|2 years ago :: Nov 17, 2011 - 11:40PM #51|
|2 years ago :: Apr 07, 2012 - 12:34AM #52|
For the geekier eschatologists out there, here's a little () something I wrote to my Christian mom-in-law back in 2008. It's a verse-by-verse commentary on the prophecies by Jesus on His second coming in Matt. 24. My mother-in-law is the same one who used to consider Bahá'u'lláh the devil but now thirteen years later regards Him divinely inspired (while still can't quite bring herself to accept Him as the second coming).
If you actually decide to take the time to read the commentary, please refresh your memory by reading Matthew Chapter 24 first.
Prophecies of the Second Coming in Chapter 24
of the Gospel of Matthew
A Verse-By-Verse Commentary of Matthew 24:4-51 by LilWabbit
Matthew 24:4-5: "And Jesus answered and said unto them, take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many."
Literal verse. Rather self-explanatory. Jesus warns against false prophets. In addition to those who actually claim to be "Jesus" or "Christ", a false prophet also means any man or man-made creed claiming to offer salvation (the name "Jesus" or "Yeheshua" means "salvation").
By the 19th century myriads of men had claimed to be the return of Christ, both in the Islamic world, the Hindu world and the Christian world. However, today their claims are all but forgotten and they have hardly any followers left. All except for Bahá'u'lláh. In addition to these charlatans, there had been an even greater flurry of new creeds, doctrines, sages and rulers claiming to offer salvation if the people would only follow their teachings.
Matthew 24:6-8: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For a nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows."
Literal verse. Self-explanatory. Jesus highlights that the increasing wars and calamities are signs of His imminent coming. It is interesting how Jesus seems to suggest that when we "see these things" (24:33), that is to say, when we see the beginning of sorrows and rumours of war, then His coming is very near ("even at the doors" - 24:33). He does not say that that His coming will coincide or follow some absolute catastrophic event which will wreak maximal global havoc. Rather He says it follows "a great tribulation" ("thlipsis" in Greek, meaning "pressure" and "oppression", not catastrophe or destruction) (24:21). I will touch upon 24:21 later.
Matthew 24:6-8 applies more to the 19th century than any following or preceding century. The 19th century witnessed many more wars than the 20th century. Most of these wars took place between "kingdoms" (by the 20th century most kingdoms had become republics and the wars were fewer and no longer between kingdoms). They marked the beginning of more destructive, albeit fewer, wars to follow in the 20th century, such as the 1st and the 2nd World Wars. The following list includes only the most notable wars in the 20th century: The Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War between France, Ottoman Empire, Russia and England, the Franco-Prussian War, Russian Conquests, Latin American wars of independence from Spanish and Portuguese rule, the Great Game of Central Asia between the Russian and British Empires, the Anglo-Burmese Wars, the Russo-Persian War, the Anglo-Persian War, the Argentina-Brazil War, the Opium Wars in China, the Mexican-American War, the American Civil War, the Austro-Prussian War, the manifold colonial wars in Africa, etc. Most of these wars took place before 1844, particularly the most notable Napoleonic Wars.
Partly due to wars, and partly by reason of poverty which was much more prevalent in the 19th century than any time later, there was widespread famine and pestilence in many parts of the world. Even in Finland there was pestilence and famine which is well-documented in Finnish history. It is important to note that famines were much more common in the 19th century than in the following considerably more developed century. Pestilence, in the traditional sense of plagues and infectious diseases, is comparatively in much better control today than it was in the 19th century, with the only notable modern exception of HIV. The advancement in the cure of infectious diseases is mainly due to the invention of penicilin, antibiotics and modern medicine.
Seismic technology (namely seismographs) for the study of earthquakes was invented in 1880, rendering any earlier earthquake figures patchy at best. Only by 1950 was this technology globally available. Based on historical records from different parts of the world, in the 16th century there were 253 earthquakes worldwide, 383 earthquakes in the 17th century, 640 in the 18th century and 2119 in the 19th century, marking a sudden upward leap in frequency. Due to the availability of seismographs since the turn of the 19th century, the figures for the 20th century are considerably higher than ever before. Seismologists say that the availability of seismographs in the previous centuries would have obviously multiplied the reported figures. According to seismologists, since about 1900 there has been an average of 17 major earthquakes (7.0-7.9 on the Richter Scale) and one great earthquake (> 8.0) a year. According to US Geological Survey, this figure has not increased in any notable way in the recent decades. Due to the tremendous increase in the number of seismograph stations in the world and great advancements in global inter-communication, the number of earthquakes that we are able to locate every year has increased dramatically, thereby creating the false impression of an actual rise in the number and frequency of major earthquakes. It is indeed interesting to recall that Charles F. Richter, the former President of the Seismological Society of America and the originator of the famed "Richter scale," noted the following in an article published in the December 1969 issue of Natural History magazine:
"It is worth remarking that the number of great [that is, 8.0 and over on the Richter scale] earthquakes from 1896 to 1906 (about twenty-five) was greater than in any ten-year interval since."
That is to say, during the years 1896-1906, every year witnessed 2-3 earthquakes of roughly the same magnitude as the one causing the South Asian Tsunami on 26 December 2004, or the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011. In view of the available scientific data it is therefore erroneous to claim that mankind is currently living, in terms of earthquakes, some prophetic times witnessing more earthquakes than ever before.
Matthew 24:9: "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."
Literal. By "you" Jesus refers to His immediate followers that were all of Jewish descent. However, in this context the disciples are addressed as members of the Children of Israel (i.e. members of the "Jewish people"), rather than "Christians". Jesus was also an ethnic Jew. He clearly prophecizes that the Jewish people (quite regardless of their future religious denomination - many in fact during 19th and 20th centuries were atheists and communists) shall be persecuted and hated everywhere and one of the main pretexts for this persecution is the perception of Jews as "Jesus-killers". Hence, they will be hated "for my name's sake." If this verse is interpreted as a reference to Christians it would indeed seem strange as they have never been, nor are there any significant signs in the world that they will ever be, hated by all nations, and particularly for Jesus's name's sake. Recent history and present developments in fact suggest the very opposite: In the 19th and early 20th century it was the Jews and by the 21st century the Muslims that have been increasingly hated by all the nations of the world. Not the Christians.
The increasing persecution against the Jews in Europe and Asia forced many to move to America and to raise the Zionist call for the return to the Holy Land. However, return was not yet possible as Israel (then Palestine) remained under the Ottoman yoke which continued to impose penalties on Jewish immigrants. There remained a small and ancient Jewish community in Palestine all these centuries which the Ottomans had allowed to remain.
Matthew 24:10-13: "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
Literal verse. Mostly self-explanatory. As to the last sentence, he that remains unaffected by the deceptions of the false prophets and the iniquity of the people, he will be able to recognize the second coming and thus be saved. It should also be noted that "salvation", in its truest sense, means "nearness to God" which is only possible through nearness to His Representative on Earth. "Nearness to God", in turn, is a spiritual process without a definite end-state rather than a one-time event of being suddenly purged of all sin by a literal "entrance" of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, as if the Holy Spirit were a liquid cleanser of sorts. The Holy Spirit is not a one-time cure, nor is its entrance an influx of some spiritual substance into our spirits. It is a spiritual reality above and beyond "entering" and "exiting" (which are simply human terms used in the Scripture to help the simple mind of man to develop a rudimentary understanding of its workings). It is rather a prescription "drug" which needs to be administered regularly to gradually improve the human condition, and its administration requires the exercise of free will through true acts of worship, of service and by studying the Scripture and Creation with a pure heart and a searching eye.
Matthew 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
Literal verse. "This gospel of the kingdom" is often misinterpreted to refer to Christianity. However, "the kingdom", as far as I understand, refers to the "Kingdom of God" to be established on earth, and "this gospel" refers to the "announcement" of the coming kingdom. In other words, the advent to the end days will give rise to many a movement announcing the imminent coming of the kingdom and the end of days. This announcement shall be made as "a warning" and "a prophetic proof" ("a witness unto all nations") to prepare all nations for the momentous times ahead.
The most active period of eschatological movements (i.e. movements promising the end of days and prophecizing about the Promised Day of God) in the history of mankind happens to fall in the early part of the 19th century. The most notable of the Christian movements were the Millerites (later known as the Seventh Day Adventists) and the Advent Movement. The Shi'ite Shaykhi movement represented the most outstanding eschatological call in the Muslim World. There were numerous other movements particularly in the Christian world. A striking common characteristic of all these movements is the significance of the year 1844. The Christians had calculated this year from Daniel's prophecy of "2300 days" until the end of "the abomination of desolation" of the "sanctuary". The starting point of the 1844 calculation is the same Edict of Artexerxes for the rebuilding of Jerusalem which was used for Daniel's prophecy of 69 and 70 weeks, anticipating accurately the first coming. Since Jesus did not come in the form anticipated by all these movements, the year 1844 is also known in history as "The Great Disappointment."
Matthew 24:15: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand)"
This is a reference to Daniel's time prophecy of "2300 days" pointing to the year 1844. Daniel points to a future date when "the abomination of desolation" shall come to an end. People must prepare themselves before 1844, when they "see" Holy Land and Jerusalem still dominated by the Gentiles (Gentiles are referred to as "desolation" upon the "Holy City" and "the Sanctuary") and the Jews are not yet allowed to return. Jesus is even more literal in Luke 21:24 where He correlates the fulfillment of the Times of the Gentiles to His second coming. The present verse strongly suggests that something remarkable will happen in 1844 and it will coincide the end of the Times of the Gentiles.
By 1840s the sultans of the Ottoman Empire became increasingly more tolerant towards immigrant Jews after some seventeen centuries of strict Jewish exile since the Roman Emperor Titus. For the first time since their banishment from the Holy Land by the Romans, the Jews were allowed to return to the Holy Land. These developments marked the end of the Times of the Gentiles. There will always be a Gentile living in the Holy Land and therefore the end of the Times of the Gentiles or "the cleansing of the sanctuary" cannot be literally interpreted as the cleansing of every single foreigner from the Holy Land. That day will simply never come to pass. The State of Israel was officially born in 1948, about a century later, but a birth is always preceded by a conception.
Also a more clandestine event of much greater significance took place in the same year. In 1844 a young merchant in the city of Shiraz, Persia, announced in secret a special message to a small group of 18 youths from around the region who had sought His presence in the City of Shiraz after a dream in which He appeared to them. His name was the Báb ("the Gate") and He announced that He is nothing less than "the Lord of All Ages" and a Herald of "Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest". Nobody other than this young merchant declared a Message from God during the course of that year, and none other lived a life and suffered a fate so strikingly similar to that of Jesus. The whole of Persia was in turmoil after His revelation.
Matthew 24:16-20: "Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither, let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with a child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:"
Symbolic verse. The verse is more a warning than it is a description of another "sign" of the second coming. From Matthew 24:16 onwards Jesus's wording becomes increasingly allegorical. He continues with the theme of Israel. Having referred in the previous verse (by quoting Daniel's prophecy) to the return of the Jews, Jesus now addresses those Jews that are living in the Holy Land (Judea). They too have to be spiritually ready (safe in the mountains and housetops) for the impending confusion, and not prepare themselves for the end (the second coming) too late. They should not remain complacent and carry about in their daily business (e.g. being in the house, breast-feeding a baby). Fleeing in "winter" (i.e. the end of the year) or on the "sabbath" (i.e. the end of the week) are symbolic references to preparing too late - at the very end when the "great tribulation" (a symbolic term which I shall discuss next) shall finally overcome the unprepared. They should prepare "for the end", not "at the end," when its too late. The great tribulation does not have to literally take place in winter or on the sabbath day. Preparation is a spiritual process, not a physical journey to the mountains and housetops. It is a spiritual ascent to a spiritually elevated place where one is unaffected by the increasing disillusionment of the masses, and the clamour raised by various creeds and false prophets which will deceive many.
Matthew 24:21-26: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders: insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold he is in the secret chambers; believe it not."
Symbolic verse. "Great tribulation" is not the most accurate translation of the Koine Greek word "thlipsis" which actually means "pressure" and "oppression". "Thlipsis" is usually used to denote both physical "pressure" as well as spiritual, mental or political "pressure" or "repression". In other words, Jesus says "there shall be great oppression" the like of which has never existed nor will ever again occur. "Oppression" has quite a different meaning from "catastrophe" or "apocalypse" which is the conventional Christian interpretation of the translated term "tribulation" without due reference to its Greek etymology.
While it is true that the prophesied "oppression" may kill many people, these verses cannot be read as a reference to some "worldwide catastrophe" that will decimate mankind. Jesus tells us that no person ("no flesh") shall be safe, even the elect, if those days were any longer. Only those who are spiritually ready (the elect) will not be affected by this oppression. If this oppression lasted any longer, even the elect would not be spiritually safe. The fact that this "tribulation" is mainly a spiritual one becomes quite clear in the sentences that follow the reference to the "flesh": "For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders." Many a pundit and a false prophet will arise and deceive to such an extent that even the elect could be misled if the days of "thlipsis" were any longer. Were the general disillusionment created by these false prophets to last any longer, they would, in fact, deceive also the very elect. But the God in His mercy keeps those days short. These false prophets shall try to tell you where to find salvation and where to find God, but the elect should not be deceived. In other words, the "great tribulation" and "oppression" is actually the great disillusionment, ignorance and error holding the world under its grip before the second coming. In previous ages also the appearance of the Sun of Truth (divine manifestation) was always preceded by the darkness of error -- a day is always preceded by night. The greater the day, the greater the night before. Hence Jesus speaks of "great" tribulation.
When warning about "great tribulation", therefore, the Jesus is not warning about destructive wars, pestilences and natural disasters. Even the elect cannot be fully saved from natural disasters and wars which happen at random and can affect anyone regarldess of creed, colour and stature. Wars and disasters just happen and they claim lives, even those of the elect. People would not be safe from global wars, earthquakes and pestilence in some mountains of Judea. Why would Jesus then urge to find a safe place? Because the tribulation will be mostly spiritual. In the verses following "great tribulation", Jesus warns about "false Christs and false prophets" showing "great signs and wonders." No one will be spiritually safe under such bewildering circumstances except for the elect. The temporal rulers of those days shall only think of their personal interest and material comforts while outwardly claiming to be the upholders of the Law of God. They shall oppress their own people like never before in history. They shall oppress conquered lands and conquered people even more severely. And they shall keep people ignorant from the truth and disillusioned by the false prophets of various new creeds to which they themselves subscribe. Their new false gods preach about nationalism, racism, imperialism, communism, or to blindly follow the whims of the Pope. Indeed, "great oppression" is truly a much more descriptive term of the signs of the times.
Historical facts demonstrate that the 19th century witnessed the birth of more new creeds than any preceding century. The century could in fact be considered the century of false prophets, because most of the unholy creeds of the 20th century were born in the 19th century. The leaders of those times chose to follow whatever creed best served their private interests, leaving the masses entirely disillusioned. Each leader had their own philosophy and each claimed to lead their people to salvation of some sort, as well as to earthly triumph and prosperity. Outwardly the rulers of those days were of course Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus. During the 19th century there were very few democratic republics where people were truly free to choose their own philosophy or faith. The United States was the first one. That is why the combination of ruthless self-seeking monarchs and the rapid proliferation of new creeds provided the ideal playground for spiritual, intellectual as well as political "oppression." According to political studies, the number of democracies has multiplied considerably only in this century while the number of monarchies has shrunk to a fleeting fraction. Most remaining monarchies are only symbolic monarchies where the real power is exercised by democratically elected governments.
It was precisely this emancipation from intellectual oppression and political oppression (status of women, other races, etc.) provided by democracy which has inspired countless artists and writers ever since. People were finally given the choice to dispute the truth of the divines and leaders of thought (false prophets) who formerly reigned supreme in every country and from whom the kings and rulers sought counsel. Racial oppression, oppression of women, oppression of minorities, oppression of the underprivileged and poor, and the oppression of colonized countries was at its historically highest level during the 19th century, not in the 20th century which has been witnessing the gradual retreat of such oppressive systems the world over.
Matthew 24:27: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be."
Symbolic verse depicting the geographic origins of the Son of Man and the places where He shall exert influence. We should not follow what any man claims concerning the whereabout of the Son of Man (Matt 24:26), but rather what Jesus says. In other words, the Son of Man shall appear in the East and move to the West.
The Báb was born in Persia where He also declared His mission. Persia lies East of the Holy Land. The same applies to Bahá'u'lláh whom the Báb heralded. Bahá'u'lláh was banished from Persia in 1853 due to His rapidly growing influence: first to Baghdad in Iraq (west from Persia) and then to Turkey and Palestine which was under the Ottoman sway (west from Iraq). Finally Bahá'u'lláh spent the remaining 24 years of His life (1868-1892) in the Holy Land at the foot of Mount Carmel (Mountain of God), fulfilling another prophecy (Isaiah 35:2).
Matthew 24:28: "For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together."
Symbolic verse. Jesus continues with the theme of the geographic location of the coming of the Son of Man. His whereabouts will be revealed to those who look. It will be apparent by the crowds and the commotion He stirs around Him due to the attention He attracts and commands.
The rapidity in which the message of the Báb spread and the commotion and opposition which it roused is well-documented and is unparalleled in Persian history. The spread of Bahá'u'lláh's message during His lifetime against almost all imaginable odds is even more impressive. During the ministries of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, over 20,000 believers were brutally killed and martyred under circumstances where being a Bábi/Bahá'í was sufficient to merit death. And despite such circumstances, the Faith kept spreading at an exponential rate during Bahá'u'lláh's lifetime. A peaceful message of love and unity aroused the wrath of two great Emperors, the Shah of Persia and the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who joined hands to keep Bahá'u'lláh at bay -- i.e. imprisoned throughout the remainder of His life. However, in order not to make Him a martyr, they feared putting Bahá'u'lláh to death like they did to the Báb.
Matthew 24:29-30: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be 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: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
Symbolic verse. The first sentence makes the symbolism of the entire verse obvious as Jesus cannot be referring to astronomical stars, each billions of times the size of the earth, crashing down on earth from the sky. Neither is He referring to the literal sun ceasing to emit light and radiance, or the moon from reflecting the sun's light. He could, indeed, be referring to solar and lunar eclipses as well as shooting stars (meteor showers and comets) as signs in the sky heralding the second coming. However, the mentioned astronomical phenomena are fairly common and, alone, provide no definitive sign of some special times ahead. The main message of these verses, therefore, is symbolic and not literal. Let us attempt to unravel these symbols.
The disillusionment and darkness of error shall be followed by a great day, the appearance of the Son of Man. The "sun", "moon", and "the stars" refer to the divines and leaders of the former generation and religion which shall cease to exert influence ("powers of the heaven shall be shaken") and lose their following with the appearance of the Glory of God. They shall literally fall from their pomp and glory and their radiance will be darkened by the dazzling splendour and glory of the Son of Man. It shall be as the dawn of the day in the early morning when the brilliant stars and the moon of the night sky are bound to darken and disappear from the sky. The Son of Man will confound the divines of the age just like He confounded the Pharisees in the earlier age. Moreover, God shall seize power from self-seeking monarchs and religious leaders spouting their vain imaginings and deluding the masses. Power shall rather be vested in elected governments and scientific knowledge. This is exactly what happened during the course of the 19th century.
However, before the appearance of the Son of Man, first there shall appear the "sign of the Son of Man in heaven", i.e. a Herald prophesying His imminent coming, like a lone star in the night sky. During the short time of the Herald, the plight caused by the prolonged spiritual night and disillusionment of mankind shall cause even greater sadness. But finally those that look shall see the Son of Man, a glorious and powerful being from heaven (not the literal heaven), appearing in the "cloud" of the human temple, just like He came from the symbolic heaven ("spiritual realm") the first time and appeared in the humble form of a carpenter's son. The term "cloud" is of special significance. Jesus could have easily omitted the term and further highlight the dazzling nature of the second coming from the heaven with great power and glory. Why did He speak about clouds? I do not think that "clouds" is just an aesthetic embellishment to create a messianic mental picture of Jesus sitting on the throne, upon the cotton-like clouds, descending from the sky. These are all naive and literal, and highly popularized, human imaginings, nothing more. The term "cloud" has spiritual significance as it refers to the glory of the Son of Man not being obvious to all, but rather obvious to those who look.
If you look up on a cloudy day, you will not see the glory of the sun for the simple reason that the clouds are blocking the full splendour of the sun. Jesus did not exactly say that He will come down on a cloudy day, but neither did He say that He will come down on a single cloud on an otherwise clear day. The reference to "all the tribes" "seeing" the Son of Man cannot be taken literally as it contradicts with later references to His appearance in secret and stealth (which I will touch upon later). Besides, the roundness of the Earth and the vast distances between places make it effectively impossible for anyone further than 100 kilometres from the geographic location of Jesus's descent to see such a theatrical spectacle in the sky (and God is too great and sophisticated to stoop to such theatrics). "All the tribes", therefore, cannot be taken literally as "all the people of the world". Rather, there shall be people from diverse cultures that shall "see" His spiritual glory and power manifested through a humble human temple. As His influence grows during His lifetime and after His passing (just like in Christian history), His truth, glory and power will be eventually recognized by everyone.
I think it is evident to any understanding and fair mind that this verse cannot be taken literally. If it indeed were literal, none would be found who would dare to disbelieve or to reject His truth after such a dazzling spectacle. Such a spectacle would indeed strip man of his God-given choice to recognize Him for himself, independently and unaided. People of pure heart could not be seperated from those of impure hearts because none would have the power or the will to deny His truth, even the most block-headed idolater. Only a man both blind and deaf could possibly ignore the great trumpet blast and not witness the splendid cherade of power and glory in the sky. God never violates His own purpose for creation, namely that man independently recognizes His truth. He never violates the principle of seperation between those of pure heart who can see divinity behind the apparent humanity of God's Manifestations, and those with a defiled heart who are misled by the humble exterior of the Messengers during their lifetime, completely blind to the glorious Divine Treasure that lies within. The Christians should likewise not be blind to the spiritual truths under these symbolic verses just as the Pharisees were blind to the spiritual meanings of the allegories referring to the first coming. The rabbis of Judaism are still waiting for the first coming. Let not the Christians repeat their mistake.
Matthew 24:31: "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Symbolic verse. By "angels" are meant the holy disciples of Him that shall appear. These disciples, reinforced by the power of the spirit, have consumed, with the fire of the love of God, all human traits and limitations, and have clothed themselves with the attributes of God. Such have always been the true Cherubim. The true Cherubim are not some handsome white-robed youngsters with flappy wings playing the lute, nor any other special order of holy beings mediating between God and the human race. True angels have always referred to the pure and holy human souls. In some cases, like angel Gabriel, "angel" is used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit.
In other words, the Son of Man will send forth His disciples with a great announcement ("sound of a trumpet") of His divine identity and His message from God to mankind. The disciples will raise His call and attract in a brief time a great number of believers from many different places. Naturally, after His lifetime on earth, the Divine Message will continue to spread until it has gathered followers from every corner of the world.
Matthew 24:32-33: "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When its branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors."
Symbolic parable followed by an explanation. Rather self-explanatory. When we see all the mentioned signs: the "beginning" of "wars", natural calamities, disease and "sorrows"; the end of the "desolation" of Israel by the Gentiles after 2300 years from the rebuilding of Jerusalem (the year 1844); and "great oppression"; then the appearance of the Son of Man is imminent, "even at the doors."
Matthew 24:34-35: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
Symbolic verse. Jesus speaks of "This" generation which will not pass until all the foregoing signs are fulfilled, just as he speaks of "ye" (i.e. ostensibly referring to the disciples) in the previous verse as the ones "seeing" all these future signs. Clearly, Jesus is not speaking about physical generations and the physical lifetime of His disciples since they cannot possibly live as long. He is also not speaking about some specific future generation because He would then have employed the term "that" generation and would not have ostensibly referred to the disciples ("ye") in the previous verse. Rather, Jesus is speaking in terms of divine timeframes. He is referring to a spiritual generation; the generation, consisting of hundreds of lifetimes, that shall anticipate and wait for the coming kingdom. "This generation" will be followed by "a new generation" (which also lasts hundreds of lifetimes) which establishes the Kingdom and lives under its reign. Likewise, Muhammad said He was the "Seal of the Prophets" to indicate that He shall be the last Messenger of God to prophesy and anticipate the coming kingdom, for the next Messenger sent by God will in fact be the One to establish the Kingdom of God on earth with the power and glory of His Words. In Luke 17:25 Jesus further clarifies that the Son of Man will "suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation." Here, too, "this generation" does not seem to be a reference to a physical generation since all the previous verses (Luke 17:20-24) expressly referred to the second coming. Why would Jesus speak of "this generation" symbolically in Matthew but not in Luke, while the context in both is one and the same, namely the signs concerning the second coming of the Son of Man?
Jesus further clarifies that generations, even the earth and heaven, shall ultimately pass away but not the truth of the Word of God. Things of the spirit last an eternity while things of the world shall pass away.
Matthew 24:36-41: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of No'e were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that No'e entered in to the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left."
Symbolic verse. Jesus suggests that the coming of the Son of Man will be both unexpected and unnoticed. His coming will of course be noticed when its too late (when "flood" sweeps through). His coming will be unexpected, because know one will know the exact day and hour of His appearance. Some wise sages who have interpreted correctly the time-prophecies concerning the second coming may indeed know the year, but the exact hour remains unknown. His coming will be unnoticed, because the hour of His coming will be missed by many. He will enter into the world in the same manner as Noah entered into the ark, unknown to the people who wee busy with worldly preoccupations. By "Noah", Jesus means the "Son of Man", and by "entering into the ark", He refers to the Son of Man "entering into the world from heaven". When Noah entered the ark, those who claimed to know Him ("they") were actually busy with life and its trappings. They knew Noah and His warning about the the impending flood, but they were too drunk in merry-making to feel any urgency to follow His example. If they had not been drunk with their worldly preoccupations but rather followed Noah, they would have known the day He entered the ark and followed Him to safety. However, they missed His entrance and knew only too late when the flood came and took them all away. Likewise, when the Son of Man comes, His entrance into the ark (appearance in the world) will be unnoticed and missed by most people who claim to be His followers. It will only be noticed too late; when people die and see the truth for themselves, and by later generations of men suffering from all the ills of the world which He had cautioned against much earlier.
Some will notice His entrance into the ark and follow Him, others will not: "one shall be taken" of the "two in the field", and of the "two women grinding at the mill". In other words, before the flood sweeps through, many will not be taken into the ark. Not because God is punishing them and cruelly leaving them behind. God is not "taking" anyone to His ark by force. The drunk ones will be left behind simply because of their own drunkenness which prevents them from seeing Noah's entrance into the ark. In other words, they missed His entrance into the ark due to their own actions. Jesus is not referring to the "flood" as the collector who is "taking one", and "leaving the oher" behind, because it is clear that the flood will simply take everyone who is not in the ark. Therefore, the "two in the field" and "two women" parables highlight the possibility to "miss" the second coming (Noah's entry into the ark) and the symbolism of the Son of Man being seen by "all the tribes", the symbolism of the "trumpet blast" and the symbolism of appearing "in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory".
Christians usually misinterpret this parable by correlating the "Son of Man" with the "flood". Indeed, the flood is unexpected, just like Jesus says the coming of the Son of Man will be. However, unlike the flood, Jesus did not come to kill people with great force and suddenness. The verse becomes much more meaningful when we understand that Jesus is identifying Himself with Noah, and day of His second coming into the world with the day of "Noah entering into the ark" rather than the "flood sweeping all living things away". What is Jesus referring by saying that those who were "marrying or giving in marriage" "knew not until the flood came"? He is not referring to the flood but to the "day that Noah entered in to the ark". This is the only contextually logical interpretation since the whole parable was introduced in its first verse (Matt. 24:36) as a warning by Jesus that "of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only".
As a sidenote, it is interesting to note that Jesus's descriptions of people "eating and drinking, marrying and not giving in marriage", of "two in the field" and "two women" represent, in fact, additions to the story of Noah. The story of Noah in the Book of Genesis contains no specific mention of other humans living in the world except for Noah's own family.
Matthew 24:42-44: "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."
Symbolic verse. Rather self-explanatory. Jesus asks us to "watch" for the coming of the Lord. We should not be passive or asleep. Jesus is not only asking us to prepare ourselves in spirit for His coming. Indeed, He does use the term "be ready". However, He is asking something more: to be "on watch" because there is a real possibility of missing His coming. It is interesting that this verse refers to the goodman of the house in the past tense; as one who has already missed the thief who broke into the house. The goodman only sees the results of having missed the thief (house being broken into, things stolen, etc.), just like when the drunken people missed the ark, they were forced to witness the destructive results (the flood) for not entering the ark at the right hour. Son of Man will indeed come as a thief in the night. The analogy of "thief" who "breaks into a house" at an hour when the goodman is "not watching" is hardly a coincidence, but rather highlights the stealth and secrecy in which He appears. His coming is not only "unexpected", but it will also be stealthy. If the second coming were merely unexpected (but not stealthy), Jesus could have rather used the analogy of "an assassin" or "a highwayman", rather than a "thief" entering and leaving a house without it's owner's knowledge. Indeed, the Son of Man will appear in the garb of the human temple and in a humble manner. Nonetheless, those that have spiritual eyes (i.e. those that "watch" and "look") will see His greatness and glory as clear as the splendour of the midday sun. The analogy of "thief in the night" as a reference to the second coming can also be found in Luke 12:39-40, 1 Thess 5:2, Rev 3:3 and Rev 16:15.
Like the parable of Noah and the flood, this verse also highlights the symbolism of the heavenly spectacles which Jesus described earlier. Every goodman of even the most drunken house could hear a great trumpet blast and see the dazzling glory of the Son of Man coming down from the sky. How is it, then, that he can miss his coming and only see, when it’s too late, that someone had broken into his house? Because the heavenly spectacle is an analogy of spiritual events of great significance which shall come to pass, not a literal episode.
Matthew 24:45-51: "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Symbolic verse. This verse continues with the same theme of "watching" and ends the chapter in the same note. Only the faithful and the wise believer is truly ready for the second coming. He has prepared a meal for God-sent guests when they knock on the door. In other words, he is expecting the guests at the right hour. He has prepared his heart ("his house") for receiving the Words of a new Messenger from God (God's "household"). However, the bad or complacent believer, just like the people in the parable of Noah, will be busy with other preoccupations to such and extent that he will fail to sense the imminence of his Lord's coming. In fact, he will justify his laziness and drunkenness (i.e. unpreparedness) by saying the Lord is delaying His coming.
Again, Jesus reveals the possibility that His second coming will be missed by many -- in fact by most --people intoxicated by their worldly attachments and preoccupations. Jesus continues that He will return on a day when the bad servant "looketh not" for him and when he is "not aware". In other words, it is possible not to "see" his coming or "be aware" of his coming. The non-literal meaning of "everyone" "seeing" the noisome and glorious heavenly spectacle is increasingly more apparent.
"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."