The word parousia is a Greek word denoting a return or arrival of some one. Our subject therefore deals with the return of Christ, His second advent. To be still more specific this article treats “The sign of the Son of Man” in that return. We should also notice that we are not writing about different signs, but about the sign of His coming. Scripture often speaks about thelse various signs that show His coming and His nearness. There is the sign of the Gospel being preached over the whole earth, the sign of the ever-increasing apostacy of the church, the sign of wars and judgments upon the nations, the sign of the coming of the Antichrist, and many others. But our title suggests that there is one particular and outstanding one. It is a sign that will be recognized and read by all. The whole world will see it. Scripture also teaches that it will appear shortly before Christ’s personal return upon the clouds of heaven. You perhaps have also noticed that “The sign of the Son of Man” is written in quotation marks. This because it is a quotation from. “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.”
In this well known chapter Jesus speaks in a detailed manner about the things that will take place in the last days and His subsequent return. But the entire chapter als well as the following one is colored by the question asked by the disciples. Jesus had to their amazement told them about the terrible impending judgment upon Jerusalem. Of the beautiful buildings of the temple not one stone would be left upon another. All would be utterly destroyed. This makes the discipleis inquisitive. They would know not how or why but when these things shall take place. “Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?” The latter question is the one that here demands our attention. They are O so inquisitive. They would know what the sign of that coming is to satisfy their curiosity. They want to be able to calculate the time on God’s clock and thereby be able to exactly know when the end is coming. To this Jesus replies so strikingly in verse four. “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man ideceive you”. Christ doesn’t satisfy their curiosity. In plain words it’s none of their business. Instead, they must take heed, for many false christs will come. In the next twenty-four verses Jesus therefore gives a detailed explanation of these last days, and why they therefore must take heed. In those last days there will be wars and rumors of wars. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. There will be terrible tribulation for God’s people when Antichrist comes. He will distort the truth. False Christs and false prophets shall arise. Such we already see in our day. It doesn’t make so much difference what we believe, if we only live right outwardly. Doctrine is pushed into the background, and life (supposedly) on the foreground. It’s foolish to have so many different churches since most of them believe the same thing anyway. So men speak. These are the workings of the false Christs and false prophets. All these things are signs of Christ’s coming. But they are not given to satify our curiosity. That is never the purpose of prophecies. On the contrary, they are given, that we on the one hand will know that when these things come to pass all things are proceeding according to God’s counsel, but secondly, that we will walk circumspectly and take earnest heed.
Having given a detailed account of the work of the Antichrist and the consequent tribulation of the Church, Christ continues in verse twenty-nine: “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”. Immediately following the tribulation stupendous changes will occur in the realm of nature. Rev. 6:12-17 runs parallel with this. Many interpreters explain these words allegorically, so that all the different elements receive a meaning other than their literal denotation: the earthquake signifies political or ecclesiastical upheaval, the stars are princes or leaders in the church, sun and moon are the law and the prophets, or their darkening indicates some great calamity, etc. We, however, adhere to the literal interpretation. The sun will be darkened to a certain extent. Consequently the moon, a reflection of the sun, will also loose much of its light. Think of the t hree hours of darkness when Jesus was cricified. These things will not take place with the end of the world, but will be a prelude to it. The earth is not destroyed as yet by the celestial motion referred to. But they all do denote the terrible wrath of God.; and .
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.” This will take place when what is intimated in the previous verse, namely, the darkening of the heavenly luminaries, shall have arrived. Concerning this sign of the Son of Man there is as to be expected, difference of opinion. Some think that the sign and, Christ are identical. But this is impossible. Firstly, it is contrary to the very nature of a sign. Why then a sign? Secondly because the text very plainly states that following the sign Christ Himself will come in the clouds of heaven. Others believe that Christ will come only in the sign, and not personally. This view is so unscriptural that it needs no refutation. Scripture abundantly testifies of His personal, bodily return upon the clouds. We hold to the third view which explains these words as they are read. There will first be not a sign, but the sign of Christ. Christ uses the definite article for two reasons. In the first place because it will be an unmistakeable one. All will see it and read it. Secondly because this is the answer to the disciple’s question of verse three. Now Jesus answers their question, having duly warned them about the things that will occur. This sign will be visible to all. The word appearing in the Greek signifies to be brought into the light, to shine, to come to view. The idea evidently is that it will be plainly manifested and all will see the sign, “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”, verse 27. It will be universal. The question is what that sign will be. That was the question of the disciples. We, too, would like to know. But the point of Jesus’ teaching is that we need not know and should not know. There naturally are all kinds of conjectures. Some think that it will be a star heralding His second coming as one announced His birth. Others think that in the sign men will see the cross of Christ which is known to all. Still others that it will be a bright light in contrast to and on the background of the darkening of the heavenly bodies. It will be a dawning of the Messianic glory which is perhaps to go on increasing in brilliancy and splendor until Christ Himself stepis forth from the midst of it in the fulness of His glory. This conjecture seems the most probable to us, but at its best it is only a guess. As we wrote, Christ intended to keep it hidden from us. Otherwise He would have given further explanation.
This, however, does not warrant us to conclude that no one at that time will recognize the sign. Fact is that all will be able to read it. “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn”. The wicked will be seized with terror and dread. Men’s hearts will fail because of fear. They shall see Him whom they have pierced.. They will hide themselves in the dens afid in the rocks of the mountains. To the mountains and the rocks they will say: fall on us and hide us. . For the elect it will mean redemption. They will be gathered from the four winds from one end of heaven to the other. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only”. So Jesus continues in the chapter. Hence, verse 42, “watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come”. Consequently Christ in the next chapter speaks the parables of the ten virgins and the talents, admonishing them to be prepared. To them the sign will be a sign of joy and redemption.