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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE SIGNS OF CHRIST'S COMING

Matt 24:29-31 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 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. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The first question asked of Jesus by His disciples: When shall these things be (Matt. 24:3). The answer Jesus gave them was a prophecy which foretold of the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, the destruction of the temple, and the end of the Jewish state. This indeed took place and fulfilled Jesus' prophecy to the letter immediately after the gospel of eternal salvation through Christ Jesus had been preached throughout the known world. This distruction took place beginning in A.D. 66 and culminating in A.D. 70, with the massacre of over one million Jews, and with many others being captured, taken,and sold into slavery.

Immediately after the tribulation, that is, the onslaught of the Roman armies which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state, a period of time was to begin that would culminate in the second coming of Christ, the Savior. This prophecy of Jesus was His answer to the second question found in Matthew 24:3, which was asked by His disciples: What shall be the sign of Thy coming? The meaning is not that Jesus was to come back to earth the instant Jerusalem fell, nor does it mean that the events predicted here would occur immediately after it was conquered. What is meant is that it would be the beginning period in biblical history in which a series of events would take place preceding Jesus' second coming. In reading and understanding the lesson text, one must always keep in mind that God's recognition of time is much different from ours. The apostle Peter assures us that we must not be ignorant of this fact, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Pet. 3:8). We must also keep this fact in mind: although it may take thousands of years for God's plan of salvation through Christ Jesus to completely unfold and culminate in His second coming, to each individual man and woman on earth, the finality of it occurs in a single, short lifespan here on earth. To each person on earth, the coming of Jesus must be considered as immediate. We must never look beyond today to obediently order our lives to meet God, our Maker, and Jesus Christ, our Savior.

We have in this text, a symbolic prophecy of Jesus, depicting future events that will take place after the tribulation of Jerusalem and the fall of the Jewish nation. Luke confirms this supposition when he refers to these events, not as actual occurrences, but as "signs" that can be observed by those having sound biblical knowledge. Admittedly so, these verses are given many different interpretations by bible commentators, and as varied as they are, all cannot be their true meaning. Jesus prophesied that the day would come, during the Christian era, when the sun (will) be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.

Any apostasy, or falling away from obediently following the New Testament gospel of Christ Jesus, is considered to be a period of spiritual darkness. Although there have been a number of periods of history that have been termed the "Dark Ages" of spirituality, with the most significant period of apostasy occurring in the church of Christ was between 600 A.D. and 1500 A.D. During this period God's word, the bible, the light of Christ Jesus, was taken away from the people, and without the bible to light the way, the church gave forth practically no reflected light from our Savior.

Prophetically, without the light of the sun, the moon had no reflective light, and thus spiritual darkness prevailed. If the sun and moon are not to be taken literally, then neither can the stars that fall from heaven, nor the powers of the heavens be actual heavenly events. Many bible scholars say that these fallen stars are the preachers of the church that lost their ability to teach when erring religious leaders conspired with civil authorities to remove the bible from all the people of the world, which resulted in the power of the gospel of Jesus being shaken, that is, becoming ineffective in leading the lost people of the world to the hope of eternal salvation in the Son of God, the Savior.

And then, that is, after the vast periods of apostasy, shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. And exactly what is the sign, and then how long will it be before the second coming of Christ Jesus? The remainder of this verse tells us. The sign of His coming will be the actual event - His descending from the clouds of heaven, in complete view of all men and women on earth. His coming will be at the same moment the sign is given - it will be immediate, and without further time to prepare our lives through repentance and obedience. And with humble mourning, all will know Him, and recognize His mighty power and great glory, from the lowest infidel that scoffed at Jesus and asked, where is the promise of His coming (2 Pet. 3:4), to the most righteous person of all ages that ever lived on earth.

Notice also, that Jesus will be accompanied by His angels, and, just as God used them on many other remarkable occasions, they will triumphantly usher in His Son as our Lord and Savior with a great sound of a trumpet. And His angels ...shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. His elect are His obedient Christian followers - those faithful saints that have been baptized for the remission of their sins and added, by God, to His church. These elect will be gathered from the four winds - from all quarters of the earth. Mark adds that Christians will be gathered from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (Mark 13:27), that is, from every ancient and modern nation of the world.

With the second coming of Christ Jesus, no race, color, sex, social caste, or nationality shall be exempt from the hope of eternal life in heaven. The apostle Paul, in describing the second coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, gave this similar account when, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, he wrote: For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17). What a joyful occasion for the faithful, obedient elect in Christ!