And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?…
This coming is not at death. Death is nowhere called the coming of Christ. It may be the going of the saints to Him, but it is not His coming to them, in any such sense as that in which we declare in the Creed: " He shall come to judge the quick and the dead." Though, in some sense, always present, there are respects in which He is quite absent, in which He has been absent since the day of His ascension from the Mount of Olives, and in which He will continue to be absent until mankind "shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory." And in that same sense in which He is now absent from the earth, He is again to come to the earth, when "every eye shall see Him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him."
I. Let us, therefore, in the first place, ASSURE OURSELVES OF THE SCRIPTURALNESS AND ORTHODOXY OF THE DOCTRINE, THAT THE GLORIOUS LORD JESUS CHRIST IS REALLY AND LITERALLY TO RETURN AGAIN IN PERSON TO OUR WORLD. This is the more important, as the tendencies are to neglect and explain away this article of the faith. It was a vital and characteristic part of the faith and hope of the early Christians to look forward to, and to expect, the coming again of the Lord Jesus. Indeed the whole success of redemption itself is conditioned upon His return. To strike it out, would confound the whole system of salvation, carry utter confusion into all attempts intelligently to believe or defend the gospel as of God, and dry up the heartiest and hopefullest springs of faith, holiness, and Christian life.
II. With this point settled, let us look next at THE SIGNS WHICH THE SAVIOUR SPECIFIED AS THE HERALDS OF HIS SECOND COMING. These are given with great particularity in the text before us. Luther distinguished them into two leading classes; and we may safely follow him in this, as also in his exposition of the words which describe them.
1. He finds in the text a Divine prediction of an ever-growing earthiness, sensuality, and unbelief, on the part of the great mass of men, as the day of judgment draws near. There is to be no millennium of universal righteousness, liberty, and peace, before Christ comes; but "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13).
2. The second class is given with equal distinctness, and embraces many wonders in nature, so imposing as to challenge universal observation.
III. Finally, let us glance at THE SORT OF AFFECTIONS WHICH THE OCCURRENCE OF THESE SIGNS OF THE SAVIOUR'S COMING SHOULD BEGET AND NURTURE IN OUR SOULS. Luther well read the human heart, when be said, "There be very few who would not rather that the day of judgment might never come." But this is not the way in which our Saviour would have us affected by this subject. It is indeed a terrible thing for the guilty, and is meant so to be, that it may break up their false security, and arouse them to repentance and a better life; but it is designed to be a joy and consolation to all true believers. It is intended to be a thing of precious promise and of glad hope to them.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?