The Sign of His Coming
Matthew Lesson #155
March 5, 2017
“Father, we’re thankful for the opportunity we have to come together, to focus on You, to focus on Your Word, to be reminded that as we look out on the various things that are going on in our world, nationally as well as internationally, sometimes domestically, with the rise of crime and many other things are going on.
“Father, we recognize that You’re still in control, You’re still faithful to us as individual believers, You’re faithful to Your promises to us, and that as we look at the broad picture of prophecy in the future, and especially in that most horrible of all times, the Tribulation, You manifest Your faithfulness to Israel, Your faithfulness to Your promises to Israel, and we can take great courage and encouragement from how You are always faithful and true.
“Father, You will be faithful to us in the small things as You are faithful to Israel in the big things and Father, we’re thankful for all that You have provided for us. As we study today, may we be encouraged by Your faithfulness to us and everything.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open Your Bibles with me to Matthew 24:23–31 this morning, and I want to spend a little time since it’s been a couple of weeks since I was here. Three Sundays back I guess, was when we covered the section Matthew 24:15–22. I want to go over some of this and review some of that material.
Today as we look at this, I’m going to go through seven questions:
1. First of all, we’ll have a review, looking at the connection of Matthew 24:23–31 with the previous context, Matthew 24:13–22.
Then we’re going to look at Matthew 24:23–26 and ask the question:
2. What is the significance about the warning of the rise of false messiahs and false prophets in these four verses?
Following that we will ask the question:
3. How is the coming of the Son of Man described? If you notice, we’re going to look at Matthew 24:27, 29.
Matthew 24:28 is a strange verse so we’re going to take it separately and ask:
4. What does this mean about the carcass and the eagles gathering in Matthew 24:28?
5. Fifth, we will look at the term “tribes of the earth”—but I think it should be translated “tribes of the land”—how do they respond and what is the significance of that verse?
6. The last verse, what is meant by the gathering by the angels?
7. What should our response be in terms of what we learn from this passage?
Initially we will look at a review, what is the connection of Matthew 24:23–31 with the previous context. The more that I study this, and as I was over in Kiev during the last couple of weeks teaching on judgments and rewards, part of that involves these parables that are coming up.
We have the parable of the fig tree, Matthew 24:32–35. How do we interpret that, and what’s it connection within the passage? That’s really important for proper interpretation to understand that.
Then we have another parable right at the end of the chapter, who then is a faithful and wise servant; and what is the significance of that parable? Then we have another parable, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins at the beginning of Matthew 25. Then the parable of the talents.
All of those relate to judgments that come at the end of the Tribulation, as well as rewards, which of course was the title of my course.
I’ve spent a lot of time studying this—not the easiest section here. There are disagreements between a number of dispensationalists, as I’ve pointed out before, those who are pre-millennial, pre-tribulational, do not see eye to eye on a lot of this.
I think this is due primarily to some hermeneutical inconsistencies which I’ve pointed out, some in the past, and I’ll point out as we get into the latter part of the chapter.
This chapter begins: Jesus had announced that the house of Israel, that is the temple, would be left to them desolate. He announces that judgment is coming on Israel because of the fact that the religious leadership, specifically the Pharisees, have rejected Him as the Messiah.
We studied this in Matthew 23 with the seven statements, the announcements, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” This is very clear. He is addressing them as unbelievers who have rejected His offer of the Messiah, and so He announces that the temple will be destroyed. That was the Second Temple.
It was a second stage of the Second Temple—the Herodian renovation of the Temple—and that would be fulfilled in AD 70. As they look at the beautiful glorious Temple—which was considered to be the eighth wonder of the ancient world—it was incredible. They said you had not seen beauty if you had not seen the Temple. The disciples can’t imagine that it would be destroyed.
They asked two questions, “ ‘Tell us, (1) when will these things be? And (2), what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?’ ”
I’ve pointed out that they don’t say “signs.” We often are people say, “Well, what are the SIGNS of the times, SIGNS of His coming?” It’s just like folks who misread the title of the last book of the New Testament and say RevelaTIONS and put that “S” on the end. Every time I hear that it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard—it’s one revelation. It’s one sign which we’re looking at this morning.
Just a reminder:
1. Jesus is talking to them as Jews about Jewish prophecies, specifically the Kingdom.
The Kingdom is a literal geophysical kingdom that will be initiated on the earth by the arrival of the Messiah. He’s come once to offer the Kingdom; it was rejected. When He comes a second time, He will establish His Kingdom.
2. The Olivet Discourse, therefore, is addressed to the disciples as Jews representing Israel, and it is the last thing that He says in His earthly ministry about Israel and God’s plan for Israel in the future.
3. Therefore, nothing in the Olivet Discourse is about Church-Age believers or has direct application to Church-Age believers.
But it certainly has implications for us in understanding God and His faithfulness and the importance of judgment.
4. All living Church-Age believers will be raptured and taken to Heaven before the beginning of the Tribulation.
We will not be here on the earth during this time.
The timeframe for this period is what is described as Daniel’s 70th week in Daniel 9, and it is also referred to as the time of Jacob’s Trouble in Jeremiah 30:7. In that chronological outline in Daniel 9:24–27, we have in the Hebrew the phrase “70 periods of seven.”
That’s been translated as weeks, but it’s 70 periods of seven, which is actually 70 periods of seven years, which turns out to be 490 years. 483 years have already been fulfilled.
That last seven-year period is the period that comes at the end immediately preceding the coming of the Messiah to establish His Kingdom. It will begin according to Daniel 9 when the prince who is to come will sign a peace treaty or contract or covenant with Israel, guaranteeing their peace, and so they are at peace for the first 3½ years.
In the world there are judgments that are coming about. In our study of Revelation we saw that the seal judgments and then the trumpet judgments take place in that first half. It’s described in Matthew 24:8 as the beginning of labor pains, and then in verse 6, Jesus says, “but the end is not yet.”
What marks the middle of the seven-year period is the desecration of the temple. How many of y’all have thought about this? Let me ask you a question. What kind of temple is this? It’s an apostate temple. Can you desecrate an apostate temple? Obviously, you can. The Antichrist will commit blasphemy there.
The reason I pointed that out is I’ve heard some people say when I have talked about the importance of Israel even in the Tribulation period and the return of Jews to the land today, they’ll say, “but they are returning in apostasy; it has no significance.”
Well, if the fact that they’re in apostasy has no significance, then the temple being an apostate temple would have no significance, but the apostate temple can still be desecrated. Therefore, an apostate temple has significance.
That means that the return of an apostate people to the land has significance. That’s a little logic you can work through later on. So the temple—the apostate temple, the third temple—will be desecrated, and God will bring judgment as a result of that.
The second half of the Tribulation is described as a period of increased labor pains or increased birth pains. Jesus says in Matthew 24:14, “Then the end will come.”
1. The first 3½ years are the beginning of sorrows.
2. The second 3½ years of Daniel’s 70th week: increased persecution of the Jews, especially Jewish Christians, after the Antichrist breaks the covenant. That’s described in Matthew 24:9–14.
In Matthew 24:15, which we looked at the last time,
3. There is a warning to Jewish believers.
Why Jewish believers? Because unbelievers aren’t going to care what Jesus says; they’re not going to respond to it. When Jesus says to flee there, they’re going to say, “Who cares? Who is Jesus? He was just another prophet, at best.”
Jewish Christians in Judea are to immediately flee when they see the abomination of desolation. They are not to stop. They are not to pass go; they’re not to collect $200. They are to get out of town immediately, if not sooner.
We talked last time about this abomination of desolation. It’s described in Daniel 9:26–27, specifically in verse 27, where it says “in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.”
He stops what he has allowed under his authority. The Jews have been able to carry on their daily sacrifices and offerings in this apostate temple that they have erected, putting it back under the Mosaic Law.
The text says, “And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate.” There’s going to be a series of these blasphemous desecrations of the temple, and he will make the temple desolate. He creates this great blasphemy. What does that involve?
In Daniel 11:31 this terminology appears again. He defiles the sanctuary. He takes away the daily sacrifices. Remember, these are apostate, so he can still defile them. He places there the abomination of desolation, which is going to be first himself to be worshiped as God, and then he replaces himself with a statue or idol of himself to be worshiped.
Daniel 11:36, “He will exalt and magnify himself above every god, he will speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished.”
Remember, Jeremiah said this is the time of Jacob’s wrath. So until God determines the end, he will be allowed to carry on his blasphemy.
2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, “Let no one deceive you by any means, for that day will not come unless the falling away …” I believe … that word in the Greek APOSTASIA is normally translated apostasy, but in a number of uses and various forms that word, it also means departure. I think that if the Rapture is a signless event, then worldwide apostasy is not a sign of the soon coming of the Lord.
It is the departure that comes first—the Rapture—and the man of sin is revealed. We don’t see the Antichrist until after the Rapture. He is called “… the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
He will then erect a statue of himself, and he will be worshiped.
This is what is described in Revelation 13:4–5, “They worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast …” That’s Satan; they’re not only worshiping the beast, they know that behind the beast is the power of Satan. “They worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’ ”
The way the questions are phrased: no one. No one is like him. No one can depose him. No one can defeat him.
“And he was given …”—passive voice; means God permissibly allows him to carry out his arrogant plans—“… and he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty two months.” 42 months is 3½ years.
Last week, as I ended, I pointed out that at the end of the previous section I covered, in Matthew 24:22 we read, “but for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.”
That is, those days of the Tribulation. There are some that think that what that means is that maybe the Lord will come back before the 3½ years are over with. That’s not what that is saying. What that means is that God could’ve allowed this to go on longer than 3½ years or 42 months or 1,260 days.
If it had gone on another 45 days or another two months or three months, then every human being would have been killed, all of Israel would’ve been killed, so God limited the extent of the damage during the Tribulation. He is only given 42 months.
I put the calculations up there for you: 42 months, each month having 30 days because it’s a lunar month. It’s not a solar month. It is not a calendar like we have today. That means the Jewish calendar was a calendar of 360 days, not 365. So we have 42 months times 30 days is 1,260 days.
Daniel 12:11, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be 1290 days.” That’s 30 days longer. That’s a month longer. Now a lot of people have questioned,
“Well, what’s the difference? Why all of a sudden do we have this?” So I’ve put this little chart together:
From the abomination of desolation, which is halfway through the Tribulation period, to the Second Coming, according to Revelation 12:6, it’s 1,260 days where God protects Israel in the wilderness. That works out to 3½ years or 42 months.
In Daniel 12:11, there are 1,290 days from the setting up of the abomination of desolation until the end, and there’s a couple of different ways this is explained—it’s not explained in the text.
Some people suggest that the 30 days will come at the beginning. This is stated by Dr. Walvoord in his commentary on Daniel in the Bible Knowledge Commentary. He says “Some people put it at the beginning, that this may include the preparation for putting this idol in the temple.”
But most of the explanations I’ve read are that the 30 days comes at the end, after the Lord returns. There’s sort of a cleaning-up, mopping-up operation, including the timeframe for the campaign of Armageddon, and that the 30 days would be part of that.
There is also another statement in the very next verse in Daniel 12:12 that says there will be 1,335 days. That’s 45 days beyond Daniel 12:11.
What many people believe is the first 30 days is time of judgments: the time of judgments on the surviving Gentiles, time of judgments on the surviving Jews. Those are some of the judgments we will study at the end of Matthew 24 and into Matthew 25.
Then the next 45 days are the times of rewards and blessings that are put into place before the Millennial Kingdom actually kicks off.
We saw in Matthew 24:17–18 the urgency of their departure once the Jewish believers in Israel see the abomination of desolation. They are not to do anything. They are not to go to their bank account. They are not to go home. If they are on the rooftop, they aren’t even to go down into their house and grab their go-bag. They are to immediately leave. Why?
Well, if you think about this and what is going on, the Antichrist has established himself in power. He is now taking this enormous step to be worshiped as a god and to take his place in the Holy of Holies. He has a great organizational ability. His Gestapo and his SS troops are all in place to immediately go out.
They have their printouts, their orders, to arrest and to perhaps kill every Jewish Christian in Judea, and of course, Jerusalem would be included in that. What the Lord is ordering here is, as soon as you know this, as soon as you hear this, don’t stop and do anything, just leave.
Just leave everything behind. Don’t go get a coat, don’t grab your go-bag, don’t grab your gun, don’t grab your Tavor, your M-16, whatever it is. Just leave and trust Me to protect you and provide for you. If you’re in the field, if you’re in the backyard or you’re out in your vineyard and you’re working, don’t go back to get clothes.
Don’t go back, just leave from there. You don’t have time because the Gestapo could be at your door by the time you get there. And you need to pray because it will be calamitous if you’re pregnant or you’re in ill health, and it will make it even more difficult for you to make the journey into the wilderness, into the mountains, the hill country of Judea.
Matthew 24:19, “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days.” Not that there something wrong with this; anything of this type would just make it more difficult for them to flee, to leave Judea and head into the wilderness.
Matthew 24:20, “And pray that your flight may not be in the winter or on the Sabbath.” I think this is a prayer that God intends to answer, that they should pray for this, that when knowing that this would come because this is what Jesus tells them. “I have warned you about this and so you are prepared.”
They are to pray and God intends to answer this, and in that way He will again provide some protection for them.
As I was looking at these verses, specifically the ones that are talking about those in Judea are supposed to flee, this tells us something about how the Bible is supposed to be interpreted. I have not spent much time teaching about how Amillennialists interpret this or how Preterists interpret this.
These are people who do not believe these events are in the future, but they’re either totally symbolic or they were fulfilled in the judgment of AD 70. Nevertheless, there are certain elements within the instructions here that they take literally.
1. Literal interpretation:
Judea means Judea. In Matthew 24:16, “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”
Very precise there. It’s not talking about those who are in Samaria, those who are in Galilee, certainly not talking about those who are in Texas or New York or London or Paris. Judea means Judea, not Houston, London, New York, or wherever you live. It is specifically to Jewish believers in Judea. This would include Judea and Jerusalem.
“To the mountains” doesn’t mean to the Hill Country of Texas, doesn’t mean to the Rocky Mountains or to the Cascades or to the Blue Ridge Mountains or anywhere else. It is to flee to the southern hill country of Judea and across into the area of Jordan today, in the area around Petra and Bozrah.
2. The immediate danger of arrest means to flee immediately and trust God to provide for them.
God has given them a historical precedent for that. This happened in the wilderness wanderings, which lasted for 40 years that are described in Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus.
In Deuteronomy 29:5 God said, “And I have led you 40 years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.”
I’m always amazed by that verse. That God miraculously provided them with food and with water and their clothing didn’t wear out, and this will be true in a much shorter period of 3½ years that God is going to protect those surviving Jewish believers who follow His command to leave immediately.
He will protect them. He will provide them with clothes. He will provide them with water and food, everything that they need. That’s why they don’t need to go back home and grab their go-bags. They are to trust in the Lord.
Nehemiah reiterated this in Nehemiah 9:21, “40 years You sustained them …”—speaking to God in prayer—“… You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell.”
There’s an implication there for every believer in every dispensation, but especially true of those who are believers in the Church Age who are in Christ, and that is that statement “they lacked nothing.” God has provided us with everything we need.
It’s just that so often we think that we need other things in order to be happy, and we focus on all of these details of life, and we forget that we are on a mission. We’re on a mission to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in our life, and He gives us that which we need to sustain us in this life to complete the mission that He has given us.
So often we get our eyes on the details. We get our eyes on people. We get our eyes on things. We get our eyes on circumstances. Our happiness and our joy are based on that relationship with God, and He provides everything. We lack nothing.
The New Testament tells us that God is given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. He has given us what we need, and we need to trust in His provision and not be like the Jews in the wilderness and say, “Well, I wish I had the leeks and garlic of Egypt. I wish I had new clothes. I wish I had designer clothes,” or whatever it may be in the terms of the details of life. We lack nothing, because God is the One who provides for us.
We saw that they would flee into the wilderness where, according to Revelation 12:6, there was “… a place prepared by God, so that she would be nourished for 1260 days.” There’s that number again. That’s not going to be shortened, that number is shortened. That’s the shortened number.
In Micah 2:12, they will go to a place where they will be gathered like sheep in the fold. The Hebrew word is bozrah. Bozrah means sheepfold, and this is near Petra in the southern part of Jordan that we see today.
God is going to sustain her as we saw last week in Revelation 12:14, “And the two wings of the great Eagle were given to the woman …”—that represents Israel—“… in order that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times…”—that’s two, so that’s a total of 3—“… and a half a time.” —that’s 3½ years—“… from the presence of the serpent.”
That same imagery of an eagle sustaining and protecting Israel in the Old Testament is found in Deuteronomy 32:10-11.
Then the last part, which I flew past very quickly last time in Matthew 24:21, “For then there will be great tribulation.”
If you listen to some theologians, and I think that Dr. Walvoord, as much as I respect his scholarship in much that he did, took this as a technical term. In the Greek there’s not an article with either the adjective or the noun. That’s not necessary as we know, in Greek, that that definiteness can be inherent within a noun.
We see that in British English. They will talk about going “to university” or going “to hospital.” They leave off the definite article because it’s inherent in the noun, but in Greek the uniqueness of something can also be the focus of leaving the article off. It’s a qualitative sense.
That’s the same thing that is said of Jesus’ Deity in John 1:1 when it says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” “God” is anarthrous—it doesn’t have an article with it—and it’s emphasizing the quality of Jesus as being fully God.
That’s what I believe is being said here. The phrase “great tribulation” is used in two places: here and in Revelation 7, which talks about this great host of martyrs that come out … The only judgments mentioned to that point are the seal judgments.
So if you take this as the second half, which is what Dr. Walvoord did, then you end up doing what he did: taking the seal judgments, the trumpet judgments, and the bowl judgments, and putting all of them into the second half. I think Dr. Chafer did that as well. I don’t know anybody today who holds that view, but you will still run across that with some people.
I think another part of what contributed to that error was the idea that there would be peace during the first 3½ years. The peace treaty that the Antichrist entered into with Israel gave Israel peace, but not the rest of the world. That’s why they heard about wars and rumors of wars, but Israel was at peace.
So the idea of a great tribulation was that there was a beginning of sorrows. There was a beginning of tribulation and of adversity in the first 3½ years, and then it went into high gear and intensified in the second half. That’s what Jesus is saying, “Then there will be an intensified adversity “… such as has not been seen since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor more ever shall be.”
Matthew 24:22, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s …”—that is the choice of one’s—“… sake those days will be shortened.”
This is referring in this context to Tribulation saints—specifically Jewish believers—for their sake, these days will be shortened. Otherwise, if instead of going 1,260 days, if it went 1,290 days or 1,335 days, then all of the Jews would be killed. All of mankind would be destroyed. By stopping at 1,260 days, it prevents the total annihilation of the human race.
The 1,260 days represents that shortened time period.
In this section, having reviewed what we covered last time and added a few things to it, we ask the second question: What’s the significance of the warning about the rise of false messiahs and false prophets?
That starts in Matthew 24:23–26. Jesus says, “Then …”—that is, as He has used the word THEN all the way through this section: He is talking about THEN following the previous events that He has talked about; that is, THEN after the abomination of desolation during this period of the second half of the Tribulation.
“… If anyone says to you, ‘look, here is the Christ!’ ”—I think this will make more sense to us if we go with the original that meaning of CHRISTOS is the Messiah—“ ‘… Look, here is the Messiah’ or ‘There!’ Don’t believe it.”
What’s going on here? Jesus explains in verse 24, “For false messiahs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect …”—that is, the choice ones. “See I have told you beforehand.”
All of this is a warning to those Tribulation believers who survived to protect them during the horrors that are described back in Matthew 24:9–14.
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ Don’t go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms’…” He’s got a secret chamber in the temple. He’s hiding there waiting for you; go find Him. “… Don’t believe it.”
Tommy Ice, who covered for me. I heard good reports about Tommy’s classes while I was gone to Kiev. Everybody enjoys Tommy. Tommy wrote, I think it was a 38- or 39-part series of articles on the Olivet Discourse a few years ago. Actually, that lasted a few years. If you have 38 parts and you’re coming out six times a year, well you do the math, that probably took six years for him to write all those articles, just did a tremendous job of research.
But he concludes here:
“As events unfold during the second half of the Tribulation, the Antichrist (that is, the Beast in Revelation) attempts to entice the elect, Jewish remnant out of their wilderness hiding by saying that the Messiah is clandestinely in Jerusalem. Thus, they should come and see him. However, Jesus has warned His disciples in advance not to listen to such propaganda.”
Remember, the objective of Satan and the objective of the Antichrist is to destroy all the Jews in the whole world and every Jewish believer. So when they escape, and he’s not able to follow them, and God prevents him from being able to destroy them, he is going to try to entice them out of hiding.
There’s going to be a tremendous propaganda machine that the Messiah has come, “He’s here in Jerusalem. Come and see him” to try to get them to come out of their hiding place in Bozrah. But this will not be effective because Christ has warned them.
A couple of things that we should observe here:
1. The terms Christ (Messiah), false Christ (that is the false prophet, and false prophets) are all oriented to Judaism.
We don’t have a problem in the New Testament with false messiahs and false prophets. Read from Romans to Jude, and you won’t see warnings to the church about false messiahs and false prophets. Those are Jewish terms. What you will see in the New Testament is warnings about false teachers, so this tells us that this is specifically Jewish in its orientation.
2. That they’re going to be performing great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Now I believe that … there’s two views here. One is that these miracles are sleight-of-hand miracles. They’re like David Copperfield-type illusions that will deceive people. I don’t believe that’s true.
I believe in Deuteronomy 13 when God warned Israel about false prophets. They will come and they will perform miracles, and even if they heal people, assuming that they can genuinely heal people and generally perform miracles, “If they tell you to do something other than what My Word has told you, don’t believe them because I have allowed them to come in order to test you and see if you will believe My Word over your experience.”
This is what will happen in the end times is that they will have these miracles, and people will be deceived. They’ll say, “Ah! Must be from God because they performed a miracle.” But this is not true. They are going to be genuine miracles. That’s why they’re called great signs and wonders to deceive
2 Thessalonians 2:9–10, “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all the power, signs, and lying wonders.” They’re genuine miracles, but they are testing a deception. That’s why they’re called lying wonders.
“… and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
Then in Revelation 13:13–15, talking about the false prophet that will come, there will be many, as we see in this passage, false messiahs and false prophets. There will be one Antichrist and one False Prophet who lead them all.
In Revelation 13:13 we read, “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on earth in the sight of men.” If you remember in Exodus, the magicians of Pharaoh could duplicate the first four or five miracles that Moses performed in order to deceive people into their genuineness. It’s the same kind of thing. It’s a genuine miracle. It’s just a testing, a fraudulent individual.
Revelation 13:14, “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth …”—that’s a term in Revelation for unbelievers—“… those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.”
This is when the Antichrist has his head wound, comes back to life and he makes an image to himself. This all happens right at the midpoint of the Tribulation.
“He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast …” He’s going to create this idol. It is going to be more than artificial intelligence. He’s going to bring it to life like a living being. He’s going to “… give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
So this is the significance of the warning.
3. How’s the coming of the Son of Man described?
This is amazing! We can’t imagine this. Just listen to what happens. We’re going to look at the two verses, leave out verse 28 at first. Matthew 24:27, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
What it says here is there’s going to be this brilliant lightning that is going to be global. Everyone will see it, it will be a brilliant flash of light that will be piercing, and it will be piercing the darkness.
Look at Matthew 24:29; this is parallel to several passages in Scripture describing the end of the Tribulation period: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days …” Note the timing there—as it’s coming to the end and the Lord is about to return—“… after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light …”
The earth will be in pitch black darkness. Think of the fear on people’s minds. How panicky they will be. “… the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
In the midst of that, this darkness—as people think it is about to end and human history will end and the planet will explode—in that pitch-black darkness like we’ve never seen, there will be this brilliant lightning that will flash from east to west as the Lord penetrates it with His Shekinah Glory and separates the darkness and enters into human history into the atmosphere and descends into Israel.
This is what happens as the Kingdom appears. It does so brilliantly, explosively, and so that everybody sees it and no one can miss it.
There’s a parallel to this that’s often misunderstood and that’s found in Luke 17:20–21. Jesus is in a confrontation with the Pharisees: “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation…’ ” That’s the New King James; that’s a fairly decent translation.
“… nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ ” Then He says to the Pharisees a statement often misunderstood: “… for indeed the kingdom of God is within you.” That’s a bad translation.
Psychologists have said, “See there’s a little bit of God in everyone.” That’s not what this is saying. Others have, and I’ve been guilty of this in the past, taking this as “the kingdom of God is in your presence,” because the king was there, but I think that ignores the context here.
Jesus is talking about how the Kingdom of God is going to come. It doesn’t come gradually with observation, as the New American Standard translates it as “coming with signs to be observed.”
We just saw in Matthew that there’s going to be the sign of His coming: this lightning that’s going to come from east to west. The word SIGN isn’t in the original. It’s just the word PARATERESIS, which indicates not that it will come gradually so that men can observe it, but it’s the idea that it won’t come in this slow observable way, but it will come with this piercing immediate presence.
Slides 40, 41
That takes us, of course, to Matthew 24:28, which is the fourth question:
4. What does this mean about the carcass and the eagles? Matthew 24:28,
“For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
This really pictures corpses that are scattered because of the devastation of the judgments, and that eagles—the word can also refer to vultures, those carrion eaters—will gather together where the corpses are.
Tommy Figart, who wrote a great work on Matthew, The King of the King of Heaven says,
“Taken literally, it means that wherever dead bodies are, there the aetoi (that is eagles and vultures) will descend upon them. From a physical point of view, the vast carnage will result in this very thing.”
I’m not going to read the rest the quote, but that’s the main point is this is the judgment. It’s connected to what is described in Revelation 19:17–18, where John says,
“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.’ ”
The massive destruction at the closing out of the judgments of Revelation: there will be such devastation, so many dead, that the birds will gather to eat the dead. That’s what Matthew 24:28 talks about.
Matthew 24:29 as it follows that immediately after the Tribulation, talks about the sun being darkened; the moon not giving its light.
This is reminiscent of Joel 2:31, which describes the day of the Lord, that “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
There is also a description of this in Joel 3:15, which refers to a blackout that occurs just prior to the return of the Messiah. All of this describes the lead-up to this dramatic entry of Jesus Christ into the earth’s atmosphere, “… as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
5. How will the “tribes of the land” respond?
In Matthew 24:30 we read of the entry of the Son of Man.
“Then the sign of the Son of Man ...”—all 26 verses leading up to verse 30: “What is the sign of Your coming?” “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes …”
Now that’s not talking about all the Gentiles: the Germans, and the Scandinavians, and the Russians, and the Chinese, and the Japanese. This phrase PHULE is almost always used to describe the 12 tribes of Israel. “… and then all the tribes …” See this is a Jewish context: “… then all the tribes …”
Jesus comes not to the earth as a whole, as it were, but He goes to one geographical location in Israel, the tribes of the land. The word there, GE, in Greek can mean earth or can also refer to the land of Israel. He comes to Israel and “… all the tribes…”—the 12 tribes of the land—“… will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
This is predicted in Zechariah 12:10–12, where God says, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
“In that day there shall be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the morning at Hadad Rimmon on the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: The family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves …”
This is echoed in Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes …”—again that same language, talking about Israel—“… the tribes of the land will mourn because of Him. Even so. Amen.”
6. What is the gathering by the angels?
This is when God sends out His angels. Matthew 24:31, “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet …” This isn’t the last trumpet; this isn’t the trumpet of the Rapture. This is a trumpet that closes out the Tribulation period at the time of the Second Coming. “… a great sound of the trumpet, and they will gather together His elect.”
If this is the Rapture, we’ve got all these things that have to happen before the Rapture. We wouldn’t be looking for the return of Jesus Christ, we would be looking for the Antichrist, we would be looking for the Tribulation; we would be looking for all these other things because they would have to precede the coming of Jesus Christ.
This isn’t talking about the Rapture, which is a signless event, this is talking about the Second Coming. And at that time, these angels “… will gather together His elect …”—that is His choice ones—“… from the four winds …” I think in context what He’s doing is bringing Israel, the remnant, those who survived, all of the Jewish believers back to Israel, “… from one end of heaven to the other.”
7. What should be our response?
I will focus this on three basic observations:
- First of all, we need to be reminded that God is in control of history.
No matter what the devastations are, no matter what economic or military collapses there are, no matter what personal devastations there are, God is in control of history, and whatever happens, He does not lose control. He will accomplish His purposes.
- God will fulfill His promises to Israel.
He promised that He would give them the land; He will give them the land. He promised that He would restore them to the land; He will restore them to the land.
- Therefore, God will also be faithful to us in fulfilling His promises to us in every area.
If God can provide the needs of the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness, God can certainly take care of us for a short time on this earth.
“Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to come together to focus on You, to be reminded that history has a purpose, our lives have meaning and a purpose, and we are to serve You in this life.
“I know this passage speaks of a future generation and does not involve us as the church. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by Your faithfulness, knowing that in the vicissitudes of life, sometimes we get down and discouraged, and sometimes we think that that there isn’t a plan, there isn’t a purpose, and somehow things are out of control, but this shows us that You are always in control and You are faithful, and You will accomplish Your plan and Your purposes, and You will be true to Your promises.
“Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here today that is unsure of their salvation—of their eternal destiny—that they would take this opportunity to make that both sure and certain. Scripture says we’re all born spiritually dead in our trespasses and sins, but that You have provided a gracious salvation—not based on works, not based on what we have done—but it is based on what Christ did on the Cross:
“For by grace we have been saved through faith and that not of ourselves. It’s the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” That all that is needed is to believe in Jesus as Savior and we instantly have eternal life, which can never be taken from us.
“Father, this morning as we pray we’re also reminded of our good friend, David Roseland, his sister Carrie, her husband Todd, David’s mother, Linda, and the sudden taking of his father, Bert, to be with You.
“We rejoice in his victory over death, but we pray for the family that with the suddenness of this departure that this will be a time of blessing for them, a time when they can bless others, and a time of great testimony that glorifies You. We pray that You would strengthen and sustain and encourage them with Your Word during this time of loss.
“Father, for us, we pray that You would continue to strengthen us as a congregation and as individual believers as we show love for one another and live out our testimonies for You in this life.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”