New Testament Study:

Matthew 24:23-31

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The Olivet Discourse - pt. 3

 

 

23“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect— if that were possible. 25See, I have told you ahead of time.

26“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

29“Immediately after the distress of those days ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

 

 

Jesus continues to answer the questions posed by His disciples in verse 3:  “‘Tell us’, they said, ‘when will [the destruction of the Temple] happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age’” (Matt. 24: 3).  In this section, Jesus addresses two aspects of the question: “His coming”, and the “end of the age”

Again, Jesus warns His disciples not to be deceived by false Messiahs:  “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.  See, I have told you ahead of time” (vss. 23–25).  As the distress and tribulations of the end-times approach, there will be many claiming to be the returning Christ.  Their deception will be supported by “great signs and miracles”.  The “signs” and “miracles” will be a great aid in deceiving those who do not know the true Christ.  We humans are overly preoccupied with the miraculous.  We are always desiring to experience the supernatural.  How many countless times have the unsaved said, “Well, I would believe in God if He would just show me a miracle”?  Apparently, in the end-times, they will get their wish for the miraculous, but the “signs” and “miracles” will serve to lead them to false Christs.  Rather than basing our allegiance on the presence of “signs” and “miracles”, we who know the true Christ, must lean on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through prayer.  Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the “elect” will not be deceived by the false Christs and the “miracles”

Jesus tells us that His return will be public, clear, and obvious:  “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather” (vss. 26–28).  In His first coming, Jesus came to the chosen people of God in Israel, as one of them.  From a global perspective, it was a private event, restricted to one geographic region.  Jesus then spent time in the “desert” and in “the inner rooms”.  But Jesus’ second coming will not be private and regional; it will be public and global.  And it will be as clear and obvious as “lightning”; anything else is not to be believed.  No Christian who knows this verse should be deceived by any false Messiah.  If it is not obvious and clear that it is Jesus, then it is not.  We will all know; there will be no doubt.  The deceived will “gather” around a “carcass”, like “vultures”; the godly will wait for Christ’s evident return.

Jesus next speaks of the signs in the heavens during the end-times tribulations:  “Immediately after the distress of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’” (vs. 29).  Jesus here is citing a passage in Isaiah that prophesies the judgment of the Lord in the end-times:  “See, the day of the Lord is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it.  The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.  The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.  I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins” (Isa. 13:9–11).  The darkening of the sun and skies, spoken of here, could be the result of smoke and debris in the air (presumably due to wars and fires), but the wording seems to indicate that it will be the supernatural work of the Lord.

Jesus next speaks directly of His glorious bodily return to earth:  “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (vs. 30).  His second coming will be startlingly different than His first coming was.  “He is speaking of His coming back to this earth, a return that will be so striking that it will leave no doubt as to His majesty… Jesus is speaking of the majestic appearance of a King, the very antithesis of His first coming, a lowly coming in the form of a servant” [Morris, 610].  The “great glory” and “power” with which Jesus will return will leave no doubt to anyone that it is He.  A result of His coming will be that “the nations of the earth will mourn”.  The unsaved nations will mourn for themselves, at having rejected Christ, and having failed to serve Him.

His coming will be followed by a significant event:  “And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (vs. 31).  Those who serve the Lord will be taken from the tribulations of the earth, and gathered by the angels to Jesus.  What exactly this means, and physically how it will all come about, is a mystery.  But, it will no doubt be a glorious event for the children of God.