Matthew 24:29-31 Part 2

Today’s dispensationalists interpret verse twenty-nine of our text as astronomical phenomena associated with the second “coming” of Christ (sometime in the very near future.)  What I haven’t read yet is how the earth will continue to exist during His “thousand year reign” if all the lights are gone!  If all the stars fall from the heavens and there are no galaxies and no solar system, how does the earth and all of its people function with no light and no heat?

Some dispensationalists would then say, “Well then, this must be the endfinal judgment and total destruction of the world!”  But, of course, that can’t be – since, in their system, verse thirty-one has to be the rapture of the Church!  If Christ gathers up all of His people at the end of the universe and the destruction of the world, then there’s no time for the “thousand year reign of Christ” from the city of Jerusalem!

Questions such as these (and you can probably think of better ones – these are simple ones given to illustrate) have caused dispensationalists to break up into pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation and post-tribulation camps; and have necessitated as many as three or four “second-comings” of Christ and three or four different judgments!  Still others have reverted solely to the “system” alone (for their own safety), because there they don’t have to deal with the particulars of the text!

But those who do want to deal with the text say, “Take it literally!  Deal with the words!  What does it say?  ‘The stars will fall from the heaven!’  Did that happen in 70 AD?  No!” they say.  “That can only be the end of the world!  You postmillennialists need to take the words seriously!”

But then a postmillennialist reads verse thirty-four to them – “truly I say to you, this generation will in no way pass by until every one of these things comes to be….” – and asks them what those words mean!  If it’s a literal interpretation they want, then what’s the literal interpretation of verse thirty-four?!

But in the dispensationalists’ mind literal interpretation doesn’t fit the system.  They must quit literalism (as they define it; I call it “static”) when it seems appropriate to them, and demand it at other times!  It’s a very disingenuous hermeneutic; and it’s always “driven” by the system that they’ve imposed on the Scripture!

In answer to the question about verse thirty-four, dispensationalists would say, “Oh, well, with God a thousand years is as a day, and a day is as a thousand years!” 

(We touched on this last Lord’s day….[mocking Pharisees])

Oh!  Well, what about a literal interpretation of “this generation!”  “…this generation will in no way pass by until all these things come to be”?  That’s what the words say!

“Well, ‘generation’ doesn’t have to be thirty or forty years.  It can be a much longer time!”

But that’s not literal!  And where in the text of Scripture can you prove that the word “generation” can be hundreds or even thousands of years long?  Jesus said that “all these things would happen in this generation”; and included in “this generation” is “the stars falling from the heaven” (verse twenty-nine).  Since, in your system, “the stars falling from the heaven” hasn’t happened yet, then “this generation” must be, at least, two thousand years old!  Name one place in the Scriptures where a generation is more than thirty or forty years long!”  And, of course, there are none.

Now, what I mean by “the hermeneutic being system driven” is, that the means of Biblical interpretation is based on the eschatological model of dispensationalism.  And in that system the assumption is made, at the beginning, that all of this is eschatology!  Eschatology is the doctrine of the last things!

So a system was developed based on the assumption that the second advent of Jesus would inaugurate the beginning of prophetic fulfillment!  Therefore the hermeneutic – the means of interpretation – in dispensationalism is system driven rather than arising from the text of Scripture!

But Reformed believers know (and the whole Church has to hear it) that the interpretation of Scripture must be text driven and not system driven!  In Malachi three, six we read, “I Am Yahveh, I do not change.”  Therefore the Word of God, revealed progressively through history, reveals an absolutely reliable God.  And men can depend on that Word from beginning to end!

Whatever God said, it is done.  Whatever He promised, that He will do.  The Bible is a written covenant revealing God’s person, attributes and purpose.  And it must be interpreted covenantally.  And what that means is that every part of Scripture agrees with every other part; therefore Scripture is its own best interpreter!

God doesn’t speak and act one way in a given period of time and then stop speaking and acting in that way when that time period ends.  That’s dispensationalism.  And that’s why the fundamentalists can preach and teach that the dispensation of Law (for example) is no longer in effect.  God spoke the “Law” when there was a purpose for it, they say; but when that time period (dispensation) was over – it was over!  We’re in another period of time now.

You can see then for yourself how difficult that would make interpreting Scripture!  A given passage of Scripture would have little or no support from any section having to do with another dispensation, because God may have spoken and acted differently then!

So with little insight from other portions of Scripture, the interpretation of a given book, or passage, tends to be arbitrary.  (If the rest of the Bible is dispensationally obsolete, then a man’s feeling, or his belief, or his system becomes the basis for interpretation, doesn’t it?  And that’s exactly what has happened.)

I was playing with the “seek” button on the radio in my vehicle just the other day, and the scanner stopped on a strong station out of Louisiana.  And a guy was “preaching” on eschatology (and I use the term preaching “compassionately”).  So I listened for a few minutes (with sadness for a little while… which turned into anger).  He was “preaching” a sermon on Revelation six through eighteen (chapters six through eighteen!).  I was strongly suspecting what I was about to hear; and he said it right away!  “Chapters six through eighteen,” he said, “is a horrible depiction of the great tribulation soon to come!”

He said He wasn’t going to be here for it (indicating that he would be raptured out to be with Christ – pre-tribulation rapture); and he challenged everybody listening to him to search themselves concerning whether they were going to be here for it (indicating, of course, that those who were here for it didn’t belong to Christ and therefore weren’t a part of the rapture!).

And he said that during this terrible, seven-year judgment upon the whole earth (very soon to come), the “mark of the beast” would be applied!  Of course my mind jumped right on that – because why would people have to be “marked” if the Church is gone?!  Everybody left after the rapture would be non-believers!

But the worst was yet to come!  When he started talking about the “mark” itself, he related it to IRS computerization, and social security numbers, and tissue-implant identification, and other forms of “marks” with which people are presently familiar!  Never once did he bring to bear on this subject any of the many Older Testament passages of Scripture concerning the “mark”!  (This is especially specious, since the Revelation is the “fullness” of Old Testament prophecy, and has as many as six hundred direct references to the prophets!)

And that’s the “mark” of dispensationalism, isn’t it?  All the rest of Scripture is obsolete in the system.  And whatever the verse says right now… at the moment… today, is given an interpretation!  (And that’s why I call it “static” interpretation.)  It’s however a man sees it, or feels about it, as he reads it today!

One man’s interpretation, then, becomes just as good (or bad) as another man’s.  It’s arbitrary.  So it comes down to whoever gets to the most with the most exciting message!  One man’s arbitrary message has a “feelings stimulus package” in it.  And it may be much better than the “feelings stimulus package” in another man’s arbitrary message!

But yet another man’s arbitrary message may have an “excitement modem.”  And another may “startle and shock.”  But whatever the arbitrary message is – it’s deceptive and manipulative.

But since God’s Word is covenantal (not dispensational) then it must be interpreted “covenantally.”  In other words it is a whole, it’s all perfectly reliable, and it all agrees!  Therefore it’s pretty easy to see, when the prophets spoke of “universal disintegration” with regard to Israel’s future destruction, (and Jesus quotes them here in verse twenty-nine almost word for word), that there is no arbitrary message here!  The interpretation comes directly out of God’s Word itself!  (That’s my definition of “literal”!)

No matter how intense a dispensationalist might sound with regard to a (near) future cataclysmic end of the world, and no matter how frightened his listeners may become while listening to his interpretation of verse twenty-nine, it’s still an arbitrary, manipulative message!  It has no basis in God’s covenantal Word.

And the same thing is true of verse thirty, isn’t it?  Let me read it again for you while you look at your copy: “


“…and then the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven will be manifested; and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with great glory and power.”


A whimsical and capricious view of this verse (ultimately insolent) would have a very near second coming of Christ, preceded by a sign from heaven!  But that’s not what the verse says!  Over and above the Theological implications and the Scripture’s historical data, the grammar requires something totally different!

Dispensationalists, in the process of interpreting this passage, are demanding, as the Pharisees did, a sign from heaven!  Remember what Jesus told Israel’s leadership when they asked for an exhibition of proof that God had authorized Him?  He said, “I give you no sign except the sign of Jonah!”  In other words, there was no “sign from heaven authorizing Jesus; Jonah’s life and preaching was living prophecy of the coming “Light” of Christ to the Gentiles, who would repent and receive forgiveness from God!

So there was no “sign from heaven”; there was the prophetic Word, which, as Peter said, is more sure than what you see!  That was the authorization of Jesus Christ; any “sign” from heaven to authorize Him would have been superfluous!  And some “anticipated sign from heaven” of the “soon coming” second advent of Christ is certainly pharisaical, to say the least!

But, as I said, one only has to look at the grammar of verse thirty to be instructed in the Truth.  And the grammatical construction of the sentence explicitly states that it is the Son of Man Who is in heaven – not the sign!  The words, “in heaven,” defines the location of the risen and glorified Christ!  It doesn’t define the location of the sign!

And there will be a visible, public manifestation that the Son of Man is in heaven!  Remember that the only place in the Older Testament Scriptures where Jesus Christ is designated “the Son of Man” is in Daniel – where Christ comes to the right of God the Father and receives all Power and Glory and a Kingdom!

And here in verse thirty Jesus says that the sign will be manifested that that has occurred!  In other words, there will be an explicit public demonstration, a prominent event visible for all to see, indicating that Jesus Christ has received all Power and Glory and a Kingdom from His Father in Heaven!  So the “sign” is not in heaven; neither is it for the purpose of “authorizing” Jesus so that men will know that it is Him; neither is it some unearthly, astronomical phenomenon!

And when that very public event occurs, “all the tribes of the Earth will mourn!”  Those are the direct words of prophecy!  And they come from Isaiah and Jeremiah and Daniel and Hosea and Amos and Zechariah!  Jesus is quoting the prophets!

The earth is the land of Israel; the tribes are the tribes of Israel; the “mourning” is the lamenting and the beating of the breasts and the tearing of the hair and the wailing – in shock and astonishment at what has happened to Israel and to Jerusalem and to the temple!  Listen:  Jeremiah four, verse twenty-eight:


“…for thus hath the Lord said, ‘the whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end?  For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black; because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent; neither will I turn back from it.  The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen… every city shall be forsaken, and not a man dwell therein….”


Zechariah twelve:  “In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem… and the land shall mourn, every family apart.”  Zechariah then goes on to list the tribes of Israel who will mourn over all that will occur.  And it is the whole event that is mourned – from the murder of Christ in Jerusalem, to the ascension of Christ to the right of God in Power, to the manifestation of that Power in the destruction of the old covenant nation.

So the “sign” of the Son of Man in heaven is that which brings this day of universal disintegration and blackness and great grief and astonishment.  It is the shock and horror of the end – the termination of all there had been.

But let’s not fail to mention also the proclamation, by the prophets, of the joy which follows the mourning… the new Kingdom, the new Jerusalem, the new temple; the creation of a new universe in which righteousness dwells, and the Light is Christ, and there is Peace unto men with Whom God is well-pleased!  God never fails to provide the hope and anticipation of human salvation for all His people.

Now, as we move toward closing this morning, it is the last phrase of verse thirty which so epitomizes the glory of the newly-crowned King and His Kingdom; but also so epitomizes the depth of blindness in dispensational static interpretation.  Here’s what it says again:  “…and they (the tribes of the earth) will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory!”

Of course the Church can continue to look up at the clouds all day… in anticipation of the “coming” of Christ.  She can do anything she wants with regard to clouds!  But she can’t take it from this verse!

Because, as we read earlier, Jesus refers His disciples back to that only prophecy where He is named “The Son of Man” – Daniel chapter seven, verses thirteen through fourteen. 

“I saw in the night-visions and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him,  And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a Kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom one which shall not be destroyed.”


Daniel “sees” the event in which Jesus receives His authority!  The risen Lord approaches His Father, the Ancient of Days, above His glory cloud/throne-room, and is given all power in heaven and earth!

And our Lord, speaking to His disciples here, two days before His crucifixion, uses the exact same language as that in the prophet’s vision!  Regardless of the “shock and astonishment package” inserted into a dispensationalist’s preaching, these two passages of Scripture are eternally and irrevocably connected.  One would have to “try” to miss it!  Only a “system-driven” hermeneutic could blind men to such a degree that they would neglect that which is so obvious.

But Jesus informs His disciples that the tribes of Israel will see it!  In the same way Paul uses “to see” in Romans fifteen… they’ll “see” it.  In writing to the Roman Church he says, in verse twenty-one:  “But as it is written, to whom he was not spoken of, they shall see; and they that have not heard shall understand.”

The tribes of Israel shall “see” the obvious authority which is given to “The Son of Man,” for it shall be “manifested.”  The powers of the heavens will be shaken; the universe which God made for Himself will be dissolved; the Gentiles will come into the New Temple; and the tribes of the Land will mourn at the fearsome deeds of the newly-crowned King!

Next Lord’s Day we’ll complete the exposition of these three critical verses as we “see” the results of the filling of the New Covenant temple.  For Christ the King not only exhibited His great authority in judgment and destruction, but also in His grace.