The Olivet Discourse – Sign of the Son of Man

07May11

Matt 24:30 Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, 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.

The further we find ourselves in the discourse the more the reader of class attendant gets uncomfortable. Many long standing and personal firmly held beliefs are challenged and the immediate response is to either reject the new information and throw up the white flag of surrender. This next section will not help. This is an intenely difficult passage to deal with since more than any other discussed thus far tends to be reinforced by ones presupposed positions.

Also, the general lack of knowledge of the Old Testament and the uses of language makes this passage even more difficult. On the other hand, the answers to these struggles is actually not as difficult as one would presume. There are few reminders that are needed that will help keep us on track.

  • Whenever we encounter a difficult passage it is important see if there are similar, not as difficult to understand, passages and discover what that passage may mean
  • Context is king. By that I mean has the discussion changed or are we still dealing with the events that “immediately” follow that tribulation of those days
  • Is the described event place before the the “all things” relating to the “this generation” of Jesus’ first hearers

Of all of the points above we will find ourselves dealing with point one more than even the others that have truly been beaten to death!

We will deal with the first half of the passage above as understanding the terminology of that part will help us understanding the second half as well as several other similar sounding passages that have been hinted at previously. Also it should be noted that in my experience teaching this class this becomes, quite often, the “light bulb” week when things start to tie together and the light bulb flickers on in the mind of the student. You may find yourself muttering an “a ha” as well!

Matt 24:30 Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, 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.

THE SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN

Here is how most people read the same passage…

Then will appear the Son of Man in the Heavens…

But that is NOT what it states! What is actually stating can be difficult to understand, but what we can determine is that it is not saying that the Son of Man will appear in the Heavens. There are two ways to read what is actually being said…

  • Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven

This would mean that some sort of sign or symbol will be seen in the heavens representing the Son of Man. This would include some sort of celestial symbol maybe akin to the Star of Bethlehem. But what is clear is that the Son of Man is not seen in the Heavens. Another way of saying it is…

  • Then will appear the sign [that] the Son of Man [is] in Heaven

This would denote that whatever is seen (whether it is some celestial sign or earthly proof) provides proof that the Son of Man is in Heaven. I favor the second way of viewing the passage but I have no problem with the former as it does not impact the preterist interpretation. The second way, though as we will see, matches up quite well with the proper interpretation of the second half of this passage.

So, what is actually seen in the heavens?

  1. The “sign” of Jesus – some symbol that demonstrates that Jesus is in Heaven
  2. Son of Man – again this would relate to the location of His presence not a visible seeing of Him in the sky.

Note that this proof the current placement of Christ would cause the the “tribes of the earth” (Israel) to mourn. We should here ask what event would prove both that Jesus was the Messiah and that He was currently residing at the right hand of the Father in heaven? Both questions have the same answer. The destruction of the city and temple. the obvious result of the destruction would be great mourning amongst the Jews, but it would also be proof of the truth of Jesus’ Messianic claims since He had predicted this actual event some forty years previous.

This sign or presence would act at the proof of His deity. This is exactly what Jesus was also describing in His dialogue with the High Priest during His trial.

Matt 26:64 Jesus said to him,  “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

What this means will also be explored in the next post as we deal with the coming on the clouds. But for now just note that Jesus said that Caiaphas would see Him in the Heavens seated at the right hand. Well, we know two things from this passage. the first is that this cannot refer to the second Coming as Caiaphas would have to be some 2,000 plus years old residing somewhere in the world today. Also we note that this language is symbolic since Caiaphas would actually “see” with his eyes, but would rather “divine” or “understand” that Jesus is seated in heaven by the result of some action.

The answer to the coming the clouds section of both of the passages in question (and others we will explore) will really help the understanding of what Jesus is trying to state here. Just for now note the common language Jesus uses to describe the proof that He is Messiah and His vindication as God. One hint here is that Jesus’ comment about being seen coming on the clouds cause Caiaphas to proclaim blasphemy and tear His robes. Others have laid claim to the title Messiah without this type of response, so what makes Jesus’ comment so damning? That too will be discussed in the next post.

That still leaves us with the question as to what is the sign of the Son of man and how does this relate to a “coming” on the clouds. In other words are these two things related and how would one best understand them?

The answer to the first question is most definitely yes. The answer to the second half will have to wait until the next post as we tie these two things together. So, for this post we simply need to remember…

  • It is the sign of the Son of Man seen in heaven not Jesus physically present in the sky
  • This sign will cause the tribes of the earth (Israel) to mourn
  • This happens before the end of “this generation” and immediately follows the end of the tribulation

The three above most easily point to the destruction of the city and the Temple in 70AD.

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One Response to “The Olivet Discourse – Sign of the Son of Man”

  1. 1 Yehoshuamyking

    Hey D.L.

    I really hope that you are writing a book!!!
    I have to tell you though,all this truth is a bit unsettling to say the least…My first three years of LIFE was spent in the warm and fuzzy dispensational zone…I see why some will never ever leave that place no matter the proof… BTW.I’m with you,i think the second view is makes the most sense! I cant wait to read the next study!!!

    Then will appear the sign [that] the Son of Man [is] in Heaven


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