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Matthew 24:15-24:35
Key Verse: 24:30

In the previous passage we learn that all the glittering things of the world will turn to dust and the sufferings and travails of the world are the beginning of the birth pains for a new world. And the spiritual trend of the world is that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Today’s passage is one of the most glorious passages in the Bible. It contains the coming of the Son of Man with power and great glory which Jesus spoke in his own words. This passage also includes Jesus’ talking about great distress unequalled since the beginning of the world and about his words never passing away. May God help us to accept the glorious hope of Jesus’ coming again into our hearts.

First, the time of great distress (15-25). Look at verse 15. “So, when you see standing in the holy place “the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel…” “The abomination that causes desolation” is written 3 times in Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11). In 9:27 the prophecy in Daniel refers to a period of “seven” during which in the middle of the “seven” a ruler will set up “an abomination that causes desolation.” During the days of the Maccabees, the same expression was used to describe the blasphemy of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who decreed that an altar to Olympian Zeus, and perhaps also a statue of himself, be erected in the temple (167 B.C.). Antiochus further decreed that the Sabbath and other festival observances were to be profaned, that circumcision was to be abolished, and that swine and other unclean animals were to be sacrificed in the temple. This was an inversion of God’s creation order. It was utter contempt for God. Jesus said, “Let the reader understand…”. A similar kind of thing would happen at the fall of Jerusalem. The people had to understand what they were to do in such a time. Were they to stay there and watch over the temple until they were martyred? No. Jesus said, “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house; let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.” People may have thought that those who would flee were cowardly. However, the point was that they had to obey the given direction. Those who fled to the mountains could survive during the Jewish revolt according to the Christian historian Eusebius. When Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem, God’s direction through Jeremiah was to surrender to them and live peacefully under their ruling. But the king and those who were stubborn did not accept God’s direction but rebelled against the Babylonian king and were miserably destroyed. In Genesis, at the time of judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, God’s direction for Lot and his family was “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back…! Flee to the mountains…!” But Lot was reluctant to obey this direction. He was barely saved because of God’s mercy due to Abraham’s prayer (Ge 19:17-19, 29). God’s people must learn to obey his direction, especially at the time of urgency. Obedience is life (Dt 19:19).

Look at verse 19. “How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!” It must have been hard for them to travel when they had to travel for their safety. People should seek spiritual blessings first, rather than human blessings. Jesus continued, “Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath” (20). Even such a troublesome time Jesus wanted his people to pray humbly to God who is in control, not thinking with a rebellious mind, “God allowed such a thing to happen so what’s the use of prayer?”

Look at verse 21. “For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” Here we see that Jesus’ prophecy was a mixture of the event the fall of Jerusalem and what will happen at the end time. Now Jesus was shifting from the time of his generation to the time of the end. At the end of the age there will a time of tribulation (Re 13:11-18). With the onset of the abomination that causes desolation as spoken of by Daniel, the period of “great distress” begins. This desolating blasphemy is the predominant event of this period of tribulation, which corresponds to Daniel’s period of “seven,” during which in the middle of the “seven” a ruler will set up “an abomination that causes desolation” (Da 9:27). When we look at Daniel (esp. 9:25-27) and the events of Revelation (see the number of days of 1,260 in Rev. 12:6, which equals three and a half years), this marks the second half of the seven years of tribulation, the time of “great distress [tribulation].” Apparently the first three and a half years will be a time of relative peace and quiet.

Look at verse 22. “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” God’s people should not be rebellious thinking, “God let the great distress happen and then shorten those days. What is God doing?” Those who are humble can see God’s caring love even in that great distress. God does not let his people separated from the troubled world. His people will suffer together in the world. But his elect is to see God’s delicate care in the midst of tribulation and give thanks to him. He never forgets his elect but cares for them absolutely, as he remembered and cared for Noah and those who were in the ark amid devastation of the whole world.

Look at verses 23, 24. “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.” In the time of trouble and distress, people can seek anything for relief and survival. They can be deceived even by a small offer of peace and relief. At the time of Jeremiah, false prophets propagandized for peace, when there was no peace. False Christs and false prophets are those who offer pseudo peace and counterfeit solution, even through performing great signs and miracles. At the end time people become desperate for anything that seems to belittle their sufferings or improve their human conditions. To them what is beneficial is more important than what is right and true before God. Jesus said, “See, I have told you ahead of time.” His elect should keep his words of truth to the end.

In this part we learn how his elect should live at the time of distress and tribulation. They should obey God’s direction, humbly pray to God who is in control, see God’s delicate care and be thankful to him, and hold to his words of truth.

Second, the coming of the Son of Man (26-35). Look at verses 26,27. “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. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” The coming of the Son of Man will be visible to all regardless of where they are in the east or in the west. His coming is like lightning that lights up the entire sky. Those who know this cannot be deceived. Look at verse 28. “Where there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” The point of this proverb is that the coming of the Son of Man is sure and certain.

Look at verse 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.’” As there will be earthly disturbance, so there will be heavenly disturbance. This verse can be referred to Isaiah 13:10. Isaiah 13:9,10 says, “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.” The heavenly disturbance can be God’s punishment for its evil (Isa 13:11). People of the world regard that the sun shining and the moon giving its light and the stars staying above the earth is an obvious phenomena in the universe. They do not acknowledge one who operates them. But when the functions of the sun and the moon and stars stop, they cannot help recognizing that there has been the sustainer of such heavenly bodies. At the heavenly disturbance the world will be in utter darkness with no light at all. But the source of light will be changed from the heavenly bodies to the lightning of the Son of Man.

Look at verse 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...” At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Magi from the east saw his star unusually shining and followed the star to the place where Jesus was born. At that time only the Magi who had searched for his star could find and see it. That was at his first coming. But at the second coming the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and evident to all. People do not need to search for it. The sign will appear in the sky to the people of all the nations. We don’t know whether the sign will be the cross or a flying banner or something else. Anyway the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. It will be a totally unexpected thing. At this astounding sign, all the nations of the earth will mourn and people will faint in terror (Lk 21:26).

Look at verse 30b. “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” At the time when Jesus said this, he would soon be crucified, and killed on the cross. It would be the climax of his humiliation. But Jesus saw what would happen far beyond that. He would rise and ascend and come again on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. The Scriptures say about his coming again repeatedly. For example, Job 19:25 says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” Zechariah 14:9 says, “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.” When he came first, he came as the good shepherd and he died as our Saviour. But when he comes again, he will come as King. While on earth, Jesus himself reiterated his coming again. He said in 10:23, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Jesus spoke it in this whole chapter 24, and chapter 25. Particularly 25:31 says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” And at the time of trial Jesus said before the high priest, “I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 26:64). When Jesus was taken up into the sky, two angels said to his disciples, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Ac 1:10,11). It is noticeable that all the New Testament writers wrote about Jesus’ coming again. His coming again is more than sure. With the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus’ coming again, then all the promises of God will have been fulfilled. It will be the culmination of human history.

Look at verse 30b again. “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” At his coming he will destroy all evil and unrighteousness. The kingdom of love and righteousness will be established. It will be the day of judgment for all those who rejected him. But it will be the day of salvation and great joy and glory to all of his people. As our true King, he will recognize all of his people without missing one. We will see him and he will meet each of us. What a glorious day it will be. What a glorious hope we have! This hope is for you and me as we hold to his grace and sure promises.

Look at verse 31. “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.” With a loud trumpet sound he will call each of his people through his angels. The trumpet call will resound in the whole universe, and the calling will be a personal, public calling. When you are called by your professor, or dean or president in school, or by your boss in the company, you feel honoured. But when we are called by the King of all through the trumpet blast, how honourable and amazing it will be! Apostle Paul said of this in 1 Corinthians 15:51,52, “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” We will be finally glorified. And the angels will gather his elect. All the redeemed and glorified of his people will be gathered together. Our Lord Jesus wants us to keep this glorious hope in our hearts as a secret in our Christian life!

Look at verses 32,33. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree. As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Jesus’ coming again is as certain as summer is coming. Look at verses 34,35. “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Jesus said this after speaking about his coming again. We can believe all his words, particularly his words concerning his coming again. His words are more enduring than heaven and earth. This shows who he is. He himself will never pass away. He is our eternal Saviour and King. His words are trustworthy and stand forever.

We thank God for Jesus speaking about the end of the age further, especially about the coming of the Son of Man. His coming will be like lightning, there will be the sign of his coming in the sky, and he will come on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory and there will be the trumpet call for each of his people and gathering of the elect by his angels. May we keep this glorious hope in our hearts, holding to his words and live by faith as his elect until he comes again.

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