31 describes the climactic signs in heaven that immediately precede Jesus’s future coming (24:29), that glorious coming itself (24:30), and the purpose of his coming: to gather God’s elect for their reward (24:31). Jesus’s appearance effects a reversal of business as usual. Since his death and resurrection, the disciples have mourned over their many persecutions (5:10–12; 9:15; 10:23), but when Jesus appears, their persecutors mourn (cf. 13:41–42), and the disciples with joy begin to experience the ultimate reward of their master (25:21, 23).

Grant Osborne: The cross is the central event in history, the parousia the final event in history. The entire Bible looks to both events as the heir to the exodus, effecting the salvation of God’s people. We are looking at the consummation of all of history seen as salvation history. This passage extends the point of vv. 27–28: unlike the false teachers and their emphasis on a secret coming, the true Messiah will come with a public event that no one will be able to ignore. The conspicuous nature of the return is seen in the loud trumpet blast and in the arrival of the hosts of heaven to gather God’s people to Christ.

S. Lewis Johnson: What our Lord is going to be speaking about here is the Second Advent which follows the intervening period of approximately seven years of which is called in the Bible, Israel’s seventieth week, in which God begins again to deal with the nation of Israel and ultimately to bring them back to faith in the Lord Jesus at the conclusion of that period of time.

The Bible Says: This concludes Jesus’s answer to His disciples’ second question asking Him “what will be the sign of Your coming?” (Matthew 24:3). His answer was that they would not need a sign because when He returns everyone will know (Matthew 24:27). But He gave them three precursor events to His coming so they would know that His return was near. These events were

  • the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15);
  • the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21);
  • and the Darkening of the SunMoonand Stars(Matthew 24:29).


A.  Timing Reference

But immediately after the tribulation of those days

Grant Osborne: When?

The return of the Lord is “immediately after” the tribulation period. One major doctrinal debate that centers on this passage is the so-called “rapture debate” within premillennialism. The issue is whether the Lord will return at the beginning (pretribulation position), in the middle (midtribulation), or at the end (posttribulation) of the “great tribulation” period (24:21; Rev 7:14). The pretribulation position (mostly dispensational scholars) believes that Jesus is addressing Jewish disciples rather than members of the church, and so Jesus is not addressing the “rapture” at the beginning of the period (which is only for the church) but the “revelation” of Jesus in power and glory at the end of the period.

The midtribulation position argues that this is the same event as Rev 11:11–12 (the catching up of the two witnesses, who symbolize the church) and so the middle of the period described in Rev 6–19.

The posttribulation position asserts that there is only one return, not two; and so this must be the same event as Rev 19:11–21 (cf. 1 Thess 4:13–18; 5:1–12, which they say is also a single event) and must occur “immediately after” this period. Amillennialists would tend to agree with the posttribulation position on Matt 24:29–31.

B.  Disruption of Celestial Powers

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will fall from the sky,

and the powers of the heavens will be shaken,

Walter Wilson: With the sun and the moon inoperative, time effectively stops, the entire space-time continuum undergoing transformation. Presumably the powers (δυνάμεις) mentioned at the end of 24:29 refer to the celestial entities mentioned previously in the verse, rather than to spiritual forces located in the heavens (as, for example, in 1 Pet 3:22).  In either case, the only “power” left in the universe belongs to the Son of Man, the arrival of darkness prefiguring the eschatological punishment he will mete out in 25:30.

Leon Morris: Jesus is saying that, whatever the powers of the heavens may be, they are subject to God, and that at this time, that of the return of the Son of man to this earth, their power will be disturbed. Whatever functions they may be exercising at the time will be affected by the great fact that the Son of man is coming back to this earth to bring an end to the current system and to inaugurate the reign of God over all the earth.

S. Lewis Johnson: Now in Isaiah chapter 13 and verse 10 – in this context the Lord is speaking about the Lord’s judgment upon Babylon, and as is often the case in the prophetic word of the Old Testament, the local situation is designed to be the instrumentality by which prophecy is ultimately given that stretches out into the distant future. And here it is plain that the day of the Lord is in view – that final climactic day in which the Great Tribulation shall take place. The 6th verse reads, “Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.” And then in verse 10 we read, “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine.”

Now it is clear that the Lord Jesus has used these words in the prophecy that he gives in verse 29 of chapter 24 of Matthew. Turn with me over to the 34th chapter and the 4th verse of this same prophecy of Isaiah, for the other part of verse 29 is taken from verse 4 of this chapter. Here we read in the 4th verse, now and again we are speaking about the time of the tribulation Verse 2 has said, “For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies,” and in the 4th verse we read, “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree,” so that you see what our Lord has done is to take passages from the Book of Isaiah in the 13th chapter and the 34th chapter, and he has woven them together into the prophesy of verse 29 of chapter 24 of Matthew. . .

So here, then, he says immediately after the tribulation, this great time of affliction and testing shall merge in a time of cosmic agitation. Now; these words are describing something astonishing. And many Bible teachers and scholars have assumed that they must be speaking of something figurative or symbolic. But I believe they are describing something very literal.

For one thing, the description our Lord gives is of something that seems to be mentioned in many different places in prophetic Scripture concerning the coming Day of the Lord. I find it hard to believe that something mentioned so often in Scripture—and often in nearly the same terms—is meant to be taken symbolically.


A.  Sign of the Son of Man

and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,

Richard Gardner: In the midst of this picturesque description, Jesus speaks of the sign about which the disciples inquired, the sign of the Son of Man which will appear in heaven (v. 30a). But to what is Jesus referring? One of the earliest (though less likely) interpretations of the allusion is the sign of the cross. More recently, commentators have proposed that the sign consists of a counterpart to the blaring trumpet mentioned in verse 31, either a military standard or ensign (cf. Isa. 18:3; Jer. 4:21; 6:1; 51:27) or a great display of light. Still others argue that the sign is Jesus himself, and that we should translate the words in question: The sign which is the Son of Man. One way or another, Jesus is telling his disciples: You will know it when you see it!

David Thompson: There is debate among scholars as to exactly what the sign of the Son of Man actually is. Some have speculated that it is a type of Shekinah glory. Dr. Gaebelein believes it will be the Shekinah cloud which shrouded Israel in the O.T. times. The same cloud seen when Christ ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). This will be a sign that the glory of God is coming back to Israel. However, if we look at Revelation 19:11-16, there is a graphic description of the coming of Christ. This may include all of these signs. In other words, after the world sees these things happening in the sky, they look up and see the Son of Man coming on a white horse with armies following Him. This would be quite an amazing sign.

Ray Stedman: Let us not miss the fact that he links this sign with the statement, “then all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” We shall examine that more fully a bit later, but from other Scripture it appears that he means the tribes of Israel. Since this sign is thus linked with Israel it strongly suggests that the sign will consist of the reappearance of the cloud of glory which accompanied the nation Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness for forty years. It was called the Shekinah, and was the sign of God’s presence with his people. Much later, when the Temple was built and Solomon dedicated it to God, the Shekinah glory came down and took rest in the holy of holies upon the Ark of the Covenant as the sign that God was dwelling with His people.

This shining cloud may well be what Jesus himself is referring to when he says, “They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.” There is an obvious reference to this same event in Revelation 1:7. There John says: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.” Of course it can simply refer to the atmospheric clouds, but the repeated emphasis seems suggestive of more. When Jesus thus appears it will mark the close of the age, but it will also be the opening event of a new age, and the supreme characteristic of that new age will be that God dwells with His people. In Revelation 21:3, John describes it, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them.” Since the Shekinah is the sign of God’s presence with man, it is fitting that it should reappear as the sign that explains, clarifies, and reveals the meaning of Christ’s coming. He comes that he may be, as the Old Testament prophets whispered, “Immanuel-God with us.”

B.  Sorrow of the Tribes of Israel

and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn,

S. Lewis Johnson: And he adds, “And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” Now that’s a very interesting statement. I wish it were possible for me to talk about the Old Testament significance of the term, earth, and also the New Testament significance of the term, earth. The word ge in Greek, which is often rendered “earth” is a word that also means “land.” Now if it means, earth, if it means earth, we normally think about the whole of this globe, but if it should mean, land, then of course, we would think about the land; that is, the land of Palestine. And in the light of the fact that he says, then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, lends some credence to the interpretation that what he is saying is that when the Son of man appears in heaven, then the tribes for Israel, and its tribe shall be back in the land, the tribes of the land shall mourn. In other words, Israel shall come to the realization that it is the Messiah that they crucified when the Lord Jesus Christ was hanged upon the cross.

Now that interpretation gains also some support from the passage in the Old Testament in the book of Zechariah, which seems to be the passage that our Lord was thinking about. Zechariah chapter 12 verse 10 in which we read these words, “And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplications and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Isn’t that a striking passage? Here the Lord, here the prophet speaking for the Lord, Yahweh it says, I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplications. What is that? Why that’s Old Testament effectual grace which shall be poured out in the future. It is exactly what the Bible teaches when it speaks about God opening the hearts of people to believe. He will pour out upon these tribes, specifically here the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, such a ministry of the Holy Spirit that they shall look unto—isn’t it startling that Jehovah should say—they will look upon me whom they have pierced?

B.  Sight of the Returning Son of Man

and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky

with power and great glory.

Ray Stedman: The reference of Jesus to his coming “with power and great glory” reminds us immediately of the closing words of the Lord’s Prayer. How many times have you prayed, “For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory?” That prayer reflects the anticipation of God’s people, through all the dark centuries, of the eventual coming of that flaming hope when the power and the glory of the universe will be in the hands of the One to whom it rightfully belongs.


A.  Galvanizing of the Angels

And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet

B.  Gathering of the Elect

and they will gather together His elect from the four winds,

from one end of the sky to the other.

D.A. Carson: The “four winds” represent the four points of the compass (Eze 37:9; Da 8:8; 11:4)—the elect are gathered from all over (cf. 8:11), “from one end of the heavens to the other” (from every place under the sky), since that is how far the gospel of the kingdom will have been preached (v.14). Although all nations of the earth will mourn, nevertheless the elect are drawn from them.

David Thompson: The “elect” more than likely refers to Israel, God’s elect nation. Matthew stresses the elect are gathered from the sky. Daniel stresses the elected are raised from the dead (Dan. 12:2-3, 13). Mark stresses the elect are gathered from the earth (Mark 13:27). What I understand this to mean is that Jesus will gather all Jewish believers from all ages to enter the kingdom; Jewish believers from the O.T. economy, N.T. Church Age and the Tribulation. He will gather them all to receive the kingdom.

Leon Morris: The angels will be sent to gather his elect; the messengers of heaven will gather up the saints of earth. Jesus brings out the truth that not one of them will be overlooked; the angels will gather them from the four winds, which is expressive enough as a reference to the whole earth, but here it is reinforced with from one end of the heavens to the other. Jesus’ followers are encouraged by the certainty that on the last day not one of God’s people will be missing.