Christ’s Return ToC

Table of Contents of the Articles on Christ’s Return

Second Coming in the New Testament – When and how will Jesus return, and what will happen? – An analysis of the Second Coming verses in the New Testament to determine what Jesus meant when He said He will come soon.

Return of Christ in the book of Revelation – The Return of Christ in the Seven Last Plagues in the book of Revelation – The Return of Christ will not be an isolated event, but will be preceded and followed by a series of profound events; the “Day of the Lord”.

The End of the Age – What did Jesus mean by the End of the Age? – The end of the age is the return of Christ, when those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, and when those who commit lawlessness are thrown into the furnace of fire, while the righteous receive everlasting life.

This generation will not pass away – Who is “this generation” that will not pass away until all these things take place? – An analysis of how the gospels use the phrase “this generation”

Little Apocalypse – The Little Apocalypse; distinguish between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Return of Christ – An analysis of Christ’s teachings with respect to end-time events, as recorded in the Little Apocalypse

Little Apocalypse Support – The Olivet discourse: The Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the Return of Christ –

Matthew 10:23 – “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes”.  What is the meaning of the phrase, “the Son of Man comes” in Matthew 10:23?

What is the “Kingdom of God”? – A study of the phrase “kingdom of God” in the New Testament

Some standing here will not die – An analysis of the phrase “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” in Matthew 16:28 – Does this refer to Christ’s Physical Return?

The Lord is coming soon – Jesus said and His disciples believed that the Lord is coming soon. – Shows that the entire New Testament teaches that the Lord is coming soon.

Was His promise to return soon was fulfilled in His Resurrection, Ascension and Enthronement? – The Apostles still expected His soon coming after His resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Was His promise to soon return fulfilled in the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70? – Or was A.D. 70 merely a type of the fullest destruction at the return of Christ, or only the consequence of the end of God’s covenant with Israel?

Why did He Not Return in the First Century as He promised? – The 490 Years of Daniel 9 and Christ’s Return – Christ’s Return was promised before some of His hearers have died.  Starting with the dispensational view of why this promise did not come true, this article analyses the 490 years of Daniel 9 to develop an understanding of the delay in Christ’s Return.

TO: General Table of Contents

Matthew 16:28 – Christ’s Physical Return?

Jesus said, “some standing here shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming” – Is this Christ’s Physical Return?

Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 16:

27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. 28 Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

This seems to say that some of the people listening to His words will live to see Christ’s physical return.  But those people are all long dead.  The purpose of this article is to address this conundrum.

The Context is Judgment

The saying in verse 28 is found in the immediate context of judgment (verse 27), but judgment is also the context of the entire paragraph:

After Peter confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v16), Jesus began to teach His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, be killed, and on the third day, be raised (16:21). Peter then rebuked Jesus for saying this, but Jesus showed him that this is the only way (vv. 22–23).  Jesus then told his disciples that they must take up their cross and follow Him because it is foolish to gain the world and lose one’s soul (vv. 24–26), and concluded with verses 27–28, as quoted above.

The message of the entire paragraph is therefore that one must take up your cross and follow Him, “for the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done”.  The point is that it is not possible to separate the “Son of Man coming in His kingdom” from the judgment.

The Same Phrase

In the NASB the exact same phrase “Son of Man coming” is found in the Little Apocalypse, which is recorded in three of the gospels, and which is analyzed in a separate article.  In all three gospels His coming will be preceded by “signs in sun and moon and stars”.  Then He will come on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory, to gather His elect from the people of the world.  To quote one of the gospels:

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 forth 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.” (Mat 24:30, 31; compare Mark 13:24-27 and Luke 21:25-28)

Similar Phrases

Variations of the phrase “Son of Man coming” are found in the gospels.  These also point to Christ’s physical return in glory, with His angels, to judge the peoples of the world:

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.“ (Mt. 25:31-33)

The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds” (Mt. 16:27).

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).

In all the previous verses His return is the day of judgment, but it is phrased differently:

  • Gather together His elect from the four winds (Little Apocalypse)
  • Separate the nations from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Mt. 25:31-33)
  • Repay every man according to his deeds (Mt. 16:27)
  • Be ashamed of him (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26)

In the following instances it refers to His movement from elsewhere to the earth.

When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

The concept of the judgment is also reflected in the words “find faith” and “receive you to Myself”.

In the following verse, which is discussed in a separate article (Matthew 10:23), it is not explicitly stated to be Christ’s physical return, but due to the similarity of the phrase and other reasons, it was concluded that this verse also refers to Christ’s physical return.

whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 10:23).

This verse, like Matthew 16:28, also emphasizes the soon return of the Lord.

For these reasons it is concluded that the claim in Matthew 16:28, that the Son of Man will come before all His hearers have died, refers to Christ’s physical return in glory, with His angels, to judge the world.

The Kingdom of God

It is sometimes argued that Matthew 16:27-28 should be understood as the coming of “the kingdom of God”, as opposed to His physical return to this world.  This view is justified by pointing to the parallel passages in Mark and in Luke, where the wording is different. Mark and Luke both speak about seeing the “kingdom of God”, rather than seeing “the Son of Man coming see coming in His kingdom”:

Mark 9:1. And He was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

Luke 9:27 “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” 

It is therefore suggested by some that the “coming of the Son of Man” is simply another way of saying “the coming of the kingdom of God”, which is not Christ’s physical return, but rather His return from death, or the coming of His kingdom when the Holy Spirit was poured out, or His coming to the Father, as predicted by Daniel 7, when He ascended to the Father’s throne.

This is discussed more fully in a separate article (See What is the “Kingdom of God”?).  In that article it was concluded that the “kingdom of God” is similar to an earthly kingdom, in that it has a King, laws and citizens.  Its King is God.  Its laws are given in the Bible.  Its citizens are the saved.  It always exists, but is visible only to believers.  For these reasons, when Jesus said, “the kingdom of God comes”, we should always allow the context to determine the meaning, and the context of 16:27-28 is Christ’s physical return in glory, with His angels, in judgment; to repay every man according to his deeds. And Mark 9:1 describes this coming as “with power”; it is not simply an invisible coming of the “kingdom of God”.

The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1 Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain … 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. … 5 … a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.

Some argue that the statement that “some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom”, was fulfilled by His transfiguration, justified as follows:

  • In all three synoptic gospels this statement is followed immediately by the description of the transfiguration of Jesus (Mt 17:1–8; Mk 9:2–8; Lk 9:28–36).
  • The transfiguration was only six days after He made this statement.
  • At the transfiguration “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light”.
  • This was witnessed by Peter, James, and

However, in the following passage Peter refers to being eyewitness of His transfiguration, and describes the transfiguration as a foretaste and confirmation of the reliability of His promise of Christ’s physical return, when all believers will see Him come in power and great glory (cf. Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7):

2 Peter 1:16we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

Furthermore, an event that was to happen in only six days is hardly compatible with the statement that some would live to see it.  One does not normally use such language to refer to something that is to take place in a week’s time. 

The transfiguration also cannot be the coming of the Son of Man “in the glory of His Father with His angels”, and it was not “the day of judgment”, as required by the verses quoted above.

The Proposed Solution

Many other solutions have been proposed by Bible students.  The proposals discussed above are intended to address the Matthew 16:28 conundrum specifically, but actually do not adequately solve the questions raised by that verse.  In the article The Lord is coming soon it is shown that there are many other statements throughout the New Testament promising that Christ’s physical return will be soon.  Other proposals, that attempt to address all these statements as a collective, as well as the solution proposed by this website, are discussed in the article Why did He Not Return in the First Century as promised?

TO: Table of Contents of the articles on the Second Coming

TO: General Table of Contents

The Little Apocalypse

The Little Apocalypse; How to distinguish between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Return of Christ.

Little Apocalypse – The Greek word translated “revelation” in Revelation 1:1 is apokalupsis.  This is transliterated to English as apocalypse.  Matthew 24 is sometimes called the little apocalypse because it contains Jesus’ most comprehensive description of future events.

Return of Christ – In Mathew 24:30-31 Jesus said, “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.  and He will send forth 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”.   This seems to describe the physical return of Christ, but a few verses later He added, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (v34).  The purpose of this article is to study the text to understand whether Jesus said that He would return in the first century.

Parallel chapters – Luke 21 and Mark 13 contain the same explanation.  A separate article (Little Apocalypse Support) has been published which compares the three gospels, as support to this article.  The reader is advised to first read that other article.

Variations confirms reliability   The three chapters closely resemble each other, but there are also many differences.  The similarity of the chapters is quite amazing, if one remembers that these gospels were written about 30 years after Jesus was on earth.  Prior to that Christians mainly relied on verbal teachings.  The variations actually confirm the truth of the Bible because they show that these are the reports of three different people of the same events.

Interpretation of the variations –  When at least two of the three authors agree, one can accept their report as factual.  When one author mentions something which the other two do not, it will be assumed that that was also actually said, for “the Helper, the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

Sections –To discuss these chapters, they are divided below into sections, and each section is discussed separately.  Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the NASB.

The Place

Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6

The conversation started when, while they were leaving the temple, the disciples pointed to the beautiful temple building.  Jesus responded and said:

Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down”.

He must have said this with sadness in His heart, for in Matthew 23:37-38 He said,

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!

Your house” refers to the temple.

The Questions

Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3-4; Luke 21:5-7

From there they went to the Mount of Olives, where the disciples asked Him:

When will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?

Since this conversation took place on the Mount of Olives, it is sometimes also called the Olivet Discourse.

Jesus only mentioned the destruction of the temple, but the disciples now included His “coming” and “the end of the age” in their questions.  The stones of the temple were huge; each more than 40 feet in length, and the disciples assumed that the temple will be destroyed at the return of Christ, and that that will be the “end of the age”.

With respect to these things, the disciples asked two things:

  • when and
  • what the sign will be that these things are about to take place. The Jews were fond of signs (Mark 8:12).

The False Teachers

Matthew 24:4-5; Mark 13:5-6; Luke 21:8

When Jesus responded, He did not answer their questions immediately.  He started by warning them against false teachers:

many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many”.

The Non-Signs

Matthew 24:6-8; Mark 13:7-8; Luke 21:9-11

The disciples asked for signs of the end, but Jesus next warned them of things that are not signs of the end, namely wars, rumors of wars, plagues, famines and earthquakes.

Persecution

Mat. 24:9-10; Mark 13:9-12; Luke 21:11-19

He then warned His disciples that they will be persecuted and killed.  They will be hated by all “because of My name”.  They will be brought “before kings and governors for My name’s sake” (Luke 21:12).

At that time many will fall away and will betray one another”.

Jesus continued to say that when they are brought “before kings and governors” it will provide them with an opportunity to testify.  He told His disciples not to prepare beforehand to defend themselves, for He would give them wisdom which none of their opponents would be able to refute. (Luke 21:12-15).

The End

He also said:

Most people’s love will grow cold, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Mat. 24:12-13; Luke 21:19; Mark 13:13).

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” (Mat. 24:14; Mark 13:10).

The end” in the first quote may perhaps be understood as the end of the person’s life, but for the following reasons it more probably refers to “the end of the age”:

  • The disciples asked about “the end of the age” (v3).
  • In the next verse (v14) refers “the end” is “the end of the age”.

In addition to these references to “the end”, all three gospels refer to the non-signs as “not yet the end”.  Of the twelve times that the phrase “the end” is used in the gospels, seven are in the chapters containing the Little Apocalypse.  This shows the unique nature of the Little Apocalypse; It is Christ’s most comprehensive discussion the “the end”.

A separate article is available on the phrases “the end”, or “The End of the Age”.  In that article it was concluded that “the end” is when the peoples of the world are separated into two groups.  “Those who commit lawlessness” will be thrown “into the furnace of fire”, but “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mat. 13:41-43; 49-50).  This happens at His coming.

So Far only General Warnings

So far Jesus has not answered the disciples’ questions.  So far He has said nothing of the destruction of the temple or of His return to this world.  So far He has used the phrase “the end” three time, but only to say:

That the non-signs are “not yet the end” (Mark 13:7);

That “the one who endures to the end … will be saved” (Mat. 24:13), and;

That “gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Mat 24:14).

He therefore has not explained what will happen at “the end” or when it will be.

So far He has warned that false prophets will arise, that wars, plagues and famines do not mean that the end is near, and that they will be persecuted, causing many to fall away and betray one another.  These things do not describe any specific period or event, but are the general experience of believers until “the end of the age”; applicable to all times and places.

The Abomination of Desolation

Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; Luke 21:20-24

But then He spoke specifically about Jerusalem.  Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 refer to the “abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet”.  Luke, writing to non-Jewish believers, who were not familiar with Daniel’s prophecies, interpreted the “abomination of desolation” for his readers as “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20).  This is the first reference in the Little Apocalypse to a specific historical event, namely the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman in AD 70.  This was during the First Jewish-Roman War in the years 66-73, following after years of Jewish rebellion.

Since the description in Luke is easier to understand, Luke is quoted here:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains … and those who are in the country must not enter the city. … These are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. … there will be great distress (Matthew – “a great tribulation”) upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations” (Luke 21:20-24; Mat. 24:15-21; Mark 13:14-20).

Since Jesus told them to flee to the mountains, this is not the return of Christ, for then it would not help to flee to the mountains.

The purpose of this warning is that, when they see the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem, they must flee immediately to places where they cannot be found (the mountains).  According to historical accounts, the Christian Jews did flee from Jerusalem just prior to the Roman attack.

The Times of the Gentiles Fulfilled

Matthew 24:22; Mark 13:20; Luke 21:24

The warning to flee Jerusalem closes with differently worded statements in the three gospels:

In Luke: “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

In Matthew and Mark: “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” (Mat 24:22; Mark 13:20 is similar).

This verse in Luke is sometimes isolated from its context, and given an end-of-time interpretation, but consider the context:

Luke 21:20But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains… 22 … these are days of vengeance … 23 … there will be great distress upon the land …  24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword … and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

In this context the “times of the Gentiles … fulfilled” in Luke 21:20 must be interpreted as the end of the time of “great distress” caused by the Romans with their attack on Jerusalem in AD 70.

Luke 21:24 and Matthew 24:22 are therefore the reports by two different people of the same words of Christ, both describing the attack on Jerusalem in AD 70.  This is confirmed as follows:

  • Both refer to destruction.
  • Both refer to time (“those days had been cut short” versus “times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”).
  • Both refer to the end of the time of destruction,
  • These verses are found in the same place in the sequence of the descriptions in the two chapters.

Matthew 24:22, Mark 13:20 and Luke 21:24 may be combined as follows:

Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Romans (Gentiles).  If these days were allowed to continue, they would have killed everybody in Jerusalem and vicinity, but God put a time limit on the persecution.

So Far

The disciples asked about both the destruction of the temple, “Your coming” and the “end of the age”.  So far:

Jesus responded by giving His disciples certain general principles that are applicable to all times and places, such as that some will try to mislead them by claiming “the time is near”, and that they will be hated and persecuted.

Then He shifted the focus to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 specifically, warning His followers to flee to the mountains without delay, for Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Romans, slaughtering the residents.

Although He has referred to “the end”, He has not yet elaborated on His return to this world.  Nor has He given any specific about “end of the age”.

The Signs and Wonders

Mat. 24:23-28; Mark 13:21-23; Not in Luke 21

Next Jesus warned them that “false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders”, saying that Jesus is “in the wilderness” or that He “is in the inner rooms”.  Jesus warned them not to follow these false prophets, “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”.  In other words, these false prophets will claim that Jesus has already come.  Earlier He warned the disciples of people that will mislead them by saying He is near (Luke 21:8), but now He is warning them against false prophets claiming that He has already come. 

This warning of false prophets does not relate to previous section on the attack on Jerusalem.  Note the differences:

  • In the Jerusalem-section the threat was the Roman armies, but now the threat is false prophets, performing “great signs and wonders”.
  • In the Jerusalem-section the Christians in Jerusalem were warned to flee to the mountains, but now they have freedom of movement to go to “the wilderness” or to “the inner rooms”, and are warned not to follow the false prophets.

Christ therefore is no longer dealing with the attack on Jerusalem in AD 70.

The Sun, Moon and Stars

Mat. 24:29; Mark 13:24-25; Luke 21:25-26

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”.  “Men will faint from fear because of the roaring of the sea and the waves and the things which are coming upon the world”.

The phrase “immediately after” links this section to a previous.  The previous time that we saw the word “tribulation” was in verse Matthew 24:21, which is in the Jerusalem-section.  But the word “tribulation” also appears in verse 9, describing tribulation as characteristic of the entire church age.  So what “tribulation” does Matthew 24:29 refer to?

To answer this question, we notice the following pattern in the gospels:

Matthew and Mark mention the false prophets performing “signs and wonders”, and then continues by saying “immediately after the tribulation of those days”.

In Luke we find neither.

It is therefore concluded that “the tribulation of those days” (Mat. 24:29) refers to the period of the false prophets that perform “signs and wonders”.  Since tribulation is always part of the Christian experience (Mat. 24:9), this is also a time of tribulation.

This means that the false prophets, that perform “signs and wonders”, and teach that Christ already came, will appear immediately prior to the “signs in sun and moon and stars“ (Luke 21:25).  These “false prophets” may be compared to the end time “beast coming up out of the earth … had two horns like a lamb” (Rev. 13:11) and “performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men” (Rev. 13:13).  In Revelation Jesus is called a lamb.  This beast from the earth therefore looks like Christ.  A false prophet is somebody inside the church; not somebody that attacks the church from outside.

The Son of Man Coming

Mat. 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27

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 gloryAnd He will send forth 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”. (Mat. 24:30-31)

Since “His elect” are gathered from out the peoples of the world, this is “The End of the Age”, when the peoples of the world are separated into two groups; “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Mt. 25:46)

The word “then” with which this section starts, connects it to the signs in the sky in the previous section.  Just like the darkening of the sun, moon and stars follows “immediately after” (Mat. 24:29) the false prophets performing “great signs and wonders” (Mat 24:24), the coming of the Son of man follows immediately after the darkening of the sun, moon and stars.

The false prophets, performing miracles, the darkening of the sun, moon and stars, His coming and the gathering together of “His elect” therefore belong together, and describes “the end of the age”.

Three Main Sections

The Little Apocalypse may therefore be divided into three main sections:

General – He firstly gave general principles that are applicable to all times and places.  This includes the false teachers proclaiming “He is near”, the non-signs, such as wars and earthquakes, the persecution, falling away and betrayal, and the preaching of the gospel to the entire world.

Jerusalem – He secondly warned them about the severe tribulation of the Jewish nation and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The end – He thirdly described specifically “the end of the age”; the false prophets performing miracles and claiming that Christ already came, immediately followed by the signs in the sun, moon and stars, and concluded.

This Generation

Mat. 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:28-33

But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. … Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.” (Luke 21:28-33)

These things” do not include the wars, earthquakes, famines and pestilences, because the latter are non-signs.  For the following reasons it is proposed that “these things” refer to the false prophets performing “great signs and wonders” and to the darkening of the sun, moon and stars:

The darkening of the sun, moon and stars follows “immediately after” the false prophets performing “great signs and wonders” (Mat 24:24).

The coming of the Son of man follows immediately after the darkening of the sun, moon and stars.

The “great signs and wonders” and the darkening of the sun, moon and stars therefore form a unit with the return of the Son of man.

Redemption” is when the angels will gather together His elect.  While Matthew and Mark reads, “He is near”, the parallel verse in Luke 21:31 says that “the kingdom of God is near”.

Due to the controversial nature of the quoted statement, a separate study has been made of how the gospels use the phrase “this generation“.  In that article it is concluded, on the basis of the usage in the gospels, that “this generation” most probably refers to Christ’s contemporary generation.  For instance, just prior to the Olivet discourse Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:36), which is an undisputed reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple A.D. 70.

It is certainly possible that “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 refers to the last generation that will see the signs of the end, instead of to Christ’s contemporary generation.  Each “this generation” must be evaluated in particular context, and the previous verse refers to the people that will see the signs.  The meaning would then be that the generation that sees the signs of the end, will also see the second coming and experience the judgment.  In other words, when the signs come, they will not drag on for many generations, but will happen within a generation.

On the other hand, the previous verse says, “when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near”, as if Jesus said that His disciples will see “these things”.  And even if “this generation” here does refer to the last generation that will see the signs, this will not solve the bigger problem, for this is not the only time that Jesus said that He will soon return to this world.  Furthermore, Paul and Christ’s apostles also believed that He would return soon, which implies that they understood Him to teach that.

Commentators offer different solutions, such as that Jesus was mistaken, that Jesus’ words are reported incorrectly, or that “the Son of man coming” was symbolically fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  A separate article (Why did He Not Return in the First Century as He promised?) has been developed to discuss these views.  Please see below.

No One Knows that Day and Hour

Mat. 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:28-33

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mat. 24:36).

The disciples asked, “when will these things happen” (Mat. 24:3)?  The Son responded firstly by warning them not to be misled by false prophets saying “the time is near” (Luke 21:8) or that He already came (Mark 13:21).  He secondly indicated that He does not know the day and hour, but He did know that it would not be in the distant future, for “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mt. 24:34).  This conundrum is one of the main purposes of this series of articles.

Some people are troubled with the realization that Jesus does not know everything.  The Bible teaches that God is one (Deut. 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30; James 2:19) and clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus (e.g. John 17:3; 1 Timothy 2:5).  On the other hand, the Bible refers to Jesus as “God” (e.g. John 1:18; Titus 2:13-14).  An article is available which discusses the Son of God.

Conclusion

Many interpreters solve the problem of Christ’s statements of the nearness of the end by concluding that He was referring to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70.  Since one of those statements are included in the Little Apocalypse, they therefore conclude that the Little Apocalypse also does not go further than A.D. 70.

In contrast it has been discovered here that the Little Apocalypse is be divided into three main sections.  The first section includes general principles applicable to all times and places.  The second describes the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, but the third is neatly separated from the events of A.D. 70, and describes Christ’s return to this world.    The Little Apocalypse therefore goes beyond the events of A.D. 70.

TO: Table of Contents of the articles on the Second Coming

TO: General Table of Contents

The Olivet discourse

The Olivet discourse: Comparison of the Christ’s depiction of future events in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21

Christ’s explanation of future events, as recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 is sometimes called the Olivet Discourse Jesus gave this teaching on the Mount of Olives.  It is Christ’s most comprehensive explanation of His return to this world and of the End of the Age.  For that reason it is also called the Little Apocalypse.

This article serves as support for the main article on the Little Apocalypse.  To allow that article to explain the Little Apocalypse as easy to understand as possible, and because the reports of Christ’s teaching in the three gospels differ in some respects, this article compares the three chapters.  It presents the three chapters side by side to show the similarities and differences.  It also makes some observations about the text.  Perhaps the reader can print this article to use as reference while reading the main article.

All quotes are from the NASB translation.  Key words that are similar in all three gospels have been made bold.

The Situation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
1 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away 1 As He was going out of the temple,  
when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings! 5 And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts
2 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.” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” He said, 6 As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.”

Questions

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple,  
the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled? 7 They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”

In all three chapters the disciples ask about “these things”, which in the context refer to the destruction of the temple, but only in Matthew do the disciples also ask about the return of Christ or “the end of the age”.  Since Matthew was also led by the Holy Spirit, we assume that the disciples asked both about the temple and “the end of the age”.

False Teachers

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many. 8 And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.

It is not clear whether the false teachers will say that Jesus is Christ, or whether they will claim to be Christ themselves.

Only Luke adds that the false teachers will say, “the time is near”.  The main issue is therefore that false teachers will come; not that they will claim that the time is near.

Non-Signs

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
6 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. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 9 When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.”
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines;

All three gospels refer to “the end”.  This confirms that the disciples did ask about “the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3).

Persecution & Opportunity To Testify

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
9 Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 9 But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of My name, and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15 for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. 16 But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name.
12 Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.  13 But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
14 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. See verse 10  

Luke starts with “there will be terrors and great signs from heaven”, but interrupts himself to say that this will only happen later (v11, 12).  Luke therefore mentions the “terrors and great signs from heaven” out of sequence.  These will be discussed below.

Mark mentions “the gospel must first be preached to all the nations” in verse 10, but this seems to fit better with Matthew 24:14.

Both Mark and Luke have a number of verses on the opportunity they will have to testify before kings and governors, but Matthew does not mention this.  Again, the assumption is that when one gospel records a statement which is not recorded by the others, that this statement was actually made.

All three gospels in this section refer to “the end”.  While the previous section referred to things that are not yet the end, this section refers to things that will continue to the end.  The main purpose of this series of articles is to understand why Jesus said He would return while some of His hearers are still alive (Mt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:34).  The authors of the New Testament also wrote many times that “the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:7-8).  See the article Second Coming in the New Testament.  The current section reads, “the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Mt. 24:13).  This may be understood as the end of the person’s life, but for the following reasons it more probably refers to “the end of the age”:

  • The disciples asked about “the end of the age” (v3).
  • The next verse (v14) refers to “the end” clearly as “the end of the age

According to Luke’s version Jesus said “by your endurance you will gain your lives” (v19), referring to the disciples specifically.  Combining this statement with the parallel verses in Matthew and Mark, this implies that His disciples will live until “the end”.  This is therefore another statement of the nearness of the Second Coming.

Abomination of Desolation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
15 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), 14 But when you see the Abomination of Desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), 20 But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.

 

Luke, a gentile himself, writing to non-Jewish believers, who were not familiar with Daniel, interpreted the “abomination of desolation” for his readers as “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20-24).  Luke does seem to refer to the prophesies of Daniel in verse 22 below, when he refers to “all things which are written will be fulfilled”.  It is generally agreed that this section refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Great Tribulation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 “Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 “Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 15 The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; 16 and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city;
    22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.
19 “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 18 But pray that it may not happen in the winter. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days
21 “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 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. 19 For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. 20 Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The persecution discussed in the previous section (In Matthew, verses 9-14) was the persecution of Christians, but now the Jews are persecuted.

The word “elect” in Matthew 24:22 are the people whom God has chosen.  It may refer to the Jewish nation, because it remains “beloved for the sake of the fathers” “from the standpoint of God’s choice (election)” (Rom. 11:28).  Or it may refer to “those who were chosen” (Romans 11:7), namely the Jews who believed in Jesus.  The Jewish Christians were part of the Jewish nations, and it was their fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters that were slaughtered in the massacre of A.D. 70.

They must pray that their flight will not be in winter (Mt. 24:20), for then it would be cold.  They must also pray that their flight will not be on Sabbath.  This may be out of respect for the Sabbath, or that the Jews might prevent them walking further than the distance allowed on the Sabbath.

Signs of the End

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. … 26 “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, …  27 “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. 28 “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; 22 for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.  
29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days 24 But in those days, after that tribulation,  
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 sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 25 There will be signs in sun and moon and stars and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Luke does not start the section on the darkening of the sun, moon and stars by referring to “the tribulation of those days” because it omits the section about “false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders” (Mat. 24:24).  The “tribulation of those days” (Mt. 24:29; Mark 13:29) therefore refers to the time of “false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders”, and not to the destruction of Jerusalem on AD 70.  This is a very important conclusion to properly understand the Little Apocalypse.

Matthew 24:28 states, “wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather”.  The meaning is explained by Luke 17:34-37, which twice uses the well-known phrase one will be taken and the other will be left”.  When the disciples asked Him, “Where, Lord?”, He answered “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered”.

The statement that the powers of the heavens will be shaken is understood to be a summary of the statements that the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky.

His Coming

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
30 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. 26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
31 And He will send forth 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. 27 And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.  

Parable of the Fig Tree

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
    28 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree 28 Now learn the parable from the fig tree: 29 Then He told them a parable: “Behold the fig tree and all the trees
32 when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near.
33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.

Luke still does not explicitly refer to His coming, but to the “kingdom of God”.

This Generation

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

No One Knows

MATTHEW 24 MARK 13 LUKE 21
36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

 

32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  

The Son does not know the day and hour, but He did know that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mt. 24:34).  This conundrum is one of the main purposes of this series of articles.

TOTable of Contents of the articles on the Second Coming

TO: General Table of Contents

TO: The main article on the Little Apocalypse