“Emmanuel’s Coming Part 2” – Matthew 24:29-51

July 10th, 2016

Matthew 24:29-51 (See also Mk 13; Lk 12:35-50; 17:26-36; 21; 1 Thess chps 4-5; 2 Thess ch 2; 2 Tim ch 3; 2 Pt ch 2; Bk of Rev)

“Emmanuel’s Coming Pt 2”

Auxiliary Text: 2 Peter 2:1-12

Call to Worship from:  Psalm 130



Service Orientation: The King of the Universe is coming.   But, we don’t know when.   Only an idiot or a fool would fail to be ready for His coming.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. — 1 Thessalonians 5:6


Background Information:

  • There’s much discussion over what is meant by terms like “generation,” “pass away,” and “all these things.” Good scholars have reached different conclusions.  It seems clear, however, that Jesus did not mean that He would return before His disciples died.  After all, He explicitly told Peter in Jn 21:18-19 that Peter would be put to death.  Mt 24:34 seems to teach that all of the things that Jesus has talked about–tribulation, deception, temptation, and persecution–would come upon His disciples, and that others in that generation would see the destruction of Jerusalem as a foretaste of the return of Jesus.  But those things would not be the end.  In the midst of these signs, from generation to generation, followers of Christ are called to wait patiently.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 323)
  • The disciples had asked for a “sign” of the parousia and the end of the age, but Jesus will give no such sign because the parousia will be sudden and unexpected (vv. 27, 36-44). He has urged them, too, not to interpret current events as signs of the end for Jerusalem (vv. 4-14), and while he has himself given them one cryptic sign of when that event is to be expected (v. 15), he has warned them that visible “signs and wonders” are rather the province of false prophets (v. 24).  It would be consonant with that generally negative approach to the sort of “signs” the disciples (and earlier the Jewish leaders, 12:38; 16:1) wanted that the “sign” here offered is not a prior notification but simply the visible evidence of what has already been achieved.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 926-7)
  • (v. 29) The descriptive language of verse 29 is frequently used in the OT to describe chaos and judgment, war and devastation, the end of an era or rule. Hence it could mean primarily the ending of the old age and the inauguration of the new.  This is eschatological language associated in the OT with the coming of the messianic age (Isa 13:10; Ez 32:7-8; Joel 2:31).  The quotation by Peter of the Joel passage in connection with the day of Pentecost provides one indication that this eschatological language is related to the inauguration of the messianic era.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 272-3)
  • (v. 30) The “clouds” are pictured as the Son of Man’s royal chariot, bringing him from heaven to earth in the Second Coming (to the Jews, clouds signified divine presence; see, for example, Ex 13:21; 19:9; Ps 97:1-2; Dn 7:13). Jesus’ second coming will not be as a humble, human carpenter, but as the powerful, glorious, and divine Son of Man.  He will arrive to defeat Satan and judge all people, and there will be no doubt as to his identity.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 479)
  • (v. 30) I believe the presence of this language in connection with prophecies of judgment in the OT is a strong indication for us that Jesus’ language was figurative, but He was describing a judgment event that literally happened within that generation. When He spoke of “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” He was telling the disciples that He would carry out judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70.  He was not referring to His final coming.  Thus, this coming did indeed happen within that generation.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 703)
  • (v. 30) Josephus writes that certain signs were observed between the years AD 60 and 70, one of which was a blazing comet. The people in the ancient world were very superstitious about comets.  The pagan soothsayers interpreted it as a herald of a radical political upheaval and the replacement of a king.  The Emperor Nero was so terrified by it that he had all of his progeny murdered, to make sure that none of them would try to wrest the throne from him.  He was deeply paranoid after that and committed suicide in 68. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 703)
  • (v. 31) What forces of nature the Lord will use to produce this sound has not been revealed. One fact cannot be doubted:  for believers this sound will be full of cheer.  It will announce the coming of the One whom they joyfully hail as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rv 19:16).  It will be the fulfillment of the trumpet ordinance found in Leviticus 25, and will proclaim liberty throughout the universe for all the children of God, their everlasting jubilee.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 865)
  • (v. 31) The return of Christ will be loud, public, universal, personal, and visible. In other words, it will be obvious.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 721)
  • (v. 32) Most of the trees in Palestine are evergreens, but the almond tree and the fig tree do lose their leaves during the heavy rains of the winter season. Leaves return to the almond tree in early spring, but the fig tree waits until late spring.  Therefore, the fig tree is the one to watch if you want to know whether summer is coming.  And since the summer is the season for much of the harvest, and the harvest is used as a symbol of the Last Day (Mt 13:30, 39; Rv 14:14-20), the fig tree provides a perfect parable for Jesus at this point.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 352)
  • (v. 34) This verse is a theological quagmire that (personally) I believe Jesus put in here both to humble us, as far as our perceived understanding of future events, as well as to remind us that we do not formulate a comprehensive, divine, time-line worked out for future events. Therefore, we must live by faith and not be dismayed if the next event on God’s calendar does not match our own.  It was failing to recognize this humble position that led so many to miss Jesus the first time He came to earth.  Let us learn by others’ previous mistakes and not miss Him the second time because we thought we had everything worked out as to what God had to do when and with whom in order for God to establish His Kingdom here on earth.   God gives us these prophecies to encourage our faith.  Not to dictate what God MUST do next. — Pastor Keith
  • (v. 34) The word “generation” admits of the sense in which I have taken it, and seems to me to be used in that sense in Mt 12:45, 17:17 and 23:36; Lk 16:8 [“this world”] and 17:25; and Phil 2:15. The view that I have propounded is not new.  It is adopted by Mede, Pareus, Flacius, Illyricus, Calorius, Jansenius, Du Veil, Adam Clarke and Steir.  Chrysostom, Origen and Theophylact consider “this generation” to mean “true believers.”  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 233)
  • (v. 35) This chapter opened with the disciples admiring the durability and beauty of the temple. But Jesus countered with a different vision of durability:  Only his words endure; only the truth of God survives.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 482)
  • (v. 35) The authority and eternal validity of Jesus’ words are nothing less than the authority and eternal validity of God’s words (Ps 119:89-90; Isa 40:6-8). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 507)
  • (v. 36) Several features in the wording of v. 36, and of the following passage, make it clear that a new subject is taken up at this point (NIV omitted):
  1. “But about . . .” (peri de) occurred similarly in 22:31 to mark a change of subject, when Jesus turned from the specific question which had been asked to deal with the basic theology which prompted it.  Paul uses the same phrase several times in 1 Cor (7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12) to move from one of the issues raised by his correspondents to another (cf. Also Acts 21:25; 1 Thess 4:9; 5:1).  In each case peri de is the rhetorical formula for a new beginning.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 936)
  • (v. 36) It is ridiculous quibbling divorced from the context to say that though the day and hour remain unknown, we ascertain the year or month. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 508)
  • (v. 36) Remember that Jesus chose to limit his divine powers when he became man (Phil 2:6-8). God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient.  Jesus possessed these powers, but chose not to exercise them at most points in his ministry.

Jesus is omnipresent, yet he traveled from place to place by foot (typically) or by boat or donkey (occasionally).  When Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem, he walked.  He didn’t stand in Capernaum and tell the disciples “Since I am omnipresent, I am already in Jerusalem, so I’ll stay here and see you there when you arrive!”  When he walked, he laid aside his omnipresence.

Jesus is omnipotent, yet unless he ate food he became hungry.  Without sleep, he became tired.  Eventually he slept–hard (Mt 8:23-25).  He did not draw on his omnipotence to fill his empty stomach or to refresh his weary body.

Jesus is omniscient, yet he laid aside his knowledge too.  Jesus asked genuine questions in the Gospels.  In Mk 5:30-32, Jesus asked “Who touched me?” and “looked around” to see who it might be.  In Mk 9:16, he asked the disciples, “What are you arguing about . . .?”  In Jn 5:6, he asked a man how long he had been sick.  On other occasions, he asked visitors, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mt 20:32; cf. 20:21).

Indeed, if Jesus had constantly exercised his divine attributes, he would not have led a genuine human life.  If he endured no human limitations, his incarnation was a charade.  If the crucifixion caused Jesus no pain, how could he suffer for us?  If no bodily desires touched him, how can we say he was “in every respect. . . tempted” as we are (Heb 4:15)?

So Jesus truly did not know when he would return.  He did not need to know, nor do we.  He finished his work, so he is ready to return.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Matthew, vol. 2, 381-2)


  • (vss. 37ff) The event predicted in vv. 4-35 has been described as the “coming of the Son of Man,” using the participle erchomenos, which echoes the vision of Dn 7:13-14. The only mention of the parousia in that section was to say that it will not be like the events of those days (v. 27).  But now the term parousia (which does not occur in the Greek translations of Dn 7:13-14) comes into play in vv. 37 and 39.  Since this was the term used in the second part of the disciples’ question, it is clear that that second issue is now being addressed.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 937)
  • (v. 39) Almost all of 2 Peter 2 and 3, two-thirds of the letter, describes the evil of the final days. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 517)
  • (vss. 40-41) We are not told where or why they are “taken,” and the similar sayings in vv. 17-18 about people caught out in the course of daily life by the Roman advance presupposed a situation of threat rather than of rescue; to be “taken” in such circumstances would be a negative experience, and Matthew will use paralamban in a similarly threatening context in 27:27.  The verb in itself does not determine the purpose of the “taking,” and it could as well be for judgment (as in Jer 6:11) as for refuge.  In the light of the preceding verses, when the Flood “swept away” the unprepared, that is probably the more likely sense here.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 941)
  • (vss. 40-41) It is neither clear nor particularly important whether “taken” means “taken in judgment” (cf. v. 39, though the verb “took . . . away” differs from “taken” in vv. 40-41) or “taken to be gathered with the elect” (v. 31). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 509)
  • This section concludes with the mini-parable of the burglar (24:43). There are five parables of the Parousia; the other four include the parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13), the parable of the porter (Mk 13:34-37), the parable of the servants (24:45-51), and the parable of talents (25:14-30).  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 276)


The question to be answered is . . . Who in their right mind would fail to be ready and focus on when the King of the Universe comes to reign?


Answer:  No one.  Therefore, anyone who fails to focus on Jesus’ return is NOT in their right mind.   Many mindless fools will mourn at the return of Jesus.


Throughout this whole long section Jesus deliberately refuses to give the disciples the “sign” they have asked for.  The timing of the parousia and the final judgment cannot be calculated and foreseen.  Readiness for those climactic events can be achieved only by living all the time in such a way that their unannounced arrival need not be a disaster but rather a time or praise and reward for a life well lived and opportunities well taken.  Each parable in turn adds further substance to the reader’s understanding of what it means to be ready.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 936


The Word for the Day is . . . Focus


Why does Jesus warn us to focus on His return?:

I-  Focus on Jesus’ return.  Watch!  Be alert!  Be ready!  Always!  Because Jesus is King of the Universe.  (Mt 24:29-50; see also: Dan 7:13-14; Hag 2:6-7; Mt 24:4, 25; Mk 13:1-37; Lk 17:28-32; 21:7-36; 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Tim 3; 1 Thess 4:12-5:11; 2 Thess 2:1-12; 2 Pt 1:19; 3:1-13; Rev 16:15)  


They tell us that the hour of that event is known to God and to God alone.  It is, therefore, clear that speculation regarding the time of the second coming is nothing less than blasphemy, for anyone who so speculates is seeking to wrest from God secrets which belong to God alone.  It is no one’s duty to speculate; it is our duty to prepare ourselves, and to watch.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 368)


About half of Matthew 24 deals with signs that are not true signs of Christ’s return (vv. 4-26, 32-35).  A very small section describes the return of Christ itself (vv. 27-31).  But a third of chapter 24 (vv. 36-51) and all of chapter 25 (vv. 1-46), a total of sixty-two verses, warn us to get ready since we do not know when that day of final reckoning will be.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 516)


The NT frequently compares the second coming to a thief’s coming (Lk 12:35-40; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pt 3:10; Rv 3:3; 16:15), for the obvious reason that, as Jesus here points out, a thief never tries to rob a place where he knows he is expected, and certainly not at the exact time he is expected.

In one sense, however, Jesus will come in the role as well as with the unexpectedness of a thief.  As far as the ungodly are concerned, He will come and take away everything they have, all the things they have cherished and trusted in instead of Him.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 77)


Some people focus so much on Jesus’ return in glory at the end of the period of tribulation that they exhibit little concern to be prepared now, thinking they can wait until they see the events of the end begin to unfold and then they will prepare.  Others focus so much on the expectation of Jesus’ return at any moment that they have little concern for the long haul, thinking that Jesus will return so soon that they don’t have to make any plans.  Balanced discipleship entails both immediate and long-term readiness.  Jesus’ sayings in the remaining parables and scene of judgment in the discourse are addressed to his disciples, then and now, who are called to be urgently prepared for a sudden, unexpected return of the Lord, but who must plan for an extended absence and make profitable use of their giftedness in the meantime.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 815)


Their preparedness will mean either blessing at the coming of the Son of Man or judgment, so they must keep watch and be ready at all times.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 802)


“Watch” is an OT concept, arising out of the necessity of maintaining constant vigil on city walls against marauding bands.  It also referred to the spiritual vigilance needed to keep people from wandering away from God.  In the context of the Olivet discourse, it is active rather than passive.  A person maintains vigilance not by passively waiting, but by engaging in good deeds and active discipleship.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 484)


Jesus has given them a laundry list of signs, but so far he has not used the word “sign” himself.  Finally, as he is coming to the end of his sermon, Jesus says the sign of his coming will be his coming!  “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.”  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 351)


Vv. 29-35.  This leads to Jesus’ specific teaching about the second coming.  There will be signs in the sky, including “the sign of the Son of Man’ (whatever that may be), a loud trumpet call, and the work of angels in gathering the elect from the far reaches of the earth.  But the point of these “signs” is not that they will precede Jesus’ coming, as if they will be given to enable people to see them and get ready.  On the contrary, they will coincide with Christ’s coming and will be sudden.  If a person is not ready beforehand, there will be nothing he or she will be able to do when Jesus actually returns.  Such a person will be lost.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 510)


Fig trees lose their leaves in winter (while most of the other trees in Palestine do not), and they bloom in late spring (Many of the other plants bloom in early spring).  Jesus chose the fig tree for this peculiarity; since its buds come late, it was a perfect example to picture the delay of the Second Coming.  The dry, brittle twigs getting tender with rising sap and the leaves coming out were certain signs that summer was near.  Inherent in this process is patient waiting.  There is no hurrying the natural cycle of the fig tree.  So all believers must patiently await the Second Coming.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 481)


Christ designed that the day of his coming should be hid from us, that being in suspense, we might be as it were upon the watch.  –Martin Luther


Jesus was teaching that preparation, not calculation, was needed.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 483)


And the reason for this only sane and safe course is the fact that in the very hour (period) when you feel sure that he is not coming, in that very hour he will come.  That is the astonishing feature about the uncertainty regarding the time.  Even those who are constantly on the watch will be completely surprised.  For they will feel quite sure that at this or that time he will not come, and one such time will be chosen for his coming.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 957)


When the Lord begins to descend, the souls of the redeemed leave their heavenly abodes (1 Thess 4:14) and become united with their respective bodies.  The saints still living on earth at the moment of Christ’s return are changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52), and all the saints–those raised and those changed–now go forth to meet the Lord (1 Thess 4:16) to be forever with him.  It is a doctrine of great comfort.  See also Phil 3:20, 21; 2 Tm 4:8; Ti 2:13; Rv 19:6, 7.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 866)


The series of events that shall precede Christ’s return has been described.  The precise moment of that great event has however not been indicated.  Neither could it have been, for that moment is known to the Father alone, and it has not pleased him to reveal it.  The angels, though standing in a very close relationship to God (Isa 6:1-3; Mt 18:10), and though intimately associated with the events pertaining to the second coming (13:41; 24:31; Rv 14:19), do not know the day nor the hour.  Nor, in fact, does the son himself, viewed from the aspect of his human nature.  See also on 21:19.  The Father, he alone, knows.  This proves the futility and sinfulness of every attempt on man’s part to predict the date when Jesus will return, whether that imagined date be 1843, 1844, more precisely Oct. 22, 1844, the autumn of 1914, or any later one.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 869)


Spiritual and moral circumspection and forethought are required; preparedness is necessary.  The watchful person has his loins girded and his lamps burning (Lk 12:35).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 870)


Concerning when that time in history will be, Jesus says, “no one knows . . . but the Father only.”  “The angels of heaven” don’t know.  The Heaven-sent Son doesn’t know.  The highest heavenly created beings and the highest uncreated beings don’t know.  (And yet some Christians think they know.  I don’t get it.)  God the Father alone has such knowledge.  (Pesch, Marcus, 310, adds another thought:  “Even the angels do not know, although they have a part in the End events; even the Son does not know, the Son of Man himself whose Day it is!” (Quoted in Frederick Dale Bruner, The Churchbook: Mt 13-28, 521)


II-  The object of your focus reveals the affections and the treasure of your heart — whether righteous or evil.  King Jesus will judge you accordingly.  (Mt 24:39-41, 51; see also: Zech 2:10; Mt 6:19-24; 10:32-33, 37-39; 13:1-23; 16:1-4; Mk 4:10-25; Lk 8:9-18; 2 Tm 2:11-12; 4:8; 2 Pt 2)


The wicked servant revealed an evil heart when he contemplated the long delay of his master’s return.  He was primarily motivated by the master’s presence; when that was removed, his wicked heart produced wicked actions. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 817)


Even if they knew the precise time of Christ’s appearing and were certain they would live until then, they would be fooling themselves to think they could simply receive Him before that time.  The fact that they will have put off trusting in Christ for as long as they have will be certain evidence they have no sincere desire to follow Him as Lord and Savior.  If the indescribable perils of the Tribulation will not persuade them to turn to the Lord, the knowledge of His exact arrival time certainly would not.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 71)


The perilous signs, the abomination of desolation, the disruption of the heavenly bodies, and the preaching of God’s witnesses during the Tribulation will have no effect on the majority of men.  They will see God’s signs but attribute them to natural causes or to supernatural causes apart from God.  They will hear His Word, in one instance supernaturally preached worldwide by an angel (Rv 15:6-7), but they will respond with disdain or indifference.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 75)


Now what a man says to himself is often even more important than what he says openly.  See Prv 23:7; Mt 9:3, 21; Lk 12:17; 15:17-19.  But within the secret precincts of his own being this particular man is conversing wickedly, irresponsibly.  We are reminded of 1 Pt 3:20; 2 Pt 3:4.  He is saying, “A long, long time is going to elapse before the master returns.  In the meantime let me have some worldly fun.”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 873)


Although this was a profligate generation (Gn 6:11-12), Jesus’ point is not that these activities were sinful, but that the people were so wrapped up in everyday activities that they were caught off-guard because they had no concern for righteousness and spiritual realities.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 801)


Jesus’ intent in the present section is not to give a timetable, he focuses on the attitudes and character qualities that guide their discipleship to him for that time when he will no longer be with them physically.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 814)


And certainly he who, by living in intemperance, has his senses overloaded with food and wine, will never elevate his mind to meditation on the heavenly life.  But as there is no desire of the flesh that does not intoxicate a man, they ought to take care, in all these respects, not to satiate themselves with the world, if they wish to advance with speed to the kingdom of Christ.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVII, 160)


These verses are a warning never to become so immersed in time that we forget eternity, never to let our concern with worldly affairs, however necessary, completely distract us from remembering that there is a God, that the issues of life and death are in his hands, and that whenever his call comes, at morning, at midday or at evening, it must find us ready.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 368-9)


Christ’s second coming will be swift and sudden.  There will be no time for last-minute repenting or bargaining.  The choice that people have already made will determine their eternal destiny.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 484)


Any future event, which combines these two things, absolute certainty that it will happen, and utter uncertainty when it will happen, ought to have power to insist on being remembered, at least, till it was prepared for, and would have it, if men were not such fools.  Christ’s coming would be oftener contemplated if it were more welcome.  But what sort of a servant is he, who has no glow of gladness at the thought of meeting his lord?  True Christians are “all them that have loved His appearing.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 169)


Almost everyone values his or her possessions.  No one is careless with money, cars, or jewelry.  That is why we lock these things up.  We have safe-deposit boxes.  We install antitheft devices and alarms on our cars.  We insure especially valuable possessions.  If we take such great care about these items, things that will all be lost to us or decay over time, shouldn’t we take at least that much care about things that are eternal?  Shouldn’t we be at least equally anxious of the salvation of our souls?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 519)


Coming persecutions and natural disasters will cause great sorrow in the world.  But when believers see these events happening, they should realize that the return of their Messiah is near and that they can look forward to his reign of justice and peace.  Rather than being terrified by what is happening in our world, we should confidently await Christ’s return to bring justice and to restore his people.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 478)


When he says that men were giving their whole attention to eating, drinking, marriage, and other worldly employments, at the time when God destroyed the whole world by a deluge, and Sodom by thunder; these words mean that they were as fully occupied with the conveniences and enjoyments of the present life, as if there had been no reason to dread any change.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVII, 156-7)


Until his lord comes he faithfully does exactly what his lord told him, and his lord finds him so engaged.  He does not sit idly outside of the house looking for his lord and speculating about his return; he is inside, steadily doing his lord’s bidding.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 959)


These are neutral actions that are not sinful in themselves; but they obtain a sinister significance when the total disregard of God’s warnings is observed which underlies this conduct.  These men should have repented in sackcloth and in ashes.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 955)


If professing Christians lived with the great white throne and the heavens and earth fleeing away before Him that sits on it, ever burning before their inward eye, how could they wallow amid the mire of animal indulgence?  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-28, 178)


Let us not flatter ourselves that the heathen will all be converted and the earth filled with the knowledge of God before the Lord comes; let us not dream that the end of all things cannot be at hand because there is still much wickedness both in the church and in the world.  Such views receive a flat contradiction in the passage now before us:  the days of Noah are the true picture of the days when Christ returns.  Millions of people who claim to be Christians will be found thoughtless, unbelieving, godless, Christless, worldly and unfit to meet their Judge.  Let us take care that we are not found amongst them.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 235)


Before the flood there was no excuse for not knowing that God was about to intervene directly in human affairs, for Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pt 2:5).  God never leaves Himself without a witness.  The more degenerate the times, the more definite the testimony.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 459)


Toward the end of John Calvin’s life, when his friends wanted him to work less for the sake of his declining health, he would often reply to them, “would you have my Master find me idle?”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 723)


III-  It will not be pretty if you are not ready for the King’s return.  (Mt 24:51; see also: Isa 13:6-16; 34:1-5; Am 5:18; Jl 2:1-11, 30-31; Zec 12:10-11; Mt 13:49-50; 1 Thes 5:1-9; Heb 11:7; 2 Pt 2; 3:10; Rv 1:7; 6:15-17)


“All the nations of the earth” is an OT metaphor for the universal impact of the Second Coming.  The nations of the earth will mourn because unbelievers will suddenly realize that they have chosen the wrong side.  (This phrase alludes to Zec 12:10-12, which centers on the repentance of Jerusalem.)  Here the scene centers on God’s judgment of his enemies.  Everything they have scoffed about will be happening, and it will be too late for them.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 479)


Even when his prediction began to be fulfilled before their eyes, they did not take his warning to heart.  Noah had built and preached for 120 years, yet without having the slightest impact on anyone outside his immediate family.  The people were so untouched by God’s truth that they did not understand their perilous situation until the flood came and took them all away into a godless eternity.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 74)


It is clear that once this final day arrives, every opportunity still to be saved is gone forever.  The door is shut.  See on 25:10.  The Lord arrives.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 870)


In fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy all the tribes of the earth shall then mourn.  Conscious of their own lost condition they shall beat their breasts, frightened by the display of the majesty of the Christ in all his glory, fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy!  The terror of the wicked, to which reference is made in Zec 12:10, 12; Rv 1:7, is graphically described in Rv 6:15-17.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 865)


To live without watchfulness invites disaster.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 370)


The spirit which leads to disaster is the spirit which says there is plenty of time.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 370)


The most dangerous day of our lives is when we learn that there is such a word as tomorrow.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 370)


The most neglected theme in the modern church is the theme of judgment.  The second most neglected theme is the theme that the church shall be judged:  “judgment [will]. . . begin [with] the household of God” (1 Pt 4:17).  The third most neglected theme is the theme that the individual Christian shall stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account for what he has done (16:27; cf. Rom 14:12).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 725)


The sight of Him in blazing glory will be so unbearably fearful that rebellious mankind will cry out for the mountains and rocks to fall on them to hide them “from the presence of Him who sits on the throne” (Rv 6:16).  But instead of being driven to the Lord in reverent repentance, they will flee from Him in continued rejection, cursing and blaspheming His name (16:9).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 54)


These two Isaiah (13:10; 34:4) texts are the most obvious sources for Jesus’ words here, but there are other examples in the OT prophets of similar imagery drawn from cosmic disorder and darkness; see Ez 32:7-8; Am 8:9; Jl 2:10, 30-31; 3:15.  In most of these passages the immediate context is of God’s threatened judgment on cities and nations, both pagan and Israelite; in the case of Joel the judgment is already actual in the form of the locust swarms which cut off the light of the sun, though this experience is also used as a model for a more universal judgment to come.  In Isa 13:10 the reference is to the coming destruction of Babylon, and in Isa 34:4 to a threatened judgment on “all nations,” which is then narrowed down specifically to Edom.  Language about cosmic collapse, then, is used by the OT prophets to symbolize God’s acts of judgment within history, with the emphasis on catastrophic political reversals.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 922)


This weeping is that of inconsolable, neverending wretchedness, and utter, everlasting hopelessness.  The accompanying grinding or gnashing of teeth denotes excruciating pain and frenzied anger.

The lesson of the parable, therefore, is this “Be and remain actively loyal to the Master, sensibly and joyfully carrying out the task assigned by him, in the interest of those who are precious to him.”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 874)


That unpreparedness is inexcusable is stressed in 1 Thes 5:2-4.  That the coming is in fulfillment of a promise, will result in catastrophic changes, and should be an incentive to sanctified  living, is the teaching of 2 Pt 3:10.  And that for the impenitent the sudden arrival is a source of terror, but for the vigilant a reason for joy, is brought into the foreground by the passages from the book of Revelation.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 871)


Throughout the gospel of Matthew, the figure of harvest represents judgment, the time of separating unbelievers from believers and of condemning the unbelievers to judgment.  John the Baptist spoke of the Lord’s coming with “His winnowing fork. . . in His hand [to] thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mt 3:12; cf. V. 10).  As He looked out over the multitudes in Galilee who came out to see Him, Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Mt 9:37-38).  Without saving faith in Him, those thousands of people, and millions of others like them, were destined to judgment.  That field of people was ripening for God’s judgment just as a field of wheat or a budding fig tree ripens for the harvesters.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 62)


The first outpouring of God’s judgment upon sinful people in the days of Noah has a natural connection with the final outpouring at the Lord’s return.  People will be going about their daily business, just as they were in Noah’s time (Gn 7:17-24).  Just as the flood caught them unawares (and after it was too late) and swept them away in judgment, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man (see also 1 Pt 3:20-21).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 483)


When the Son of Man returns, the mourning will be universal.  All the nations of the earth will realize how irrevocably wrong they have been about the person and messianic claims of Jesus.  Not only will all see his return but they will hear the loud trumpet call that announces his arrival.  The trumpet was used in ancient Israel to gather God’s people for religious purposes and to signal activities on the battlefield.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 226)


The point is only that “persons most intimately associated will be separated by that unexpected coming,” as John Broadus says.

That alone should encourage serious soul-searching.  For one thing, it demolishes any fond hope of universalism, the idea that in the end everyone will be saved since God could never send anyone to hell.  No one in the entire Bible speaks of hell as much as Jesus.  In fact, he does so in this very chapter, saying in verse 51 that the servant who is found to have been unfaithful when the master returns will be “cut . . . to pieces” and assigned “a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  In the next chapter “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is joined to “darkness,” “eternal fire,” and “eternal punishment,” meaning hell.  When Jesus says that “one will be taken and the other left,” he means that not all will be saved.  Many will be lost.  Be sure that you are not among those who perish when Jesus returns.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 518-9)


Worship Point:  Worship King Jesus Who is coming back to clean up the mess we’ve made of planet earth.


After the time of tribulation, nature itself would experience change.  As taught in Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3, the entire universe had become involved in humanity’s fallen predicament; thus, the entire universe will be changed when humanity is changed.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 478)


The second personal coming of Christ will be as different as possible from the first.  He came the first time as “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isa 53:3): he was born in the manger of Bethlehem, in lowliness and humiliation; he took the very nature of a servant, and was despised and not esteemed; he was betrayed into the hands of wicked men, condemned by an unjust judgment, mocked, flogged, crowned with thorns and at last crucified between thieves.  He will come the second time as the King of all the earth, with royal majesty:  the princes and great men of this world will themselves stand before his throne to receive an eternal sentence:  before him every mouth shall be silenced, and every knee bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 232)


Gospel Application:  We will be saved by the work of Jesus, not our work.   That is why we are to look for His return and not our efforts.


Spiritual Challenge:  Focus on the return of King Jesus.  Pray, study God’s Word, do what the King has asked you to do:  His will on earth as it is in heaven.


Hope is one of the Theological virtues.  This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”:  aim at earth and you will get neither.  It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters.  Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you.  You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more–food, games, work, fun, open air.  In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object.  We must learn to want something else even more.  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 118-9)


So What?:  If you are an unbeliever, right now, this warning looks like a bunch of weirdness.  But, when you see His face, you’ll be a believer.  Don’t wait until it is too late to wrestle with the claims of Jesus and His right to rule the universe.


He knew that when he came, faith would be rare on the earth.  He warns us against such skeptical thoughts, with a caution of particular solemnity:  he tells us that, whatever man may say or think, his words will be fulfilled in due time, and will not “pass away” unfulfilled.  May we all lay to heart his warning!  We live in an unbelieving age.  Few believed the report of our Lord’s first coming (Isa 53:1), and few believe the report of his second.  Let us beware of this infection, and believe so that our souls are saved.  We are not reading “cleverly invented stories” (2 Pt 1:16), but deep and momentous truths:  may God give us a heart to believe them!  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 234)




Jesus contrasts this expectant industrialism with different levels of unbelief or faithlessness.  The first three illustrations involve people who don’t listen and so don’t care.  This is the culture we live in, isn’t it?  People are so busy working (“grinding at the mill”) and/or entertaining themselves (“eating and drinking” or perhaps better “wining and dining” or “gorging and guzzling”) that they think preachers like me who preach “repent, judgment is coming” are as crazy as an old man building an ark in the middle of the desert for 120 years (Gn 6:13, 14; cf. 2 Pt 2:5).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 724)


We are not to be unduly encouraged by political events, nor unduly frightened by them.  Charles Colson once wisely reminded the delegates to one of the Christian Booksellers conventions after the president of the United States had spoken and they were cheering wildly, “We must remember that the kingdom of God does not arrive on Air Force One.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 513)


This “power” is Christ’s omnipotence which was manifested in the heavenly bodies (v. 29); and his “glory” is the sum of all his divine attributes as displayed before men (Ti 2:13; 1 Cor 1:4; Revelation; 2 Thess 1:7; 1 Pt 1:7; 4:13).  At one time the Son of man appeared on earth in lowliness and allowed himself to be crucified; but at the end his omnipotence and his great glory will be fully displayed.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 949)


Live as though Jesus is coming back today;

plan as though he is not coming back for a hundred years.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 815)






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