This End Times Deceptions Bible study provides an answer to a question that was posed by a commenter, about Messiah, the Son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, in Matthew 24.
This will be not a full explanation of the Olivet Discourse, but it will help to open up your mind to the proper context and fulfillment.
Tom Ravensberg commented:
I forsook the pre-tribulation rapture theory many years ago and I have read much of the information that you have posted by the various authors. Maybe I am just dense but it still seems to me that Matthew 24 could not have been completed in 70 AD? If we reject the gap between the 69th and 70th week, we now have a gap of 2000 years that Christ has not come back to gather His saints etc. I came to the conclusion that there were double fulfillment’s of these passages. Please tell me what you think. Tom
I responded with the following explanation:
Thank you for your comment Tom. Let me try to give you a different perspective. Matthew 24:30-31 says,
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.“
Then just three verses later Messiah said in Matthew 24:34,
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
When Messiah makes a plain statement, we should not dismiss it, just because we don’t understand the fulfillment.
He was clearly saying that all of the things that He just stated in the previous verses would be fulfilled in that generation.
To reinforce that, after berating the Jewish leaders and casting woes on them in Matthew 23, He said in verses 35-36, that they would be killed.
“That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”
Just because we don’t understand exactly how a prophecy was fulfilled, does not mean that we should dismiss the clear statement of our Messiah. He clearly is speaking about that generation.
That clear statement is a marker, a reference point. To understand, we have to look to see how what He said was fulfilled in that generation.
His statement matches the prophecy in Daniel 9:26-27, that foretold the coming of our Messiah, and that He would be delivered up by the Jews to death, and that as a consequence, the city and the temple and the Jews would be desolated.
“..and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. …and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
The whole context of the Olivet Discourse was that after berating the Jewish leaders, Messiah proclaimed to His disciples, that the temple would be desolated,
“And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
The disciples were not asking about the end times, they were asking about when the temple would be destroyed.
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?“
The word ‘world‘ should be rendered as ‘age‘, as the New King James has it. The latter days of the Jewish age started when they were released from Babylon, after 70 years of captivity; and ended in 70 A.D., when the temple, the city and the Jews were desolated.
The former days were before the Babylonian captivity. In between the two ages was 70 years of captivity when they did not possess the Holy land.
Messiah gave His disciples a sign that would tell them that the desolation of the temple was at hand, so that they knew to flee Judea, into the mountains.
“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ ; spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Matthew 24:15-16
Luke gives us the definition of the Abomination of Desolation, the pagan Roman army surrounding the Holy city of Jerusalem, where they should not be.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.” Luke 21:20-21
The ‘people of the prince‘ in Daniel 9:26 foretold the coming of the Roman army to desolate the temple and the city.
The Jewish historian Josephus records that Roman Commander Cestius made such rapid progress that the city was on the point of being captured.
The seditious element fled in large numbers, and the peaceable inhabitants were about to throw open the gates to the Romans, when a remarkable thing took place, so unaccountable from any natural standpoint that it can only be attributed to the direct intervention of God, and for the fulfillment of the word of Christ.
Josephus tells how the people were about to admit Cestius as their benefactor, when he suddenly recalled his soldiers and retired from the city without any reason in the world.
Had he not withdrawn when he did, the city and the sanctuary would, of course, have been spared; and Josephus says it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God already had towards the city and the sanctuary that he (Cestius) was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day (II 19:6).
This happened because Messiah promised His disciples a way of escape, that ‘when they should see the abomination of desolation’ (the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns) ready to lay Jerusalem desolate, ‘stand where it ought not,’ ‘in the holy place‘ of Jerusalem; they should then ‘flee to the mountains‘.
They escaped and Josephus did not record one death of a Christian at the hands of the Romans.
Later, another division of the Roman army led by Titus, surrounded Jerusalem, and the temple were destroyed by the Roman army in 70 A.D.
So we can clearly see that the sign that the disciples asked for was fulfilled, and the desolation of the city and temple that was spoken of in Daniel 9 and Matthew 24 was fulfilled.
But obviously Messiah’s second coming did not occur in the first century, so what does the reference to Him coming in great power and glory on the clouds mean?
The verses we are familiar with about Messiah’s return say that the dead will rise first, then those who are alive with meet Messiah.
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
But Matthew 24:30-31 does not mention the dead rising first.
I’m going to suggest that Messiah coming in great power and glory was Him coming to cause the Roman army to desolate the city, the temple and the Jews.
Look at Matthew 26:63-64, when Messiah told the High Priest that he would see Jesus come in the clouds of heaven.
“And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
He was telling the High Priest that though I look powerless now, you will witness my resurrection, as I fulfill the sign that I gave to you of rising after three days. And the Jewish leaders will see me come in great power and glory when the temple and city and Jews would be destroyed, because He rejected Him as Messiah and delivered Him up to be killed.
Should we not believe that Messiah’s clear statement, that the High Priest would witness Him coming in power on the clouds of heaven? That promise matches the description in Matthew 24.
So many people dismiss that possibility, so they miss out on the proper fulfillment.
Let’s back up a bit to Daniel 7:13-14, which foretold that Messiah would establish His kingdom in the days of the four beasts, which He did during the reign of the Roman beast, which controlled Judea in the first century.
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Daniel told us that Messiah would come with the clouds of heaven, not as part of His return at the end of time, but to setup His kingdom.
Messiah didn’t setup His kingdom during His ministry, as He had not died and rose again yet.
Messiah is fulfilling all that was demanded of the Israelites and Jews, but in order for His kingdom to be setup, He had to desolate the temple system of sacrifices, and the position of Jewish High Priest and the Jewish leadership system.
Messiah had to do this as He is the one-time sacrifice that atones for our sins, and He is our High Priest who intercedes for us. He has taken the place of the Jewish High Priest.
Matthew 24:29 says “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”
It is not referring to the literal sun, moon and stars. The Bible defines that those symbols represent organizational leadership, based on the story of Joseph who had a dream that the Sun, Moon and 11 stars would bow down to him.
He was referring to the organizational leadership of his family, his father the Sun, his mother the Moon, and his 11 brothers the stars.
When the Roman army desolated the temple and city and Jews in 70 A.D., the temple sacrifices were ended, and the Jewish leadership system was ended.
The Sun, the High Priest, was killed. The moon and stars, the other Jewish leaders, were also killed.
The Prince in Daniel 9:25 is Jesus, the promised Messiah. Daniel 9:26 says that “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” The Greek word for Prince in both verses is the same word.
Most people point to Roman Commander Titus as the prince, but I am going to suggest that it was speaking about Jesus commanding the Roman army to desolate the city and the temple. This makes the narrative of Daniel 9:26-27 very simple, as the ‘he’ is always referring to Messiah.
The irony of course is that the Jewish leaders wanted their Messiah to remove the Romans from power over the Jews. But instead Messiah caused the mighty Roman army to desolate the Jewish leadership.
Jewish historian Josephus, who documented the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, witnessed chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor, running about among the clouds:
“Besides these [signs], a few days after that feast, on the one- and-twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armour were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence” (Jewish Wars, VI-V-3).
As for the elect being gathered in Matthew 24:31, the word angel can represent Messengers or Pastors.
When the elect saw the Roman army surround Jerusalem, which is the sign of the Abomination of Desolation as defined in Luke 21:20, the leaders of the Early Church knew they needed to heed Jesus’ warning and flee to the mountains, and they gathered the elect to escape.
Josephus documents that not one Christian was killed during the siege.
So we can see a glimpse of the amazing fulfillment of Messiah coming in great power and glory on the clouds, to command the desolation of Jerusalem, the temple and the Jews.
Here are a few additional points about the fulfillment of Messiah’s warnings in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24.
Messiah said to flee Judea, which is a specific place.
There is no land called Judea today, but there was in the first century.
Messiah said to pray that their flight would not be on a sabbath day.
This could only apply to the first century before the desolation of the temple and city in 70 A.D., as the reason it would be bad for the time to flee to be on a Sabbath day, is that the Jewish leaders would have shut up the city and forbid travel outside the city.
Messiah said “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
This was fulfilled in 70 A.D., when the last stronghold of Jews who were hidden in a place that was hard for the Roman army to reach, suddenly surrendered for no apparent reason. This cut short the siege, so that it only last 45 days, which fulfilled the prophecy in Daniel 12 about the 1,290 days, and adding 45 days, the 1,335 days. If they had not surrendered, it would have prolonged the siege, and more Jews would have been killed. Read Daniel 12 Is Not About The Antichrist Or The End Times
This fulfills Jesus parable of the Wedding Feast, that when the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah and they persecuted and killed His servants, He responded with, “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.”
When Messiah was being taken to be crucified, he said,
“But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” Luke 23:28
I hope that helps you see a different perspective.
Keep learning and growing in the faith!
Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: Coming in the clouds of heaven. See Barnes Mt 24, Mt 25. The meaning of this is, You shall see the sign from heaven which you have so often demanded; even the Messiah returning himself as the sign, with great glory, to destroy your city, and to judge the world.
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible: Thou hast said – That is, I am the Christ, the promised Messiah, (see on Mt 26:25 (note)); and you and this whole nation shall shortly have the fullest proof of it: for hereafter, in a few years, ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, fully invested with absolute dominion, and coming in the clouds of heaven, to execute judgment upon this wicked race. See Mt 24:30.
John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible: and coming in, the clouds of heaven. So Christ’s coming to take vengeance on the Jewish nation, as it is often called the coming of the son of man, is described in this manner, Mt 24:27. Though this may also be understood of Christ’s second coming to judgment, at the last day; when as he went up to heaven in a cloud, he will return, and come also in the clouds of heaven; see Ac 1:9 Re 1:7, when he will be seen by the eyes of all, good and bad; and when this sanhedrim, before whom he now was, will see him also, and confess that he is Lord and Christ, and the Son of God.