Matthew Chapter 24 Part B
Matt. 24:30 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 sign of the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, The Son of Man is Jesus' reference to Himself. What exactly is the sign of the Son of Man is not directly stated. The question what is this sign has greatly perplexed commentators who make . . . confessions of ignorance (Bruce, p. 295).
The sign of the Son of Man could simply refer to Jesus. This phrase could be translated the sign which is the Son of Man. (a genitive of apposition in Greek).
and then all the tribes of the earth This refers to everyone on the earth, not just the Jews.
will mourn Will they mourn because they recognize Him coming as their Judge? Or is it because they recognize Him as their Savior, the One they rejected?
and they will see His coming will be visible.
the sign of the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the sky, Revelation 1:7 tells us that He will return with clouds and that every eye will see Him.
with power and great glory. This is the Second Coming of Christ.
Matt. 24:31 And He will send His angels with a great trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the ends of heaven until the ends of the earth.
Note on a variant reading: Instead of with a great trumpet some manuscripts read with the sound of a great trumpet.
And He will send His angels The angels are the messengers that will gather the elect. This is not the rapture of the church where the Lord Himself gathers His church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
and they will gather together His elect This is not the rapture of the church but the gathering together of Israel. In this context the elect refers to Israel, not the New Testament church. Unless this distinction is recognized much confusion will occur.
from the four winds, The four winds speak of every direction.
until the ends of the earth. At that time the dispersed remnant of Israel will be gathered from the four corners of the earth.
The Parable Of The Fig Tree (Matthew 24:32-35)
Jesus illustrates this with the parable of the fig tree.
Matt. 24:32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.
Now learn the parable from the fig tree: The parable of the fig tree seems to be a simple parable from nature. The kind of tree chosen will teach us a lesson about His return.
when its branch has already become tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. When the fig tree begins to sprout leaves, one knows that summer is near. Tender branches and young leaves are a sure sign of summer. In the same way, when certain events take place, one may know that the end is near. Just as the sprouting of the fig tree indicates summer is near but not yet present, so the coming of the Son of Man is near but not yet present when these events take place.
The fig tree is often viewed as representative of Israel. When Israel begins to show signs of national life then you know the end is near. The problem with this view is:
(1) Identifying Israel with the fig tree. There is no specific Old Testament reference that identifies Israel with the fig tree.
(2) The parallel passage in Luke when it says Behold the fig tree and all the trees.
Matt. 24:33 In the same manner even you, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the doors.
In the same manner even you, As is true with the fig true so shall it be true of Jesus' coming.
when you see all these things, What are these things? Are they the signs in 4-14 or 15-21 or is it the signs associated with the Second Coming itself?
you know that it is near, right at the doors. When these things come to pass, then you can know that the end is at hand.
Matt. 24:34 For truly I say to you, that this generation will not pass until all these things be fulfilled.
For truly I say to you, that this generation will not pass What did Jesus mean by the phrase this generation? The problem can be simply stated: the generation that was alive when Jesus spoke these words have all passed away, yet events described did not take place. How then do we understand what He meant? As for the interpretation of the meaning of this generation there are the following possibilities.
1. Liberal theologians, as well as some others, have understood that Jesus expected to return before the Fall of Jerusalem. He believed that His coming again in power would be within a generation. This view would have Him making an incorrect statement. Since He admitted that He did not know the time of His coming, this erroneous statement can be attributed to the self-imposed limitation of His knowledge. The problems of holding a view like this are enormous.
First, this is not the only possible way in which we can interpret His statement. As we will observe, there are a variety of different ways we can understand His statement.
Second, it involves a misunderstanding of what Jesus meant when He said that neither the Son knew the day or the hour (vs. 36). If the limitation of Jesus' knowledge is understood as referring to the general time of his return rather that the actual day and time of His return, then why would He contradict himself with the analogy of the budding fig tree?
Third, by other statements in Matthew's gospel, we see that Jesus indicated that He planned to be away for a long period of time before coming again.
2. The generation that heard His words would see the fall of Jerusalem. This would make this statement and entire the Olivet discourse refer only to the fall of Jerusalem. His coming therefore would not be a literal coming when Jerusalem fell but rather He would come figuratively in power with the destruction of the city. The problem with this view is that many verses in this discourse have to do with His Second Coming, not merely the Fall of Jerusalem.
3. The generation refers to generation alive at the time of His Second coming. Those who saw the signs of the end (i.e. the abomination of desolation) would also be alive when He returned. In other words, it would be a short period of time from the abomination of desolation until the Second Coming.
4. The term refers to the people of God (Israel) will not pass from the scene until all these things be fulfilled. This generation therefore would mean this race. It would be another indication that the Jews, as a nation, would continue to exist until Christ comes despite the great persecution and tribulation which they are about to receive.
5. This expression in Matthew clearly alludes to a sinful generation, one ripe for judgment (Matthew 12:39, 45; 16:4; 23: 36). If this is what Jesus is referring to, then it could fit either the fall of Jerusalem or the end of the age or be referring to both.
6. In the Old Testament, the term refers to a believing group of people.
7. The generation refers to the generation that sees Israel return to their land after a long period of exile. This goes hand in hand with understanding that the parable of the fig tree refer to the regathering of the nation Israel to a modern state. The generation that sees that happen will be the generation that witnesses the return of Christ.
8. There is also the possibility that this prediction is capable of multiple fulfillment. Therefore Jesus had both the fall of Jerusalem (happening within a generation) and the events prior to His Second Coming. His generation would see the fall of Jerusalem. In like manner, the events will be similar when He comes again.
until all these things be fulfilled. All these things must have the same meaning as the previous verse. All the events around either the fall of Jerusalem or His Second Coming.
Matt. 24:35 The heaven and the earth will pass away, but My words will never ever pass away.
The heaven and the earth will pass away, but My words will never ever pass away. This is the strongest way in which someone could make a solemn statement in Greek. We could translate it, There is no way ever, ever, ever, for My words to pass away. The words which He has referred to are the not merely the words in this context, but His words as a whole. His message will never pass away.
This is quite a claim! Can you imagine the possibility of this coming to pass given the time, place, and circumstances in which Jesus made the statement, yet it has come to pass.
The Command To Be Ready (Matthew 24:36-44)
Jesus now instructs His disciples to be prepared for His coming. In doing so He gives us three illustrations. In the first parable (the days of Noah, 37-41) His coming is totally unexpected. In the second parable (the good and evil slaves, 45-51) His coming is sooner than expected. In the parable about the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) His coming is later than expected.
Matt. 24:36 But as for that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Note on a variant reading: Some manuscripts do not have the phrase neither the Son.
But as for that day and hour, This refers to the exact time of His coming. It is not referring to the general time period but rather the specific day and hour.
no one knows, There is no human being who knows.
not even the angels of heaven, Though the angels are the ones who will gather the elect, they do not know when He is coming.
nor the Son, In contrast to verse 33 of what can be known—namely, the signs that we are to look for prior to His coming, Jesus confesses that at this time, He does not know the precise day and the hour of His coming.
but only the Father. The explanation of His lack of knowledge is found in the kenosis doctrine of Philippians 2:6-8 where Christ emptied Himself of certain independent use of His divine attributes while here on earth. The time of the coming of the Son of Man is the Father's alone (Acts 1:7). This is in keeping with the Old Testament idea there will be one day, and that day is known to the Lord (Zechariah 14:7 LXX). The signs of the end can be known with certainty, however the time of the end is unknown to everyone except the Father. What counts is the fact that the Son of Man will return.
Again we must stress the difference between the nature of Christ (as God) and His position when He was here on earth (as a man). In His humanity there was self-imposed limitations. After His resurrection and Ascension into heaven, those limitations have been removed. Revelation 1:1 tells us that He now knows these things.
Matt. 24:37 For just as in the days of Noah, so will it be with the coming of the Son of Man.
For just as in the days of Noah, The comparison now is to the time of Noah—not Noah himself.
so will it be with the coming of the Son of Man. There will be parallels between Noah's days and the days before Jesus comes.
Matt. 24:38 For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark.
Note on a variant reading: Some manuscripts do not have those before the word days.
For as they were in those days before the flood, He will now list the parallels. Note again the parallel is not to Noah, but to those living in Noah's day. Therefore the parallel is to those who are to be judged—not the ones saved.
eating and drinking, This does not necessarily have the idea of indulgence. Some have argued that the term translated eating actually refers to gluttony because the Greek word is often used of beasts eating. However since word also is used for humans eating (John 6:58; 13:18) no sinister idea should necessarily be seen. The main idea is that all things are going on as if nothing is going to happen.
marrying and giving in marriage, Men are the ones who marry, women are given in marriage. The people assume life will continue indefinitely.
until the day Noah entered into the ark. Business as usual until the flood hit. They did not believe the preaching of Noah, neither will they believe the preaching about the end.
Matt. 24:39 And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away, so will it be with the coming of the Son of Man.
And they knew nothing Again it is the unbelievers who are this illustration. They were not looking for this judgment to occur, rather they were ridiculing those who spoke about it.
until the flood came and took them all away, The people were not convinced until the flood came and removed them from the scene.
It seems that at least as far as humanity is concerned, the flood was universal—it took them all away. This and other biblical passages seem to teach that the flood in Noah's day took away all but eight people—the remainder perishing in the flood.
so will it be with the coming of the Son of Man. As the people of Noah's day were unaware of the impending doom, the same is true for the generation that will see the Second Coming of Christ. This emphasizes the suddenness of Christ's coming.
Matt. 24:40 Then two men will be in the field, one will be taken and one will be left.
Then two men will be in the field, People will be working side by side when this judgment comes.
one will be taken and one will be left. As with the time of Noah, there will be a division of humanity. Just who will taken them is not stated—whether it be the angels or the Son of Man.
Matt. 24:41 Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and the other one left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill, We now have the illustration of two women working next to each other. The reference is to a handmill, which required two to work at it. Grinding took a considerable time and in that culture it was considered woman's work.
one will be taken and the other one left. Another illustration of people working side by side where one goes and the other stays. Those who are taken can refer to those taken in judgment or those taken by the Son of Man when He comes with His angels. It seems better to refer to them to be taken in judgment because the comparison is with those unbelievers in Noah's time who were judged, not those who went into the ark.
The application of these verses is made clear in the exhortation of the following verse.
Matt. 24:42 Therefore, be watching, because your Lord is coming at such a day that you do not know.
Note on a variant reading: Instead of day some manuscripts read hour.
Therefore, Because of all these things He has told His disciples.
be watching, The importance of being ready at any time is now stressed. The followers of Christ should be in constant readiness. Watching includes an active dimension of righteous conduct.
because your Lord is coming Notice it is your Lord who is coming. He is the Lord of all.
at such a day that you do not know. This means of what sort of day,—whether it be early or late.
Matt. 24:43 But know this thing: that if the owner of the house had known at what night watch the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.
But know this thing: Here is one thing you should know.
that if the owner of the house Concerning the owner of the house Bruce notes, [it] suggests the idea of a great man, but in reality is a poor peasant who is in view. He lives in a clay house which can be dug through (sun-dried bricks) . . . .Yet he is the master in his humble dwelling (Bruce, p. 298).
had known at what night watch The night was divided into various watches.
the thief was coming, It is the business of the thief to know when the people are not at home. He keeps people in the dark with respect to the time of his coming.
he would have kept watch The problem with thieves is we do not know when they are coming or even if they are coming at all.
and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. A simply analogy is drawn between the coming of Christ and a man whose house is broken into. Since Christians cannot know the time of His coming we must constantly watch. As the thief comes unexpectedly, so will Christ.
Matt. 24:44 So, you also must be prepared, because the Son of Man will come in an hour when you do not expect.
So, you also must be prepared, In the same manner, as the precautions are made for the thief.
because the Son of Man will come in an hour when you do not expect. The reason we are to be ready is because He will come at an unexpected time.
The Parable Of The Faithful And Unfaithful Servant (Matthew 24:45-51)
Jesus illustrates the importance of vigilance with two parables.
Matt. 24:45 Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master appoints over his household servants and gives them food in the proper time?
Who then is the faithful and wise slave, Jesus now asks the question about the identity of this servant.
whom the master appoints over his household servants The master would appoint one of his slaves over his household.
and gives them food in the proper time? The faithful slave is one who rightly uses that which His Father has given him.
Matt. 24:46 And blessed is that servant whom, when his master comes, He will find doing in this manner.
And blessed is that servant whom, when his master comes, The Lord will now tell us who is the blessed servant. He is the one not demoralized by the delay of the return of His master.
He will find doing in this manner. He is the one doing the will of God when our Lord comes despite the delay. Again, there is the inference in this parable of a long delay between Jesus' first and second coming.
Matt. 24:47 For truly I say to you, that he will place him over all his possessions.
For truly I say to you, that he will place him over all his possessions. He will receive a reward for his faithfulness. In the same manner, believers will be rewarded for their faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3).
Matt. 24:48 But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,'
And if that evil slave This is not the same individual just spoken of but a man placed at the same post. The evil slave is not someone who was once good but who became evil as some have erroneously taught. The word translated evil simply means bad or corrupt.
says in his heart, This is an expression that means says to himself.
my master is delaying his coming, In this parable, the slave thinks the Lord is coming later than expected. In the previous illustration they did not believe the master was coming at all. He is now demoralized because his master has not returned. Bruce writes: The delay had been so long that the unworthy servant goes on his bad way as if the master would never come at all (Bruce, p. 298).
Again, this emphasizes that the time between when the master had left and when he is returning is considerable.
Matt. 24:49 and he will begin to beat his fellow slaves, and eat and drink with the drunkards,
and he will begin to beat his fellow slaves, He takes advantage of the master's delay by acting irresponsibly.
and eat and drink with the drunkards, Rather than providing the needs for his fellow servants he violates his master's command.
Matt. 24:50 the master of that slave will come in a day when he is not prepared, and in an hour which he does not know.
the master of that slave will come in a day when he is not prepared, This slave is not expecting his master to come so soon
and in an hour which he does not know. Matthew returns to the theme of the unexpected coming of the master. The time remains unknown and should be a motivation for godly living.
Matt. 24:51 And he will cut him into pieces and assign his part with the hypocrites, where there will be the crying and the grinding of teeth.
And he will cut him into pieces This mean to cut into pieces with a saw—which was an actual form of punishment in ancient times. There is a question as to how literal we are to understand this. Bruce remarks on the literal understanding of the phrase, But this can hardly be, especially as in the following clause the man is supposed to be still alive (Bruce, p. 298). Some see it as a mere beating or thrashing with the whip.
and assign his part with the hypocrites, The hypocrites is where this hypocrite belongs. For Matthew there is no worse group than the hypocrites (cf. Matthew 6:2-18; 15:7; and especially ch. 23), and the wicked servant of this parable was, if anything, a hypocrite.
where there will be the crying The final destination for hypocrites will be the place of the judgment of the wicked.
and the grinding of teeth. Matthew has used this term before for judgment.
Summary to Chapter 24
Jesus gives His last of five discourses—the one covering the events of His return. The background is His statement at the end of 23 with reference to the desolation of the temple. His disciples showed Him the temple and its magnificence, possibly thinking that the destruction He predicted was only symbolic. However as they would find out in the coming years, the destruction did actually occur.
The interpretation of this chapter is difficult because there are two events that are in view—the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as well as the Second Coming of Christ. Just exactly which passages refer to which of these events has long been a source of contention among commentators. In our explanation of this chapter we have tried to fairly represent all views which Bible believers hold.