The notes last month dealt with the Lords discourse up to 24.28. The section which follows (vv.29-44) is concerned with the Manifestation, that is, the occasion when the Lord Jesus will return to earth in "power and great glory". In the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians Paul states that the Lord Jesus will at that time be revealed "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1.8), and that "he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (1.10).
The prelude (24.29-30)
At the end of the period of great tribulation "the sun (is) darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken". This momentous event will plunge the world into darkness, the background against which the glory of the Lord Jesus will be displayed. It will show unbelievers that the God whom they have ignored, and whose followers they have persecuted and slain, is in control of the universe. These events have been foretold by the prophet Joel: "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come" (2.31). Reference to this time was made by Peter as he spoke on the Day of Pentecost and quoted these words from Joel.
Against this background there appears in the heavens "the sign of the Son of man" (Mt 24.30). Much speculation has been made over the years as to what this sign is. There is no indication of the form that it will take, but when it does appear it will be understood. Clearly it will differ from anything seen in the heavens down through the ages. It will be a unique sign and all will see it.
The power (24.30)
Then they see "the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory". What a scene this will be. The despised, rejected Nazarene, He who came as a babe to Bethlehem, returns to the world that rejected Him, in power, majesty and great glory. A vivid description of these events is found in Revelation (19.11-21). He comes on a white horse: "While on earth Christ entered Jerusalem on an ass in keeping with the prophetic word, Behold thy king cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation: lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass (Zech 9.9). This time, (he is) riding a white horse, the traditional symbol of conquest and victory".1
The proclamation (24.31-33)
The angels with the great sound of a trumpet gather the "elect". In this context this refers to the remnant of Israel who have been scattered to the "four winds" of heaven. The parable of the fig tree also relates to Israel. Looking at the tree when it is "yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh". It is a clear indication of the time of year. In like manner, when that of which the Lord Jesus has spoken takes place the time is near for His coming "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess 1.8).
The promise (24.34-36)
The generation of which the Lord Jesus speaks is not the generation that was alive at that time, but rather it is the generation that will be alive at the time when these events take place. The words of the Lord Jesus will not "pass away". They can be relied on completely. No one knows the day or the hour of His coming. Attempts have been made to determine the day and the hour of the Rapture and, calculating from that base, the day when He will come in glory. However, the Scriptures are quite clear on this matter. There is no information within the Word of God that can be used to calculate the dates of these events. When they occur it will be clear that the time has come.
The presumption (24.37-41)
Not all, however, will acknowledge that that day is about to come. There will be the presumption that nothing will change. Society on earth will continue. Just as the message of Noah was refused by a generation on which the judgment of God was about to fall, so in that day society will continue on its wild course. As these great events unfold there will be "explanations" given and "experts" will seek to give "answers" to satisfy. When the day does come, however, those who are waiting for His coming will be left and the others will be taken for judgment.
The parables (24.42-25.30)
The first parable (24.42-44) is a warning to the Jewish people. Because the time of these events is not known it will be necessary to take care to be ready for that day. If the owner of a house knows when thieves will come he ought to be prepared for them. But if he cares so much for his house, how much more should he take care to be ready for the coming of the Lord. "In such an hour as ye think not" He will come.
This is followed by three further parables, the purpose of which is to warn of dangers to be avoided. First, there is the parable of the evil servant (vv.45-51). Left to care for the interests of his master who has gone away he convinces himself that the master has delayed his coming. He then mistreats the servants badly and moves among "the drunken" (v.49). He, who professes to be a faithful servant, is himself unfaithful, mistreating those who are good servants, and circulates in bad company. The lesson is that although professing to be a servant he is an enemy of his master.
Second, there is the parable of the ten virgins (25.1-13). Ten virgins go to await the coming of a bridegroom, five are wise and five are foolish. There is no thought here of the five foolish behaving as badly as the servant in the previous parable. They have, however, been remiss in not preparing for the bridegroom to come. They have no oil in their lamps and as it is too late to rectify this they cannot enter into the marriage. These virgins picture those who are negligent in preparing for the Lords coming.
Third, there is the parable of the master who, before leaving on a journey, gives his servants talents with which to trade during His absence (25.14-30). The servants who receive five and two talents traded and were able to give the master what they had earned on his return. The servant who was given one talent hid it and had no profit to show the master. He represents those who refuse to work for the Lord - note that they make excuses for so doing.
The evil servant, the foolish virgins and the servant who hides his talent all are warnings. They picture those who will not enter the Kingdom.
The pronouncement (25.31-46)
The closing section of the discourse covers the setting up of His Kingdom on earth. The first act is to display the execution of His justice as the living nations before Him are dealt with - the separation of the sheep from the goats. The sheep are placed on his right hand, the goats on His left hand: the sheep for blessing and the goats for judgment.
This is followed by the entrance into His Kingdom. Those who enter showed the reality of their faith in Him as manifested by their conduct. It was not salvation by works; it was faith at work which was seen in good works. The remarkable fact is that the Lord states that whatever they did for the needy believers was done for Him.
This is followed by expulsion from His presence. Works are also mentioned here. Having no record of meeting the need of others, they identified themselves as being strangers to the Lord. What was said to them was the opposite of what was said to the faithful: "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me".
This sad final statement details the two differing verdicts on those who saw Him come. The unrighteous will "go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (v.46).
1What the Bible Teaches- Revelation; J Allen.