Matthew Chapter 24
Here we will skip ahead to Verse 29 and will come back to Verse 28 later when we reach Verse 41. The reason for this is to make Matthew’s account correspond with that of Mark and Luke. Verse 29 is actually the conclusion of Verse 41.
VERSE 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
The Time of the End
"Immediately after the tribulation of THOSE DAYS…”
There are in fact three distinct tribulation periods mentioned by our Lord in this prophecy, to which one does our Master refer?
Amendment: there are actually four if we consider that suggested by Brother Shallieu, which we look at last.
Is it the tribulation with which the Jewish Age closed in A. D. 70?
If so, we should look for the events symbolized by the darkening of the sun and moon, etc., to follow immediately after that date. Those expositors (Preterist) who find the complete and final fulfillment of nearly every feature of our Lord's great prophecy to have occurred in connection with the overthrow of the Jewish polity do thus interpret it. By the darkening of the sun and moon, the falling of the stars, and shaking of the powers of heaven these understand "the passing away of the Jewish Church and nation, or the Old Testament order of things, with all the lights, privileges, powers, and dignities belonging to it."
Is it the great tribulation with which the Gospel Age closes?
Many, among which are our (Futurist) friends, expect these words of our Lord to have their fulfillment in the future. They have noted that this Gospel Age is to close in a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation, and believe it will be after the tribulation of those days, those days in the close of the Gospel Age that the darkening of the sun and moon, etc., will take place.
Or was it the tribulation period the true church endured under the hands of Papal Rome, when she was forced to flee into the wilderness for 1260 days (1260 years)?
We believe this last to be correct, it would mean that the predictions concerning the darkening of the sun and moon, the falling stars and the shaking of the heavens, would have their fulfillment in the period immediately following THE CLOSING YEARS of the eighteenth century, that period spoken of by Daniel the Prophet as "the time of the end." Dan. 8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9.
The Darkening of the Sun and Moon as Signs
“The tribulation "of those days" should be clearly distinguished from the (Great) tribulation AT THE END of those days, in which this age and harvest will close: but this is not so clearly manifest in the accounts by Matthew and Mark as when we compare Luke's record--which seems to briefly summarize the events of the Gospel age, and, omitting the "tribulation of those days," refers only to the other tribulation with which the age will be closed. He says:
"And they [Jews] shall fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the Times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear and for looking forward to those things which are coming upon the earth." Luke 21:24-26
The fact is that the entire Gospel age has been a period of tribulation referred to in Matt 24: 9-12, and now here in Verse 29.
The early Church was persecuted by Civil Rome, while later, when Papal Rome got control, all who refused to approve her abominations were persecuted by her (Jezebel) directly, or indirectly by the civil powers to which she was wedded (Ahab). And they were given into her power, and she wore out the saints of the Most High for a time, times and a half time—1260 years--until A.D. 1799.
And this long persecution, in which "many were purified and made white and tried," and in which the Mother of Harlots was "drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus" (Rev. 17:6) ended in A.D. 1799 when the Pope and his authority were humiliated before the World.
Understanding clearly, then, that it is signs that will follow the tribulation "of those days" that our Lord refers to, we inquire respecting the very definitely described signs—the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars.
Are these signs to be regarded as literal or as symbolic? And have they yet been fulfilled?
We answer that they have had a literal fulfillment, and are now having a symbolic fulfillment much more momentous.
On May 19, 1780 (still "in those days," the 1260 years of Papal power, but after that power had begun to wane and the brunt of the tribulation had passed) a phenomenal darkening of the sun occurred, for which scientists of that time and since have never been able to positively account for (although some more recent plausible explanations have since surfaced). That this was no ordinary occurrence is sufficiently established by the following competent testimony—
The noted astronomer William Herschel (who in 1781 discovered Uranus), says:
"The dark day in Northern America was one of those wonderful phenomena of nature which will always be read of with interest, but which philosophy is at a loss to explain."(D583-585)
We will look at a few of the accounts of that “dark day” in our next post.
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