Read Matthew 24:1-51
The disciples are a confusing group to understand. At times, they seem to be unaware of the necessity and unwilling to accept the reality of Christ’s crucifixion and His eventual departure from the earth. Meanwhile, we read passages like Matthew 24, in which they specifically ask about the timing and signs of His return. So, when will He return? Did you understand that from the text?
Before we attempt an answer to that question, it is essential to understand what is meant by “Christ’s coming.” Many readers equate the “coming” spoken of here with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, when Christ will return in the air to resurrect the bodies of those who died in faith in Christ and to receive those who are alive in faith. Together, these go to heaven while tribulation breaks out on earth. That is the “rapture.” But that is not the focus of Matthew 24.
In reality, the coming spoken of in this passage is the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth at the end of the seven year tribulation. At that time, He will return with the redeemed from the church age to reign on the earth (Rev. 19:11-20:6).
As to the precise timing of this event, it is humanly unknowable. In fact, neither the angels nor Christ know precisely when it will take place. Only the Father is aware (v. 36). Like the flood of Genesis 6-8, we can know that it will happen, but we will not know when it will happen (vv. 37-41).
But, while we may not know the precise timing, there are things that people will be able to watch for and other things to ignore. People should ignore the claims of many that they are the Christ and the false prophets that will attempt to mislead (vv. 5, 11). Meanwhile, there will be signs that precede His return. These signs include:
- Increased conflict on the earth (vv. 6, 7)
- Multiplied false teachers (v. 11)
- Worldwide gospel proclamation (v. 14)
- Blaspheming abomination of desolation (vv. 15-18; cf. Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:3)
Ultimately, there will be no mistaking His return. There will be no need to ask, “Was that it?” or “Is that Christ?” It will be visible and obvious to all (vv. 29-31).
Are you living a pure, evangelistic life that anticipates His return at the rapture and, then later, His coming to the earth?