Signs of Things to Come

We’ve seen in Matthew 24 that we are to trust in the authority of Christ and persevere in the power of Christ. Based on the portrait of Christ we see throughout Matthew’s Gospel, we should long for the coming of Christ. The realities of tribulation, deception, temptation, and persecution create anticipation. The more we live in this world, the more we will long for Christ to come back to this world.

The more we live in this world, the more we will long for Christ to come back to this world.

This text leaves no doubt that the day of Christ’s return will be evident to all. His coming will be no secret: the angels of heaven will let out a trumpet blast, and every eye will behold the Son of Man in the sky (vv. 29-31). How different this will be from His first coming! The first time He came to a remote, obscure town just outside Jerusalem, where He went largely unnoticed, save for a few shepherds and some farm animals. He came the first time lying in a manger; however, He will come the second time riding on the clouds. This is what Daniel prophesied centuries before:

And I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

He will come on the clouds in power to execute judgment.

Just as surely as He came the first time in humility to provide salvation, so He will come the second time in glory to execute judgment. Matthew’s reference to “the clouds of heaven” in verse 30 is not just an allusion to Daniel 7. Throughout the Old Testament, God reveals His glory in the image of a cloud. It was a pillar of cloud that led God’s people in the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:21). Then, at the end of the book of Exodus, God’s glory was revealed in a cloud that covered the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38). Psalm 104:3 says that God makes the clouds “His chariot,” and Isaiah 19:1 depicts the Lord riding on a “swift cloud.” The picture we get in Matthew 24 is of the glory of God revealed in the glorious Son of God, who will come on the clouds in power to execute judgment.

In verse 30 Jesus says that the tribes of the earth will “mourn” when they see Him coming. That day will be a day of judgment, and all who are not ready for that day—that is, those who have refused to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ as Savior and King—will come face to face with the Holy One whom they have rejected.

What if this happened today? Would I be ready?

This text should cause us to ask ourselves, “What if this happened today? Would I be ready?” If not, then repent and believe in Christ today. If you are a genuine follower of Christ, are there things in your life that you still need to repent of, sins that you’re holding on to and toying with? What are you doing today that would cause you to be ashamed before Jesus if He were to come this moment? If so, let go of these things. Confess your sin and find mercy in Your Savior, so that you will be ready for His coming.

Following Jesus’ description of His second coming in verses 29-31, He tells the parable of the fig tree in verses 32-33. The lesson of this parable is that Christians confidently watch, for they see the leaves on the tree (the signs Jesus has spoken of) indicating that the Lord’s return is near. In a very real sense, we keep our eyes on the sky and our hearts prepared, even though we don’t know the exact timing of His coming. Yet we know that His timing will confound our wisdom. When the Son returns, we will see that the Father’s timing makes perfect sense, so we watch with confidence in the sovereign control of God.

We watch and we wait.

While we watch, Christians patiently wait. In verse 34, Jesus says, “I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.” This verse has been particularly confusing, because it seems that Jesus is saying that the generation He was speaking to would see His second coming. There’s much discussion over what is meant by terms like “generation,” “pass away,” and “all these things.” Good scholars have reached different conclusions. It seems clear, however, that Jesus did not mean that He would return before His disciples died. After all, He explicitly told Peter in John 21:18-19 that Peter would be put to death. Matthew 24:34 seems to teach that all of the things that Jesus has talked about—tribulation, deception, temptation, and persecution—would come upon His disciples, and that others in that generation would see the destruction of Jerusalem as a foretaste of the return of Jesus. But those things would not be the end. In the midst of these signs, from generation to generation, followers of Christ are called to wait patiently.

**This Daily devotion was modified from Exalting Jesus in Matthew from the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series, by David Platt.