A passage that is often misunderstood is Matthew 24:30.

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

The first part of this verse is often misunderstood, because it has been incorrectly translated. I have given a literal translation of the Greek text. The verse is often interpreted (and translated) as if it was a description of the second coming. There are a number of reasons why this is not true.

  1. This is one of the events that Jesus said must happen before the generation listening had passed away. That generation did not see the second coming, so Jesus must have been describing something else. Various interpreters have twisted these words to give them a futuristic meaning, but the most obvious meaning is that Jesus was speaking to those who were listening.

  2. Jesus told the high priests that they would see the same thing.

    The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes (Matt 26:63,64).

    The priest who tried Jesus did not see the second coming, but they did see the fall of Jerusalem.

  3. It is not the Son of Man who appears in the heavens. The sign that he is in heaven appears. It is a sign that appears, not the Son of Man.

  4. The Greek word translated as "coming" is erchomai. Jesus uses a different word (parousia) in the second part of the chapter, when speaking about the second coming (Matt 24:27,37,39). It means "coming, appearing or presence". The fact that Jesus uses a different word here is an indication that he is not speaking of the second coming.

  5. Jesus had already made it clear that his second coming has no connection with the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 24:23-28). The event described in this verse comes "immediately" after it.

The verse is actually speaking about the vindication of Jesus. A sign proving that he is in heaven will appear on the earth. Events on earth will prove that Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God, ruling over the whole of creation. Jesus is telling his disciples that the time will come when he will be vindicated. The sign of Jesus' vindication was the destruction of Jerusalem. It was destroyed in an exact fulfilment of his words. This was proof that what he said was true. It also meant the destruction of those who opposed him, which proved that God was with him. By putting an end to the Jewish system of sacrifices and offerings, God was showing that Jesus was the true saviour. The destruction of the capital city was a sign that Jesus is crowned as king in heaven. (The advance of the gospel described in Matthew 24:31 was also part of that sign.)

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