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What is the sign of the Son of Man spoken of in Matthew 24:30?—

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

Edit: As per Jon's comment here is what I have in mind—

  • It could be the cross. But that is only my intuition. What would be the support for such a position?
  • It could be something else revealed in the scripture that I don't know. For example, the number of man is given in the Scripture. Maybe this is too.
  • Maybe I'm understanding it wrong and it doesn't mean a physical sign appearing in the sky but something symbolic.
  • Hi, Monika and welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! Can I persuade you to provide a bit more context to the question? What about the phrase is causing problems for you? Do you have multiple options in mind that seem plausible or are you at a complete loss to interpret the passage? It's an interesting text and I can tackle an answer, but it sure would help if I knew what was difficult for you. Thanks! – Jon Ericson Aug 24 '12 at 17:50
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    Thanks Jon. :) This seemed like a good hangout for the ultra intellectuals. So I've come here it spoil it for them. :) – Monika Michael Aug 24 '12 at 17:59
  • Good edit. I can't get to it today--maybe next week. – Jon Ericson Aug 24 '12 at 19:24
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    @JonEricson I was hoping to read your take on it, granted that you could find some time. :-| After all, it's been next to next week already. :) – Monika Michael Sep 6 '12 at 11:42
  • Oops. I'd forgotten. Thanks for the reminder; I hope you enjoy my answer. ;-) – Jon Ericson Sep 6 '12 at 18:34
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Right off the bat, Jesus is making an allusion to Daniel:

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.

—Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV)

His favorite self-designation was "Son of Man", which on the surface means that he was human. But by connecting the title with this passage, it also shows that he intended to establish the final kingdom which will outlast all others. The sign was actually a person, "one like a son of man", in Daniel. It seems like the same is true in Matthew:

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, 
    and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, 
and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven 
    with power and great glory.

—Matthew 24:30 (ESV)

I reformatted the text to show parallel structure: the Son of Man is the sign. The "tribes of the earth will mourn" because of His "power and great glory". This mourning is also an allusion back to Daniel:

As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me.—Daniel 7:15 (ESV)

and

Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.—Daniel 7:28 (ESV)

The coming kingdom is alarming because it signals the end of existing kingdoms.

Preterist View

Because Jesus warns that these events are eminent ("Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."—Matthew 24:34), one view of the text is that Jesus returned sometime during the first century. This wouldn't be the cross or his resurrection, however, since it seems clear that these events will happen after the events recorded in Matthew. (See also Matthew 16:21-28.) So the most likely guess is the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

This interpretation implies that the Roman Empire is the final kingdom, so some preterists conclude that the Parousia is still in the future. Others see the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem as clearing away the previous system and the establishment of the Church as the final system of reconciliation with God.

Futurist View

Most other interpretations of the passage presume that the Son of Man will appear suddenly and visibly to everyone at once sometime in the future. Two possible parallels would be the star that announced Jesus' birth to the astrologers in Matthew 2 and the angels who announced the birth in Luke 2. But instead of pointing to a human child, the sign would be the coming King Himself:

The Last Judgment

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  • (+1) The parallel format of the verse in question was very helpful. Thanks. – Jas 3.1 May 25 '13 at 3:56
  • Jon, might I suggest a slight edit from "the sign is the Son of Man" to "The sign is the Son of Man coming on the clouds." – user2027 Dec 15 '13 at 13:36
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I have encountered so many views on what this means that I have concluded nobody definitely knows. This is not to be unexpected because prophecy, although leading people to a certain true yet ‘vague impression’ of what will occur, is not completely clear, until it does occur. One can easily verify this, as even the disciples could not believe Christ would fulfill prophecy by dying at the hands of the Jewish leaders and Romans until it actually occurred.

I am among those who understand the verses mentioned almost immediately before as indicating the destruction of Jerusalem, which may have been like ‘a sign from heaven’, but this particular verse is now speaking about the end of the world. The historic event does not fully answer the question.

The only speculation, that I feel is possibly true, is that the sign is the miraculous prediction of the majority of the Jewish nation converting to Christianity, so as to overwhelmingly shock the world. This would indeed be a miraculous sign; proving Jesus is the Messiah. This would occur shortly before (in terms of total world history) he actually returns in judgment in the same manner that he left, ‘in the clouds’. Paul also seems to speak of this miraculous future event:

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! (NIV Romans 11:11)

Think about it, if the Gentiles taking on a Jewish religion, while the Jews rejected it, was so overwhelming as to topple Rome, the world’s greatest power, how much more will their predicted ‘full inclusion’ wipe away so many other kingdoms of philosophy, religion, etc. It will be the greatest sign on heaven since his resurrection after three days. Assuming that this sign is referring to this event of course.

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  • That's an interesting perspective. However it could also refer to a physical sign. Because the same verse talks about clouds which are literal. And conversion of Jews to Christianity might shock the world but would it make them mourn? – Monika Michael Aug 25 '12 at 5:21
  • @MonikaMichael - Yes I agree. Certainly it could be physical. I am taking the verse as a transitional step from the subject of the destruction of Jerusalem, to the future when the Jews sincerely say,'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord', then ... leading up to the final judgment, which introduces 'mourning'. If skipping the transition and holing it right up against the final judgment, it would seem a physical heavenly sign in the sky, which many good theologians take it to be. – Mike Aug 25 '12 at 7:57
  • "The only speculation, that I feel is possibly true, is that the sign is the miraculous prediction of the majority of the Jewish nation converting to Christianity" - Christians and Muslims feel so vindicated about their religion when Jews convert, don't they??!!! It's like a trophy - like the moose or bear or wolf head trophies that hangs high on the wall at the Bugaboo Creek restaurants in Maine. To be shown off to everyone. – Cynthia Avishegnath Aug 26 '12 at 17:47
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I can't help but chip in from a linguistics and physical point of view.

I observe that σημείο is occasionally misunderstood as miracle. Like Signs and Wonders.

However, I tend to believe that the word actually correlates to being a signature token.

The implied meanings of signature token should be

  • proof of identity
  • identifying characteristics
  • a pattern of events or phenomenon that identifies a point in time
  • a token that can be used for identity or proof

On the whole, it actually engages in providing identity or identification of person/event/phenomenon/entity.

It can be misunderstood to mean miraculous because there would be instances where the identity of the person/event is either divine or phenomenally impossible that it would take a miracle to provide the identity.

What it can be correlated to in modern greek

  • a point in Cartesian coordinates
  • a location on a map
  • an identity point in the space-time
  • an identity point in temperature, pressure, etc. e.g. Freezing Point of water, the point at which Pressure - Temperature - Volume meet in a PVT diagram.
  • a point in reasoning, a purpose of a concept
  • an agendum (Side Note: in English agenda = plural number of singular agendum. Whereas agendas would mean the different sets of agenda.)
  • an expectation or expected action item or consequence of an agendum.

Therefore, σημείο in the passage describes a set of events and phenomenon that would occur where the characteristics are so compelling, unique and identifying that as to make it impossible to deny the identity or purpose or concept of "the son of man".

Perhaps, thus far a hidden agendum that would be revealed at that particular point in time and space. An agendum which you have no supposed means to predict or comprehend until then. An agendum finally being revealed that would be so devastating to the point of existence of humankind, that they would weep and mourn. Pertaining to the great question of - What is the point of the human race. Such that the agendum is so contrary and devastating to the expectations of all humans.

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  • For goodness' sake, I don't know how to pronounce this word. Smoo-e-io, smoo-e-ion? That reminds me of the schmoo chart in signal analysis of electronic signatures. Schmoo being originated from abner's pet that the cartoonist simply drew in the cartoon strip Lil' Abner. – Cynthia Avishegnath Aug 26 '12 at 19:54
  • Wouldn't it be "say-mayo"? Mmm... mayo... – Jas 3.1 May 25 '13 at 3:58
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Peace.

The first thing to notice is that the sign of the Son of man shall “appear” ( Greek: Φανήσεται – Phanēsetai meaning “to lighten, shine, appear” ). The sign shall “lighten, shine” is an indication of what to expect from the sign.

“And then shall shine the sign of the Son of man in heaven”. The Son of man is the one who is in Heaven and not the sign. It seems to read that the sign is in heaven and some translations actually put the sign in Heaven when it is the Son of man who speaks to us (who are on earth) from Heaven. The sign is a personal confirmation of the Son who is in Heaven speaking to us.

Matthew 24:30 KJV (30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Again, the sign is a personal confirmation of the Son speaking to us as the sign “lightens/shines” within our very own darkened hearts when we hear the voice of the Son of man from Heaven.

His sign is the “bright and morning star” that arises within our very own hearts at the hearing of His voice and we shall know that this is the Son speaking of whom we are to hear. We are to take heed on how we hear.

Jesus tells us in Revelation 22 that He is the “bright and morning star”….and that “star” appears/lightens within our once-darkened hearts when we hear His voice speak to us in the Spirit.

He sends His “angel”….messenger….to speak His heavenly words of knowledge (opening up the Scriptures to our minds) to our ears and the sign that we have that this is truly the Son in Heaven speaking is within us….that arising “bright and morning star” within our very own hearts.

Revelation 22:16-17 KJV (16) I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

We are to hear and respond with hospitality.....entertaining "strangers" sent out by Him to speak His words.

(17) And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Peter speaks to us about the “sign” here in 2 Peter 1:16-21. The apostles on the holy mount heard a voice that came from Heaven that said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. The apostles that were with Him in the holy mount had no doubt that this is the Son by the hearing of the voice from Heaven confirming that this is the Son.

2 Peter 1:16-21 KJV (16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (17) For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (18) And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

But today we have a more sure word of prophecy that we are to take heed on how we hear as men of God speak as they are moved by the Holy Spirit as they have from old.

We hear His voice speaking to us from Heaven in the Spirit of Truth sent from there. The Scriptures are opened up to our understanding by the Son in Heaven through those men (“strangers”) sent out by Him to speak His words from Heaven via the Spirit. We are to be found of Him remembering to let brotherly love continue and "entertain strangers" and their words.

The sign that we have today that this is His Son speaking to us from Heaven (the Son of man who is in Heaven) is the “light that shines in a dark place”….shining in our very own once-darkened hearts. This is the "sign of the Son of man" who is in Heaven speaking to us.

This “sign” arises in our own hearts as the “day dawns” at the hearing of His Son’s voice from Heaven whom we are to listen to.

That “bright and morning star”….the “day star”….arises within our hearts and is the sign of the Son of man who is in Heaven speaking to our ears. The darkness within us fades away until it is no more...as the light of 7 days. We have a personal confirmation within us that this is His Son whom we are to hear.

(19) We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: (20) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (21) For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

False Christs and false prophets do not have this sign appear within us. They are imposters. There is no accompanying inward sign of the Son of man when they speak to us.

They must use/show outward signs in front of us to deceive us as no inward “bright and morning star” arises within our hearts when we hear the “good words and fair speeches” of those who are false and seek to deceive as they say that they are sent by Him to speak to our hearing ears. They are falsely sent and do not come in His authority but instead come in their own.

They show signs outwardly (performing outward signs of supposed inward realities).

They show “wonders”….that is, use great swelling words of emptiness to cause us to “wonder” after them in admiration with their use of their “good words and beautiful speeches” that do not amount to anything.

Their words sound eloquent and appear logical and appeal to human wisdom but really contain no meaning as they have no understanding of the Scriptures. Again, there is no accompanying inward sign of the Son of man when they speak to us.

Matthew 24:24-27 KJV (24) For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (25) Behold, I have told you before. (26) Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

But not so with the Son of man who is in Heaven and comes to speak to our hearing ears. We have a more solid, personal confirmation that this is the Son speaking.

That personal confirmation that this is the Son is within our very own hearts as the “lightning” comes out of the east (the rising of the light within the heart) and shines even unto the west (the darkness where the sun had gone down).

That “lightning” is the bright shining of rays flashing within our very own darkened hearts when we hear the Son come to give us an understanding as He opens up the Scriptures to our hearing ears.

(27) For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

That “light” shines within our very own hearts and is the confirmation sign of the Son of man who is in Heaven speaking to us.

When that light is with us, we are instructed to walk in the light (responding to the light with righteousness) and not resist what we hear the Son saying with envy and strife and contentions….lest that light goes away and darkness comes upon us.

John 12:35-40 KJV (35) Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

While we have the light shining within us, we are to believe in the light (believe that this is His Son speaking to our hearing ears).

We are to believe in the light so that we may be the children of the light (who behave in righteousness towards what we hear). Those who do not believe have the light depart out of their hearts. Jesus “departed and did hide Himself” form those who did not believe on Him. Don't let the "sun go down" upon your wrath of what you hear the Son saying.

(36) While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. (37) But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: (38) That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

Those who do not believe in the light of the Son shining (the sign of the Son of man shining) within their very own hearts at the hearing of the Son’s voice and will not respond to the light with light (with righteousness) will not then be able to believe as judgment upon them for their unbelief.

"Therefore they COULD NOT BELIEVE." Darkness comes upon the unbelievers of the Light within them as the eyes of their understanding are then blinded so that they can NOT believe in what they hear and will not understand. The wicked shall not understand. The light departs out of their hearts as the “sun goes down” in them.

(39) Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, (40) He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

ALL of the “tribes of the earth” shall mourn at the hearing of His voice.

*Matthew 24:30 KJV (30) And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory

The “clouds of Heaven” are those people in this earth who are seeking only those things which are above (peace, joy, love, patience, gentleness, etc). Christ is in Heaven and we are to have our citizenship there (in this earth) as we live according to the reign of Heaven in this earth by setting our affection on those things above and not on the things on the earth.

Colossians 3:1-8 KJV (1) If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (2) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (3) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Those “clouds of Heaven” are the people who will deaden their members “which are upon the earth” and will focus on those things which are above when the “sign of the Son of man” appears within them.

But those “tribes of the earth” will not deaden their members at the hearing of His voice and will resist what they hear in wrath, envy, strife, contentions, etc.

They will continue to “dwell on the earth” in their earthly behavior as they resist what the Son has to say in their disobedience...obeying unrighteousness. The “tribes of the earth” will mourn what they hear while those people who focus on things above (the clouds of heaven) will rejoice in what they hear the Son saying. Those who "dwell on the earth"....dwelling on their earthly wisdom of envy and strife...will see the effects of the Son of man upon the believers which will cause them even more grief.

(5) Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (6) For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: (7) In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. (8) But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

Other supporting verses to consider:

The rising sun of righteousness….

Malachi 4:2 KJV (2) But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

Proverbs 4:18 KJV (18) But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

Jesus : I am the root and the offspring of David and the bright and morning star….

Revelation 22:16 KJV (16) I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

David spoke by the Spirit of the LORD and said....

2 Samuel 23:2-4 KJV (2) The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. (3) The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. (4) And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.

Those who dwell in the “uttermost parts” (dwelling on things above: peace, joy, love, patience, etc) are afraid of His “tokens”….the appearing of the sign of the Son of man (the arising light)within the hearts of those who hear His voice. He makes the “outgoings” of the morning…the rising of the bright and morning Star…to cause joy in those who hear Him. The “evening” departs out of the heart…causing one to rejoice in the Light.

Psalms 65:8 KJV (8) They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.

God commanded the light to shine out of darkness….and that light shines in our own once-darkened hearts. But those who will not believe will not be illuminated by that light. They have no morning light in them (Isaiah 8:20).

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 KJV (3) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (5) For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

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It is quite simple. How will the Jews, as well as the rest of the world know that this is the true Messiah, as well as what would identify this person as being the real Y'shua HaMashiach?

Thomas asked Y'shua for a sign. He said that he would not believe until he had seen the imprints in His hands and His feet.

Zechariah 12:10 spells it out "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced and mourn for the ONE (HaYachid), and grieve on Him like weeping for a firstborn.

That is why all of the nations of the earth will mourn in Matthew 24:30, same as the Jews. They will realize that the ONE that they have been fighting against and rejecting all of this time is Y'shua of Nazareth, HaMashiach.

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