MATTHEW 24: THE SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN



29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matthew 24)

As we have previously seen in our studies, the disciple’s viewed the destruction of the temple, the parousia of Christ, and the end of the age as events that would happen at the same time,”. The disciples question was basically two fold; when will these things happen, and what signs will indicate that they are about to happen? In verses 4-51, Jesus answers their questions. 


Please keep this in mind as you read Matthew 24, the Lord is answering His disciple’s questions. Jesus told them a number of things that would happen before the end came; the gospel would be preached to all the world, they would see the “abomination of desolation” that Daniel had spoken of (Luke tells us that this refers to the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem). There would come a time of great tribulation. Then immediately after the tribulation, they would see the sign of the Son of man come in the clouds of heaven.

This is very important as many have argued that no one saw Jesus in the destruction of Jerusalem in ad70. Some still maintain that Jesus would return for all to see physically all over the world. It is important to note the words of Jesus himself. Let’s begin.

23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. (Matthew 24)

In verses 23-26 of Matthew 24, Jesus emphasizes to his disciples that his coming will not be a physical bodily coming. If someone says, “Here is Christ, or there,” they were not to believe them. If someone said, “He is in the desert or he is in the secret chamber,” they were not to believe them. Why? If His coming was to be physical and bodily, why would someone not be able to say, “He is over there?”

How would they see His coming? They would see it in the judgement that was to fall upon Jerusalem.

This is why he says his coming would be like lightening,

For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Vs 27)

By comparing Scripture with Scripture we can see that lightning refers to God’s judgement. Jesus compares his coming to lightning and by that he is saying that His coming will be seen in judgement. This absolutely follows the context of discussion from the chapter 21.

He also tells them that his coming will be like a bird of prey going after a corpse

For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together. (Vs 28).

This language can be found in the judgement language of the Old Testament. It doesn’t stand in isolation for us to give it our own interpretation.

This study is important because many Christians are not familiar with the apocalyptic language of the Old Testament. Without this you will not understand what Jesus is saying here. This is a language that is perculiar with the Jews of those days and can be found in the prophetic books.

In apocalyptic language, great commotions and judgements upon earth are often symbolized by commotions and changes in the heavens. This language is never taken literally by them and neither should us.

THEN THE SIGN…

When is “then?” “Then” refers to “immediately after the tribulation of those days” of verse 29. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, which was the great tribulation, this sign will be seen.

The great tribulation was covenant judgment over Israel. It was a series of catastrophic events that befell a nation that the narration of it would put anyone into a sad state.

“But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:” – Deuteronomy 28:15 (NKJV)

“And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess.” – Deuteronomy 28:63 (NKJV)

The historical account of what transpired in AD70 comes from Josephus, a non-Christian Jew who wrote at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction. In the preface to his writings “The War of the Jews,” Josephus said this, “Whereas the war which the Jews made with the Romans hath been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those that were ever heard of.” (PREFACE, Section 1)

In this he agrees with the words of Jesus that it was the most devastating thing that affected the Jewish people. It is just more than the fact that people died. All that transpired brought to a close to that Jewish age and it can’t be resurrected again.

Now to another aspect of that discourse is this.

Who asked what the sign of his coming would be?

His disciples (verse 3). Who was Jesus talking to? The disciples. Whatever the sign was, it was to appear in 70 AD immediately after the tribulation of those days, which was the destruction of Jerusalem. It was a sign to “that generation” not to us some 2,000 years later.

To understand what this sign was, we first need to have a correct translation. A word-for-word rendering from the Greek reads: “And then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.”

The point is this: 

The destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple was the sign that the Son of Man was in heaven.

They were not to look for a sign to appear in the heavens, but to realize that the destruction of Jerusalem was to indicate the rule of the Son of man in heaven.”

The wording of this passage refers us back to the expression, “The Son of Man,” found in Daniel 7:13-14 which Jesus used concerning Himself when referring to His coming.

13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.”

What would the average Jew have thought of when they heard the phrase “Son of man”?

The judgement of Jerusalem was a sign that the Son of Man was in heaven in fulfillment and that the kingdom of God would reign on the earth. In that place in Daniel we see Jesus, the Son of Man, coming to the Ancient of days and receiving His everlasting kingdom. This fulfillment of this prophecy began from his ascension.

30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,[e]31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

– Acts 2:30-36

The kingdom received from the Ancient of days is no other than the kingdom symbolized by the stone cut out of the mountain which Daniel interpretes:

34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. – Daniel 2:34-35

The kingdom was given to Christ at His ascension, and this was made manifest to all Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Jerusalem’s destruction was a sign that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God.

This is the reason for the outrage expressed by the High priest, Caiaphas

63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!66 What do you think?”
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” – Matthew 26:63-65

Notice the similarities between Jesus’ answer to Caiaphas and what he said in our study text.

30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. – Matthew 24:30,

64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” – Matthew 26:64

What did Jesus say that was blasphemy? Caiaphas understood that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah.

(To be continued)

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