The next verses are a point of contention, and I personally have not arrived at a settled conclusion regarding it.  There are some who think that the tribulation is an end times event, and that verse 29 launches into a description of Christ’s second coming.  But others, including the venerable John Gill, prefer to retain this within the context of the destruction of Jerusalem.  I lean towards the latter interpretation, though I do not pretend to be able to answer every objection that may be raised.  Given this view, I would ascribe the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars of heaven, to refer to the destruction of the Old Covenant worship system.  Similar language is employed by Peter to describe the glorious event of Pentecost in Acts 2, which language must have been symbolical, because no such astronomical upheaval occurred at that time.  The “sign of the Son of man in heaven” is thought by some to refer either to some miraculous sign that appeared over Jerusalem as a harbinger of its destruction, and by some to the great cloud of smoke which ascended over the temple as it was burned to the ground.  It is true, Christ speaks of “all the tribes of the earth,” but there are numerous occasions in the New Testament where a universal sounding statement refers to a group smaller than all the hosts of mankind.  To note but one example, Paul told the Romans that their faith was spoken of throughout “the whole world,” which universal sound hardly intends that the inhabitants of China or America were speaking of the faith of the Romans. 

What, then, should we make of these words regarding Christ sending forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet to gather His elect from the four winds of heaven?  This certainly could bespeak the last day when “the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible.”  But Gill argued that the trumpet was the Gospel message, which Christ sent out to all the nations, and that the “angels,” a Greek word that does not necessarily denote a heavenly being but can intend a “messenger,” are the Gospel ministers.  The message that they preach is the Gospel, which gathers in the children of God who were scattered abroad under the whole heaven. 

I lean towards this interpretation, because in the succeeding verses Christ seems to indicate that these events would occur within the lifespan of His disciples.  In fact, in verse 34, He declares, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”  Certainly, there were many living at the moment Christ spoke who lived to see the Gospel being preached in the Gentile world, and also witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the levitical system of worship.  

But however we may interpret this prophecy, all believers in every generation may take comfort in the words of Christ, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”  This promise has stood true, in spite of every devilish attempt to pervert and abolish the word and the teachings of Christ.

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