"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
The signs of Jesus' Coming
When Christ returns to Jerusalem, He will stand east of the city on the Mount of Olives, head west to the temple Mount, and enter through the east gate of the temple:
Zechariah 14:4 - And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north. And half of it toward the south.
Ezekiel 44:1-2 - Then He brought me back to the outer gate of the sanctuary which faces toward the east, but it was shut. And the LORD said to me, "This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the LORD God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut."
Prophecy teacher Dr. David Reagan gives some interesting insight on the prophecy in Ezekiel above:
"This prophecy in Ezekiel was partially fulfilled more than 400 years ago in 1517 when the Turks conquered Jerusalem under the leadership of Suleiman the Magnificent. He commanded that the city's ancient walls be rebuilt, and in the midst of this rebuilding project, for some unknown reason, he ordered that the Eastern Gate be sealed up with stones.
Legends abound as to why Suleiman closed the [Eastern] Gate. The most believable one is that while the walls were being rebuilt, a rumor swept Jerusalem that the Messiah was coming. Suleiman called together some Jewish rabbis and asked them to tell him about the Messiah. They described the Messiah as a great military leader who would be sent by God from the east. He would enter the Eastern Gate and liberate the city from foreign control.
Suleiman then decided to put an end to Jewish hopes by ordering the Eastern Gate sealed. He also put a Muslim cemetery in front of the Gate, believing that no Jewish holy man would defile himself by walking through a Muslim cemetery. The Gate has remained sealed since that time. The Muslim cemetery still blocks the entrance. The old walled city has eight gates, and the Eastern Gate, and it alone, is sealed - just as prophesied in Ezekiel."
Source: Lamb & Lion Ministries
Christ predicted that He would not only suffer, but also be rejected by the generation at the time of the crucifixion. Therefore, the signs of His 2nd Coming were for a future generation:
Matthew 16:21 - From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.
Mark 8:31 - And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Luke 9:22 - "...The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day."
The Greek word translated "eagles" indicates birds of prey. Some other Bible versions translate the birds as "vultures." The gathering birds of carnage come after Christ strikes the nations at His return, as shown below:
Revelation 19:15, 17-18 - Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.... Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."
Later, we will take a second look at the passage in Luke, when we discuss the "Sheep and Goat Judgment."
Signs in the heavens and on the earth will occur throughout the Tribulation period, leading up to the 2nd Coming of Jesus. These signs were also prophesied by Joel:
Joel 2:30 - "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD."
There will also be global calamities during the Tribulation. Today, we are experiencing the distress from the "birth pangs" that are occurring on a regional scale, but these calamities will become global when the Tribulation begins, as discussed earlier (Matthew 24:6-8, Mark 13:7-8, Luke 21:9-11).
After the Tribulation is over, God will shake and darken the heavens. This event will probably be even more awesome than the signs in the heavens throughout the Tribulation period, as discussed in the last section:
Joel 3:11-16 - Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD. "Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow - for their wickedness is great." Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
Isaiah 13:9-10 - Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.
Christ left the earth in a cloud after His resurrection, and He will also return in a cloud:
Acts 1:9-11 - Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, as He went up behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
We do not know exactly what the sign of Christ will be. Many believe it might be the "Shechinah glory." The "Shechinah glory" is the physical manifestation of the glory of the Lord, which must have looked like a bright cloud. This manifestation of the Lord was visible during the Exodus, and then again as a sign of the birth of Christ to the shepherds:
Exodus 16:10 - Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
Luke 2:9 - And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
The passages from the discourse say that Jesus will return "on the clouds," "in the clouds," and "in a cloud," which is probably both physical clouds and the "Shechinah glory" cloud. Jesus will also return "with" clouds":
Revelation 1:7 - Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
The passages below show that the heavenly hosts are sometimes called "clouds":
Daniel 7:13 - I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.
Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
The following passage supports that the heavenly host, or the armies of Heaven are the "clouds" Christ returns to Earth with:
Revelation 19:14 - And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
Jude 1:14-15 - Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
Zechariah 14:4-5 - And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley.... Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You.
Matthew 25:31 - "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory."
When believers during the Tribulation see all the signs pointing to the Lord's return, they can look forward to the future with hope of redemption instead of fear in the midst of calamity. Even in the last days leading up to the Tribulation, believers should look toward Heaven as they see the increasing "birth pangs" and the signs converging and for the Lord to call the Church home in the rapture before the Tribulation begins.
That said, the context of the passage above is looking to the end of the Tribulation. Previous to this verse, Luke 21:20-24 spoke of judgment and destruction for Israel, which occurred in 70AD. In contrast, verse 28 speaks of redemption, not destruction of Israel at the 2nd Coming of Jesus. Here is a parallel passage of Israel's redemption, which will take place when the Lord returns to rule as King:
Psalm 24:3-10 - Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face. Selah Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts....
Scripture shows that the "elect" are Jewish believers. Angels will gather the "elect" from Heaven and Earth right before the 2nd Coming. The purpose of this gathering is for the Lord to give the Jews their inheritance He promised to Abraham. Recall that God will protect the Jewish remnant in Petra during the second half of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:16-19, Mark 13:14-17). Petra is east of the Jordan River. It seems fitting that the Jews will all be gathered at Petra and then follow Jesus back to Israel, crossing the Jordan River again to receive their inheritance like they did under the leadership of Joshua, which will fulfill the following promise:
Genesis 17:7-8 - "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
Scripture refers to angels, the Church, and even Jesus as "elect" in Scripture, which has caused confusion on which group Jesus is referring to in Matthew. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it is clear that Israel is the group representing the "elect" in the Lord's discourse. Note the parallel wording:
Matthew 24:31 - And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Isaiah 65:9 - I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there.
Deuteronomy 30:1-4 - "Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.
Isaiah 11:12 - He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah 27:12-13 - And it shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will thresh, from the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel. So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; they will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, and they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem.
We can also see that the Church and the Tribulation martyrs are not the "elect," based on the order of events. First, angels gather the "elect" as Christ is coming on clouds:
Matthew 24:30-31 - 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. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Then we see the Church coming with Christ, dressed in fine linen. This event is not the rapture because the Church is not gathered by angels like the "elect," but by Christ Himself (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17):
Revelation 19:11-14 - Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
After that, the Tribulation martyrs get resurrected after the 2nd Coming; they are not gathered before the Lord returns like the "elect":
Revelation 20:4 - And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
It is clear from these passages that the gathering of the Jewish "elect" will occur at the "sign of the Son of Man," right before the 2nd Coming of Jesus. Click here for further discussion on the "elect."
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