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Matthew 24:29-31 (YLT):

29 `And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken;

30 and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in the heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth smite the breast, and they shall see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the heaven, with power and much glory;

31 and he shall send his messengers with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the heavens unto the ends thereof.

Is there any interpretative room, in light of past historical events, to consider that:

  1. there already was a tribulation (v29),
  2. there already was a cosmological event of epic proportions affecting the moon, the sun and the stars (v29),
  3. that all people around the world already witnessed the Son of Man coming on the clouds, with power and much glory (v30) and,
  4. that the elect from around the world were already gathered, with a great sound of a trumpet in the background (v31)?
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  • The short answer - YES! Anthony has done an excellent job of addressing a few points in this limited space, but the proofs from the scriptures r overwhelming that the destruction of Jerusalem & that temple in AD 70 were the judgment coming upon THEM soon, shortly, and was at hand in that generation. It is not "this" generation when we are reading the words 2,000 yrs later. First audience perspective required. The feast days forecasted all of it. See all of the posts at my blog ShreddingTheVeil.org for the textual proofs, beginning with It's Not The End of The World, Parts I - X.
    – Gina
    Mar 24 at 8:56
  • I think Matt 24 is rather unique, in that it is both figurative and speculative. The destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple in AD 70, as pointed out by @Gina, were indeed being referenced, as is the future, albeit symbolically. I do not believe we will ever see a 3rd (literal) temple in Jerusalem, nor do I believe that what is to happen in the future is to be centered around (literal) Jerusalem. The whole World is to be involved, but it will not be the end of the World, just the end of the present system. Verses 29 thru 31 however, I think is more to do with the future, if not all. Apr 28 at 9:46
  • I should have said....is both past and future, not figurative and speculative. May 3 at 18:23
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The first reason to believe the predictions of Matthew 24:29-31 are fulfilled is that's the most straightforward way of reading the text. Matthew 24:34 (shortly after) says

"Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened."

To this you can add that it's the most straightforward way of reading Matthew 16:27-28.

"For the Son of Man will come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will repay each one according to what he has done. Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

So is there an historical match?

Addressing your specific points.

1. The tribulation can be understood as the events involved in the Jewish-Roman war, including the siege of Jerusalem.

2. The language referring to the stars, and so on, is evocative and figurative and refers to the destruction of a city or nation (in this case, Jerusalem and the Jewish nation). This is Biblical apocalyptic language, and Jesus certainly would have been familiar with it.

Isaiah 13:10 (destruction of Babylon)

"For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light. The rising sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light."

and 13:13

"Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken from its place"

Isaiah 34:4 (fall of Edom)

"All the stars of heaven will be dissolved. The skies will be rolled up like a scroll, and all their stars will fall"

Nahum 1:5 (destruction of Nineveh)

"The mountains quake before Him, and the hills melt away; the earth trembles at His presence"

Ezekiel 32:7 (destruction of Egypt)

"I will cover the heavens and darken their stars. I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you, and I will bring darkness upon your land"

This sort of language is hyperbolic and figurative. Similarly, Jesus is emphasizing a point - Jerusalem and Judea will be destroyed in the coming judgment.

The obvious match is A.D. 70, when 100,000s of Jews were killed, many more enslaved, the centre of the Jewish religion that housed the presence of God destroyed, and the established Jewish religious order was toppled.

3. Again, we're dealing with figurative language. 'Clouds' connotes God's presence (see the ascension - he comes back as he went) - it doesn't mean he's literally flying down on a cloud, much like his ascension didn't mean he literally was drawn up into a cloud like a tractor beam on a UFO. Jesus has 'ascended' spiritually.

"All the tribes of the earth" can be compared with Acts 2:5 where "every nation" doesn't seem to mean every nation ("Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven").

Given the context established (judgment of Israel) "all the tribes of the earth" probably refers to the 12 Jewish tribes. Note also the key term here, 'earth', can mean a region or 'land'. See Strong's Greek.

4. 'Sound of trumpet' is similar evocative language which comes out of a literature and ritual tradition where trumpets had certain connotations.

Although it is debatable exactly who the elect are here who are gathered, I think the hypothesis outlined in What is the Gathering of Matt. 24:29-31 is reasonable, where the elect are the Saints who died under Jewish and Roman (in particular, Nero) persecution. Alternately, it could refer more generally to the saints living and dead at that point of the Church, God's new abode, who are now officially gathered together in the Kingdom of God.

As soon as you realize the 'stars shall fall from heaven' stuff is figurative, a past fulfillment of this becomes much more plausible. But again, the best argument for this is Jesus' clear time statements (to that you can add the whole tenor of St. Paul's writings, who clearly anticipates the parousia soon, the first line of Revelation, and so on).

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  • that is all very well except that all the other language in Matt 24 is clearly literal and not figurative - what license do we have for arbitrarily changing from literal to figurative at various points in the text?
    – Dottard
    Mar 24 at 6:45
  • The OT defines the apocalyptic language of prophesy. That is our basis for learning God's figurative language. Stars of heaven were in the 1st references the tribes of Israel from God's promise to Abraham from Gen. 22, 26, Ex. 32, etc. Also defined in Jacob's dream he told his father and bros. Gen. 37:8-10. Suns, moons, stars are all types of political ruling authorities, & when they "fall from heaven" God is removing them from their positions of power. Their "light" no longer shines. See more at my post The Signs of Rev. Part II -
    – Gina
    Mar 24 at 9:08
  • here - shreddingtheveil.org/2017/02/26/…
    – Gina
    Mar 24 at 9:08
  • @Gina - do you believe that there are parts of the NT that predict Jesus' second coming?
    – Dottard
    Mar 24 at 9:18
  • @Dottard - terminology - 2nd coming was a coming in judgment in that generation to destroy the old animal sacrificial temple, to destroy those who had crucified Christ, to birth the new covenant out of the old, to birth the gospel of Christ out of the old body of the Mosaic covenant. If you r using the term 2nd coming to mean an end-of-the-world destruction, then no.. that is never discussed anywhere in the texts. That idea is imposed by man's teaching. World without end, Amen. 2 Pet. 3 - burning the elements was speaking of the Mosaic Laws... the elements of the old temple system.
    – Gina
    Mar 24 at 10:19
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I have seen some herculean efforts to foist a first century interpretation on Matt 24:29-31. Most are based on what is unknown and unknowable rather than on historical fact.

We should interpret Matt 24 & 25 (it is a single sermon) as it says it should be interpreted according to the opening verses, viz, Matt 24:2, 3

“Do you see all these things?” He replied. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

While Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered the two-fold question about what would take place:

  • when the temple was "thrown down", and,
  • the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age

... by combining the answer into a single narrative or sermon. some parts of the sermon are clearly about the destruction of the temple and some are about the great second Advent; some are about BOTH.

I cannot see how Matt 24:29-31 is about anything other than the second coming of Jesus as often described in other places such as Matt 16:27, 24:38, 39, 42, 26:64, Mark 8:38, 13:26, 27, Luke 21:25-28, John 14:3, Acts 1:11, 1 Cor 1:7, 4:5, 11:26, Phil 3:4, 20, 1 Thess 1:9, 10, 3:13, 4:16, 17, 5:23, 2 Thess 2:1, 2, 8, Titus 2:12-14, 2 Tim 4:8, Heb 9:28, 10:25, 37, James 5:7-9, 1 Peter 2;12, 2 Peter 3:8-10, 1 John 2:28, 3:2, 3.

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  • Dottard, the "2nd coming" was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. You mention Matt. 16:27, but u leave out the very next verse in 16:28 which states "...There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." The texts throughout the NT clearly indicate that generation in which Christ was made manifest on earth - 1 Pet. 1:20. Only that generation which saw his 1st coming could have a 2nd appearance of Him (Heb. 9:28). No other generation could be meant. The text is very clear. We were all caught in a psyop still playing out.
    – Gina
    Mar 24 at 8:48
  • @Dottard-Right on! Apr 28 at 10:03
  • @ Gina. ...the quote about "there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man..." it is universally accepted by most scholars that this is referring to the transfiguration that follows it in Matthew ch 17 . Not Jesus second coming in the distant future.
    – Adam
    May 5 at 11:56
  • @Gina - I agree with Adam's comments above.
    – Dottard
    May 5 at 12:01
  • Adam- I take exception to "universally accepted" - Matt. 16:27.".. in the glory of his Father with his messengers, and he will reward each according to his works" (YLT) This coming in glory is the coming of judgment rewarding each according to their works - judgment. How does anyone justify this as the same as the Mt of Transfiguration in Matt. 17? Were His angels with him on the Mt? Was He judging people on the mount? I do not see any link to Matt. 17 in the commentaries at BibleHub here: biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/16-27.htm Totally disagree.
    – Gina
    May 5 at 17:38
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God's word interprets itself (Gen. 40:8, 41:15; Dan. 2:28). We are not allowed to make our own interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20). Therefor, the scriptures are the source for their meaning, and most all of the NT books are quoting from the OT. We must first identify a few things when we are reading scripture: 1) who is the speaker, 2) who is the audience, 3) what is the subject matter / context, 4) what is the time period, and 5) meanings of the words of the original language.

Many of the English translations are good and will provide an overall understanding of the actual words. But much of the cultural background of the Israelite and Judean vernacular is not carried through with a simple translation of the connected words in a sentence. People of different cultures use idioms and sayings that have a certain flavor or connotation which is not evident with a simple translation of individual words. The entire sentence or phrase has a meaning as the whole, such as "a fish out of water" or "a dog with a bone".

The Jews had ways of referring to the temple in Jerusalem and to their feast days that we have to learn and become familiar with. The background of Matthew 24 is set in the second temple period of the 1st century AD, after Herod began expanding and rebuilding while the Mosaic law was still in effect approximately 31 AD. Jesus was speaking to His disciples during the week before Passover, and the subject matter (context) was the destruction of the temple.

The disciples knew their history. They knew of the destruction of the 1st temple. When Jesus told them in Matt. 24:3 that the newly built temple with its huge buildings, and massive stones, newly restored in their day was going to be torn down they were shocked. Can you imagine their first thoughts? What was one of the first associations that would have come to their mind? Wouldn't they have immediately thought of the destruction of the 1st temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC?

Was there any basis from their history and from the OT for the disciples to think of an end-of-time event such as we are constantly bombarded with by misguided preaching today? Not at all. Their lives centered around that temple in Jerusalem and the feast days. If that temple was going to be torn down, then their first thoughts most probably were "which army is God sending to destroy it this time?"

That is the background for their question what shall be the signs of your coming. The coming of the Lord is a phrase from the OT that signified God's presence being felt by the agency of wars, pestilence, floods, famines, locusts, etc. They never saw God literally come down from the skies riding on a cloud.

The disciples knew the judgment language of the OT and were familiar with its metaphorical and figurative nature. The meaning of the sun being darkened, and the moon not giving her light stems from Joseph's dream in Gen. 37:9-10,

"9 And he dreameth yet another dream, and recounteth it to his brethren, and saith, `Lo, I have dreamed a dream again, and lo, the sun and the moon, and eleven stars, are bowing themselves to me.'

10 And he recounteth unto his father, and unto his brethren; and his father pusheth against him, and saith to him, `What [is] this dream which thou hast dreamt? do we certainly come -- I, and thy mother, and thy brethren -- to bow ourselves to thee, to the earth?'" (YLT)

Jacob recognized the significance of the sun as the head of the family, the moon as their mother, and the eleven stars as Joseph's brothers. In national prophesies God used the sun for the king, the moon for the queen or lesser ruling authority, and the stars for the tribes of Israel, or other national princes, satraps, or governors. They were not literally the sun, moon, and stars. Matt. 24:29 was not literally going to be seen in the sky above.

The principal holds. The sun being darkened means the king will lose his power, and will no longer rule. The moon not giving her light is the removal of a queen or governor from her/his position of authority, and the stars falling were the removal of all lessor princes and governors from their authority over that land / nation. It is the language of political upset and removal of kings and their courts.

We have to identify which nation was being warned in order to know which ruling authorities were about to be removed from power. The immediate context in Matt. 24 was of the king ruling over Judea (Herod) and the Sanhedrin priestly rule over the Jews. The next or higher level would be the "king" which ruled over Herod, or Caesar because at that time Judea was a province of the Roman empire. Stars falling were the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the priests of the temple. They were not literally the twinkling lights in the night time sky.

Matt. 24 continues from Matt. 23 where Jesus had just pronounced the doom of that temple.

34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (KJV)

"Your house..." The temple was no longer God's house. God had already left it just as he had before the 1st temple was destroyed (Ezek. 10:18-19). Notice now the phrase in vs. 39 - "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

This phrase was associated with the pilgrimage feasts of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles). The priests and hundreds of the people would stand on the walls of Jerusalem and sing and chant that phrase from the "hallel" of Psalms 118 as they watched the caravans traveling up through the hills and valleys to Jerusalem for each those 3 feasts. (1)

The disciples heard him. Jesus was speaking just before Passover. The first pilgrimage feast of the year was Passover / Pesach. Which feast then would the disciples have associated with His coming in judgment of the wicked scribes and Pharisees?

Did Jesus tell them which Passover feast and which year? No, but the disciples knew the phrase associated with the feast day they were about to celebrate and were certainly aware that Jesus was making reference to it.

There is another idiom which Christ deliberately used in Matt. 24::35 - heaven and earth. The Jews called the temple "heaven and earth" where God met with man, the portal between the two. (2) God called the old covenant "heaven and earth." (3) So, if we identify the Hebrew idiom in English, Matt. 24:35 becomes "the temple shall pass away" and "Moses' words shall pass away".

And, in the very next vs. 36 we find another Hebrew idiom - "But of that day and hour knoweth no man,...." The disciples would have immediately known this reference to the Feast of Trumpets / Yom Teruah on the 1st of Tishri because that is how they spoke of it. That feast day on the first day of the month had to wait on the official proclamation of the Council after they had received the report of the witnesses to the new moon. The Feast of Trumpets could not take place until they new which day was the first day of the month, so no one knew the day or the hour but our Father in heaven who controls the moon.

Jesus identified the Feast of Trumpets as the end of that age of the 2nd temple worship system and the disciples understood it. They still did not know which year it would happen, but we do. Secular history has recorded it for us.

People assume that the last day, the last trump is one judgment day to come sometime in the future, but they are not aware of the full meaning of the Feast of Trumpets where the "last trump" was known as the one which caused the fall of the walls of Jericho. The Feast of Trumpets was a memorial feast celebrating God's victory at Jericho. The last trump was when the walls fell. The last trump of the 1st century AD was when the walls of that temple in Jerusalem fell, and Josephus records that they were torn down by the Romans by the 1st of Tishri. (4)

There is much more that proves Matt. 24 has already happened, that proves there is no division or separation of the subject at vs. 36. I highly recommend the two year video study of Don Preston who goes over the Olivet discourse in great detail tracing all of it back to the OT prophesies. The first one begins here: DonPreston They are 15 to 20 min on average.

BTW, Revelation is John's Olivet discourse.

Notes:

  1. Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on Psa. 118:26 - "According to the Midrash, in Psalm 118:26 it is the people of Jerusalem who thus greet the pilgrims. In the original sense of the Psalm, however, it is the body of Levites and priests above on the Temple-hill who thus receive the congregation that has come up." at Biblehub

  2. When Heaven and Earth Passed Away - ReenactingTheWay

  3. Heaven and Earth Have Passed Away - ShreddingTheVeil

  4. Signs of the Feasts - Part II - ShreddingTheVeil

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  • I have to hand it to you. You 'yourself' have a way with words. A lot of what you have said here is true. Not sure about the 'last trump' being tied to the fall of the walls of Jericho though, never heard that one before, although of course trumpets were a big deal then. I'll stick with @Dottard here, and others, and the 'Duel Prophecy' scenario, me being only a partial 'Preterist', so I can't vote you up and nor can I vote you down. May 5 at 14:44
  • @OldeEnglish - I have a way with words? LOL. I'm not making any of this up, you know. It is all in the scriptures. We have to connect the dots. Judgment has not stopped. Rev. 14:13 - "henceforth" meaning from that battle victory onward those who die in the Lord are richly blessed b/c we get to go home to be with all the others who have gone before.
    – Gina
    May 5 at 18:04

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