Matthew Chapter 24
VERSE 30 continued, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear 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.”
There are actually two views as to who exactly is being referred to in this verse as the “tribes of the earth”.
1) As mentioned in our previous post is that they represent the worldly or mankind in general.
2) That they represent those who inhabit the heavens mentioned here in this verse, viz. the symbolic heavens, the professedly spiritual heavens or professing church.
Taking THE FIRST VIEW and interpreting the tribes as the world of mankind how do we interpret their seeing the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and seeing him come on clouds?
Read it again. Is that what it says, does it say that they will see both the sign and the Lord coming on clouds?
Note closely that when mentioning the sign of the Son of Man appearing in heaven it says nothing about WHO exactly would see the sign, it merely states the sign would appear in heaven “and then” (or following that event) they (the “tribes of the earth”) would see the Lord descending on clouds.
Nevertheless we are still told that they will see him coming on clouds, how shall we interpret this?
If they can’t visibly see him how then shall they see him?
The word “see” as used here is not like that found in Luke 12:23, where a visible manifestation is implied, viz. “And they will say to you, ‘SEE (idou) here or SEE (idou) there’
No, the root word here is (horao); to discern that is to say they will come to apprehend, to recognize the fact that the Lord is present, not by a visible manifestation, but by and through the trouble (clouds), judgments then coming upon the earth. In no other way do we see how it can be made to harmonize with the preceding statements.
Thus we read:
"Then (or “at that time”, during the events mentioned in Verse 29) shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven (something which only the Lord’s faithful will discern); and THEN (still farther on) shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see (horao; discern, recognize) the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven;" all of which was understood from the very first by those who were able to see the sign. The troublous times (clouds) will then cause the tribes of the earth to mourn, and doubtless to discover that sin is the root cause of all the trouble, and as such will lead them to investigate, and thus finally they are led to desire as well as to see i.e. recognize him.” (Excerpts taken from R554)
Now let us take a look at it from THE SECOND VIEW the tribes representing those who inhabit the ecclesiastical heavens the professedly spiritual heavens.
“If we look at it as Pastor did, and we think he is right, we see that this is not the world that sees him coming. We think rather that it would represent those, of both the true and false church (the professing church), who recognized various signs in the ecclesiastical heavens, which indicated that the Lord was due soon to return. This would probably have taken place about A.D. 1799, for sure by the time of William Miller in A.D. 1844.
“Coming” is Not the Same Thing as “Present”!
The 30th verse, does not say that we should see the son of man as having arrived or being (present), but that we should see him coming or on the way.
The word “coming” as use here in the 30th verse is not the same word as used in 3rd verse of this Chapter, which was (Strong’s # 3952 Greek: parousia), here the Greek word is Strong’s # 2064 erchomai , which means “to come or to go”, viz. to come from one place into another, as in Matt 8:9; Matt 22:3; Luke 7:8; Luke 14:17.
Signifying THE ACT (of coming), in contrast with heko, which stresses THE ARRIVAL, as for example "I am come and am here," John 8:42 and Heb. 10:9.
So we would say, that what we see happening here in Verse 30, is that the signs or indications of our Lords impending return, are seen in the ecclesiastical heavens, from about A.D. 1799 to A.D. 1874. William Miller would be a good example of those who saw (the signs given) within that period, that our Lord was due SOON TO RETURN.
Thus we don’t think that the earth here mentioned (viz. “the tribes of the earth”) is the literal earth, but we think rather symbolically it represents the nations of Christendom, during that time. The churches and even the civil powers of the time were actually in a great deal of uproar, because of the preaching of Luther, Miller, and others. While they did not see a literal and actual return, they were still upset, because they saw indications that Christ was coming.
The word "SEE” does not have to be a literal seeing either, in that the Vines definition of this word allows that it could be a spiritual seeing (with the mind's eye), rather than a literal sight.
The word “see” as used here in this verse is Strong’s # 3708 horaó: to see, perceive, attend to – properly, see, often with metaphorical meaning: "to see with the mind" (i.e. spiritually see), i.e. perceive (with inward spiritual perception).
There is a latter part to the presence that will be more obvious (the “epiphaneia” stage, i.e. the "bright shining”), and it may be true that (some thinking people in) the world (as well as many of the Lord’s own professed followers, still asleep) will come to recognize his presence, but that is not what is being shown in this verse.
The True Church now sees with the eye of faith in that they know the Lord is present, and that he is doing important things both in the spiritual heavens as well as in the earth.
Eventually the entire world will see this same thing (during the “apokalupsis” or “complete unveiling” stage of the presence, when the “clouds” come rolling in), and they will mourn at that time, just as we see in Rev 1:7 and Zech 12:10-14. This will be especially true of those who thought that they were part of the true church (Wheat), only to find out later that they were actually a part of the apostate church (Tares), members of the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev 3:9), and have unbeknownst to themselves been on his side all along. This is especially emphasized in the Zechariah 12 account, where it seems to literally point to the Jews first, but then adds in several different families, which in symbol seem to expand the number of guilty ones to include the false nominal system, or anyone who persecuted his body members.” (Revelation Notes, Southern Wisconsin Bible Students Appendix E, Page 675 edited)
We move on to Verse 31 in our next post.
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