Matthew 24:15-28

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Matthew 24:15
  • Matthew 24:16
  • Matthew 24:17
  • Matthew 24:18
  • Matthew 24:19
  • Matthew 24:20
  • Matthew 24:21
  • Matthew 24:22
  • Matthew 24:23
  • Matthew 24:24
  • Matthew 24:25
  • Matthew 24:26
  • Matthew 24:27
  • Matthew 24:28

Jesus now answers the second question about the sign of His coming.  Jesus makes it clear that no guessing will be needed. If there is any doubt, then it isn’t Him.  When He comes, everyone will know it. 

Jesus is answering the second of three questions asked by the disciples, having answered the last question first.  He now proceeds in reverse order to the second question, which was What will be the sign of your coming?
Jesus begins His answer by quoting the Old Testament book of Daniel. During this time, there was likely a lot of interest in prophecy, and particularly the book of Daniel.  Daniel includes a count down until the appearing of the Messiah, numbering 483 years after the “issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:24-25). It was generally known when such a decree was issued by King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1), and those who were counting knew the time was growing near. But Jesus does not refer to this prophecy, which also predicts that the Messiah will be “cut off and have nothing” (Daniel 9:26). The prophecy of Messiah being “cut off” is about to be fulfilled, when Jesus is crucified. But Jesus does not refer to that prophecy. He rather refers to an event still in the future for us, two thousand years later.  It is highly likely the disciples expected the sign of Jesus returning to be in the immediate future. But Jesus knows something the disciples do not yet understand, that there will be a time gap between His first and second visitation to earth. 

Jesus references another passage in Daniel as a sign of His coming, regarding the appearance of the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet. Jesus advises whoever sees this sign must flee to the mountains. Why?  Because then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved. Jesus is advising those who see this sign to flee to avoid the tribulation, or trouble.  This likely references Daniel 12:11, which says:

From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!

The 1,290 days is likely a prediction of the length of the time of trouble, one month more than a three and a half year period.  But that time will end, and those who make it to the 1,335 days will be blessed. Daniel calls this time period the tribulation. Revelation also references a three and a half year period of great trouble. 

The phrase “abomination of desolation” appears one other time in Daniel, in Daniel 11:31. This reference refers to an event that occurred around 167 BC when the Greek king ruling over Israel banned Jewish practices and set up a statue of Zeus in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, then sacrificed unclean animals on its altar. Jesus is now speaking roughly two hundred years after this event. But Jesus’ reference to the “abomination of desolation” refers to a future episode that will bear the same name. So that event might be expected to have similarities to the episode that occurred in 167 BC.  

Revelation has several references to three and a half year periods.  Revelation 11:3 references 1,260 days that the two witnesses will testify. Revelation 12:6 references 1,260 days that Israel will seek refuge, perhaps in response to Jesus’ warning to flee when they observe the sign of Daniel. 1,260 days is three and a half years, using a 30 day lunar month (which is what the Jewish calendar is based upon.) This period of tribulation is likely the second half of the seventieth week of Daniel, from Daniel’s vision in Daniel 9:24-27.  It is after this period of tribulation that Jesus will return. Jesus is still in the process of answering the second question posed by the disciples, What will be the sign of your coming?

Understandably, during a time of such duress, a time which has not occurred from the beginning of the world until now, there would be a great yearning for deliverance.  And apparently many will come to the Jewish nation claiming to be their deliverer. But Jesus warns them not to believe them. There will be no guessing who Jesus is.  When He returns, everyone will know. Jesus says this about His return: For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. When lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, that means everyone sees it and knows it happened.  When Jesus returns, everyone will know. No guessing will be required. 

Then Jesus says something that seems curious: Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. It is an example of cause and effect that could apply to various aspects of this passage, to emphasize that all actions will eventually have their just due. It also could reference the carnage that will be associated with Jesus’ return, when He defeats the armies gathered against Israel (see Revelation 19: 11-21). Jesus will continue answering the second question, about the sign of His coming.

Biblical Text

15 “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house. 18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 Behold, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.