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.

There is no doubt about this being figurative (as verse 22 earlier no doubt is as well, in spite of my spectacular musings.)  The sun, moon, and stars in this passage are figurative for the governmental leaders of those days, just like the sun, moon, and stars are figures for Joseph’s family in his dream recorded in Genesis 37:9-10.  They will be disrupted by the coming of the Lord, and their glory will so pale in comparison to His that it will be like the sun going out and the moon failing in light.  This is not a terrible thing, as it might appear at first.  Rather it is a wonderful thing, for it is a result of the light of the Lord shining in its full glory on earth at last!

30.  “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.

The tribes of the earth cannot be anything but the tribes of Israel.  This probably refers to those tribal leaders who have refused to flee with the faithful, but instead have stayed in their places and given in to the rule of the anti-Christ.  What this sign will be, however, I cannot say.  It is no doubt the same thing as that referred to in verse 27 that is seen like lightning flashing from the east to the west.  The word for “coming” here is actually “coming,” erchomenon, not “parousia.”  You can actually watch His coming, but to watch His parousia would require watching Him for a thousand years, which of course cannot be done.  Even the Lord will require privacy at times!

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.

There are several soundings of trumpets that should not be mixed up.  This sounding is the one that takes place at His coming that results in His parousia (verse 27.)  The purpose of this “gathering” is revealed in other passages.  Many dispensationalists make this gathering to be something different than that mentioned in I Thessalonians 4:15-18.  Yet this is a difficult distinction to make, for verse 15 clearly identifies that event as taking place at “the coming of the Lord,” the word “coming” being again the Greek word “parousia.”  If one accepts the erroneous translation of “parousia” as “coming,” then one might imagine two comings, a first, “secret” one, and then a later, public one.  Yet when we understand that “erchomenon” is actually the word for coming, and that “parousia” is an official presence because of who one is and what one does, then a dipping down into the clouds and an immediate withdrawal again into heaven cannot in any way be described as a “parousia”!  Trying to imagine I Thessalonians 4:15-18 as describing anything but this same event is a difficult position indeed to justify.

This trumpet, on the other hand, should not be confused with that mentioned in I Corinthians 15:51-57.  There is no mention of the “parousia” at this trumpet, nor is there mention of a catching up, but only of a resurrection.  This is the first “order” Paul mentioned in I Corinthians 15:23-24, the “Christ the firstfruits” resurrection.  The resurrection in Matthew 24:31, however, can be clearly identified with the second order of resurrection because it mentions the parousia, “they that are Christ’s, at His coming” (parousia).

32.  “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.
33.  “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near–at the doors!

Men are easily able to determine the seasons from the leaves on a fig tree.  In the same way, the fact that this time is drawing near should be easily discernible for those who have learned from the Word of God.  Those who are discerning should be able to recognize these “signs of the times” as these events draw near, which they have not yet done.  There are signs of the times currently present, however.  The characteristics of men in the last days described in II Timothy 3, for example, is definitely an accurate picture of the way men are today.

34.  “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
35.  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

This is a passage that has confounded Bible scholars for generations.  Indeed, many people would view this as a great mistake that Christ made in assuming that these end-times scenes would happen in that very generation.  Others, in trying to make out that Christ wasn’t mistaken here, have suggested that these things did happen at the destruction of Jerusalem, and that Christ’s parousia was accomplished by that city’s destruction!  Still others have tried to twist the wording of this passage, making “this generation” to be the generation in which these things will start to take place, and that that generation will not pass away until everything mentioned here is accomplished.  And then there are even those who twist the words of this passage even further, making “this generation” to mean “this nation,” and then saying that Christ was predicting the fact that Israel would not be destroyed until these things are accomplished.  Yet the fact is that the Greek leaves room for no such interpretation of the word “generation.”  This is translation out of desperation more than anything.  None of these explanations are adequate, for the translation as given simply in the New King James Version above cannot be honestly disputed.

Bullinger in “The Companion Bible” suggests that the presence in this passage of the little untranslatable Greek word “an” means that verse 34 contains a condition that must be fulfilled.  Then he suggests that the condition was that Israel would have to accept their Messiah.  Since they did not, the kingdom program has been put on hold, and the parenthesis of this current dispensation has occurred.  Thus, the condition was not fulfilled, and so that generation did pass away and the things mentioned here were not fulfilled.  A better translation of this passage, according to him, would be “till all these things may have taken place.”  Many dispensationalists have accepted this interpretation of this verse.  Yet the fact is that this explanation too is incorrect, for this is not what the word “an” means, nor can the condition of Israel accepting their Messiah possibly be a factor in this verse.  An examination of every use of the Greek word “an” in the Greek text of Scripture will give the reader a sufficient understanding of this word in spite of the fact that it cannot be translated into English.  And such an understanding will reveal that, while this word does indicate that there is a condition that must be fulfilled, this condition is always given in the sentence!  This word is similar (but not the same!) as our English word “if,” which in many languages is likewise untranslatable.  “If” is a conditional word, and yet it cannot be used without the condition being stated in the sentence.  For example, you cannot say, “If, then I will go with you.”  Rather, you must say something like “if you agree to drive, then I will go with you.”  In the same way, “an” cannot be used in Greek without the condition being stated in the sentence.  In this particular sentence, the condition is all these things taking place.  This generation cannot pass away until some condition is fulfilled.  What is the condition?  This sentence tells us!  It is that all these things take place.  To bring Israel’s repentence and acceptance of their Messiah in here is to twist the Word of God dishonestly.  Adherence to dispensationalism does not give us the right to do this, no matter how “honest” our intentions may be.

The problem is that we are not willing to really examine the word “generation.”  Although this word in modern English is used almost exclusively for all the people of a certain age living on the earth at a certain time, it nevertheless is a word that is related to a whole family of words derived from the verb “to generate.”  Thus we see that a “generation” can merely mean “that which is generated,” and can have nothing to do with people or their age and time of life.

These two verses utilize the figure of speech “Pleonasm” whereby something after it is stated one way is immediately after stated in another different, often opposite, way so that its meaning cannot be mistaken.  The first statement may be difficult to understand (but contain more the of truth that the author is trying to convey,) whereas the second statement is given to clarify the overall meaning of the first so that it cannot be mistaken.  So it is here.  The “generation” spoken of was the prophecy that Christ Himself was generating at that very time.  No one was taking down Christ’s words, so it would have seemed likely that these words, like so many others that Christ spoke, would have been lost.  Christ testifies here, however, that the words that He is currently generating will not pass away until all of them are fulfilled.  And His prophecy has thus far remained true, for here are these words, recorded for us in Scripture!

It is useless for us to try to make this generation be a generation of people.  If this is the case, then these words did not come true in that space of time, and Christ is found to be a liar.  We must recognize the figure of speech, whereby we can tell that the “generation” of verse 34 is the same thing as the “words” of verse 35.

36.  “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Notice that only day and hour are mentioned.  Since the years of this period are recorded in Daniel, it will be possible for those living at that time to figure out the year…and perhaps even the month and week!  Any such exact prediction is totally impossible for us today, however, as that final time clock has not yet started ticking.

37.  “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Many jump the gun here and, since it says, “as the days of Noah were,” assume that this means that the human race will keep on getting more and more wicked until we are as wicked as men were in Noah’s day, and then the end will come.  This is not what is stated here.  To find out what Christ means by this statement, we must keep on reading to the next verse and find out HOW the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah.

38.  “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39.  “and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Notice that the way those days will be like the days of Noah is not said to be in wickedness.  What IS said is that, in the days before the flood, men were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.  This is a figure of speech meaning that they were going about their business as usual.  Marriage back then was considered a business transaction, and, as one of the most crucial transactions one makes in his entire lifetime, it became figurative for all the normal business decisions of life.  This passage has nothing to do with gluttony, drunkenness, or sexual promiscuity, as many have tried to make it out to mean.  These phrases occur elsewhere in Scripture and never mean this.  This figure of speech should be understood as what it meant to them in that day: going about the business of life. This is what the people of Noah’s day were doing, suspecting nothing until all of a sudden the end overtook them.  In the same way, the men who have rebelled and followed the anti-Christ will be going about the normal business of life, not suspecting anything is going to happen until the parousia of the Son of Man occurs.

40.  “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.
41.  “Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.
42.  “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

The question here is whether the taking will be for punishment or for blessing.  It would appear that the former might be true since, in verse 39, those who were “taken away” were those who were destroyed by the flood.  Yet this need not necessarily be true since the word for “taken away” in verse 39 is different than the word for “taken” in verses 40-41.  Others read this in the light of the “parousia” of I Thessalonians 4:15, and assume this taking is to meet the Lord in the air as is mentioned there.  This could very well be true.  Indeed, the word for “taken” here is usually the word for being “taken to one’s side, in peace and for blessing” (The Companion Bible notes on verse 40.)  The point of the passage is that two are working together and one is chosen and the other is not.  All should desire to be one of those taken, and thus should watch for the coming (erchomai) of their Lord.

43.  “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
44.  “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Watching for the coming of the Lord is compared in this passage to a master of the house watching for a thief.  He does not know what hour the thief will come, or else he would watch and not allow the break-in.  In the same way the disciples are told to be ready for the Son of Man to come (erchomai) at an hour they do not expect.  But not necessarily a year in which He is not expected.  Men of those days who love the Scripture should have a pretty good idea when that time is near.  Of course, for those who have rejected God and followed the Antichrist, the predictions of Scripture will be all but forgotten.

45.  “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?
46.  “Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.
47.  “Assuredly, I say to you, that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

The teaching to all who live in that day is to be obedient so that when the Master comes He will be pleased with the work of His servants.  That servant will be due great reward!

48.  “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’
49.  “And begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,
50.  “the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
51.  “and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites.  There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This warning is the opposite of the previous verses.  Just as the faithful are encouraged to be obeying when the Master comes, in the same way they are warned what will happen to those who are not found obeying when He comes.  A human master would punish such a servant most severely, even by death!  In the same way the punishment for those who are not obeying when the Lord comes is grave indeed.  And the result of it will be great sorrow (weeping) and great regret (gnashing of teeth.) This will be the reaction of those who find themselves cast out of His Kingdom at His coming.

Although this applies particularly to that day, it is a good thing for all of us to think about…to keep ourselves ready as if Christ Himself were coming to visit us this very day!  What would He find if He did?  Would we be happy to see Him, or would we be ashamed or guilty?