Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Matthew/Chapter 24
Jesus has just finished admonishing the Pharisees and mourning over Jerusalem who kills her prophets when He leaves the temple with His disciples. They go up on the Mount of Olives where his disciples ask for clarification about the comment He had said about the temple being destroyed. Jesus then proceeds to answer their questions about the end of the times. He uses powerful imagery, allegory, and parables to help his readers understand what he is saying. These are traditionally very powerful tools used throughout the Old and New Testament. In a culture where the Bible is heard and people do not own an individual copy of it, everything is verbal. Stories were told to share ideas and teach lessons. They were more memorable that way. Jesus uses the traditional methods of his day in his story telling. Parallelism, repetition, and allegories are a few of the tools he used to help his audience understand and remember the words he is speaking.
The chapter following this moves from the idea of the Son of Man's coming, to the Kingdom of Heaven which is a prevalent theme throughout the entirety of the book.
For most of the chapter, a statement is made and then illustrated or an illustration is given and a statement made. The same theme of the return of Christ at an unknown hour is repeated throughout the entire chapter. Ideas such as the good slave and the evil slave are used in contrast with each other.
Most of the chapter is Jesus speaking. Only the first few verses have any sort of narration that set the scene for where Jesus and the disciples are throughout this time and where they were before.
A Note on Apocalyptic Literature
This chapter in Matthew is considered apocalyptic literature. That means it falls into the same category as Revelation, the last half of Daniel, and other sections of the Old and New Testament. Apocalyptic literature usually describes events that are going to happen or that are happening. These events reveal (in Greek apocalypsis means "revelation") what God is doing in the end-times. Some people like to say that all apocalyptic literature tells of the future, but it also speaks of current events for the people it was originally told to/about. There is a danger when interpreting this type of scripture that too much emphasis will be put on the future. These stories were not told to us originally. Their first listeners/readers would have heard a much different meaning than what we hear today. That also makes it difficult because there are instances where we do not know what the original author/readers understood about it. This type of literature is also full of imagery that doesn't fit within our own social/cultural boundaries. Suffice it to say that in most instances, we have to guess at what it could have originally referred to or if it is still speaking of what is to come in today's world. One thing that we cannot do is force the scripture to describe technology, culture, and events of today in order to fulfill our desire to understand the scripture within our own context.
The best way to go about interpreting this difficult genre is to study what it meant for the original author/listeners/readers. What historical events happened during their time to fulfill the scriptures? After understanding the original context we can then ask ourselves, "What does this mean for me today?"
From an evangelical point of view, the best way to interpret apocalyptic scripture is to read the verses literally when they present literally and when they present as allegorical or symbolic, they need to be cross referenced with other similar scriptural passages. The majority of time, one will find clear meaning because of the parallelisms between prophetic passages. Matthew 24 parallels Revelation from Chapter 4 onward. There is no need to concentrate strictly on the local history of the times rather than the meaning for future times. One always needs to keep in mind that Jesus was God incarnate and as such had unconstricted access to knowledge of future events to unfold.
New International Version
Signs of the End of the Age
1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
4Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,[a]' and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
15"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,'[b] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. 25See, I have told you ahead of time. 26"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather." 29 "Immediately after the distress of those days
- 'the sun will be darkened
- and the moon will not give its light;
- the stars will fall from the sky,
- and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'[c]
30"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
32"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[d]is near, right at the door. 34I tell you the truth, this generation[e] will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
The Day and Hour Unknown
36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 45"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- 1. Matthew 24:5 Or Messiah; also in verse 23
- 2. Matthew 24:15 Daniel 9:27 ; 11:31 ; 12:11 
- 3. Matthew 24:29 Isaiah 13:10 ; 34:4 
- 4. Matthew 24:33 Or he
- 5. Matthew 24:34 Or race
- 6. Matthew 24:36 Some manuscripts do not have nor the Son.
Parallels Between the Gospels
A Note on Translations
Every translation of the Bible is an interpretation. We do not have the original manuscripts upon which the Word of God was written so many years ago. We have hand-written copies of the originals, but most of them are not complete and none of them agree completely. (note:They were not written in English either). Unless you can fluently read the original languages from the original manuscripts, you must remember that you are reading someone's work. There isn't a right and a wrong version of the Bible, though some would argue otherwise. Each version has its own advantages and disadvantages. The best way to determine, for yourself, what was originally written is to closely examine the work of multiple translators by reading more than one version. The study of Biblical languages also helps, but most people don't have the time to learn Biblical Greek and Hebrew. For your convenience I have included a link to Biblegateway.com  already set up to show Matthew 24 in four different versions for your perusal.
Here is my paraphrase of Matthew 24. I studied four different versions of the Bible and from that study, wrote out the passage with my own understanding. This is a helpful practice in learning to notice and understand the differences between translations and the need to study the words that might change the meaning of the passage. It is also one of the best things to do when testing your own understanding. If you can put something that you've learned into your own words, you are more likely to remember it.
Matthew 24 MOV (My Own Version)
1-2 As Jesus was leaving the Temple, his disciples approached him, pointing out the building. “Do you see all of these buildings. I tell you the truth. Not one stone will be left standing upon another. Every one of them shall be torn down.”
3 While Jesus was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, his disciples privately came to him, asking, “When will these things come to be? What will be the sign of the end of the age and your return?”
4-8 Jesus replies, “Be careful that no one misleads you. Many will come in my name claiming ‘I am the Christ’ and they will lead many astray. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. I tell you, do not be alarmed. These things must come to pass, but it will not be the end yet. Kingdom will rise against kingdom. There will earthquakes, famines, and calamities of all sorts. These things are merely the beginning of the birthing pains.
9-14 Then, you will be handed over for persecution and they will kill you. All over the earth, you will be hated because of my name. During this time many will turn away from Me and betray and hate each other. False prophets will rise and they will lead many more away from me. Because of the abundance of evil, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures until the end will be saved. And the good news about the kingdom will be preached throughout all the world so that all will hear it and then the end will come.
15-28 A time will come when you will see, standing in the holy place, the Abomination of Desolation, which Daniel, the prophet, spoke of. At this time all who are in Judea must flee. Those who are on the housetop, must not enter the house to pack. All who are in the field must not turn back to get even a cloak. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and nursing mothers during those days. Pray that you will not need to flee during the winter or on the Sabbath. There will be a greater tribulation than anything the world has seen until now or that the world will ever see again. Should those days not be shortened, all will die, but for the sake of God’s chosen ones, those days will be shortened. And if anyone should say to you, ‘Look! There is the Christ.’ do not believe them. Many false Christ’s and prophets will arise and perform many great signs and wonders to deceive even God’s chosen ones, if that were possible. I have warned you. So if someone were to tell you that ‘He is in the wilderness’ or ‘he is in the inner room’ don’t believe them. Just as lightening lights up the entire sky, even when it happens only in one spot, it will also be like that when the Son of Man comes. For wherever the carcass lies, that is where the vultures will gather.
29-31 Immediately after those days of tribulation,
‘The sun will be darkened
The moon will not give light,
The stars will fall from the sky,
and the powers of heaven will be shaken.’
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens and deep mourning will penetrate all the nations of the earth. They will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And the Son of Man will send out his angels with the sound of a great trumpet. They will gather his chosen ones from the farthest reaches of earth and heaven.
32-35 Now learn a lesson from a fig tree. When its branches become tender and it begins to sprout leaves, you know that summer is close. So too will you know that his return is near when these things come to pass. Truly, this generation will not pass away until things things have come to pass. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words remain forever.
36 No one knows the day and time of these things. Not even the angels of heaven or the son knows. Only the Father does.
37-41 The coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah. Before the flood people were eating, drinking, and celebrating marriages until the day that Noah entered the ark. They knew nothing about what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. It is in this way that the coming of the Son of Man will happen. Two men will be working in a field. One will be taken, the other left. In the same way, two women will be grinding flour at the mill. One will be taken and the other left.
42 Be prepared for you do not know when the Lord will return.
43-44 But know this. If the owner of the house had known what hour the thief would be coming, he would have been alert and not allowed his house to be broken into. It is for this reason that you need to be ready. The Son of Man will return at an hour you least expect.
45-51 Who is the wise and faithful servant whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his house to give them their food at the right time? Blessed is the servant who is doing as much when his master returns. Suppose that servant is evil and thinks to himself, ‘My master won’t be back for quite a while,’ and then he begins to beat his fellow servants and party with drunkards. The master of the house will unexpectedly return. The master will cut the evil servant to pieces and banish him to the place of hypocrites where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:1-2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to him. And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down."
- Jesus and his disciples were leaving the Temple in Jerusalem to go up to the Mount of Olives. The disciples point out the beauty and glory of the Temple to Jesus. The Temple was built by Herod the Great and was destroyed by Titus in AD 70 (Mounce 221). This passage of scripture is viewed by some as eschatological, pertaining to the end times and final destinations of human souls (Hagner 689). The more common and accepted interpretation is that Jesus is speaking of the actual destruction of the Herodian Temple, which indeed happened in 70 AD. There is no allegorical reference to human souls in this passage. Jesus acknowledges the beauty of the temple, but continues to tell of its destruction. The destruction will be complete as one stone will not be left standing upon another. The Jews of the time can easily relate to this. The Temple was real and they were looking for a new age of Messianic kingship to come.
Matthew 24:3 NASB
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?"
- This verse opens with the disciples approaching Jesus privately on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is known in Zechariah 14 as a beginning point of the apocalypse. The disciples are hoping to understand how to recognize the end of the times. Their desire is to know when the end is to come and what it looks like so that they might be ready. In essence, they desire all the answers, just like we do today. In the disciples minds the destruction of the temple is synonymous with the destruction of Jerusalem and what we like to refer to as the apocalypse as we shall continue see in the rest of the passage (Allen 439; Mounce 222).
Matthew 24:4-5 NASB
And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ', and will mislead you."
- Jesus warns his disciples that many will come in his name. They are "pseudo-messiahs" (Hagner 691). He doesn't exaclty answer their question from before by telling them when these things are to happen, but he does acknowledge that they will happen by warning his disciples not to fall prey to the false words of those who would claim to be the Messiah falsely.
Matthew 24:6 NASB
"You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end."
- The wars, famines, and earthquakes are "signs of the approaching end in Jewish apocalyptic" (Mounce 222). As Jesus said these words, his disciples would have remembered the traditional Jewish traditions they had been raised with and they would have immediately thought of the "the end" or the apocalypse. Jesus stifles their need to fear that these events mean the end is near. The simply signify the beginning of all that is to come.
Matthew 24:7 NASB
"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes."
The same language from the previous verse permeates this one as well. Again, the end is not there when these happen. These events merely signify that it has begun.
Matthew 24:8 NASB
"But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs."
- This statement provides strong imagery in a culture where epidural analgesia does not exist and the death rate at birth to both baby and mother is exceedingly high. These apocalyptic images that Jesus has been giving are only the beginning of these birth pangs. "The imagery of 'birth pangs' points to the commonly expected period of suffering that would immediately precede the birth of the messianic age" (Hagner 691).
Matthew 24:9 NASB
"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name."
- The disciples are told that they must be prepared to go through difficult times, and to be hated by all because they follow Jesus. In Matthew it is not known who "they" are. It is presumed that "they" are the people who "reject the message of the disciples" (Hagner 649). Jesus brought a revolutionary message during his day. Many people were plotting how to kill him. His words brought division among families as He preached a message unlike anything the Jews or Gentiles had ever heard before. It was a call to righteouness and repentance, which follows the Moral Law of Moses, not the Ceremonial Law of the Pharasaic Judaism of that day and relies on God not Tradition for empowerment. It is for this message and what Jesus did that people would then hate the disciples, persecute them, and in many cases kill them. We see this happen still today in the lives of Christians all around the world who are killed for their faith.
Matthew 24:10 NASB
"At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another."
- Many will fall away in the Times of the End as portrayed by the Church of Laodacia in Revelation - a lukewarm church which has been drawn away from conviction to Christ. Such people will be Christian in name only and will hate the Truth of Christ's real message. We see this growing today in many mainstream churches.
Matthew 24:11 NASB
"Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many."
It is also during this time that false prophets will arise and mislead many others as Jesus had mentioned earlier. The fear that the birthing pains have caused will help build a desperation in the hearts of many and they will easily turn to follow false prophets rather than a life of discipleship with Christ.
Matthew 24:12 NASB
"Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."
- In Matthew, Love is the greatest of the commandments, the fulfillment of what it means to follow Christ (Hagner 695). Love growing cold is another means of turning away or being led away from Christ. Lawlessness is the spirit of the Antichrist which will be on the rise in the end times. This lawlessness and lack of love will further compound the deeds of hate and betrayal and the ease by which the false prophets will be able to rise up and lead people away.
Matthew 24:13 NASB
"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."
- This is a statement of hope in the face of much negativity. There is hope for the Jew who endures and can continue to follow Jesus despite the Tribulation to come. There is a promise of ultimate salvation for those Jews who continue to endure. (Hagner, 695) Although only a remnant of the Jewish people, they will be saved.
Matthew 24:14 NASB
"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come."
- Not only are the faithful called to endure, but also to preach the gospel to all the nations. It is only after the gospel has spread to all nations will the end come. (Hagner, 696) (Mounce, 223)
Matthew 24:15-16 NASB
"Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains."
- Some try to equate the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION with the anti-Christ as referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10. While Christians today might opt to interpret this passage in the apocalyptic sense of things still to come in the idea of the anti-Christ. (Hagner, 699) The ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION is a reference to Daniel 9:27. It refers only partially to Antiochus IV Epiphanes who desired to defame Judaism by sacrificing unclean animals upon the altar there.[1 Maccabees 1:54] (Mounce, 223) However, it is only partial because not all of this prophesy was fulfilled through Antiochus. Christ speaks of the End Times of the future. He doesn't have a precise timeframe of where/when this is to happen other than as a future event at the close of the age. Some say that it refers to the destruction of the temple in AD 70, but this is a Preterist view which also does not completly fulfill this prophecy. (Allen, 443) (Hagner, 698) (Mounce, 224) The command following the statement of the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION is to all of those who are in Judea to flee to the mountains.
Matthew 24:17-18 NASB
"Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in the house. Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak."
- While these verses are pretty straight forward, some historical context is helpful in understanding what Jesus is referring to when saying that those who are on the housetop should not go down to retrieve their things from the house. In those days, it was common to spend evenings out on the roof of the house relaxing. Homes were built with a flat roof so that it could be used as a place to relax, pray, or even sleep. At times tents could even be erected up there or grass grown. (Easton) Understanding that the roof was often a place of relaxing reveals just how urgent the call to leave the house was. There's not even time to take things from the house as you leave. For those who are working, there isn't even time to retrieve the outer coat removed during work. (Mounce, 224)
This verse is clearly reflected in Revelation as being at the start of the Great Tribulation.
Matthew 24:19 NASB
"But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!"
This journey will be especially difficult for those who have extra difficulty traveling such as women who are pregnant or nursing.
Matthew 24:20 NASB
"But pray that your flight will not be in the winter or on the Sabbath."
- While being pregnant or nursing is not something a person can change, there is a call to pray for the things that can be changed, such as the day that this will happen. For if it is winter or the Sabbath, travel is that much more difficult. It is a call for the faithful to pray that this will not happen on those days. On the Sabbath during those days, travel was limited. (Mounce, 225)
Matthew 24:21-22 NASB
"For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."
- It may be unclear as to what this great tribulation is. There are multiple possibilities. One idea states that this is a hyperbolic reference to the fall of Jerusalem (Preterist View). Another states that this is in reference to the end of the age (Futurist View). The last takes the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and uses it to foreshadow the end to come (Historicist View). "Verse 22 reflects the Jewish understanding that the events of history are predetermined by God, but that he is free to alter them according to his best judgment." (Mounce, 225)
The Christian evangelist follows the futurist view and sees this clearly as reflected in the Book of Revelation as the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
- The elect are those who follow God. They are God's chosen children. From the rest of the New Testament we can understand this to mean those that Jesus died for who chose to follow Him. Calvinism would state that the elect are those who God died for, but they were chosen by God before the beginning of time and if they are elect they cannot help but follow God. Wesleyan beliefs refer to the elect as those who chose this gift of grace that is available for everyone. According to Covenental Theology, God died for all and we have the freedom and ability to choose to follow him.
Matthew 24:23-28 NASB
"Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness' do not go out, or 'Behold, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the Corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
- It was commonly believed that Messianic salvation would come from the desert. The people are being warned that false prophets will arise in the ways most expected and in the opposite way, the least expected, through the warning that people might say the Christ is in the inner room, a very private place. (Hagner, 706) Again, the people are warned of false prophets, false Messiah's who will come to trick everyone. If possible they would even desire to draw God's chosen people, the elect, from their faith in God. Great signs and wonders are brought up as the false prophets will try to mislead people through them. In the Old Testament Pharaoh's magicians could copy the signs that God gave to free his people. In this way the false prophets will be able to perform mighty signs in an attempt to mislead all. (Mounce, 225) Just as lightening flashes across the sky and can be seen from one end to the other, Christ's return will be like that. It will be sudden and known. There will not be a need for prophets to announce the Messiah's arrival. It will happen suddenly and will be known with certainty.
- The last sentence in this section is a proverb describing the way in which carrion birds circle over dead flesh. This is another instance where interpretation is bungled by our inability to fully understand what the original author intended and the original readers understood. There is a temptation to allegorize it by saying the birds represent this and what they are doing represents this, but we cannot know if we are accurate or not in that type of interpretation. It could be understood to say that in the way circling vultures indicate the presence of death, the coming of the Messiah cannot be missed. Another interpretation could use this verse to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem. However, that last option is difficult to find evidence for because the context around it does not indicate that it would actually mean this. Another interpretation could lead readers to think of the coming of Christ and the end times with the symbolism of death and the birds which mark it. Even though the meaning isn't truly known, there are lots of ideas and plenty to think and pray about. Enjoy! (Hagner, 707)
Matthew 24:29 NASB
"But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken."
- The tribulation spoken of in this verse refers to either the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem or an even greater experience of human suffering still to come in the future.(Hagner, 711) The Evangelical Christian sees this as the End of the Great Tribulation where these same signs are the Bowl Judgements from Revelation. We can know that whatever it is includes a massive amount of human suffering.
- This is another traditionally apocalyptic scene. This description of the heavens is echoed from Old Testament passages that all of the disciples and Jews would have been familiar with during their days. Some examples of this echo can be found in Isaiah 13:10, Isaiah 34:4, Joel 2:31, and Joel 3:15. (Allen, 444)
Matthew 24:30-31 NASB
"And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory and He will send for His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other."
- The sign of the Son of Man could either refer to the Son of Man himself, the cross (as the early church believed), or the banner as it is described in Isaiah 11:12. This sign will appear in the sky and all will mourn. The mourning could be a result of all those who were not faithful and obedient to the will of Christ or it could refer to the distress of Christians at the foot of the cross because of what they did to the Son of Man as they look upon what they have done. (Mounce, 226) (Hagner, 714) Some would even wonder if the mourning is a result of everyone repenting and converting to Christianity while mourning their own losses. (Allen, 444) The Great Trumpet is referenced elsewhere in the Bible in the context of gathering and in 1 Corinthians 15:52 it is used to signify the end times and bring all those who have died back to life. (Hagner, 715) The fact that the angels are gathering the elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other flows nicely with the rest of the themes in Matthew. It follows the statement saying that the end will come when all have heard the message of salvation. In this sense, the angels are gathering all the saints of the world. It is a universal gift of love that God has given his people.
Matthew 24:32-33 NASB
"Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door."
- When the leaves begin to sprout, summer is near, which also means that it is almost time to harvest the fruit on a fig tree. In this way, we also know that as these signs happen, the end is near and the time to gather the elect is near. Remember, it isn't there yet, but it is near. (Hagner, 715)
Matthew 24:34-35 NASB
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away."
- Here we have a problem. That generation has passed away. There are theories, and again, theories are all we've got. Perhaps the passage is only in relation to the fall of Jerusalem. That would solve the problem of the generation having passed away before all of it could happen. Or maybe Jesus was simply wrong. But that would be a contradiction to other things that Jesus has stated and wouldn't that just compromise the validity of the scriptures? If we look at the Greek word for generation (genea) and define it as the human race in general rather that specific generation in that specific time then maybe it is used to say that the Christian church will survive until the end. Then, if we continue to look closely at the words and notice that the word for happened (genētai) could be used to say that before that generation died these things will have started to take place, then that would fix the inconstancy of having a dead generation and the possibility of these things not being completed. There is the possibility, as well, that because this is prophetic literature, time has been shortened/isn't portrayed accurately. The other possibility is that in the way other prophecies have been fulfilled in multiple places through the Bible, this prophecy is the same way and can be used to mean both the destruction of Jerusalem at that time and the end that is still to come. (Mounce, 228) So, there is the passing of heaven and earth to look forward to, but Jesus' words will never pass away. This equates the words of Jesus with those of God. All of creation was based upon the words of God and all of life is dependent upon them. The created will pass, but the words of Jesus/God will remain constant. (Hagner, 716)
The Evangelist sees this cleary as a prophetic statement that the generation that sees these signs will not pass away before the Second coming of Christ at the end of the Great Tribulation.A 'Generation' is referenced in the Psalms as about 70 years or eighty if one is strong.
Matthew 24:36 NASB
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."
Christ voluntarily limited His understanding to that which the Father gave Him for His own good purposes. This in no way takes away from the deity of Christ.
This verse emphasizes the point that the coming of the Son of Man CANNOT be known. Not even the son himself knows. Only God the Father, in Heaven, knows when the time will come for the Messiah to come again. (Allen, 446) (Hagner, 716)
Matthew 24:37-39 NASB
"For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be."
- The coming of the Son of Man is being compared with the suddenness with which God obliterated most of mankind during the days of Noah. No one understood what was going to happen until it happened and that was the point at which it was too late to change anything. The Son of Man will come just as suddenly. (Hagner, 719)
- A better way to see 'the days of Noah' is by looking at the description of the people of that time. They had reached a point of complete depravity and selfishness, seeking only pleasures in life and ignoring God's law. This was the basis of God's Flood Judgement.
Matthew 24:40-41 NASB
"Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left."
This does not mean that one will suddenly disappear like in the startling images proposed by the popular Left Behind series, but that one is saved and one isn't. From the outside looking in, it is impossible to tell the difference between the two people in each scene. All of them are working and living life together. The difference is the faith of two and the unbelief of the other two. The ones who are not taken are condemned to judgment. (Allen, 447) (Hagner, 720)
Matthew 24:42 NASB
"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming."
- Another reiteration of the theme that the return of the Son of Man is not known and will not be known until it is here. It is also a call to be prepared, to be watchful, and aware.
Matthew 24:43-44 NASB
"But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will."
- This is an example to help listeners understand that they must be alert. The thief comes at an unexpected time, just as Christ will. The master of the house is people. If humans know when Christ is to come, they would be alert and ready. Unfortunately, it has become abundantly clear that we do not when the coming of Christ will happen, so we must be alert and ready, knowing He will come like a thief at a time when we do not think He will.
Matthew 24:45-47 NASB
"Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master has put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is the slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions."
- Note: Some versions use the word servant instead of slave. Some would say that the servant/slave is the church leader who does what they should by fulfilling their duties to Christ by feeding the others in the church. (Allen, 448) (Mounce, 228). It can be used more generally than that to refer to a believer who takes care of what the Lord has put them in charge of. When The Master returns they will be rewarded with more responsibility than they had before. The phrase, Truly, adds emphasis to this promise of great reward for the wise and faithful servant. (Hagner, 724)
Matthew 24:48-51 NASB
"But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time' and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him to a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will weeping and gnashing of teeth."
- The contrast between this servant and the other servant lies within their hearts as well as with their behavior. The first is watchful and cares for that which he has been given. The second is lazy, drunk, and abuses that which he has been given. He takes advantage of his master's delay, assuming that he can get away with his behavior. That is not the case. The master returns when the slave does not expect him to and punishes him for his behavior. This story repeats the theme for this passage: Be watchful for the coming of Christ is unknown. (Hagner, 724)
Since I can't read the original manuscripts/languages one of the tools in my arsenal is a concordance, a massive book (bigger than the Bible) that takes you back to the original language with every word in the Bible, tells you how many times it was used in each of its contexts and where to find it elsewhere in the Bible as well as what it means. Here are a few words that are interesting to learn more about in order to increase understanding of the passage:
Elect: Chosen (This word is used 17 times in the Bible-KJV)
Servant: The word used for servant in this passage is taken from the word for slave which is why different versions use the different terms. Means Bond(man), servant.
Love: The Greek word for love used in this passage means: To love (in a social or moral sense)
Mount of Olives
Allen, Leslie C., Ralph W. Klein, C.L. Seow, Sidnie C. White, and Lawrence M. Wils. The New Interpreter's Bible . Volume 3. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995. Print.
Easton, M. G. "Houses." Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary. Third. Thomas Nelson, 1897. Web. <http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionaries/info.php>.
Hagner, Donald A. Matthew 14--28. Word Biblical Commentary, 33B. Dallas: Word, 1995.
Mounce, Robert H. Matthew. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991.
Strong, James. The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990. Print.