I have a question about Matthew 24:30. (I believe it is about the second coming of Christ.) I have been doing some personal study and discussed it with a fellow brother. Basically, it refers to symbolic events similar to instances of God's judgment on mankind or nations. Would like to get feedback from you as to your understanding.
For a general overview of Matthew 24, I would like to you to read "Understanding Matthew 24" so that I won't have to repeat what it covers here. Matthew 24 deals with both the fall of Jerusalem and the second coming of the Christ. Verse 30 falls in the section dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem.
"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, 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" (Matthew 24:30).
As the disciples were showing off various features of the Temple to Jesus, he remarked, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down" (Matthew 24:2). The disciples ask when this would take place and Jesus told them several things that would not indicate the approaching destruction of the Temple:
- There would be many coming claiming to be the Christ (Matthew 24:5)
- There would be both wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)
- There would be famines, disease, and earthquakes in various places (Matthew 24:7)
Jesus then lists several things that would happen before the destruction of Jerusalem:
- Persecution of Christians throughout the world (Matthew 24:9-10)>
- The rise of many false prophets (Matthew 24:11)
- A falling away of Christians to sin (Matthew 24:12)
- The gospel would be preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14)
Finally, Jesus gave specific signs to watch for so that no Christian need be caught in the destruction:
- When they see the abomination of desolation as spoken by Daniel (Matthew 24:15)
- A great tribulation like the world had never seen before will follow it. (Matthew 24:21)
- The eagles would gather around the carcass (Matthew 24:28). Eagles were the symbol of the Roman legions, so Jesus said they would see the army laying siege to a dying nation of Israel.
Jesus stated that the signs of his coming in judgment on Jerusalem would be easily seen. They did not have to worry about missing them (Matthew 24:27). Immediately after the above signs, there would be a great shakeup in the government -- the sun, moon, and stars representing government powers, common symbols in Old Testament prophesy (Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10; 3:15).
The sign of the Son of Man shall appear in heaven: The evidence of Jesus coming in judgment will be noticeable. It will not be a quiet or hidden event, but one out in the open where everyone can see it, just as the lights of the sun, moon, and stars are seen by all (Genesis 1:15). It is in the same way that God's faithfulness is established in the heavens, it cannot be overlooked (Psalms 89:2).
All the tribes of the earth shall mourn: The word "earth" is from the Greek word ge which can also be translated as area, region, or land. The tribes is a reference to Israel which has always been organized in a tribal structure (Deuteronomy 33:4-5). All Israelites in the physical world, or in the land of Israel, would be grieved by the events.
They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory: They, the Israelites, would see Jesus coming in judgment with power and glory. God rides in on the clouds (Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalms 68:4; 104:3). It is a measure of his swift approach, not only to rescue, but also to bring judgment."Behold, he shall come up like clouds, and his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered!" (Jeremiah 4:13). Like a storm cloud gathering above, people tremble at the potentially destructive forces. "That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. 'I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse.' Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land." (Zephaniah 1:15-18).
This imagery is often confused with the end of the world, which is often expressed in similar terms. But where this speaks of Israel mourning over their pending judgment at the hands of Jesus, in the end it will be all the nations of the earth (Matthew 25:32). "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed" (II Thessalonians 1:3-10).