Meaning of Mathew 24:29-31
I’ve selected these verses to talk about because they have always been subject to different interpretations. I believe these three verses are speaking of two different things, but I believe they should be considered together in our interpretation of them. Let’s listen to the verses..
V-29, “But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it’s light, and the stars of heaven will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.”
V-30, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”
V-31, “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
Many people believe that all three of these verses are speaking about the end of time. However, we learned from a previous study, that V-29 clearly refers to the judgment of God upon those responsible for the great tribulation that had been spoken of from V’s 15-28. For a look at that study, please read the article titled, “WHAT IS THE TRIBULATION ? – PART 3”. That article gives a complete explanation of the symbolic phrases of V-29, specifically.. “..the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give it’s light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken”. The use of those words in the bible has never referred to the end of time, but rather to specific judgments upon either individual people, or nations of people.
In that study, we looked to four different passages from the bible, where either identical phrases were used, or at least very similar phrases. Those areas of scripture were; Isaiah 13:10, Isaiah 24:23, Ezekiel 32:7-8, and Acts 2:20. And in the first three of those examples, God’s word makes the direct statement, that the judgment of specific persons was being spoken of. And in the last example from Acts 2:20, it was very easy to see how judgment was again being referred to, when Christ came and His words judged the people of the world concerning sin. See also John 16:7-11.
Therefore, since we know that V-29 refers to God’s judgment, and since we know that this judgment would come immediately after the tribulation, we can easily conclude that the immediate judgment spoken of, was judgment against the Roman Empire, who were the ones who brought about the tribulation.
But are the next two verses also in reference to that same judgment, or do they indeed refer to the final coming of Jesus, and the end of time?
Let’s consider the language of Mathew 24:30, and then also look at other verses that use the same language, and see exactly what that language represents.
Here’s Mat 24:30 once again.. “And the SIGN of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn..” now here comes the specific “sign”.. “..and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory”.
Now let’s look at another verse; let’s go to Mathew 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and will then recompense every man according to His deeds.” So here’s a verse that we know refers to the final coming of Jesus at the end of time, because we know that it’s at the end of time, when we’ll be recompensed for our deeds. And it says here that Jesus will come, “in the glory of His Father”. Mat 24:30 had said that He will come, “in power and great glory”. Very similar language in both these verses. Also notice that Mark 13:26 and Luke 21:27, are “parallel verses” to Mt 24:30, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory”.
Now, Revelation 1:7 says, “Behold He is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over Him. Even so, Amen!” Jesus is “coming in the clouds.. and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn”. Mat 24:30 said, “all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they will see Him coming in the clouds of the sky..” Almost identical language. This verse in Revelation is clearly in reference to Christ’s coming at the end of time.
Here’s another clear verse about the end of time.. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout..” Then V-17 says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” “In the clouds”, at the end of time.
Now let’s look at two scriptures that refer to the coming of Christ, but NOT at the end of time. Rather, these two passages refer to Christ coming in His kingdom. Remember that His kingdom is in the present, not in the future. His kingdom is here now, and has been here for almost 2,000 years already.
Listen to these words about the kingdom.. Mathew 16:28, “Truly I say to you; there are some of those standing here, who will not see death until they see the Son of Man, coming in His kingdom.” This was written somewhere between the middle and the latter part of the first century A.D. For those who think that the kingdom hasn’t come yet, they’d have to admit, there must be some pretty OLD people on this earth, waiting to see Christ come in His kingdom!
Here’s those two verses that refer to Christ coming in His kingdom..
Mathew 26:64, “Hereafter, you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of POWER, and coming on the CLOUDS of heaven.”
Jesus was speaking to the Jewish high priest shortly before being crucified. The high priest had said to Jesus.. “I adjure you (I demand), by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Mat 26:63
Jesus answered, “You have said it yourself..” V-64. In other words, “you have spoken the truth, I AM the Christ”.
Then Jesus said what we already quoted, “Hereafter, you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus wasn’t saying that they would see Him at His final coming, although that would be true also; Because the scriptures do say, in Rev 1:7, “EVERY eye shall see Him”.
So these same people WILL see Him when he comes at the end of time. But what Jesus was saying is that the high priest and the others of that day, would see Jesus come in His KINGDOM. And that kingdom was going TO COME, in other words it would “arrive”, in about 50 days from then. Jesus was crucified the very next day, then he arose on the third day after that, and then on the day of Pentecost, another 47 days later, He came in His kingdom. Acts chapter 2. Jesus came in His kingdom, in approximately 33 AD, on the day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem.
When Jesus Christ is spoken of as being “on the right hand of POWER”, it’s speaking of Christ ruling in His kingdom.
Listen to Romans 8:34, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes rather, who was raised, who is at the RIGHT HAND of God, who also intercedes for us.” Jesus died, He was raised, and He is now reigning in His kingdom, at the right hand of God.
Listen to Hebrews 1:13, “But to which of the angels has He (God) ever said; Sit at My right hand, until I make thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet?”
Now 1 Cor 15:25, “For He must REIGN until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”
V-24 had said, “Then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and authority and power.”
All these verses make it abundantly clear, that when Jesus is referred to as being “at the right hand of God”, and “at the right hand of POWER”, it signifies that Jesus is reigning in His kingdom. And He will continue to reign until the end of time, when He delivers the kingdom to the Father in heaven. The kingdom that Jesus will deliver, is made up of the souls of all the saved. It’s a spiritual kingdom. Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.. My kingdom is not of this realm.”
Here’s the next verse about Jesus coming in His kingdom..
Daniel 7:13-14, God had been showing the prophet Daniel, visions of things to come. “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming. And He came up to the Ancient of Days, and was presented before him. And to Him was given dominion, GLORY and a kingdom. That all the people, nations, and tongues, might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away. And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” There’s no room for doubt here, about what’s being spoken of. Jesus Christ, coming in His spiritual kingdom!
Notice HOW Jesus is coming in His kingdom..
Daniel 7:13, “with the CLOUDS of heaven”.. “given dominion, GLORY, and a kingdom”.
Mat 26:64, “at the right hand of Power, sitting on the CLOUDS of heaven.”
This is a LITERAL coming of Christ! It wasn’t a physical coming, but a spiritual coming. But nonetheless, it was literal. The phrases, “with the clouds of heaven”, and “at the right hand of power”, may be figurative, but the coming of Jesus in His kingdom was a literal event, which took place on the day of Pentecost, in 33 AD.
Now let’s see how Jesus is going to come at the end of time..
Rev 1:7, “Behold He is coming with the CLOUDS.”
Mathew 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the GLORY of His Father, WITH HIS ANGELS; and will THEN recompense every man according to His deeds.”
2 Thess 1:7, “..when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven WITH HIS MIGHTY ANGELS..”
1 Thess 4:16-17, “with the voice of the ARCHANGEL.. IN THE CLOUDS.. IN THE AIR..”
All these verses describe a LITERAL coming of Christ. Just like the previous verses also described a literal coming of Christ.
Now it’s time to make a rational conclusion. When it says in Mathew 24:30, “..and they will see the Son of Man coming on the CLOUDS of the sky, with POWER and great GLORY”; Why would we not interpret this as a literal coming of Christ?
Every other instance, when these very same phrases are used in the bible, they refer to a LITERAL coming of Christ. Either Christ coming in His kingdom, or Christ coming at the end of time. Is it LOGICAL, that Mathew 24:30, is the only instance in the bible, where the identical language is used, but not in reference to a LITERAL coming of Christ? Would this be the only instance where the language referred to a FIGURATRIVE coming? That doesn’t seem logical, or very likely to me at all.
That’s why I believe that Mathew 24:30 IS speaking of the literal final coming of Christ, at the end of time. It’s impossible for this verse to be speaking of Christ coming in His kingdom, because all of the other events which are spoken of in this chapter, are events that would take place AFTER His kingdom had already come. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that Jesus speaks here of His literal coming at the end of time.
If the previous verse refers to the final coming of Christ, then this verse must also.
Listen to Mat 24:31, “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
The terms, “the four winds”, and “from one end of the sky to the other”, are obviously figurative terms meaning “from the whole earth”. God’s elect are not literally contained in “four winds”. And the elect are not literally scattered “from one end of the sky to the other”. But His elect ARE scattered throughout the whole earth. There are saved souls, living in just about every location on this earth. And His elect who have already died, are kept in the spiritual realm of hades. And when Christ comes again, He will definitely gather up ALL the saved, who make up His kingdom, and He will deliver that kingdom up to the Father in heaven.
That’s exactly what we learn from 1 Cor 15:24, “Then comes the end when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father..”
We learned from 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout! With the voice of the archangel, with the TRUMPET of God!
And that’s almost exactly what Mat 24:31 says, “He will send forth His angels with a great TRUMPET..”
And V-31 goes on to say, “..they will gather together His elect from the four winds..” From the whole earth.
And we have the literal description of the gathering together of the elect, in 1 Thess 4:16-17.
Remember what we just read.. Christ will descend from heaven “with the voice of the archangel”, so that obviously depicts the presence of angels. And that “shout”, and that “voice of the archangel”, is also associated with “the trumpet of God”.
Now here’s the gathering together.. “..and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain, shall be caught up TOGETHER with them IN THE CLOUDS to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” V-18 says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
It’s very comforting to know, that whatever happens to us in this life; and whether we die before His coming, or if we remain alive until He comes; if we’ve been faithful to God, and are among His elect, then we will ALL be “gathered together (at the last day) to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord”.
But on the other hand, it won’t be very comforting to those who are NOT living according to God’s word, especially if they’re among those, “afflicting” the children of God.
Listen to 2 Thess 1:6-9..
“For it is only just, if indeed God repays with affliction, those who afflict you, and gives relief to those who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, inflaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.”
For those of you who don’t know what “parallel verses” are, they are verses from different sections of the scriptures, that are either identical in wording, or at least very close in wording, and which basically say the same thing. For example; Mathew 24:15 is a parallel verse to Mark 13:14. Here’s the readings of those two verses.. First Mathew.. “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place..” Now Mark.. “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be..” You see how both verses say basically the same thing, but with slightly different wording.
Another verse that’s “parallel” to these two, is Luke 21:20. This verse uses very different wording, but is still talking about the same thing, and actually gives us a clearer understanding of what the first two verses are referring to. Listen.. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.”
Here’s something that seems to be a bit unusual when considering how Mathew, Mark, and Luke, tell this same story. Mathew and Mark tell the story with so many almost exact parallel verses, that it seems like one could have been copied from the other. But Luke will have one verse that’s parallel to Mathew and Mark, but then the next verse will be different. Then he’ll have another verse parallel to Mathew and Mark, and again the next verse will be different. Luke actually gives us different information that the other two writers give us. You might say that Luke gives us MORE information in those verses that are not necessarily “parallel” to the other writer’s verses. And this is probably a good thing, but it does seem to me to be a very curious thing too. It makes us “think”, and I know that’s good!
A case in point, is the fact that Mathew 24;31, which talked about gathering the elect from the four winds, is parallel to Mark 13:27, almost exactly the same wording. But in Luke’s account, in what would have been a parallel verse, as far as the location of the verse within the story, he says something totally different.
Here’s the verse from Mat 24:31 again.. “And He will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Mark’s account is almost identical. But listen to what Luke writes in Luke 21:28.. “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
I’ve looked at these verses, and tried to imagine a connection between what’s being said in the one compared to the other, and I’ve tries to see a similarity in the meanings, but they seem too different to even draw a comparison.
So it’s times like this, when we simply have to take a verse at what it says, and learn what we can from it. This verse from Luke, is attached in meaning to the verses that follow, while the parallel verses from Mathew and Mark, are related to the previous verses. Maybe that’s one way that God uses to keep us on our toes.
There’s so much of the bible that requires our diligent study, that’s why we’re told in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, correctly discerning the word of truth.”
May God bless you in the study of His word.