Thanks for a great web site.
Too often, people mix the events from the destruction of Jerusalem with the events dealing with the end of the world. This leads people to believe they can predict the end of the world, even though Jesus clearly states that there will be no warning. You will not know years, months, weeks, or even days in advance of Jesus' return. You will not have a chance to make last minute preparations. You must be prepared for the master to return at any moment. Are you ready?
However, how do you explain…
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. (Matthew 24:27).
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 (Matthew 24:29).
"The moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven."
Apparently, Jesus believed that the moon produces its own light, and that the stars are lights held in place by a firmament only a few miles above our heads.
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 (Matthew 24:30)
"They shall see the Son of Man." (?)
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 (Matthew 24:31).
As the article "Understanding Matthew 24" explains, Jesus used the descriptive terminology of the prophecies to explain the destruction of Jerusalem.
"For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:27).
Lightning is noticeable from a long distance, much further than the immediate area in which its destructive power strikes. Lightning's destruction is swift, powerful, and startling sudden. Jesus states that his coming will be similar.
The concept of coming, especially with lightning, is a statement of a king coming in judgment. It can refer to Jesus' coming at the end of the world (Psalm 96:12-13; James 5:8; II Peter 3:4). But it has also been used to talk about God coming in judgment on particular nations.
"Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it" (Isaiah 13:9, regarding the destruction of Babylon).
"Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the LORD'S fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the LORD'S anger comes upon you!" (Zephaniah 2:1-2, introducing the judgment upon the nations surrounding Israel).
"For I have bent Judah, My bow, fitted the bow with Ephraim, and raised up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and made you like the sword of a mighty man." Then the LORD will be seen over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning. The Lord GOD will blow the trumpet, and go with whirlwinds from the south" (Zechariah 9:13-14, concerning the destruction of Greece).
"Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city" (Zechariah 14:1-2, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem).
The terms are even used on an individual scale. When David was rescued from the hand of Saul, he wrote:
"The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, the foundations of the world were uncovered at Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me" (Psalms 18:4-17).
Or being saved from sinners in general:
"LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. Bow down Your heavens, O LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Flash forth lightning and scatter them; shoot out Your arrows and destroy them. Stretch out Your hand from above; rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouth speaks vain words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood" (Psalms 144:3-8).
"For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together" (Matthew 24:28).
Jesus is telling his audience that they will see the judgment of Jesus because they will see the Roman armies (the eagles) surrounding the dying Jerusalem (the carcass). Too often people who read the statements in Matthew 24 will pull select statements ignoring that they flow together. Notice that you skipped this one statement that is clearly about the destruction of Jerusalem, though it is in the middle of the statements you are trying to understand.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Matthew 24:29).
No, Jesus did not believe the moon had its own source of light or the stars were fixed on a canopy. No more than you believe the earth is fixed even though you have said the sun rose or set today. Technically the sun doesn't rise or set -- the earth rotates -- but the terminology is appropriate because it is how it appears relative to our viewpoint. Just as we talk about moonlight, though it is actually the reflection of the sun's light. You cannot fault Jesus for doing what you do yourself.
Even though the verses before are filled with symbolism (lightning, carcass, eagles), yet in this particular verse you chose to switch to literal meanings for the terms. In symbolic language, the sun, moon, and stars represent the governing powers of a nation.
"Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:9-13, regarding the destruction of Babylon).
"When I put out your light, I will cover the heavens, and make its stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of the heavens I will make dark over you, and bring darkness upon your land,' says the Lord GOD. I will also trouble the hearts of many peoples, when I bring your destruction among the nations, into the countries which you have not known" (Ezekiel 32:7-9, regarding the destruction of Egypt -- Pharaoh being the light put out by his death).
"Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD. Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow - for their wickedness is great." Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel" (Joel 3:11-16, concerning God's judgment on the nations surrounding Israel).
"And it shall come to pass in that day," says the Lord GOD, "that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight; I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist, and baldness on every head; I will make it like mourning for an only son, and its end like a bitter day" (Amos 8:9-10, speaking of the captivity of Israel).
A light going out is a way of talking about death or destruction (Job 18:5-6). A person or a nation's light is its influence in the world (Matthew 5:14-16); therefore, a light being put out is a removal of that person or nation's power and influence in the world.
"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).
This passage was discussed in detail in "Could you explain Matthew 24:30?" So I won't repeat the information here.
"And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31).
This expresses the concept of protection, the gathering up of those under someone's care so they are close by and shielded. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37).
"He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12).
"So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem" (Isaiah 27:13).
"Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' And to the south, 'Do not keep them back!' Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth - everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him" (Isaiah 43:4-7).
While Jerusalem will be destroyed, Jesus is promising to shelter those who are under his care from that destruction.