“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. 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. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
(Matthew 24:29-31 ESV)
In today’s passage Jesus describes His second arrival on earth. It will take place immediately after the tribulation and will be heralded by some pretty amazing precursors. First the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven.
All this will be in direct contrast to Jesus’ first arrival on this earth when He born in a lowly manger in the unimportant town of Bethlehem. During Jesus’ first appearance on earth He took on the role of servant – dying in the place of sinners [Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:10]. Despite that heroic role, He was despised and rejected, mocked and scourged, and finally crucified with common thieves. However, Jesus’ second appearance will be quite the opposite.
This time the world will notice. There will appear in heaven the sign. Exactly what this sign will be we do not know. God does not tell us. But whatever it is there will be no mistaking that it is Jesus as all the tribes of the earth will see Him coming on the clouds.
Rather than come as a servant, Jesus will come with power and great glory. And rather than mock Him, the people of the earth will mourn, ostensibly because they realize that Jesus is real. They’ll know that the jig is up. Their denials will be proven false and they’ll have to answer for their sins after all.
Finally, Jesus will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call and these angels will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. This is a different event than the Rapture which many believe will precede the tribulation. During the Rapture Christians who are alive will rise off the earth and will be taken to heaven by Jesus so they will not have to go through the tribulation.
During this second event it is likely that the “elect” are the Jews who will, upon seeing Jesus actually return, finally believe that He is their Messiah and they will become part of God’s eternal family.
Notice also that Jesus has angels. Here is another verse where Jesus claims to be deity. Who else has a cadre of angels at their command besides God?
After alighting on earth at the Mount of Olives (the exact same place from which He departed 2,000 years ago) Jesus will reign on earth as King for 1,000 years. It is during this time that God’s remaining unfulfilled promises to Israel will be fulfilled including living in peace and having their territory span from the Egyptian border to the Euphrates [Genesis 15:18-20; 2 Samuel 7:8-11].
As with any prophecy, the exact details remain to be seen. For that reason when discussing future events we must be open-minded. Nevertheless, God gives us an amazing picture of Jesus’ second coming that whets our appetite for the actual event.
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