Matthew 24:29-31 Update American Standard Version (UASV)

29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 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. 31 And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet call, and they will gather his chosen ones[1] from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The prophet is much like the poet, in that he is given a license to express himself in nonliteral language. Generally, he is working with images that are far more effective than words themselves.

The above cosmic terminology need not be taken literally. It is a part of their toolkit, which enables them to make it clear that God is acting in behalf of humans. (See Dan. 2:21; 4:17, 25, 34–35; 5:21) The sun is not going to be darkened, the moon will not stop giving its light, the stars are not going to fall from the heavens, nor will the heavens be shaken. What is being communicated here is that following the tribulation when God is going to judge humans, the righteous will receive life, and the unrighteous will cut off from life. (34-45) While we do not take cosmic terminology literally, we do discover its meaning, and this is what we are to take literally. Moreover, we do not want to be dogmatic in our interpretation either, and will wait until the events have passed to see how much literalness there is from verses 29-31. Stuart K. Weber, in the Holman New Testament Commentary, offers some basic aspects that this author can get behind,[2]

The Messiah’s coming will be accompanied by supernatural manipulations of celestial bodies—or at least manipulations of their appearance, or their ability to give light. These signs in the sky will be such that all people of earth can see them and realize that the Messiah is coming, If only one of these, signs were given, it might be explained away as an eclipse or a meteor shower. But all of them together can be caused only by the hand of God. (Weber 2000, 404)

“Jesus now returns to the question of the sign of his coming. He will return “immediately after” the tribulation of the interadvent period.” (Blomberg 1992, 362)

(Option A) the disciples asked three questions, “Tell us, (1) when will these things be, and (2) what will be the sign of your coming, and (3) of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus words of verses 24:3-28 apply to what happened from his ascension up unto 70 C.E., and the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem; this answering question (1). He then began in verse 29 to talk about questions (2) and (3), the second coming of Christ. This means that verses 3-28 would only have one referent, the first-century disciples.

(Option B) Jesus was applying verses 24:3-28 to what let up to 70 C.E., but he then made those words just as applicable to his second coming, starting verse 29. In other words, the disciples asked three questions, “Tell us, (1) when will these things be, and (2) what will be the sign of your coming, and (3) of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) This author prefers option B.

The first question is legit about the destruction of the Temple complex, but the second and third is an assumption on their part of the disciples, because to them, if the temple and Jerusalem is being destroyed, the end has to be near and the second coming of Christ and his Kingdom must follow.

However, Jesus answered by giving them, in detail what would apply to them. When he uttered 3-28, he was talking about them, what was going to happen to them, which history bears out. Nevertheless, did he dragged those circumstances and events, which he had just spoken of (3-28), from the first century, to also applying just before his second coming. Is he the one that carried out an ISPA to his own words?

  • Jesus words were for the end of the age of the Jewish age (Matt 24:3-28)
  • Jesus gave them same words a Sensus Plenior Application, starting in verse 29 that were another end of the age, the end of wick humanity and the rule of age (era) of Satan.

If we remove the cosmic terminology, which is evidence of God acting on behalf of humankind, we have the following major points. 24:29-31 foretells us,

  • the Son of Man comes immediately after the great tribulation,
  • Jesus’ second coming will be with great glory,
  • as he will send forth his angels, and
  • all the tribes of the earth will see him, in that they will perceive what is taking place, and
  • Jesus will gather all of his chosen ones.

They will Gather the Remainder of His Chosen Ones Who Have a Heavenly Hope

Revelation 14:1-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3 and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb

The whole of chapter 14 is proleptic. As a summary of the Millennium (20:4–6), the first five verses feature the Lamb in place of the beast, the Lamb’s followers with His and the Father’s seal in place of the beast’s followers with the mark of the beast, and the divinely controlled Mount Zion in place of the pagan-controlled earth (Alford, Moffatt, Kiddle).[3]

Revelation 7:4 English Standard Version (ESV)

4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel

Various efforts have sought to determine the significance of the number 144,000. An understanding of the number as symbolical divides it into three of its multiplicands, 12 × 12 × 1000. From the symbolism of the three it is concluded that the number indicates fixedness and fullest completeness.[4] Twelve, a number of the tribes, is both squared and multiplied by a thousand. This is a twofold way of emphasizing completeness (Mounce). It thus affirms the full number of God’s people to be brought through tribulation (Ladd). The symbolic approach points out the impossibility of taking the number literally. It is simply a vast number, less than a number indefinitely great (cf. 7:9), but greater than a large number designedly finite (e.g., 1,000, Rev. 20:2) (Lee). Other occurrences of the numerical components that are supposedly symbolic are also pointed out, 12 thousand in Rev. 21:16, 12 in Rev. 22:2, and 24, a multiple of 12, in Rev. 4:4. This is done to enhance the case for symbolism (Johnson). Though admittedly ingenious, the case for symbolism is exegetically weak. The principal reason for the view is a predisposition to make the 144,000 into a group representative of the church with which no possible numerical connection exists. No justification can be found for understanding the simple statement of fact in v. 4 as a figure of speech. It is a definite number in contrast with the indefinite number of 7:9. If it is taken symbolically, no number in the book can be taken literally. As God reserved 7,000 in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 19:18; Rom. 11:4), He will reserve 144,000 for Himself during the future Great Tribulation.[5] (Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary 1992, 473-74)

These ones are made up of those under the new covenant, the Law of Christ, those called out of natural Israel, the new Israelites, also known as the Israel of God. They are a chosen number that is to reign with Jesus as kings, priests, and judges. Therefore, we ask, what is the other hope? What lies below was already mentioned in Chapter 3 but bears repeating again as a short repetition for emphasis as the thought is new to many minds.

The New Earth: The Earthly Hope

In the O[ld] T[estament] the kingdom of God is usually described in terms of a redeemed earth; this is especially clear in the book of Isaiah, where the final state of the universe is already called new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22) The nature of this renewal was perceived only very dimly by OT authors, but they did express the belief that a humans ultimate destiny is an earthly one.[6] This vision is clarified in the N[ew] T[estament]. Jesus speaks of the “renewal” of the world (Matt 19:28), Peter of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Paul writes that the universe will be redeemed by God from its current state of bondage (Rom. 8:18-21). This is confirmed by Peter, who describes the new heavens and the new earth as the Christian’s hope (2 Pet. 3:13). Finally, the book of Revelation includes a glorious vision of the end of the present universe and the creation of a new universe, full of righteousness and the presence of God. The vision is confirmed by God in the awesome declaration: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1-8).

The new heavens and the new earth will be the renewed creation that will fulfill the purpose for which God created the universe. It will be characterized by the complete rule of God and by the full realization of the final goal of redemption: “Now the dwelling of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3).

The fact that the universe will be created anew[7] shows that God’s goals for humans is not an ethereal and disembodied existence, but a bodily existence on a perfected earth. The scene of the beatific vision is the new earth. The spiritual does not exclude the created order and will be fully realized only within a perfected creation. (Elwell 2001, 828-29)

God created the earth to be inhabited, to be filled with perfect humans, who are over the animals, and under the sovereignty of God. (Gen 1:28; 2:8, 15; Ps 104:5; 115:16; Eccl 1:4) Sin did not dissuade God from his plans (Isa. 45:18); hence, he has saved redeemable humankind by Jesus ransom sacrifice. It seems that the Bible offers two hopes to redeemed humans, (1) a heavenly hope [i.e., the chosen ones], or (2) an earthly hope. It also seems that those with the heavenly hope are limited in number, and are going to heaven to rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges either on the earth or over the earth from heaven. It seems that those with the earthly hope are going to receive everlasting life here on a paradise earth as originally intended.

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[1] Or the elect

[2] He does make other comments, such as specifying that this cosmic show will last, i.e., “will extend over many hours.”

[3] Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1995), 189.

[4] Alford, Greek Testament, 4:624; Charles, Revelation, 1:206; Lenski, Revelation, p. 154.

[5] Bullinger, Apocalypse, p. 282. Geyser is correct in observing that the predominant concern of the Apocalypse is “the restoration [on earth] of the twelve tribes of Israel, their restoration as a twelve-tribe kingdom, in a renewed and purified city of David, under the rule of the victorious ‘Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David’ (5:5; 22:16)” (Albert Geyser, “The Twelve Tribes in Revelation: Judean and Judeo Christian Apocalypticism,” NTS 23, no. 3 [July 1982]: 389). He is wrong, however, in his theory that this belief characterized the Judean church only and was not shared by Gentile Christianity spearheaded by Paul (ibid., p. 390).

[6] It is unwise to speak of the written Word of God as if it were of human origin, saying ‘OT authors express the belief,’ when what was written is the meaning and message of what God wanted to convey by means of the human author.

[7] Create anew does not mean a complete destruction followed by a re-creation, but instead a renewal of the present universe.