12. The day of judgment, 24:1-25:46

ii] The coming of the Son of Man


The discourse in which Matthew draws together Jesus' eschatological teaching continues with Jesus specifically addressing the disciples' question concerning "the sign when all these things are about to come to pass." In the passage before us Jesus speaks about the climaxing moments of the tribulation and the events surrounding the desolating sacrilege.


In the day of tribulation, at the end of the age, let believers read the signs and lie low as the Son of Man comes in judgment.


i] Context: See 24:1-14.


ii] Structure: The coming of the birth-pangs:

Setting, v1-2:

"there will not be left here one stone upon another

that will not be thrown down."

Question, v3:

"when will these things be and

what will be the sign of your coming .....?"

Answer, v1-35:

The tribulation, v1-28:

The beginning of the woes, v4-8;

The intensification of the woes, v9-14;

The desolating sacrilege, v15;

The flight, v16-22;

The coming of false messiahs and prophets, v23-28;

The parousia, v29-35.

The coming in judgment of the Son of Man, v29-31;

The parable of the Fig Tree, v32-33;

The present fulfillment of the prophecy, v34-35.


iii] Interpretation:

The coming of the Son of Man will be evident, like lightning; it will be sudden, like the appearance of vultures on a corpse in the desert. In the face of this reality no pretender can pretend, so read the signs, for the hour is nigh.


The prophetic perspective resulting in the coalescing of divine judgment upon Jerusalem and the final judgment at the end of the age, is particularly evident in this passage. Jesus is indeed speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, an event that his own generation will witness, v24. Yet, his words transcend what was a horrible, although common military action, cf. v21. Jesus' prophecy serves as a paradigm for another time, a time of incredible horror, namely, the judgment of the world.

See the introductory notes for Matthew 24:1-14 which cover in more detail the layering of eschatological events in scripture and their coalescing in the eye of the prophet. For further reading see the introductory notes to Luke 21:5-24 and 21:25-38.


This passage, The sign of the coming of the Son of Man, covers the following issues:


i] The desolating sacrilege, v15: There will be a significant sign prior to Jesus' "coming" in judgement. It is the "desolating sacrilege" first revealed in Daniel. The words describe a major affront to the temple / Jerusalem. "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you know its desolation is near", Lk.21:20. Rome's desecration of the temple in 70AD was complete, although the temple's desecration began with the rebels who were fighting among themselves in the temple precinct and finally used the temple in their last stand against the Romans. It is though likely that the reference is to the practice of a conquering army to dethrone the gods of their enemy and install their own. So, we are probably looking at the placing of Roman standards in the temple complex in conjunction with the typical brutality of the Roman legions. As already explained, the layered nature of Biblical prophecy means that Jesus' words also apply to a day well beyond their historic context. It is not possible to identify the exact nature of the sign as it applies to the end of the age/world. The best we can say is that it will involve a major affront to God played out at the expense of his people - the apple of his eye. Although we may not be able to specifically identify the sign today, in the day of its revealing all believers will recognize it.


ii] The flight, v16-22: Given the horror of these day, believers are encourage to flee to safety, v16. Once the sign of the desolating sacrilege is identified, flight is an urgent necessity, v17-18, difficult, v19-20, and dangerous, v21. As an act of mercy God will shorten this terrible day of judgment, v22. The language used here reflects that of God's judgment in the days of Noah and Lot: the man on the house top, the woman grinding, the eagles at the carcass. Interestingly, tradition has it that the Christian community moved from Jerusalem during the rebellion and travelled to Pella in Transjordan. The rebels treated this move as treachery and reacted accordingly, but most of the believers escaped. In the final days of tribulation it is unclear how we would escape, and where we would escape to, but as my grandfather used to say: "don't cross your bridges before they're hatched" (he was a source of numerous mixed metaphors!!!).


iii] The coming of false messiahs and prophets, v23-28: The emergence of messianic leaders in the last days should probably be tied to the tribulation in general rather than just the "desolating sacrilege." It is clear though that with the "increase of wickedness", culminating in the "desolating sacrilege", there will be an increase of messianic pretenders. So, what we have here is an expansion of the point already made in v11, that in the last days "false prophets will appear and deceive many people." The appearing of messianic pretenders, although wondrous, is nothing to compare with the parousia, "appearing / coming" of the Son of Man, v29-31. At this point many commentators think that Jesus is now directing his attention to "the end of the age" rather than his "coming" in judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple. For this reason tote, "then", is taken to mean "hereafter", not "immediately after", but a "considerable interval" after, so Morris. Jesus' words in v23ff, particularly his use of apocalyptic language in v29-31, have all the hallmarks of the end of the age, and certainly do address this reality, but they also address the events of the tribulation leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem. This is made clear by v34, "this generation shall not pass away until all these things have taken place." We are simply witnessing the layered nature of prophecy at work; See v1-14. Note allusions to Deuteronomy 13:2-4 in this passage.


iv] The coming in judgment of the Son of Man, v29-31: The coming / appearing of the Son of Man entails the act of divine judgment which euqewV, "immediately", follows on from the sign of the desolating sacrilege. In describing this divine judgment upon the unrighteous, Jesus' draws on Old Testament apocalyptic texts: cosmic distress, Isa.13:10, 34:4, Ezk.32:7, Jol.2:10-11, v29; the sign of the Son of Man, lamentation, Zech.12:10, and his coming Dan.7:13, v30; the gathering of the elect, Isa.28:13, Zech.2:6, Deut.30:4. The prophets commonly used this type of cosmic language when depicting judgement against the enemies of Israel, but now Jesus turns this very language onto old Israel itself, or more specifically onto "God's house in Jerusalem", France. Although Jesus' words apply to the destruction of Jerusalem / temple, the language transcends the immediate historical situation and speaks to another age, the final day of judgment.


v] The parable of the Fig Tree, v32-33: The disciples, referring to the destruction of the temple, ask for a sign that will indicate when will this be. Jesus tells them that when they see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, then they will know that it is near. When we see a fig tree come into leaf we know that spring is upon us. In the same way, when the disciples see "these things" (the significant events associated with the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem - the tribulation leading up to and including the desolating sacrilege) then they can know (can read the signs) that "it" (the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem) is upon them. Some argue that "these things" only refer to the end of the world/age, rather than the events associated with the destruction of the temple. Yet, as already noted, prophecy is layered, such that the desolating sacrilege points both to Armageddon as well as the siege of Jerusalem.


iv] The present fulfillment of prophecy, v34-35: At this point Jesus is even more specific in relation to the disciples' question. He declares that his own generation will witness the fulfillment of "all these things", ie., the events leading up to and including the destruction of the temple / Jerusalem, which events will serve as a type / paradigm of the end of the age. Of course, Jesus' statement that "this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place" has caused endless problems with interpretation. The simple fact is that Jesus' eschatology is layered, as was the eschatology of Israel's prophets. Jesus' words will indeed be fulfilled in the lifetime of his disciples, but they will also be fulfilled in the age to come. The destruction of Jerusalem and the desecration of the temple by the Romans is, in reality, a "coming" of Jesus. He comes, he appears in judgement - the "abomination of desolation" is the sign of this coming, 24:15, cf. Dan.7. Yet, these words also look to another terrible day, a day yet to come which will precede the end of the age and the final judgment, 25:31ff. See the introductory notes for 24:1-14 for a layered approach to Jesus' eschatological teaching.


iv] Synoptics: See 24:1-14.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 24:15

The coming of the Son of Man, v15-35. i] The desolating sacrilege, v15. Jesus has just described the normal state of affairs for humanity in a world falling apart - wars, rumors of wars, earthquake and famine, along with the persecution for God's people. Now he explains "the sign" of his "coming and the end of the age", namely the sign is "the desolating sacrilege." When this sign is revealed then know that the end is near. Jesus is alluding to Daniel 9:27, 11:31, the prediction of an abominable sacrilege inflicted on the temple. Luke actually spells it out for us; "when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near." Jerusalem, including the temple, was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

oun "so" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential, although not strong here and so left out of some translations.

oJtan + subj. "when [you see]" - when [you see the abomination of desolation, the thing spoken through daniel the prophet]. Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, "whenever", translated definitely, "when".

estoV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing" - having stood. Accusative complement to the direct object "desolating sacrilege" standing in a double accusative construction; "when you see the desolating sacrilege standing erect." "Standing / set up" reflects the language of Daniel 11:31 (cf. also 8:13, 9:27, 12:11) and the setting up of an alter/statue of Olympian Zeus in the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168BC, and the offering of sacrifices of unclean animals upon/at it. "Standing" here doesn't actually mean that the desolating sacrilege stands somewhere where it doesn't belong, rather it has come to exist, to be were it doesn't belong.

en + dat. "in [the holy place]" - Local, expressing space. Defiling a sacred place which, in terms of the temple, is the sanctuary.

thV erhmwsewV (iV ewV) gen. "[the abomination] that causes desolation" - [the abomination] of desolation - that which is laid waste. The genitive is usually classified as adjectival, verbal, subjective, but possibly attributive; "the desolating abomination", Olmstead. The abomination / sacrilege / profanation makes the holy place desolate in that godly people would no longer wish to approach it. "The abominable sacrilege", Anchor.

to rjhqen (eipon) aor. pas. part. "spoken of" - the thing having been said. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantival phrase "desolating sacrilege"; "of which the prophet Daniel spoke", Barclay.

dia "through" - through, by means of [daniel]. Instrumental. expressing means / agency.

tou profhtou (hV ou) gen. "the prophet" - the prophet. Standing in apposition to "Daniel".

oJ anaginwskwn (anaginwskw) pres. part. "[let] the reader [understand]" - the one reading [let him understand]. The participle serves as a substantive. Not literally read, but read into, interpret; "look more deeply into this, because what is said is less than what is meant", Fenton. This cryptic note prompts the person who hears these words to understand them, not in the terms of what Antiochus Epiphanes did in the past, but what Rome is about to do in the present. Luke makes clear what Matthew implies, Lk.21:20. Mark has the same cryptic.


ii] Flight in the face of the desolating sacrilege, v16-22. When this sign occurs the only hope is to escape the terrible tribulation. Thankfully, God will shorten these days for the sake of his people.

tote "then" - As noted in v1-14, the actual sense of this temporal adverb is somewhat unclear. Rather than expressing sequential time it is more likely saying something like "at that time"; see below. Here often not translated.

oiJ "those who are [in Judea]" - the ones [in judea]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "in Judea" into a substantive, as NIV.

feugetwsan (feugw) pres. imp. "let .... flee" - let them flee [to the mountains]. The advice is practical in that staying in a city during a siege is anything but safe, staying in the countryside is also unsafe as an invading army is always foregoing for food and killing anyone who might harry them behind the lines, so the safest place is in rugged high country where it is difficult for an invading force to go. No particular mountain is in mind, rather the hill country of Judea which abounds in caves and caverns.


oJ "no one" - the one [upon the roof]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "upon the roof" into a substantive, as NIV.

epi + gen. "on [the housetop]" - Spacial; "upon." This instruction reinforces the urgency of flight. The flat roof of Palestinian homes was used as a sleep-out in summer. In the terrible day there will be no time to get off the roof and into the house to collect up one's possessions, rather, its get off the roof and go. Carson suggests that flight from roof to roof is the intended sense.

arai (airw) aor. inf. "to take" - [let him not come down] to carry away, take away. The infinitive introduces an adverbial clause, final, expressing purpose.

ta "anything" - the things [from the house of him]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "from the house" into a substantive; "what is in his house", ESV.

ek "out of [the house]" - Expressing separation; "away from." Given the verb "carry away" we may have expected en, "carry away the things in his house."


oJ "[let no] one [in the field]" - the one [in the field do not let him return back]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the field" into a substantive, as NIV. In the sense of run back to their locker.

arai (airw) aor. inf. "to get [his cloak]" - to take up [the garment of him]. The infinitive is adverbial, introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order to ..." "If you are out in the field don't go back for your coat", CEV. Again, underlining urgency.


ouai "how dreadful it will be" - [but/and] woe, alas. It would be difficult for these two classes of person to escape a marauding army.

en + dat. "in [those days]" - Temporal use of the preposition; "during that time."

taiV ... ecousaiV (ecw) dat. pres. part. "for pregnant women" - to the ones having [in the womb]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, disadvantage. The modifying prepositional phrase "in the womb / stomach" of "having" is idiomatic for "being pregnant."

taiV qhlazousaiV (qhlazw) dat. pres. part. "nursing mothers" - [and] the ones nursing. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, disadvantage.


proseucesqe (proseucomai) pres. imp. "pray" - [but/and] pray, ask. "Pray God that your need to escape ...", Junkins.

iJna + subj. "that [your flight]" - that [the escape of you]. This construction may form a purpose clause, "in order that", but is more likely introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of the prayer. The language probably expresses concerned identification with the situation rather than encouraging prayer for a shortening of the time. None-the-less, the shortening referred to in v22 indicates that divine action is promised for the care of his people during this time and this may well include a shortening of the tribulation.

ceimwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "in winter" - [may not be] in winter. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / of time, "may not be during winter." When it is stormy, muddy, cold ...

sabbatw/ (on) dat. "on the Sabbath" - [nor] in/on sabbath. Local dative of time, "on a Sabbath day." The required Sabbath day's journey of 2,000 cubits would obviously restrict flight on a Sabbath day, although flight in the face of danger is probably not against rabbinic teaching, and in any case, such insect law would be of little interest to Jesus. Robert Banks suggests that the issue concerns the shutting of the city's gates and the difficulty of procuring provisions.


gar "for" - because. Introducing a causal claus explaining why flight in that day is necessary.

tote "then" - then [will be great tribulation]. As already noted, the word may express sequential time, but often just indefinite time - past, present, future. So, a general "at that time", although not "at that specific time."

ou gegonen (ginomai) perf. "unequaled" - [such as] has not been. The superlative language used for the qliyiV, "distress, suffering, trouble", does not properly reflect what was a fairly standard military action, but, as noted above, it does fit with the prophetic perspective where an immediate situation is treated as a type / paradigm for an eternal reality, here the end of the age.

ap archV (h) "from the beginning [of the world]" - from the beginning [of world]. An article is commonly not included in a prepositional phrase, particularly where the preposition is followed by a genitive, cf. Zerwick. This temporal construction followed by eJwV tou, "until, up to, as far as", marks "the temporal limits of the action", Olmstead.

e{wV tou "until [now]" - This construction, often with an infinitive, expresses future time, as NIV. Technically the genitive article tou (this preposition takes a genitive) serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb nun, "now", into a substantive serving as the object of the preposition.

ou mh + subj. "and never [to be equaled again]" - [nor] no no = not ever [may become = happen]. This construction forms a subjunctive of emphatic negation; "no and never shall be", Moffatt.


ei + aor. .... an + aor. "if" - if, as is not the case, [these days were not cut short], then [all flesh would not be saved = none would be saved]. Introducing a 2nd class conditional clause where the proposed condition stated in the protasis is untrue.

eswqh (swzw) aor. pas. "would survive" - be saved. "Saved" is not being used of spiritual salvation, but of physical survival, as NIV. This promised gracious intervention by the "coming" Christ, for the sake of his people, cuts short the tribulation and thus the horror being experienced by all humanity. Again we see the immediate situation treated as a type for the end of the age. Of the immediate situation Josephus notes that the capture of Jerusalem was not overly drawn out. He quotes Titus, "God it was who brought down the Jews from these strongholds; for what power have human hands or engines against these towers", War. "If that time had not been shortened, no human being would have survived", NJB.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, here indicating a step to a contrasting point, "but ..."

dia + gen. "for the sake of" - because of, on account of. Causal; "for the sake of."

touV eklektouV adj. "the elect" - the chosen, elect. The adjective serves as a substantive. The word is used of the people of Israel and of course applies to the new Israel of God in Christ. Israel is God's chosen / elect people in that he has determined to bring about salvation for the human race through Abraham and his children. The children of Abraham who properly make up this elect people are those who share the faith of Abraham rather than his genes. The word is not being used of individuals elected / chosen / predestined by God to make up his special people, but of those who through faith become part of his elect people / nation / community. "But for the sake of God's people these days will be shortened", Phillips.

kolobwqhsontai (kolobow) fut. pas. "will be shortened" - [those days] will be cut off, cut short.


iii] The coming of pseudo messiah's and false prophets, v23-28. With the "increase of wickedness", culminating in the "desolating sacrilege", there will be an increase of messianic pretenders leading many astray, even leading astray the followers of Christ. It is likely that these "false messiahs" will take many forms: religious, political, environmental, commercial, ...., all emissaries of the hoar of Babylon, the secular city, cf., Revelation.

tote "at that time" - then. Again we are confronted with this difficult temporal adverb. Sequential time, eg. "thereafter", is probably not intended, but a general "at that time" = "during the time of the tribulation." Note BAGD is not overly happy with "at that time", although they treat the phrase as a specific identifier when in English it tends more toward a general period of time.

ean + subj. "if" - if, as may be the case, [someone says to you here the Christ, or here = there], then [do not believe]. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the proposed condition stated in the protasis has a possibility of coming true; "."

w|de .... w|de adv. "here ...... there ....." - here .... here. Predicate adverb. Indicating either numerous messianic claimants, or probably better, a fickle superstitious humanity reading THE END IS NEIGH into every unusual occurrence. It is interesting to witness this doomology presently evident in the climate change debate now dominating the western world. Even streaming services like Netflix are loaded with films that promote an end-of-world scenario. When it comes to doomology, scientific or religious (scientific doomology may well be religious!!!), a good dose of scepticism is a necessary requirement. "Here is the Messiah, or there he is", Barclay.

mh pisteushte (pisteuw) subj. "do not believe it" - do not believe. Prohibitive subjunctive. "Don't fall for it", Peterson.


gar "for" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why people are convinced that the Messiah has returned.

yeudocristoi kain yeudoprofhtai "false Christs and false prophets" - Possibly of a single class, those "who promise God's final salvation and claim to represent it", Boring. Such savior figures are not necessarily false Christian preachers etc., nor even religious leaders, but may well be secular tyrants, or even the state itself - the hoar of Babylon.

egerqhsontai (egairw) fut. pas. "will appear" - will arise. Will "appear on the scene", BAGD.

shmeia megala kai terata "great signs and miracles" - [and they will give] great signs and wonders. Accusative direct objects of the verb "to give." The "signs" are usually miracles and the "wonders" are "happenings that cannot be understood on the basis of merely human powers", Morris.

wJste + inf. "to [deceive]" - so as [to deceive]. This construction usually forms a consecutive clause expressing result, "with the result that"; "and doing so to such an extent that, were it possible, they would succeed in misleading even God's chosen ones", Cassirer. Taken as result the implication is that it is not possible to deceive the elect - see ei below. Yet, the construction is often treated as introducing a final clause expressing purpose, in which case it may say nothing about the success, or otherwise, of the deception; "If possible refers to the intent of the deceivers: they intend to deceive, if possible, even the elect - without any comment on how ultimately successful such attacks will be", Carson. Mark has proV to apoplanan, "to lead astray", which construction commonly forms a purpose clause, Mk.13:22.

touV eklektouV adj. "the elect" - [and = even the elect]. The adjective serves as a substantive, the direct object of the infinitive "to deceive", cf. v22.

ei + ???"if [that were possible]" - if, as is the case / as is not the case, [it were possible] then [so as to deceive even the elect]. The elliptical nature of this clause, along with the problem raised by wJste + inf., means that it is not clear whether the attempt by the false prophets to mislead even the elect is successful or not, ie., is it part of an elliptical 1st., class conditional clause, "if as is the case", or 2nd., class (contrary to fact) conditional clause, "if as is not the case"? Olmstead opts for 2nd. class, noting that a[n in the apodosis is not always present in the NT, while Decker, in the parallel passage in Mark, opts for 1st. class. Translations reflect this uncertainty. Olmstead is probably right, but Matthew doesn't intend us to ignore the serious danger of being deceived. God's sovereign protection of his elect people does not eliminate human responsibility. We become part of God's elect people by the offer of free grace appropriated through faith, and the potential for us to reject that faith remains a possibility. So, this deception is so megala, "great", so powerful, that one could imagine it deceiving even God's beloved people; so beware!


proeirhka (proeipon) perf. "I have told [you] ahead of time" - i have said ahead of time, foretold [to you]. "I have forewarned you about these things before they happen", Barclay.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - Dative of indirect object.


oun "so" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential, although possibly used here as a connective and so not translated.

ean + subj. "if [anyone tells]" - if, as may be the case, [they say to you, behold in the desert he is] then [do not go out]. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of coming true.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.

en + dat. "in" - Locative, expressing space; "he is in the wilderness", ESV.

erhmw/ (oV) "the desert" - the wilderness, desert, the deserted place.

mh exelqhte (exercomai) aor. subj. "do not go out" - A subjunctive of prohibition.

toiV tameioiV (on) "the inner rooms" - [if, as may be the case, they say to you behold in] the private rooms [then do not believe]. "Some might expect a Messiah who, like other revolutionary leaders, proclaimed himself openly; others a Messiah who was preparing for his revolution in secret, and known only to a few; but no one who could be pointed out at a given place (and a given time) would be the real Messiah", McNeile.

mh pisteushte (pisteuw) aor. subj. "do not believe it" - do not believe. A subjunctive of prohibition.


gar "for" - therefore. Here inferential.

w{sper "as" - as, just as. Comparative, serving to establish a similarity between events.

apo + gen. "from [the east]" - [lightning goes out] from [east]. Expressing source / origin; "out of."

e{wV + gen. "[is visible] even in [the west]" - [and shines] up to, as far as [west]. Here with a spacial sense of extension "up to." Lightening can be seen from a long way off.

ou{twV "so [will be]" - thus, so / in this way [will be]. Here comparative, with reference to what proceeds (the visible nature of lightning); the coming of the Son of Man will be like that.

hJ parousia (a) "the coming" - the coming, appearing, presence. See 14:3. Best understood of the appearing on the scene of a great one, here the Son of Man. As already noted in this chapter, Daniel's perspective on the coming / appearing Son of Man, 7:13, is from heaven, not earth. Daniel sees him coming to the Ancient of Days for his enthronement / reign, and the enacting of judgment. Such, of course, has cosmic consequences witnessed by all creation and resulting in the dissolution and recreation of that which "groans in labor pains until now." Jesus' coming in judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple serves as a type / paradigm of his coming at the end of the age, a parousia evident to all.

tou uiJou (oV) gen. "of the Son [of Man]" - The genitive is usually taken as verbal, subjective, while the genitive "of Man" is adjectival, relational; See 8:20.


The point of this proverbial saying is by no means obvious, cf., Luke 17:37 where it is used in a different context. It seems likely that it is used here in parallel with v27, such that the coming of the Son of Man "will be as visible to all as lightning; unmistakable as the flock of vultures around a corpse", Beare, ie., a contextual interpretation seems best, so Nolland, Luz, ... See Carson who lists six possible interpretations.

o{pou ean + subj. "wherever [there is a carcass]" - where ever [may be the corpse]. This construction forms an indefinite local clause, at times conditional, as here, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "wherever, as the case may be, the carcass lies, then there the vultures will gather."

oiJ aetoi (oV) "the vultures" - [there will be gathered together] the eagles, vultures. Obviously "vultures" is intended since an eagle does not scavenge for carrion. "Eagles" is preferred by those who see this as a reference to the vaunting of Roman standards upon the destruction of the temple, so AV.


iv] The coming in judgment of the Son of Man, v29-31. Jesus, using the language of the Old Testament prophets, describes the day of judgment which immediately follows the sign of the desolating sacrilege. Again his words describe not just the destruction of Jerusalem, but also the day of judgment at the end of the world. God will lay his hand upon evil humanity and enter into battle with them, v29. Then will be revealed the "sign of the Son of Man", v30. In Isaiah 5 the prophet foretells that after God has judged his people he will lift up a sign to the nations to draw them to himself. This sign is the enthroned Messiah, Jesus, revealed in the eschatological now by the trumpet call of the gospel in this present age ("angels" = messengers, ie., evangelists) and in the eschatological then by the trumpet call of Gabriel in the last day, cf., Isa.28:13. How good it is that many will respond to this message in repentance, cf., Zech.12:10.

euqewV adv. "immediately" - [but/and] immediately, at once. Temporal; expressing an "immediate sequel", France. The tribulation / distress leading up to the desolating sacrilege is followed closely by the judgment of the unrighteous.

meta + acc. "after [the distress]" - after [the tribulation]. Temporal use of the preposition; "after".

twn hJmerwn (a) gen. "of [those] days" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, "the distress that belongs to those days", or idiomatic (identification), "the tribulation that comes in those days", Olmstead, or verbal, subjective, "the distress caused by those days."

twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "[the] heavenly [bodies]" - [the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give the light of it and the stars will fall from heaven and the powers] of the heavens. The genitive is adjectival, limiting "powers", either attributive, "heavenly powers", or possibly idiomatic / local, "the powers located in heaven." Obviously in parallel with the first clause, such that "stars" and "powers" are both heavenly bodies. So, "the orbs of the heavens will be shaken", Moffatt, rather than "the celestial hosts will be made to totter", Cassirer.

saleuqhsontai (saleuw) fut. pas. "will be shaken" - "The picture is of heaven and earth shaken by God's appearance", Evans, or more particularly his "coming" in judgment. "God will shake loose everything in the skies", TH.


Jesus continues in apocalyptic mode, alluding to Daniel 7:13-14. The destruction of the national life of Israel, just described in the terms of a cosmic shaking, is consequent on the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus, as the mysterious Son of Man, comes to the Ancient of Days to receive authority and power such that all knees bow before him. The righteous reign of God, once evident in the national life of Israel, is now exercised in the corporate Son of Man - the kingdom has come. Yet for us, with its coming both now and not yet, Christ's enthronement, reign and judgment awaits its final realization at the end of the age. This does not deny the heavenly reality of Christ's present enthronement such that even now Christ "has put all things under his feet" and "raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places", Eph.1:22, 2:6.

tote "at that time / then" - [and] then. As noted above, not "after that", but "at that time."

tou uiJou (oV) gen. "[the sign] of the Son [of Man]" - [will appear the sign, miracle] of the son [of the man]. The genitive is adjectival, possibly verbal, subjective, "the sign performed by the Son of Man", or epexegetic, "the sign that is the Son of Man", or even objective, "the sign which heralds the Son of Man", so Olmstead, Gibbs, NEB / REB. The identification of this sign is a matter of some debate. The disciples ask Jesus for the sign of his parousia, "coming", in v3, which in earthly terms is evidenced in the desolating sacrilege culminating in the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem. Here Christ's coming is viewed as a heavenly reality, it is en ouranw/, "in heaven" (not "in the sky"). The Son of Man fanhsetai, "will appear" in heaven, which appearing is his "coming on/in the clouds", a coming all people oyontai, "will see." So what we have here is a cosmic view of the parousia, rather than its earthly paradigm evidenced in the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem. In Isaiah 5 the prophet foretells that after God has judged his people he will lift up a sign to the nations to draw them to himself. This sign is the Messiah, Jesus who is made known to the nations through his Spirit empowered Word (the gospel) and his Spirit empowered disciples (the church). As already noted, a linear time-frame cannot encompass the reign of a God who is beyond time.

en + dat. "in [heaven]" - Locative; expressing space.

thV ghV (h) gen. "[all the peoples] of the earth" - [and then will mourn all the tribes] of the earth. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic / locative; "the people who live on the earth."

ercomenon (ercomai) pres. part. "coming" - [and they will see the son of man] coming. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "the son" standing in a double accusative construction. Again it is important to note that the "coming" is to the Ancient of Days in heaven, not to the earth, ie., Daniel is viewing this event from heaven. The coming is witnessed, as Stephen witnessed it, Act.7:55-56, in the exercise of power, particularly in judgment, judgment upon old Israel, as evidenced in the destruction of the temple, and also judgment at the end of the age. Divine comings are not good news, but in this moment of grace in the midst of Christ's enthronement there is still time to repent. That is good news!

epi + gen. "on [the clouds]" - on [the clouds of heaven]. Here spacial; "on, upon." Mark has en "in/on" the clouds. A Daniel allusion. Possibly a symbol of divine glory. Jesus leaves the earth in a cloud and comes to heaven in a cloud.

meta + gen. "with [great power and great glory]" - with [ power and great glory]. Adverbial use of the preposition, modal, expressing the manner of the Son of Man's coming; he comes as a king would come.


Concluding his apocalyptic prophecy, Jesus draws on the exodus imagery of the gathering of the lost remnant into the kingdom, cf., Isaiah 11:11, 27:12, Zech.2:6-11, 10:6-11. Jerusalem is destroyed, the Son of Man is on his throne, and so the call goes out to join with him in his eternal reign. The immediate fulfillment of this prophecy is the world-wide Christian mission which began at Pentecost, but on another level it is the gathering of the elect with the sounding of Gabriel's horn and their coming ("angels" = messengers = believers, cf. Mk.8:38, Matt.25:31??) with the Son of Man in the clouds to the Ancient of Days, 1Thes.4:17, Rev.1:7. Again, the prophecy is layered and transcends linear time.

apostelei (apostellw) fut. "he will send" - Send as authoritative representatives. The subject is obviously "the Son of Man."

meta + gen. "with [a loud trumpet call]" - The preposition expresses accompaniment, here functioning adverbially, modifying the action of sending by identifying an attendant circumstance.

touV aggelouV (oV) "his angels" - the messengers [of him with a loud trumpet call]. The "angels/messengers" are usually identified with the heavenly host who gather believers into heaven before the end, ie., the rapture. In the fulfillment of the not yet of Jesus' prophecy this is most likely the case, but in the now it is fulfilled in the apostolic gospel mission to the ends of the earth. This view is forcefully put by D.B. Knox in The Five Comings of Jesus and has been adopted, with qualifications, by some commentators, eg. France.

episunaxousin (episunagw) fut. "they will gather" - [and] they will gather together, assemble. Zech.2:6, "the gathering of Israel's exiles", Evans, the exiles scattered and lost, bound in captivity. The calling of lost Israel is well illustrated in Paul's missionary strategy - to the Jews first and then the Gentiles. Zechariah paints a beautiful picture of the lost of Israel streaming in to the new kingdom with ten Gentiles holding on to the tassels of each Jew.

touV eklektouV adj. "[his] elect" - the elect [of him]. The articular adjective serves as a noun. "The elect", a term used here of "those who belong to the Son of Man", Boring. How the elect belong is not by birth, race, religious association, obedience, ..... but by grace through faith.

ek + gen. "from" - Here expressing source / origin; "from."

tessarwn anemwn + gen. "the four winds" - "A common expression for the four corners of the earth", Zerwick. "From the four points of the compass", Barclay.

apo ...... e{wV "from [the ends of the heavens] to [the other]" - from [the end of heavens] up to [the end of it]. This construction gives the sense "from one end to the other", Zerwick. Jesus has again drawn on Biblical language for this expression, eg. Deut 4:32, 13:8, although the wording is usually "from one end of earth to the other", or "from one end of heaven to the other" (heaven here being the canopy around the earth rather than the dwelling of God). Manson is probably right when he argues that Jesus is simply paralleling the previous statement, "from one end of earth to the other." "From the limits of heaven to the furthest bounds of the universe", Barclay.

ouranwn (oV) gen. "of the heavens" - of heavens. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.


v] The parable of the fig tree, v32-33. In a short teaching parable Jesus makes the point that when a fig tree begins to sprout we know that summer is near, so if we experience a time of tribulation leading up to a "desolating sacrilege", take care, for the end may be near.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the discourse

maqete (manqanw) aor. imp. "learn" - [from the fig tree] learn. What we learn from the fig tree, which is deciduous and so flushes with leaves in spring, is that the destruction of the temple/Jerusalem (now) and Armageddon (then) comes with discernible signs.

thn parabolhn (h) "this lesson" - the parable. Used here of "an illustrative example", France. "Let the fig tree serve you as a simile teaching you a lesson", Cassirer.

apo + gen. "from" - Expressing source / origin.

thV sukhV (h) "the fig tree" - The illustration requires a deciduous tree of which there are not many in Palestine.

o{tan + subj. "as soon as [.... come out]" - when [already]. Forming an indefinite temporal clause, although translated as "when", rather than "whenever".

authV gen. pro. "-" - [the branch] of it [has become tender and it sprouts leaves]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.

oJti "that" - [you know] that [summer is near]. Introducing a dependent statement of perception, expressing what we know, namely, that the summer is near.


ou{twV adv. "[even] so" - thus, so / in this way [you]. Here drawing a conclusion from what proceeds; "so likewise [ye]", AV.

o{tan + subj. "when [you see]" - whenever [you see]. Forming an indefinite temporal clause, expressed as "when" rather than "whenever".

tauta "[all] these things" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to see." As already noted, "these things" refer to the significant events associated with the destruction of the temple. When the disciples observe "these things" then they will know that "it" (the destruction of the temple) is upon them. Similarly, when we see the desolating sacrilege of our age, then we too will know that the end of the age is upon us. "When you see all these events happening", Barclay.

ginwskete (ginomai) pres. ind./imp. "know" - In v32 this verb is probably indicative, but here it is usually treated as imperative; "you too must realize ...", Barclay.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what we must realize/know.

estin (eimi) pres. "it is [near]" - Of course, the subject can be he/she/it, so some opt for "it" = the end (the events leading up to the destruction of the temple, Jerusalem / world ...), the coming, the kingdom, the signs (Cranfield) ... or "he" = Jesus, the Son of Man. Given that the adverb egguV, "near" is used, "it" is obviously intended. Given that the destruction of the temple is the focus of the disciples' question concerning the "when" of it, then "it" is obviously the destruction of the temple, so France.

epi + dat. "at [the door]" - at [doors]. Spacial; a figure of speech denoting immediate nearness, TH.


vi] The guaranteed fulfillment of the prophecy, v34-35. Jesus makes the point to his disciples that the immediate fulfillment of his words will occur in their own lifetime.

amhn legw uJmin "I tell you the truth" - truly I say to you. This header indicates the importance of the saying.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what Jesus wants to tell his disciples.

hJ genea (a) "this generation" - Nominative subject of the verb "to pass away." Obviously "the contemporaries of Jesus", Lane.

ou mh + subj. "[will] certainly not [pass away]" - no no = by no means [will pass away]. A subjunctive of emphatic negation. Note that Schweizer pressed the view that Jesus believed that the realization of the kingdom would occur within his own lifetime / generation, but that he was mistaken. This view has little support. "Will not come to an end", BAGD.

e{wV an + subj. "until" - Introducing an indefinite temporal clause, future time. Mark has mecriV ou|, until of which = until which time, the sense being somewhat more definite.

tauta panta "all these things" - all things [become = come about]. Nominative subject of the verb "to become." The tauta, "these things", refers back to the disciples question in v3 and entails the events associated with the destruction of the temple, but at the same time "the whole drama of the end time", Anderson.


Jesus' statement that "this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place" has caused endless problems with interpretation. Jesus' eschatology is layered, as was the eschatology of Israel's prophets. Jesus' words will indeed be fulfilled in the lifetime of his disciples, but they will also be fulfilled in the age to come.

oJ ouranoV kai hJ gh "Heaven and earth" - "Heaven" refers here to the canopy over the earth rather than the domain of God, thus "all the universe", TH.

pareleusetai (parercomai) fut. "will pass away" - The impermanence of the created order is a dominant idea in scripture, as opposed to the permanence / eternity of God.

de "but" - but/and. Here obviously adversative.

oiJ ... logoi mou "my words" - the words of me. The Law is "inviolate till heaven and earth pass away ... but Jesus' words ... will never pass away", Cranfield.

ou mh + fut. "[will] never [pass away]" - no no [will pass away]. The future tense is used instead of an aorist subjunctive, but it still serves to express emphatic negation. Where the future action is being underlined, a future indicative is used instead of a subjunctive.


Matthew Introduction



[Pumpkin Cottage]