This study will finish our meditation on Christ’s response to the questions proffered earlier by Peter, James, and John (v. 3). Jesus told them that wars, rumors of wars, and false messiahs must come, but are only the beginning of birth pangs (v. 8). He told them of the persecution that would come for those who follow Him (v.9), and the gospel’s proclamation to “all the nations” before His return (v.10)! If those things were not concerning enough, He tells them about “the abomination of desolation” that will happen to usher in an even greater time of tribulation (aka “the great tribulation-the last half of the seven years of tribulation).
These days will be filled with many satanic-inspired pseudo-miracles that are utilized to convince people (even the elect if possible v. 22) that they are the true Messiah. But, everything they and we need to know so as not to be deceived He has told us in advance (v. 23) so we would be alert!
The alertness of God’s people is a theme that develops within His answer to the disciples beginning in verse five: “see to it that no one misleads you.” Then we read: “Be on your guard” (v. 9), “but when you see” (v. 14), “I have told you everything in advance” (v. 23), and “Take heed, keep on the alert” (v. 33, 37).
As we begin our focus today in the remaining part of this chapter, we quickly realize that the days being spoken of now by the Lord, after the abomination of desolation appears, are far worse than what has been previously mentioned.
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His [a]elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of heaven.”
FOCUS ONE: In those days (24-27)
The first thing to be noticed in “those days” will be the magnitude of the celestial catastrophes that will be taking place. The sun will “go black,” no longer bringing forth its radiant light. The moon will no longer give its light as *”the universe begins to disintegrate prior to the return of Christ” (Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12).
The stars in the sky that we enjoy observing on clear nights will begin to fall through space. “All the forces of energy that hold everything in space constant, and which Christ controls, He will allow to become random and chaotic” (Isaiah 13:6-16; 2 Peter 3:10-12). And then?
Then, “they will see the appearance of the Son of Man (v. 26). He is said to be coming in the clouds with great power and glory. In Acts chapter one, verse eleven, we are told that Jesus will come again “in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” In other words, His coming will be:
- And rescuing
Jesus Christ will redeem the elect, restore the devastated earth, and establish His rightful rule on earth! He will send forth His angels to “gather the elect from everywhere; not one of them will be absent from His kingdom(v. 27)! At this point in history, the “elect” will include the 144,000 Jewish witnesses (Revelation 7:4) and all those converted through their witness (v.9). Also, and very awesome to contemplate, are those too that were converted through the angelic proclamation we read about in Revelation 14:6!
28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So you too, when you see these things happening, [a]recognize that [b]He is near, right at the [c]door.30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
FOCUS TWO: Learning from a fig tree (28-32)
In the following scriptures (28-37), Jesus uses two parables to teach and exhort the disciples and those who would be reading these words in a later generation (v. 14). The first is the parable of the fig tree; the second is about the master’s return. This first parable, that of the fig tree, is meant to exhort the followers of Jesus Christ to always be ready for His return.
Just like the fig tree, “branches become tender, putting forth its leaves” when spring is ending and summer is beginning” (v. 28), sure and certain signs that reveal a change in seasons, so too are the events that reveal Christ is returning! These things, the events mentioned in (vv. 6-23), are to be just as much a clear indication of His approaching return!
Just as the fig tree reveals that summer is near; so these events indicate that Jesus is close!
Jesus then promises that these things will come to pass. He solidifies His promise basing it on the eternal and indestructible Word of God (v. 31). We know from His previous teaching (v. 24-25; Luke 21:25-28) that the universe as we now know it will be dramatically and eternally changed (2 Peter 3:10). But His Word will never pass away. It is impossible for His Word to be altered or destroyed in any way. This fact, this truth, makes His promise about His coming resolute. And it makes the point clear-we are always to be ready because the end will come with a swift conclusion.
The following words seem a bit confusing. “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the father alone” (v. 32). “When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, even He had no knowledge of the date and time of His return.” That’s a bit hard to believe. After all, He is the second person of the trinity, co-equal, co-eternal, etc. He is, after all, Emmanuel (God with us). MacArthur writes: “Although Jesus was fully God (John 1:1,14), when He becam a man, He voluntarily restricted the use of certain divine attributes (Philippians 2:6-8). He did not manifest them unless directed by the Father (John 4:34; 5:30). He demonstrated His omniscience on several occasions, but He voluntarily restricted that omniscience to only those things God wanted Him to know during the days of his humanity”(John 15:15). So it is because of this we read that He did not know the timing.
Luke wrote: “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:2). Paul wrote the Thessalonians two letters in which He spoke of the “coming of the Lord” repeatedly. His first letter mentions the coming of the Lord at the end of every chapter! Why? It is something to be looking for. It is the truth that we are to “comfort one another” with. It is a reality that should push us to “excel still more” in our walk of faith.
How does this truth, Jesus coming again, encourage you, dear Christian?
33 “Watch out, stay alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and [a]putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert. 35 Therefore, stay alert—for you do not know when the [b]master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 so that he does not come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all: ‘Stay alert!‘”
FOCUS THREE: Pay attention (33-37)
As I mentioned above, there are two parables that Jesus employs with the intention of teaching and exhorting the disciples, and all that will read these words in a later generation (v.14). The above focus point discussed the first; now the second.
This is a parable about the master’s return. The point is to exhort the reader always to be ready because Jesus could come anytime. The master goes on a journey and assigns his slaves tasks to be accomplished. He commands the doorkeeper to “stay alert.” Alert for what? For his return!
No one knows when he will return, just that he will return. Jesus begins this parable with an exhortation to “take heed, keep on the alert, for you do not know when the appointed time will come.”
In this parable, we find that alertness is likened to being a doorkeeper (v.34). “In Jesus’ day, this individual guarded the outer gate of the house, so as to be ready to let the returning master in upon his arrival.” He was to be on the alert, always ready for the master to return.
These parables teach us that “being alert” ought to be the “standing position” of every believer. Jesus may come suddenly, and we don’t know when. He could come at any time, so His children need to be ready. “All of Christ’s disciples are to be like doorkeepers, always remaining alert and vigilant for their Master’s return.”
And, keep in mind, He didn’t just say this to the twelve. “What I say to you I say to all, be on the alert!”
- * MacArthur Study Bible
- Exegetical Guide to the New Testament