by Paul George
Sign of the Son of Man
The disciples of Jesus ask Him, ” Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” This passage answers the question about the sign of Christ’s coming.
The sign and His coming are separate events. Based upon what has preceded this verse, we know that the stage for His dramatic return begins in verse 29 with a shaking of the sun, moon and stars. This produces a blackout of the sky preparing the way for the appearance of the sign of the Son of Man, followed by the response of human mourning and fear, resulting in the second coming of Christ. This sequence of events will unfold in Jerusalem, even though they will have a global impact. The sign of the Son of Man will be some form of the manifestation of the Shekinah Glory. The Shekinah Glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God, often showing up in the form of a cloud, light, fire, or combinations of these. The Hebrew word Shekinah does not appear in the biblical text. The Jewish rabbis coined this extra-biblical expression called the “Shekinah Glory,” in order to distinguish those biblical passages where they believe that a physical glory cloud or light was present when the Hebrew word for “glory” was used. Shekinah is a form of a Hebrew word that literally means, “he caused to dwell,” signifying that when God’s glory appeared in this way it was a Divine visitation of the presence or dwelling of God in the glory cloud.
The first part of Matthew 24:30 looks back to Zechariah 12:10. However, it is important to notice that in Zechariah the mourning of 12:10 is explained by the verses that follow. It is a repentant lamentation by Israel because it results in the purification of the nation (Zechariah 13:1). Rather than prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, it is predicting the opposite. “And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:9). This is the tenor of Zechariah 12:1-8. It looks ahead to God’s future deliverance of Israel when enemies will again surround Jerusalem. “In that day” is prophetic of a time of deliverance of Israel, not judgment. It is clear that the context of Zechariah is a mourning that results in cleansing and deliverance for Israel. Whatever the sign of the Son of Man is, it results in the national repentance of Israel. This parallels perfectly what Paul says in Romans 11:25-27. This explanation of Matthew 24:30a sets the stage for the understanding of the last half of the verse.
In the vision of Daniel 7:13 the Son of Man came up to the Ancient of Days to receive the dominion to rule. However, the Hebrew verb has no idea of direction; it simply means to arrive or to reach. This specific verb is only used in Daniel where it may refer to something reaching up as Nebuchadnezzar’s greatness did in Daniel 4:22. It has no intrinsic sense of direction. Nor does the following preposition indicate direction in itself. The construction simply means the Son of Man approached the Ancient of Days. However, even if it describes the Son of Man coming up to the Ancient of Days, it only looks at the bestowment of authority.
In summary, Matthew 24:30 describe a visible appearance of the sign of the Son of Man, the repentance of Israel and the triumphant return of Christ to reign on planet earth and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because they will see the undeniable sign of the returning Christ. Most importantly, the verse goes on to say, “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” This has to be a reference to the visible, bodily, physical return of Jesus Christ to planet earth; this did not happen in a.d. 70. This cannot refer to a symbolic, naturalistic interpretation that somehow Jesus returned in conjunction with the Roman army in the first century. Jesus said, “they will see the Son of Man.”