The Expository Files.


Understanding the Meaning of The Signs of the Times

Matthew 24  



When you read these phrases in Mt 24, what do you think it is talking about?

sign of son coming on clouds
sun darkened
moon turned to blood
stars fall from sky
roaring of sea and waves
men fainting from fear
heavens shaken


If you thought this was talking about the second coming...you are wrong!

Imagine being in a war veterans club which gathers together for various social things on Saturdays. Once a year, the veterans club hosted a special function where the old veterans brought their grandchildren into the club to teach the younger generation a little about the wars. It was called, "Grandfather-Grandchild Dinner and Dance Day". One year, as the event continued, one of the old veterans stood up and grabbed the microphone and said the phrase, "D-DAY", and paused for 10 seconds. The audience reacted to this simple phrase two very different ways. The teenage grandchildren immediately associated this phrase "D-DAY" with "Dinner and Dance Day", but they really didn't know for sure what it meant. While all the grandchildren looked and listened in genuine puzzlement as to what "D-DAY" meant, they were even more amazed at the reaction of all the old veterans. Some of them began to cry, some of them quiver, some of them sighed, some of them just hung their head in their hands. The teenage grandchildren just could not understand why a simple phrase like "D-DAY" would make their grandfathers react this way. What did "D-DAY" mean, they wondered?

This exactly illustrates why this document is so important. When most people read the prophetic language of Mt 24, like "coming on the clouds of heaven and the sun will be darkened, moon turned to blood" they incorrectly associate such phrases with the second coming of Christ. If we could transport back in time to be in the audience of Jesus and His disciples when he actually made these statements, we would be the ones with the puzzlement like the teenage grandchildren and the Jews of that time, would be like the old war veterans. When Jesus said of Jerusalem, "coming on the clouds of heaven and the sun will be darkened, moon turned to blood" again the audience would react in very different ways. The Jews of that time clearly understood and were familiar with this kind of language. They read it many times in the Old Testament. To them it was nothing new. They understood such language was used many times in the past whenever God would overthrow and destroy a single nation at a specific time. They were familiar with several of these prophecies and their historical fulfillments long before they were born!

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES
OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #1
Prophecy: Isa 13:1,6-13 730 BC the day of the Lord is near hands fall limp, man's hearts melt, terror stars of heaven and constellations will not flash forth their light, sun dark when it rises, moon not shed light, heavens shake, earth tremble

Fufilled: Babylon 539 BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #2
Prophecy: Isa 19:1 730 BC Lord riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt the idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence

Fulfillment: Egypt 480 BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #3
Prophecy: Isa 34:4-5 730 BC all host of heaven (stars) will wear away sky rolled up like a scroll, all their hosts will wither

Fulfillment: Edom before 400BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #4
Prophecy: Ezek 30:3-4 590 BC The day of the Lord is near It will be a day of clouds,

Fulfillment: Egypt 480 BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #5
Prophecy: Ezek 32:7-8 590 BC I will extinguish Egypt heavens covered, stars darkened, cover sun with cloud, moon not give light shining lights in the heavens will be dark, darkness on the land

Fulfillment: Egypt 480 BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #6
Prophecy: Amos 5:18-20 755 BC day of the lord it will be darkness and not light, gloom with no brightness in it

Fulfillment: Israel 722 BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #7
Prophecy: Amos 8:9 755 BC sun go down at noon earth dark in broad daylight

Fulfillment: Israel 722 BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #8
Prophecy: Zeph 1:7, 14-16 630 BC Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly a day of wrath, trouble, distress, destruction, desolation, darkness, gloom, clouds, thick darkness a day of trumpet and battle cry

Fulfillment: Jerusalem 586 BC

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #9
Prophecy: Jer 4:14-16, 19,23-28; 6:1,22 626-586BC sound of trumpet, alarm of war no light, heavens above dark Yet I will not execute a complete destruction
a people is coming from the north, a great nation: Babylon

Fulfillment: Jerusalem 586 BC

NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES
NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #1
Prophecy: Mt 24:29-30 30 AD sign of son coming on clouds sun darkened, moon turned to blood, stars fall from sky, roaring of sea and waves, men fainting from fear, heavens shaken

Fulfillment: Jerusalem 70 AD

NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #2
Prophecy: Mt 26:64 30 AD Son of man sitting at right hand of power, coming on clouds of heaven

Fulfillment: Jerusalem 70 AD

NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #3
Prophecy: 2 Pe 3:10-13 67AD Day of Lord will come Heavens will pass away with roar, elements destroyed with intense heat, earth and works burnt up

Fulfillment: Second Coming ???? AD

NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #4
Prophecy: Rev 1:7 96 AD Christ is coming with clouds

Fulfillment: Second coming

NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE #5
Prophecy: Second coming Ax 1:9-11 30 AD Christ will return in same way he left...with clouds

Fulfillment: Second coming

MODERN DAY EXAMPLES
Modern examples of the same kind of language we use today:

Gordon Lightfoot "Black day in July"
Folk song regarding American riots
Recent Stock Market Crash
"Black Monday" Oct 19, 1987
Gulf War
"Dark day for Iraq" Iraq 1991

CONCLUSION:
So, we can conclude that the language of Mt 24 is not referring to the second coming, but the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. It was 100% fulfilled prophecy! Such language is the way the prophets described, in prophetic language, the physical destruction of a specific nation. It has been applied to countless Old Testament nations that were destroyed. Mt 24 is not speaking of the second coming, but the coming of God in judgment upon Jerusalem in 70 AD. Interesting, we do find this same kind of language used in the New Testament to describe the second coming, but all of this is entirely outside the context of Mt 24.

 

 By Steve Rudd  
From Expository Files 4.1; January 1997

 

 

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