THEN PERRY STONE SAID TO SID ROTH...
A couple months ago, I wrote a blog about Matthew 24:14, which I titled, The Preterism Killer. It was about one of the main verses which hold people back from accepting Preterism. In early December, I watched Sid Roth interview Perry Stone and Perry made a statement to the effect that what holds him back from Preterism is Matthew 24:30.
Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth [the tribes of the land] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
Now allow me to preface this. I find Perry Stone to be the most likable End-time's teacher on TV. He is the sort of fatherly and knowledgeable man that I would love to have a coffee with someday. I write the following as an explanation to a man I respect, not as a point of contention or debate. So let's begin.
The automatic, almost knee-jerk reaction [to Mt 24:30] is to think that the disciples were asking about Jesus’ second coming. But if we step back and think for a moment, we will remember that the disciples had no idea that Jesus was about to die and be resurrected. It is unrealistic to think they were asking Jesus about His second coming, which would be thousands of years away. They were still in shock about Jesus chewing out the Pharisees (in all of chapter 23); they weren’t suddenly asking Jesus about His second coming!
After Jesus responds to their first question in Matthew 24:3, He then responds about the sign of His “coming”:
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth [literally, “tribes of the land”] will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30 NASB).
Keeping in mind that the disciples were not asking about Jesus’ second coming, thousands of years later, here is a much more sensible understanding of what they were truly asking. The Bible scholar David Chilton says regarding this passage:
In order to understand the meaning of Jesus’ expressions in this passage, we need to understand the Old Testament much more than most people do today. Jesus was speaking to an audience that was intimately familiar with the most obscure details of Old Testament literature. They had heard the Old Testament read and expounded countless time throughout their lives, and had memorized lengthy passages. Biblical imagery and forms of expression had formed their culture, environment, and vocabulary from earliest infancy, and this had been true for generations. The fact is that when Jesus spoke to His disciples about the fall of Jerusalem, He used prophetic vocabulary. There was a “language” of prophecy, instantly recognizable to those familiar with the Old Testament.
Knowing the Jewish culture, Jesus answered that they would see “the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). Throughout the Old Testament, when God was going to bring destruction upon a city or a nation, it was said that He would “come on clouds in the sky.” In the Jewish culture, the phrase “sign of your coming” had little to do with location and arrival. It was understood to mean, “to come in judgment upon a city or nation,” as we will see in the following verses.
Each of the following passages was fulfilled by the destruction of an Old Testament city or nation:
- He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning (Psalm 18:9–12).
- The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:2–3).
- A prophecy against Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt with fear (Isaiah 19:1).
- Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come (Joel 2:1–2).
- The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. That day will be a day of wrath—a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness (Zephaniah 1:14–15).
- The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet (Nahum 1:3).
Now that we have some of the Hebraic cultural context, we can understand that: 1) the disciples were asking about when Jesus would “come” in judgment upon Jerusalem, and 2) Jesus responded with many signs that would lead up to verse 30, where He would finally “come on clouds” and bring judgment.
An additional point is that Matthew 24:30 does not refer to a global event. Where it says “earth,” the root word is ge, which means “land,” as in the land of Israel. This passage does not use the Greek word kosmos, which would refer to the whole planet earth. That is why many translations use the phrase “tribes of the land” (inserted above) or, at the very least, include it in the footnotes.
So in summary, the phrase “coming on clouds of heaven,” would have triggered in the first century Jewish listener the Old Testament “cloud-comings” of God in judgment upon ancient historical people and nations (see Ps. 18:7–15; 104:3; Isa. 19:1; Joel 2:1–2; Zeph. 1:4,15). Jesus talks about the coming of the Son of Man, He is referring to a coming of judgment, not to His final return.
If this verse has been holding you back from considering the Preterist understanding of Matthew 24, be free!