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Eschatology in the Bible 6: The end in Matt. 24

Thoughtful Jesus. He knew what would happen to Jerusalem.

So far, the time of Jesus’ explanation was something like this: • The disciples seek an answer to when these things will happen (Matthew 24:3). • Jesus warns them that “none must seduce” them when these things will happen (Matthew 24 :4-5). • He says that the early signs means “the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6). • He declares that the early signs are “just the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). • He declares that “for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:22). Now we will look at the “end” in verses 29 and 30, first verse 29.

Mat. 24:29. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 

I will remind you that Jesus prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple that was about 40 years later, in 70 AD. In verse 34, he says again that “this generation shall not pass away until all these things happening,” which he also pointed out earlier in Mat.23: 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”  

When we read verse 29, we see that He says that these things will happen “immediately after the tribulation of those days.” It can not be mistaken that he here meant that this was to happen in that generation he and his disciples lived in. To say that he believes this will happen for a long time after that tribulation, is to call it a total miss interpretation. He shares with us what will happen after a long time, in the last part of His explanation. He mentions this in the parables in Mat.24: 48, 25:5, 19 (Jesus’ statement to the disciples go all the way Chapter 25).

Using the dramatic imagery is not unusual, either in those days or the biblical context as prophecies. Jesus uses a lot of it, but we will look at an example where Isaiah prophesies of the Old Testaments fall of Babylon.

Falling stars

“For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. v.13 – Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.” (Isa. 13:10, 13). 

This is almost like reading the same as Jesus said in Mat. 24:29, at least close enough. Other prophets also uses dramatic imagery, Ezekiel describes Egypt’s case as follows:

“And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezek. 32:7-8). 

We see that these imaginary languages are used in judgment upon an earthly king and/or nation, as if all creation is in movement in the judge, “a cosmic catastrophe.” (see also Judg. 5:4-5). It is easy to see that Matthew 24:29 leads to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. It’s like “the end” for the nation of Israel and Israel’s tribes. When we read verse 29, we need not imagine this literary but rather visionary.

Sign of the Son of man 

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mat. 24:30). 

Yes, you should have seen, that Jesus would be surfing on a cloud and we should be lifted up at the cloud and then surf to heaven with Him, when He Himself says that His coming will be as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west (Mat.24: 27). But let us take the first part first.

“Then shall the sign of the Son in heaven,” It’s not say He will come on a cloud in person as people think, but it says it is a sign that will show up in the heaven. The character is an explanation of the Son of Man is now in heaven.

The disciples had indeed asked for a “sign” of His coming, and of the end of the age, but Jesus never gave them a “sign” of His second personal coming, because it will be sign-less and will cause sudden and unexpected (vv. 27, 36 -44).

“The cloud”, as it is written about, was the character that turns out and was the sign of the judgment of Jerusalem. It refers to the smoke of the burning Jerusalem and/or fracture stone smoke from Jerusalem. When Peter in Acts. 2:19 refers to Joel 3:3, he speaks to the “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem” (Acts 2:14), the “Men of Israel” (Acts 2:22) and the “house of Israel” (Acts 2:36), and talking about exactly the same character as Jesus presented to His disciples.

We see that it expects a judgment on Israel and Jerusalem because they did not accept Jesus and crucified Him. This should therefore be seen over Jerusalem as a sign of Jerusalem’s collapse and this was also a sign that Jesus is at God’s right hand.

Peter speaks of those who crucified Jesus and asked them to repent (Acts 2:38), because Jesus is risen, made Lord and Christ, and sat at the right hand of God (Acts 2:34; 36) (now and not later). That He is seated at the right hand of God means that He has authority to execute judgment. We see this in Revelation. 5:7, where he is the one who is worthy to take the scroll. This book is not the book of life but another document which I believe is a divorce document (I’ll get more on that later). The judgment comes on those who are guilty (Acts 2:35), and the first enemy that will be placed as a footstool for His feet are Israel and is also beginning the process of the verse “… for I place Your enemies as footstool for Your feet” . Israel is the first to be added as a footstool for His feet.

In Josephus records, he speaks of that judgment day:

“But as for that house, God had, for certain, long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages; it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Ab,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves” (J.W. 6:4:5). 

The flames were so big that Josephus writes further:

“The flame was also carried a long way, and made an echo, together with the groans of those that were slain; and because this hill was high, and the works at the temple were very great, one would have thought the whole city had been on fire.” (J.W. 6:5:1). 

He also said: “… for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething hot, as full of fire on every part of it …” Smoke or cloud was also a character in GT. (read Gen. 7:28; Psalm. 37:20; Isa. 2:31, 34:10; Rev. 2:11, 18:9). I can also mention that Jesus is telling the priests that they should “see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64), which indicating His authority.

If a cloud or smoke should appear in the sky, it must be in the clouds atmosphere. It is not as high as the International Space Station, but low as that the atmosphere in which clouds can forms. Thus, from the ground (fog) to the clouds in the sky. I strongly think that the clouds that we are talking about here is the smoke from the Jerusalem/Temple fire and it can also be the “break-stone fumes” from the destruction of the temple. Some believe that this character is a city, the new Jerusalem, which is descended and become a “satellite city” hovering over the earthly Jerusalem in the Millennium, which I think sounds terribly strange.

Let’s continue in Mat 24:30: “…then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.” Who are these tribes and is it the whole earth it means? Here I must bring in the Greek language to see what we mean. The word “earth” as used here is the translation of the Greek word “ge”. In Matthew this word have been used in connection with the land of Israel. We can see it in Mat. 27:45 where it says: “From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land (ge).”, And even more clearly we see it in Mat. 2:6 “And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda,(ge) …”, Mat. 2:20 “… go into the land (ge) of Israel …” and in verse 21 “… came into the land (ge) of Israel.” So it would look better if it was translated “… then shall all the tribes in the land mourn.” Not for for myself, but for the translation sake.

As we now know that it is the country it speaks about, we also know what people it points to – the tribes of Israel. It is the tribes of Israel who laments and this is in line with what we read elsewhere in Matthew, where the tribes of Israel are mentioned:

“And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
(Matt. 19:28). 

Here we also see that it was the disciples who were judged the twelve tribes of Israel, see also Lk. 22:29-30. They do not sit on thrones literally but spiritually. We can draw a parallel where the church is built on the apostles’ doctrine, society, the breaking of bread and prayers (Acts 2:42), with a priest in the temple services (managing, blood, prayers, and society). There was a shift in which the tribes of Israel were replaced with the disciples, ancient Israel with the new Israel. The Holy Communion was the inauguration of the twelve on their thrones. Jesus would not drink more of the wine until He drinks it new with them in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29).

The Old Testament text which Jesus draws his words from (“… then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.”) Shows that it is Israel that is in view here (Zech. 12:10-14).

The last thing in verse 30 is “And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:30). As previously mentioned, it is not talking about a physical coming of Jesus but his judicial coming. The leading priests and Pharisees had difficulty to see in parables for the reason that it was not given to them (Matthew 13:13) and Jesus said to his disciples, “… because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13). Therefore, they understood not what Jesus meant when He said: “… I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” With their own eyes they would see the Lord again, but in the form of judgment and power , blood, fire and pillars of smoke (Acts 2:19; ref Joel. 3:3).

The Lord judged the Egypt too and we can see the same patterns there. “The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt:” (Isaiah 19:1). Lord rode not physically on a cloud over Egypt, and we can also say that the high priests didn’t see Him physically ride on a cloud over Jerusalem.

Because she (Jersalem) denied her Christ (Matthew 11:37; Jn. 1:11; Acts. 26:7) He (the Lord) judged her.

Comments:
Bible Verses are from KJV 
J.W = War of the Jews, Flavius Josephus. 

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