Immediately After the Tribulation

Daniel 5 court

“After the gods of the nations have been dethroned, who will take their place?”

by Chris Wooldridge

Most Reformed commentators have tended to take Matthew 24, up to verse 38, as depicting first century events such as the initial spread of the Gospel, the persecution of the apostles and the destruction of the second temple. From verse 39 and thereafter though, the tendency has been to view it as concerned with the final judgement, the “tribulation” being understood as something beginning in the first century and coming to an end at the final coming of Christ. In this post, I will be examining Matthew 24:29-31 with the aim of showing that it is also concerned with first century events.

Verse 29 begins with a quotation from Isaiah 13:10 depicting the dissolution of the heavenly bodies:

“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will fall from heaven,
and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

The wider context of the Isaiah passage is Yahweh’s destruction of the Babylonian empire by the hand of the Medes. Verse 10 in particular though is concerned with the heavenly dimension to this conquest, which is the overthrow of the gods of Babylon. Jesus likely has a similar emphasis in Matthew 24, the overthrowing of the gods of the nations, with the saints being enthroned in their place.

Verse 30 shows us the earthly dimension to this heavenly conquest. The tribes of the land of Israel mourning over their dead in fulfilment of Zechariah 12:10. There are also allusions to Daniel 7:13-14 in this verse, which is a reference to the ascension of Christ. The Jews in Jerusalem perceive in part the enthronement and vindication of Christ in the unfolding events of judgement. The verse as a whole could be read as follows:

“Then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven,
and then all the tribes of the land shall mourn,
and they shall perceive the son of man’s coming
on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Verse 31 answers the problem of verse 29. After the gods of the nations have been dethroned, who will take their place? The answer is of course, the elect, the righteous in Christ who have died. They are gathered together by the angels into heaven to form a new heavenly council, to reign with Christ over the nations. All of which was fulfilled in the first century.

Share Button

Comments are closed.