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The Sign of the Son of Man

Matthew 24:29-31 June 17, 1984 2371

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This morning, we come in our study of God’s Word to a very marvelous and thrilling passage for Christians, and so I invite you to turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 24 as we look at verses 29 through 31.  A great text on the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Those of us who know and love the Lord, those of us who study His Word, are very much aware of the fact that the world will end, the world as man knows it, the world as man runs it, will end with the glorious coming of Jesus Christ to earth from heaven.  It is His second coming.  The first time, He came in humility.  The first time, He came to die on a cross.  Next time, He comes in glory and He comes to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. 

The Lord wanted to instruct His disciples on the matter of His second coming, and He specifically spoke of it in these three verses in Matthew 24.  I want you to notice them as I read them.  “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give its 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 on 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.” 

There, in very clear, concise, straightforward, understandable terms, the Lord Himself tells us about the greatest event in anticipation of any believer, and that is the second coming of Jesus Christ.  He came once, He will come again.  In fact, as He was ascending, it tells us in Acts chapter 1, leaving the earth after His first coming, He ascended up into heaven, physically, bodily, taken away in a cloud.  And two angels came and said:  “This same Jesus who is taken up from you shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven.”  In other words, as He went away, so will He return, physically, bodily, in clouds.  Just the way He went away.  The very same Jesus, in the very same way. 

And since that time, believers have had hearts filled with hope through all of the history of the church, looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, the apostle Paul, in writing Titus, said in chapter 2 verse 11:  “The grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto Himself a people of His own, zealous of good works.” 

What he said there is we who are saved should live righteously, soberly, denying ungodliness, denying worldly lusts, and looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, as much as we are to live obedient lives, as much as we are to live righteous lives, as much as we are to live lives where priorities are set by God’s standards, so much are we to live lives that focus on the return of Jesus Christ.  We are to live in the light of the coming of Christ when this vile body, says Paul to the Philippians, shall be changed and made like His glorious body.  That is our hope.  That is our glory. 

Now, the world is very familiar with the circumstances and the features of Christ’s first coming.  The world is very familiar with Bethlehem, with the manger, with shepherds and wise men and a star and Herod.  The world is very familiar with Joseph and Mary and gold and frankincense and myrrh and the song of the angels.  They pretty well have that story all down pat.  But the world is far less familiar with the story of His second coming with all of its features and all of its attendant circumstances.  And yet the prophets have given us, including Jesus Himself, the greatest of all prophets, very clear instruction as to the character, the features, of the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ.  And in the three verses I just read to you, our Lord Himself describes His second coming.  Not all of the elements of it, but the very moment that it occurs.  The sign that it has arrived. 

And in that instruction, there is so much that in one session we could never cover it all.  As brief as His words are, typically, the Lord says very precisely and very concisely what He wants to say but has a way of opening up a universe of truth in the marvelous ability that He has to choose words.  And so while we can read what we can read and understand it, it is beyond our ability to grasp the implications of all that He says, and we feel like little children trying to understand complexity when we try to get all there is to get.  But let’s see what the Lord will show us as we look at these three incredible verses. 

Now, the best way to go through this is just to sort of hang your thoughts on some key words, all right?  The first key word is “sequence.”  The sequence of the second coming, verse 29:  “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.”  Now, you don’t have to be Phi Beta Kappa to figure that out; it’s pretty obvious.  People say:  “When is the second coming?  When is the second coming?”  It’s a very simple answer.  Immediately after the tribulation of those days.  That’s what it says.  A very clear chronological indicator for us that the Lord’s second coming in glory to set up His kingdom will follow immediately this time period called the Tribulation. 

Now, somebody says:  “Well, there’s a lot of tribulation.”  Tribulation is a Greek word, thlipsis, it means trouble, difficulty, tribulation, distress.  And you could say:  “Well, Israel has always been in distress and tribulation, and the church has always had distress and tribulation, and the world has always had distress and tribulation,” and that’s why Jesus said immediately after the tribulation “of those days.”  Not just any tribulation but the tribulation of those days.  You say:  “What days?”  The days just described in verses 4 through 28.  “Those” takes us back to some days that He has just described. 

What are the days He’s just described?  They are days of great tragedy.  In fact, they are so severe that verse 21 says this:  “For then shall be” – not just tribulation, but what? – great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”  It isn’t just any tribulation He’s referring to; it is the tribulation that is the worst tribulation the world has ever known.  He’s referring to a period of time which is the worst period of time the world has ever undergone. 

You say:  “What period of time is that?”  Well, it’s a period of time begun with a very special event.  Verse 15:  “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the Holy Place, whosoever reads, let him understand.”  And we talked about the fact that that event called the abomination of desolation, it is a desecration of that which is sacred, and it is a ruination of that which is dedicated to God that triggers this great Tribulation period. 

You remember what we said?  Israel in the end time will be in their land.  They will rebuild the temple.  They will be worshiping God.  They will be protected by the antichrist.  But in the middle of the seven-year period that Daniel says he makes a pact with them, in Daniel 7, he says in the middle – pardon me, in Daniel 9, he says in the middle of that period, the antichrist will break the covenant and he will abominate – that is, he will desecrate, he will blaspheme – the sacred place of the Jews.  He will tear out the altar to God and he will establish an altar to himself.  He will make himself the God of the world.  And this is described to us not only by the prophet Daniel but also by John in the Revelation.  And he becomes the one to be worshiped and therefore he desecrates, he abominates.  And when that happens, and he calls the whole world to worship him, then the signal has come that the Tribulation has begun. 

And the events of the Tribulation are generally described in verses 4 through 14.  It’s a time of deception.  It’s a time of war.  It’s a time of famine and earthquake.  It’s a time of persecution and hatred.  It is a time of false prophecy.  It is a time when evil is so rampant that many people who appear to be religious will defect from religion and abandon themselves to evil.  In other words, it’s going to be the worst time the world has ever known.  It’ll be a time, we see in verse 21 and following, without an equal.  And unless the days were shortened – that is, the time of daylight was condensed – no one would survive.  False prophets everywhere.  And terrible sinful corruption described like the carcass of a dead animal in verse 28. 

And so there’s coming on the world this time of tribulation like no other time.  A time of gross evil like no other time.  A time of murder, a time of slaughter, and antichrist is going to try to slaughter all the Jews, he’s going to try to slaughter all those who would name the name of Christ.  And that is why verse 16 says when you see this initiating event take place and the antichrist sets up his idol which is himself in the temple, then you better flee to the mountains, because Judea, where Jerusalem is, is going to be the center of his attack as he tries to wipe out God’s people, Israel and any believing people from among the Gentiles who happen to be there. 

So it’s going to be such a time like no other time.  You better run and you better run fast and hope you’re not pregnant and hope you’re not carrying a little baby and hope it isn’t winter and raining and hope it isn’t the Sabbath so you get stoned by some legalists for running.  You better hope you can get out because a slaughter is going to come like no slaughter in the history of the world.  And we’ve gone through all that detail in the last few weeks.  Now verse 29:  “Immediately after the tribulation of those days,” not just any tribulation, but the tribulation that we have seen discussed in verses 4 through 28.  Immediately after that, that is the time, that is the sequence for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Now, remember that the disciples feel it must be very near because they know the Lord is the Messiah, because He has cleansed the temple, you remember, threw out the moneychangers and the buyers and the sellers.  Because He has promised that the whole temple will be torn down and not one stone will be left upon another.  They believe, then, that He is going to come and wipe out hypocritical, false Judaism.  He is going to wipe out the false religious leaders.  He is going to purge the nation.  And because they’ve already seen Him cleanse the inside by throwing everybody out and He has just predicted that the stones are going to be torn down, they believe His coming is very, very near.  And with very anxious hearts, they have sat down with Him on the Mount of Olives and they have said:  “Lord, how near is it?  And what is the sign we look for that You’re going to come into Your full parousia, Your full presence and be King?”  And they must believe it’s only a matter of days now before this is all going to happen.  And the Lord says I’ll answer your question, it can’t happen until immediately after this time period.  And they don’t realize that this time period is thousands of years into the future from where they are.  But our Lord makes it very clear that it isn’t until that time period after which the second coming occurs. 

Now, you remember that we said that there will be a terrible slaughter among the Jews and Zechariah says two out of three will be killed and only a third will be preserved.  God will save a third of them.  The rest are going to die in this terrible holocaust.  There will also be the saving of a hundred and forty-four thousand Jews, twelve thousand from every tribe, according to Revelation 7, so that they can evangelize the world.  And no matter how the antichrist tries, or anybody else tries, you can’t kill them.  Revelation 7 says they’re sealed and protected.  Also, in the 14th chapter of Revelation, read about them.  So the Lord’s going to spare some of those people but it’s going to be such a terrible time, unless there is supernatural protection.  In the case of the general group, it seems as though Michael – chapter 12 – is going to be the one who comes down to take care of them and to sweep them away into safety.  In the case of the hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish missionaries to reach the world, God Himself supernaturally protects them, but the rest are going to be vulnerable to disaster and death, and so they are told in verse 16 to run.  It won’t last long.  The period of Great Tribulation lasts how long?  Three and a half years, that’s all.  And immediately after that, the second coming. 

Now, let’s go to a second word.  The first word is sequence, the second one is setup – setup.  How does the Lord set up this event?  You could use the word scene, scenario, stage, but the Lord sets the stage for the second coming.  It is a marvelous thing.  Verse 29 again:  “The sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give its light, the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”  I mean this is just incredible.  The whole universe as we know it, as we experience it, begins an instant disintegration.  In verse 25 of Luke 21, Luke writing basically on the same Olivet Discourse, adds more things that Jesus said.  Each writer sort of fills out the fullness of what the Lord said.  And Luke says there will be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity – terrible confusion – the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 

Now, if you add Luke to Matthew, you’ve got a pretty dramatic scene.  It isn’t just the sun darkened, it isn’t just the moon not giving its light, it isn’t just the stars falling, it isn’t just the powers of the heaven being shaken as if the earth is detached from that, it’s also on the earth.  And the thing is so dramatic and so cataclysmic that it says men’s hearts will fail them for fear.  The Greek actually says:  “Men will expire.”  Men will expire and it’s just a simple way of saying they’re going to drop dead everywhere.  People are going to literally drop dead out of total terror.  Their hearts will stop – apopsuchō – which is to say to breathe out.  They will breathe out their last.  They’ll die.  When the Lord comes back in judgment, He will only slay with the sword that proceeds out of His mouth the wicked that haven’t already died of a heart attack or died in sheer terror so that their functions just shut down, the fear was so totally gripping. 

I mean it’s hard for us to understand this and to conceive it, but one key statement is at the end of verse 29 that sort of helps you with all of it.  “The powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”  Now, in the heavens, which encompasses the whole universe, everything is held together by power.  There is a control, a controlling influence.  In fact, we know what that power is because in Hebrews 1 it says that the Son upholds all things by the what?  Word of His power.  It is God Himself in the Son who holds things together.  Just as He created everything, He holds things together so that gravity doesn’t fluctuate, so that orbits don’t fluctuate.  And we can send off little things into space and clutter up the universe with all of our little Tinker Toys and we know where they’re going to go and where they’re going to stop and what they’re going to do in their rotation and what they’re going to do in their orbits.  And we can calculate all of that because of the unchanging, fixed powers of the heavens so that bodies move consistently at all times and they do what is predicted for them to do. 

Our scientists can even mathematically predict things, years, centuries, thousands of years into the future because they have such uniformity from the past.  The heavenly bodies are controlled by the upholding power of the Word of God.  But all of a sudden, the Lord lets go, and the powers that normally hold the universe together no longer do that and you have helter-skelter, chaos, with all of the heavenly bodies at random careening through space.  And the earth becomes a victim of this incredible breakdown of the whole universe. 

Now, specifically, He says, the sun goes black.  The implications of that are just staggering – staggering.  No sunlight.  And man, of course, cannot survive without that.  The temperature change is cataclysmic.  And then the moon doesn’t give its light, obviously, because it’s reflected from the sun.  The tides are instantly chaos.  The stars begin to tumble out of their places.  In Revelation, it says the heavens are rolled up like a scroll and the stars begin to fall like shaking overripe figs off of a fig tree.  The whole universe begins to fall apart, to disintegrate. 

I suppose a faint way of understanding this would be to read to you a section from a book by Velikovsky, who approaches some of the scientific phenomena relative to the earth.  And he says that if, for example, a heavenly body was loose in space and it happened to pass close to the earth and just cause the earth to tilt a fraction on its axis, here’s what would happen, and I quote:  “At that very moment, an earthquake would make the earth shudder.  Air and water would continue to move through inertia; hurricanes would sweep the earth and the seas would rush over the continents, carrying gravel and sand and marine animals, and casting them on the land.  Heat would be developed, rocks would melt, volcanoes would erupt, and lava would flow from fissures in the ruptured ground and cover vast areas.  Mountains would spring up from the plains and would travel and climb on the shoulders of other mountains, causing faults and rifts.  Lakes would be tilted and emptied, rivers would change their beds; large land areas with all their inhabitants would slip under the sea.  Forests would burn, and the hurricanes and wild seas would wrest them from the ground on which they grew and pile them, branch and root, in huge heaps.  Seas would turn into deserts, their waters flowing away.”  It’s inconceivable. 

The earth is held together by the power of the heavens, and when that power is not there, the chaos is going to be indescribable.  And how God can even preserve life for a few moments, or days, a few weeks, so that the kingdom can be established, is only by His supernatural overruling of the chaos of those natural forces disintegrating.  It’s something we can only imagine. 

Now, you say:  “In other words, the Lord is saying that just before Christ comes, this is going to take place?”  That’s right.  That sets the scene.  Now, this isn’t anything new.  I want you to go with your Bible to the 13th chapter of Isaiah.  Isaiah chapter 13.  And I want to show you something fascinating.  Many people believe that the Isaiah 13 passage should be related to Babylon’s destruction, that it is hyperbole speaking of the destruction of the city and the kingdom of Babylon.  But it has to be far more than that.  Yes, Isaiah is referring to Babylon.  Yes, he does predict Babylon’s destruction.  But, as so very often in the mind of the prophet, there is an historical fulfillment and there is a prophetic one as well, far into the future.  And Isaiah simply sees, in the destruction of Babylon for sin, a microcosm of what will happen in the devastation and destruction of the whole world in the coming of the Lord. 

Notice verse 6:  “Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand.  It shall come as a destruction from the Almighty, therefore shall all hands be faint and every man’s heart shall melt.  And they shall be afraid.  Pains and sorrow shall take hold of them.  They shall be in pain like a woman that has birth pain.  They shall be amazed one at another, their faces shall be as flames.  Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger” – here’s a very key thing – “to lay” – the Hebrew says – “the earth” – it isn’t just Babylon, it is the earth that is in view here – “desolate and He will destroy the sinners out of it.” 

Now, watch this:  “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light, the sun shall be darkened in its going forth and the moon shall not cause its light to shine.  And I will punish” – not Babylon, but – “the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity.  And I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.  And I will make a man more rare than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.”  In other words, there’s going to be worldwide slaughter as God judges the ungodly and the wicked.  The righteous will live, yes, but the ungodly will die and men will be more rare than wedges of Ophir gold. 

And verse 13 says:  “I will shake the heavens and the earth shall remove out of its place in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger.”  The earth is going to be like a chased deer, running helter-skelter all over everywhere, like a sheep that no man takes up, that is like an undomesticated sheep, a wild sheep, every man turning to his own people, fleeing everyone into his own land and everyone that is found who hasn’t died will be thrust through and every one joined to him will fall by the sword.  Their children shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses spoiled and their wives ravished. 

Now, the prophet sees an incredible day.  Look at chapter 34 of Isaiah.  And here again, the prophet Isaiah looks far into the future and says:  “Come near, ye nations, to hear and hearken, ye peoples.”  He’s calling the whole world to listen.  “Let the earth hear and all that is therein, the world and all things that come from it.”  So there’s no question about whom he has reference.  “The indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, His fury on all their armies” – all those armies that have gathered to destroy the people of God in Jerusalem in that great conflagration we know as Armageddon – “all those armies will utterly be destroyed, all of them will be slaughtered” – verse 2 says – “and the slain shall be thrown out, their stench will come up, their carcasses and the mountains shall melt with their blood.  And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved and the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll and all their hosts shall fall down as the leaf falleth off from the vine and like a falling fig from the fig tree.” 

So you know where the Lord and you know where John drew their imagery, don’t you?  They drew it right from the prophet Isaiah.  And the Lord comes with a sword in verse 6, and He comes with a great slaughter, and it starts in the land of Edom.  The reason Edom is mentioned is because the southernmost place where that great battle is going to occur is in Edom.  Bozrah was the main city in Edom.  And the battle of Armageddon, it says in Revelation, is a 16-furlong battle, Revelation 14:20, 16 hundred-furlong battle, rather, and that’s 200 miles.  And if you measure 200 miles starting with Bozrah, mentioned here in verse 6 in Edom north, it takes you just past Armageddon into Lebanon, and that is the range of that final great destruction in the battle of Armageddon.  So the Bible is very, very accurate in describing what verse 8 calls the day of the Lord’s vengeance and the year of recompense; that is, when God pays back sinful man. 

Now, the prophet Joel speaks about the very same thing.  He sees in chapter 2 a locust plague which, in a way, blots out the sun and blots out the moon because of the tremendous billions of locusts that make the day dark and the night, they block out the stars.  And he sees those locusts flying in the sky and it’s as if the heavens are trembling and he sees them landing on the ground and it’s as if the earth is shuddering.  And that’s in the beginning of chapter 2 verse 10.  Later in the chapter, he sees that as an illustration of the ultimate shaking of the heavens and the ultimate shaking of the earth and the ultimate holocaust of divine judgment as he takes you to the final judgment in the 30th and 31st verses of Joel chapter 2. 

Haggai, the prophet – in chapter 2 verses 6 and 7 – describes the end of the world in the same terms.  And you remember Peter, preaching at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2, quotes the prophecy of Joel, doesn’t he?  The day will come when the moon will turn to blood and the stars don’t give their light anymore – the sun, rather, turns dark – all of those things are part of this coming holocaust.  And you find it also in Revelation 6:12 and 13, where we find that the sun goes dark and the moon goes out and the stars begin to fall and the people begin to scream for the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of the one who is coming. 

So the Lord’s imagery – back now to Matthew 24 – is consistent with the prophets before Him and even after Him in writing the New Testament.  So we see two key words:  sequence, immediately after the Tribulation, and the very obvious one, the setup.  Third word:  sign.  Verse 30, sign.  So important.  “And then shall appear the sign.”  Now go back to verse 3 of chapter 24.  He sat on the Mount of Olives and the disciples came unto Him privately saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be?”  What things?  “Oh, when is it going to be that You’re going to knock down the temple?”  “When is it going to be that You’re going to bring Your kingdom?”  They assumed all of that would happen at the same time.  They didn’t understand the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  They were thinking it was all going to be the setting up of the kingdom.  “So when is it going to be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming and the end of the age?” 

Now, He gave them a list of general signs in verses 4 to 14.  He gave them the signal that’s going to start it.  But He still hasn’t given them the sign.  “What is the sign of Thy coming?”  Verse 30:  “And then shall appear the sign.”  The sign.  What is the sign?  Well, the old church fathers, they’re called the Patristic Fathers, they used to believe that it was a blazing cross that would fill the black heavens.  The universe is disintegrated.  It’s total blackness and all of the planets and heavenly bodies are careening helter-skelter through the universe, crashing into each other in total blackness.  And the early fathers – Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Origen and others – said that at that moment in time, there will be a blazing, flaming cross appear in the sky that the whole world will see. 

But I don’t see that in verse 30, do you?  I don’t see any cross there.  It’s a nice idea.  I don’t see it there.  And others said, “No, it’ll be the Shekinah glory.  It’ll be this blazing light.  And that’s closer to the truth, I think.  But you can’t have the Shekinah glory apart from the One from whom it emanates.  So I think if you just keep reading the verse, it’s very clear.  “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven.”  It is a subjective genitive, the sign by which He reveals Himself.  Not the sign, objective genitive, to which it points.  The sign is the Son of man in heaven, in other words.  Then shall appear the sign.  What is it?  It’s the Son of man in heaven.  That’s the sign.  It isn’t a cross and it isn’t a light detached from the Son of man, it is the Son of man in heaven.  In the midst of this blackness will appear in blazing, infinite, unveiled glory, the Son of man.  In fact, at the end of verse 30, it says He will come not just with glory but with what?  Great glory.  Glory like the world has never seen.  The unveiled Shekinah.  So much so that Revelation 6 says people scream for the rocks and the mountains to cover them up and hide them from the face of the One who sits on the throne, the One who comes in blazing glory.  And I believe it’s none other than the Lord Himself. 

They received a glimpse of it, you remember, in Matthew 17 where it describes the transfiguration.  Jesus took James, Peter, John up to the mountain, pulled aside the veil of His flesh, and they beheld His glory, and they got a taste of what second coming Shekinah was like.  And it was only a small one and Peter never forgot it, and remember when he penned 2 Peter, he said we have not come unto you with cunningly devised fables, we don’t tell you lies invented by men, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty when we were with Him in the holy mount.  We got a glimpse of second coming glory. 

But that’s the best that men have had, really.  Adam had a glimpse of it in the garden when he walked and talked in the cool of the day with the presence of God.  The people of Israel had a glimpse of the glory when it dwelt between the wings of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple.  They saw it as a pillar of cloud that led them by day and a fire that led them by night.  They saw also when the glory of God departed.  But the world has never seen the unveiled glory and the world will see it then. 

The sign then is going to be the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ coming in majesty.  He will be distinguishable, he will be recognizable, and yet He will be in full glory.  It also says, notice it, at the end of verse 30, that He will come on, is the right word, the clouds of heaven.  On the clouds of heaven.  In the same manner as you have seen Him go, Acts 1:9 to 11 says, He’ll come.  He went in the clouds, He’ll come in the clouds.  Daniel says He will come with the clouds of heaven, Daniel 7:13.  John says He’ll come with the clouds, Revelation 1:7.  Mark says He’ll come in clouds, Mark 13:26.  Luke says in 21:27 He’ll come in a cloud, and Matthew says He comes on the clouds of heaven here and later on in chapter 26 verse 64.  So all the writers agree that He is coming surrounded with clouds. 

You say, “What’s that point?”  I don’t know.  Maybe that’s their way in the vision of seeing this glorious Shekinah.  But there’s some kind of a cloud, a cloud of light, a cloud of glory.  And I think it’s kind of special, clouds.  You know, the Old Testament tells us that clouds are the chariot of God.  It’s a very vivid thing.  Psalm 104, do you remember what it says?  “Bless the Lord, O my soul.  O Lord, my God, Thou art very great, Thou art clothed with honor and majesty.  Who layeth the beams of His chamber in the waters, who maketh the clouds His chariot, who walketh on the wings of the wind.”  Very vivid, beautiful language.  And Isaiah 19:1 says:  “The Lord rides on the a swift cloud.” 

And so the scene is indescribable.  The world is in panic.  People everywhere are dying of sheer terror.  They’re in total blackness and only the Lord holds them together enough so that they can see the rest of these events.  And in the midst of that black chaos appears the glory of the Son of God in heaven, in utter majesty, an unveiled holy Shekinah presence and riding on the chariot of God – the clouds – appears in the sky.  And no doubt circles the globe because it says in Revelation 1:7:  “Every eye shall” – what? – “see Him.”  Every eye shall see Him.  That’s the sign. 

Now again, to compare an Old Testament text, turn in your Bible for a brief moment to Zechariah 14.  And in the English text, the translation of the Hebrew may not be quite as clear.  If we translate just out of the literal Hebrew, we really get a clearer picture.  Listen very carefully.  Zechariah 14:6 – this is fascinating – says this and this is just going right through, basically, the very straightforward Hebrew translation.  “And it shall be in that day that there shall not be light.”  That’s exactly what Jesus said, sun out, moon out, stars out.  Zechariah said there won’t be light.  “The glorious ones will wane,” that’s the next phrase in the literal Hebrew, the glorious ones will wane.  Or you could say it this way:  The bright ones will fade.  Either way, it refers to the stars, the sun, and the moon.  All the lights go out. 

It says:  “And it shall be in that day” – it’s not a 24-hour day, it’s a prophetic day, it’s an era, it’s a period of time when the Lord comes.  We know it’s the time of the Lord’s coming because that’s what Zechariah 14 is about.  You just need to check verse 4 to verify that.  So no light.  Everything goes black.  Zechariah saw it, too, just like Isaiah saw it, just like Joel saw it, just like Haggai saw it, just like John saw it.  And then verse 7 – listen carefully:  “And it will be one day which shall be known to Jehovah.”  And what he’s saying there is nobody could ever describe this day.  Nobody could ever understand this day.  There is no scientific explanation for this day.  No human being could experience the full understanding of this day.  It is one day that only the Lord can explain.  It is one day known only to Him.  There will be no way to understand it. 

And then he further says in verse 7:  “Not day and not night.”  It’s not day and it’s not night.  It can’t be because there aren’t any heavenly bodies anymore, so there can’t be a sun, can’t be a moon, there can’t be stars, so there can’t be day and there can’t be night.  So it’s not day and it’s not night.  That’s why Jeremiah chapter 30 verse 7 says:  “Alas, for that day, for there is none like it.”  It’s a day that no man can know and no man can describe and there’s no explanation for it.  But – verse 7 says – it will be at the time of closing, the time of evening, the time of the end of that day, there will be light.  And at the end of that era, the end of that prophetic period, the light will come.  So Zechariah sees the same thing.  Everything goes black.  Nobody can figure out what happened.  There’s no human explanation.  God only knows.  It isn’t day and it isn’t night.  And then toward the end of that period of darkness, it is light. 

And what is that light?  It is the sign of the Son of man in heaven coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  Unveiled majesty – oh, the light of it.  You say, “How brilliant is it?”  Well, in Revelation 21 verse 23, Revelation 22 verse 5, it tells us that in the eternal city of Jerusalem, in the eternal abode of the redeemed, in the heaven of heavens forever and ever, there is no lamp and there is no light for the Lamb Himself is the light of it.  Now, if the Lord Jesus Christ will forever and ever light the eternal new heaven, that’s pretty bright.  That’s all you need.  And He will fill the heavens with the glory of His light. 

You say, “Boy, I mean I’d like to see that.”  I don’t blame you.  I want to tell you this:  We’re going to be raptured, I believe, seven years before this happens.  Now, don’t get too disappointed.  I believe the church is taken out before the Tribulation begins.  I believe we’ll already be with the Lord.  We’ll be having the marriage supper of the Lamb.  We’ll be having a time of rewards.  We’ll be with Him because Revelation 3:10 says we will be kept from the hour that comes to try the whole earth.  We will be preserved from that.  We will be delivered, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says, from the wrath to come.  So I think we’ll be with the Lord, and there are many other reasons.  You say, “Well, you mean we won’t get to see it?”  Well, let me answer that question this way.  Turn in your Bible to Colossians chapter 3. 

Colossians chapter 3 verse 4.  “When Christ who is our life shall appear” – all right?  When He appears there, when He comes in His glory and He appears for the whole world – “then shall you also appear with Him” – where? – “in glory.”  Oh man, that’s a great truth.  When He appears, you who know Him and love Him, you who have been raised with Christ – verse 1 – you who are alive in Christ – verse 3 – you who know the Savior and He is your life, you will appear with Him in glory.  You’re not down here.  You’re already up there.  And when He comes in glory, you will appear with Him in glory. 

You say, “This is terrific.  I’ve got to get an outfit.  I’ve got to be properly dressed for that.”  You’re right.  Turn to Revelation 19.  You don’t have to go shopping.  One’s already hanging up there waiting.  In Revelation 19 verse 7, we have a picture of the marriage supper of the Lamb when the Lord is joined to His redeemed church, His bride.  It’s called the marriage of the Lamb.  The wife is ready and when the wife comes into the presence of the Lord, when we the church are raptured and taken into His presence, it says in verse 8:  “To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  So when the church is taken into the presence of the Lord at the marriage supper, as we sit down with the Lord to fellowship with Him during that seven-year Tribulation time on earth, as we’ve been delivered from the wrath to come, as we’ve been saved out of the redemption that comes on – out of the damnation that comes on the earth, we commune with the Lord, we are rewarded, and we are robed in fine linen. 

Then, when He comes back, you go to verse 14:  And the armies that were in heaven, already redeemed souls – and I believe that includes the church and I believe it includes also the redeemed saints of the Old Testament who also are the invited guests to the marriage supper.  You don’t have to invite the bride; she’s already going to be there.  The bride – it is for the bride, but it is also including a guest list, verse 9:  Blessed are they who are also invited to the marriage supper, Old Testament saints.  So the Old Testament saints who are redeemed and all of the church is there, all robed in fine linen, white and clean, symbolizing their perfection in purity and righteousness, and we all come riding out of heaven.  You’ll have your own robe and your own white horse.  So you’ll be there, only you’ll be up looking down, not down looking up. 

Some people who weren’t ready when the Lord took His church, who weren’t redeemed, will be left here.  Many will die but many will be saved.  And many redeemed people will be looking up.  There will be those who are redeemed in that day who were saved out of the Tribulation and who weren’t killed by the antichrist and who weren’t killed by the persecutors and the betrayers and the haters of God.  And they survived, protected by Michael, protected as the hundred and forty-four thousand, protected by the mercy and grace of God.  There will be Jews and Gentiles, and they’ll be protected, and when they see Him in the sky, they will rejoice.  But the world will cry out in absolute terror and fear.  What a day, what a day.  And so we will return.  And there won’t be any more scoffers saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?”  There won’t be any more scoffers. 

Let me give you a fourth word:  strength.  Oh, what an important word this is.  Would you notice, just very briefly, verse 30 at the end?  He comes with power, that’s the word strength.  I mean can you imagine the power to just set the whole universe reeling, to set the whole earth rocking on its axis.  He has power over the whole created universe.  He has power over Satan.  He has power over demons.  He has power to slaughter all the ungodly Christ-rejecting unbelievers worldwide.  He has power to establish His kingdom.  He has power to redeem His elect.  This is power without equal.  Great power, great power.  No power like it.  He comes with the holy angels, comes to sit on the throne of His glory, chapter 25 verse 31 says.  Great power.  In fact, Isaiah calls it in chapter 63 the day of vengeance of our God when He treads out the winepress of His wrath. 

You know – just one thought.  As He comes, His power is so great that the things that have been devastated in the chaos of blackness and the chaos of the earth immediately are made right.  When His feet touch the Mount of Olives, Zechariah says, everything – everything begins to turn.  His feet hit the Mount of Olives, Zechariah 14:1 to 4.  Marvelous.  He comes right back to the very place He left.  That’s where He’s going to set up His kingdom.  And He comes with a sword out of His mouth, Revelation 19 says, and He kills all the people who are ungodly and rejecting who aren’t already dead.  He brings them to a great judgment, which we’ll read about when we get to chapter 25, and they’re sent into eternal hell.  And then He establishes the glory of His kingdom.  He finishes sin, Daniel 9:24 says.  He ends transgression.  He brings in everlasting righteousness.  He sets up His kingdom forever and ever and ever. 

But I just love to think about when He hits the Mount of Olives, because I’ve stood so many times on that Mount of Olives.  When He hits the Mount of Olives, it splits – it just – it splits.  And in Zechariah 14, it says the sea in front and the sea in back, which would be the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, a channel is cut so the water can flow freely.  When we were over there, it was told to us that they’re trying to dig a channel now to bring water from the Mediterranean, a canal or a pipeline, to bring water from the Mediterranean to have water in the desert.  Well, if they’ll just wait, they could save an awful lot of money because that – the Lord has the same plan.  There – it’s pretty good planning, to be honest, because it’s the Lord’s plan.  You see, Isaiah 35 says the desert will blossom like a rose.  They’re trying to fulfill Isaiah 35 with a construction project. 

When the Lord comes, He splits the Mount of Olives, creates a valley, the Mediterranean empties into the desert, and in summer and winter there’s water all through the desert.  And since the Dead Sea area is so low, it will fill up – and it must become a huge lake – and all that area will have plenty of water for irrigation and there’ll never be a desert in the Millennium, in the kingdom.  A canal from the Mediterranean to the desert, that’s just one thing.  Lion lying down with a lamb, children playing with poisonous snakes and not being bitten, people living a long time, a restored earth – that’s power, that’s strength. 

Another key word:  sorrow.  Can you take a moment to look at that word “mourn”?  “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.”  When He comes, there will be sorrow.  I already told you about the sorrow of the unsaved Gentiles.  For the most part, they’re just going to – they’re just going to be in sheer terror.  They’re just going to cry out to be hidden from this.  They’re going to not be repentant for the most part, but they’re going to curse God.  They’re going to scream at God.  They’re going to blaspheme God, it says in Revelation.  And they will, like Revelation 18 says, say:  “Oh, alas, alas, Babylon which is our worldly system is fallen, Babylon is fallen and there will be no more music, there will be no more records, there will be no more tapes played of music, no more instruments will be played.”  Music will all of a sudden stop all over the world because the terror will be so great, the fear will be so great, there will be no song to sing.”  So the Gentiles will mourn. 

But the Jews will mourn also.  And Zechariah 12 says:  “They will look upon Him whom they have pierced and they will” – what? – “mourn for Him as for an only son.”  They will realize that they’ve pierced their Messiah.  And then it says in Zechariah 13:1, a fountain – a fountain of cleansing will be opened to them.  Their redemption will draw near, and I believe it is at that moment when all of the work of the hundred and forty-four thousand and the fruit of the everlasting gospel preached by a supernatural angel is going to come together and they in that moment will see the One.  And it is in that moment that all Israel will be saved, Romans 11 says.  All Israel will be saved.  Their redemption will draw nigh and they will mourn that they have crucified their Messiah.  Some of them will mourn unto salvation.  It will be godly sorrow, godly sorrow unto repentance. 

And then the last word that we have time for today:  select.  Verse 31, very brief, select.  When He’s judged all and the mourning has taken place, the mourning of those who are dying in the eternal judgment, the mourning of those who are repenting, He will send His angels.  Angels, by the way, are God’s gatherers.  They are His collectors of men.  In the 13th chapter of Matthew, we find them in several of the parables, sent out to gather people for judgment, to bring them before God.  In this case, they’re not gathering people for judgment, they’re gathering them for glory. 

And by the sound of a trumpet, the familiar Jewish means of calling a convocation, calling an assembly, the trumpet is blown, the angels, the messengers of God, go and they gather together His elect, the redeemed who have been scattered all over during the work of the hundred and forty-four thousand going all over the earth and preaching, there have been those who have been redeemed.  And during the gospel preaching by the everlasting angel, there have been those who have believed.  And they’re still all over the earth, many of them still hiding from the terrors of the antichrist, and the angels go all over the world to gather them from the four winds, a colloquial expression similar to our expression “from the four corners of the world,” north, east, south and west, and gather them in from one end of heaven to the other.  Another way of saying from everywhere – nobody is left out.  The Lord sends the angels to collect all of His select, His select elect for His eternal kingdom.  And many shall wake.  I believe the bodies of Old Testament saints will come out of the grave to be joined with their redeemed spirits to enter into the glory of His eternal kingdom.  So the Lord will gather His people from all over the world to bring them into the kingdom. 

That’s the Lord’s own description of His second coming.  What a tremendous event.  Now, the disciples got the sign.  When you see the Son of man in heaven.  They didn’t live to see that.  And you and I, by the grace of God, if we’re redeemed, will be taken out with the church.  I don’t really care to live on this earth to see that because I don’t care to go through the Tribulation.  I’d rather be with the Savior than be here fulfilling my curiosity.  And if I’m so curious about the Tribulation that it changes my theology, I’m warped because I should long to be with Jesus Christ. 

I just say this to you, folks.  That’s how it’s all going to end.  It can’t be very far away.  And if we’re leaving seven years before it happens, we better get ready.  And you either are going to come to that point when you’re with Him in glory, when you enter into His kingdom, or when you either die of a heart attack, are cast out of His kingdom, sent to everlasting hell, as He says in verse – the end of chapter 25, the closing verses, where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth and everlasting punishment.  The world is very much fulfilling God’s historical plan. 

And you have to ask yourself:  Where are you?  I mean this is serious stuff.  Your eternal destiny is at stake.  And this is just exactly how it’s going to end.  Are you going to be a part of the disaster here or a part of the glory there?  It’s your choice.  By God’s grace as the Spirit prompts your heart, I pray you will respond to the Savior.  Let’s bow in prayer. 

We, Lord, thank You for giving us so much revelation.  We don’t have to live in darkness, wondering what’s going to happen.  We know what’s going to happen because You’ve told us.  Oh, Lord, how responsible we are to live in the light of that eternity.  May we look for the glorious appearing of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, look for the day when we can be with Him and not have to live in fear of what may come because we reject the Savior, whose only desire is to give us His love and grace, forgiveness, peace, joy, and blessing.