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Albert Barnes (1832)
All the tribes of the earth mourn. This is, either all the tribes or people of the land of Judea shall mourn at the great calamities coming upon them, or all the nations of the world shall wail when He comes to judgment. All the wicked shall mourn at the prospect of their doom, Revelation 1:7. The cause of their wailing at the day of judgment shall be chiefly that they have pierced, killed, rejected the Saviour, and that they deserve the condemnation that is coming upon them, John 19:37; Zechariah 12:12.
And they shall see the Son of man. The Lord Jesus coming to judgment. Probably this refers more directly to his coming at the last day, though it may also mean that the evidence of his coming to destroy Jerusalem shall then be seen. "
John A. Broadus
"It is practically impossible to suppose that v. 30f. relates simply to the destruction of Jerusalem. As the latter part of the discourse (25:31-36) clearly refers to the second coming of our Lord, it seems unavoidable to suppose a similar reference here; see also the corresponding passage, 13:41. But v. 34 will presently declare that "all" the foregoing matter will occur during the existing generation. Then we cannot believe (with Meyer and others) that the Saviour mistakenly expected his parousia to be within that generation, it follows that v. 29-31 must refer to the destruction of Jerusalem." (vol. 1, p. 491)
And then shall the tribes of the earth, or land, mourn; that is, the land of Judea; for other lands, and countries, were not usually divided into tribes, as that was; neither were they affected with the calamities and desolations of it, and the vengeance of the son of man upon it; at least not so as to mourn on that account, but rather were glad and rejoiced:
and they shall see the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. The Arabic version reads it, "ye shall see", as is expressed by Christ, in #Mt 26:64. Where the high priest, chief priests, Scribes, and elders, and the whole sanhedrim of the Jews are spoken to: and as the same persons, namely, the Jews, are meant here as there; so the same coming of the son of man is intended; not his coming at the last day to judgment; though that will be in the clouds of heaven, and with great power and glory; but his coming to bring on, and give the finishing stroke to the destruction of that people, which was a dark and cloudy dispensation to them: and when they felt the power of his arm, might, if not blind and stupid to the last degree, see the glory of his person, that he was more than a mere man, and no other than the Son of God, whom they had despised, rejected, and crucified; and who came to set up his kingdom and glory in a more visible and peculiar manner, among the Gentiles." (In Loc.)
Ezra Gould (1896)
Heinrich Meyer (1852)
Thomas Myers, M.A
See Tertullian adv. Jud., page 105. Ed. 1580.
Irenoeus. Edit. Grabe, pages 45, 46, 221, etc.
Justin Martyr. Edit. Thirlby, pages 369, 328, 400.
Cyprian. adv. Jud, Book 2:passim, and De Unit. Eccl., page 108. Edit. Dodwell. Euseb. Hist. Eccl., Book 8, and elsewhere. De, Vit. Const., Book 1, chapters 7, 8, and his other writings.
Fabricii Lux. Sanct. Evan. contains similar extracts from the earliest Fathers to the same purpose.
For the Professor’s own view, see his Treatise on the Covenants, page 112 and following. He is ably supported by Professor Bush, who correctly limits this vision to the first establishment of the reign of Messiah, and the early preaching of the Gospel. The American Professor throws great light on the passage, by a clear and comprehensive criticism on the Hebrew words. His remarks on the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, are ingenious. He does not understand the word “clouds” in its ordinary sense, but as denoting “a multitude of heavenly attendants.” He quotes 1 Thessalonians 4:19, from which he concludes that the meaning is not that we shall be caught up into the clouds, but in multitudes. The Son of man being brought to the Ancient of days is said to set forth the investiture of the Son of man with that vice-regal lordship, which he, in the divine economy, held over the nations of the earth and through the perpetuity of time. “The paramount question to be resolved, is that of the true epoch of this ordained assumption by the Messiah of the majesty of the kingdom. He then determines the question exactly as Calvin does, by saying, “This we think is plainly to be placed at the Savior’s ascension.”... “It is in this passage of Daniel that we find the germ of nearly all the announcements of the New Testament, relative to the founding of that spiritual monarchy.”... “Conceiving the clouds then, in the Prophet’s vision, as being really clouds of angels, we shall be better prepared to understand the drift of the New Testament narrative, Acts 1:9. It was by this cloud of celestial attendants that he was brought, in the language of Daniel, to the Ancient of days, for him to receive the seals, as it were, of that high office which he was to fill as head of the universal spiritual empire now to be set up.” There is, therefore, we conceive, no greater mistake in regard to the whole rationale of this prophecy, than to understand the judgment and the coming of the Son of man here mentioned, as the final judgment and final coming of Christ synchronical with an anticipated physical catastrophe of the globe." (Dissertation on Calvin's Commentary on Daniel)
Thomas Newton (1754)
Rev. William W. Patton (1877)
Thomas Scott (1817)
"The darkening of the sun and moon, the falling of the stars, and the shaking of the powers of the heavens, denote the utter extinction of the light of prosperity and privilege to the Jewish nation; the unhinging of their whole constitution in church and state; the violent subversion of the authority of their princes and priests; and the abject miseries to this the people in general, especially their chief persons, would be reduced, and the moral darkness to which they would be consigned. This would be an evident sign and demonstration of the Son of man's exaltation to his throne in heaven; when he would come in his divine providence, as riding upon 'the clouds of heaven with power and great glory', to destroy his enemies, who would 'not have him to reign over them;' at which events all the tribes of the land would mourn and lament, whilst they saw the tokens and felt the weight of his terrible indignation" (Scott, vol. 1)
C. Jonathan Seraiah
Adam Clarke (1837)
"The Old Testament is filled with solar, lunar, and stellar language depicting great political upheaval. The rise of kingdoms is compared to the brightness of the sun, moon, and stars. The brightness of these heavenly bodies means that a nation is in ascendancy. When a nation is described as falling - coming under the judgment of God - it is compared to the sun and moon going dark and stars falling from the sky." [Last Days Madness: The Folly of Trying to Predict When Christ Will Return (Atlanta: American Vision, 1977),96.]
"Is the "coming of the Son of Man" in Matthew 24:37 different in time and kind from the "coming of the Son of Man" in verses 27 and 30? There is no indication that Jesus is describing two comings separated by an indeterminate period of time. What would have led the disciples to conclude that Jesus was describing a coming different from the one He described moments before when He uses identical language to describe both of them?" (Last Days Madness, 4th rev., pp. 199-200)
Kenneth L. Gentry
"The judgment upon Jerusalem was the sign of the fact that the Son of man was reigning in heaven. There has been misunderstanding due to the reading of this verse, as some have thought it to be a sign in heaven. But this is not what the verse says; it says the sign of the son of Man in heaven. The phrase in heaven defines the locality of the Son of Man and not of the sign. A sign was not to appear in the heavens, but the destruction of Jerusalem was to indicate the rule of the Son of Man in heaven."
"The apostle Paul states in the eleventh chapter of Romans that the fall of the Jews was a blessing to the rest of the world. He speaks of it as the enriching of the Gentiles and the reconciling of the world. The catastrophe of Jerusalem really signalized the beginning of a new and world-wide kingdom, marking the full separation of the Christian Church from legalistic Judaism. The whole system of worship, so closely associated with Jerusalem and the Temple, received, as it were, a death blow from God himself. God was now through with the Old Covenant made at Sinai: holding full sway was the sign of the New Covenant." (ibid., pp. 137-138)
John Lightfoot (1859)
"This generation shall not pass, &c. Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. "
"1. That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deuteronomy 32:22; "A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell" (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see verses 20,21), "and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains." Jeremiah 4:23; "I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light," &c. The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isaiah 65:17; "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered," &c. And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17, &c.
2. That Christ's taking vengeance of that exceeding wicked nation is called Christ's "coming in glory," and his "coming in the clouds," Daniel 7. It is also called, "the day of the Lord." See Psalm 1:4; Malachi 3:1,2, &c.; Joel 2:31; Matthew 16:28; Revelation 1:7, &c. See what we have said on chapter 12:20; 19:28.
"The destruction of Jerusalem is phrased in Scripture as the destruction of the whole world; and Christ's coming to her in judgment, as his coming to the last judgment. Therefore, those dreadful things, spoken of in Matt. 24:29,30 and 31, are but borrowed expressions, to set forth the terms of that judgment the more.. v.30 - "then shall they see" - not any visible appearance of Christ, or of the cross, in the clouds (as some have imagined); but, whereas Jews would not own Christ before for the Son of Man, or for the Messias, then by the vengeance that he should execute upon them, they and all the world should see an evident sign, and it was so. This, therefore, is called "his coming," and his coming in his kingdom." [A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, ed. Rev. John Rogers Pitman (London: J.F. Dove, 1825), p.141]
Milton Terry (1898)
"The language of Matt. xxiv, 30, concerning 'the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and much glory," is taken from Daniel's night vision (Daniel vii, 13) in which he saw the Son of man coming to the Ancient of Days and receiving from him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom. That vision was a part of the compost of world-empire, and signified that "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him' (Dan vii,27). The kingdom received from the Ancient of Days is no other than the kingdom symbolized by the stone cut out of the mountain, in chap 22,34,35, which 'became a great mountain and filled all the land.' This is the kingdom of the Messiah, which the Chialists believe to be be yet future, but which is more generally believe to be the Gospel dispensation, a kingdom not of this world, and not inaugurated with phenomenal splendor visible to mortal eyes. Like the stone cut out of the mountain, and the mustard seed, it is small and comparatively unimportant at its beginning, but it grows so as to fill the earth. This kingdom, according to Jesus' own testimony (Luke xvii,20), 'comes not with observation;' that is, says Meyer, 'the coming of the Messiah's kingdom is not so conditioned that this coming could be observed as a visible development, or that it could be said, in consequence of such observation, that here or there is the kingdom.' It may safely be affirmed, therefore, that this language concerning the Son of man in the clouds means no more on the lips of Jesus than in the writings of Daniel. It denotes in both places a sublime and glorious reality, the grandest event in human history, but not a visible display in the heavens of such a nature as to be a matter of scenic observation. The Son of man came in heavenly power to supplant Judaism by a better covenant, and to make the kingdoms of the world his own, and that parousia dates from the fall of Judaism and its temple. The mourning of 'all the tribes of the land' (not all nations of the globe) was coincident with the desolation of Zion, and our Lord appropriately foretold it in language taken from Zech. xii, 11,12" (Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 446-447)
"'the sign of the Son of man' may mean the ruin of the Jewish temple, considered as a sign or token that the old aeon thereby is ended, and the new Messianic aeon is begun. 'The sign of the prophet Jonah' (Matt. xii, 39; xvi, 4) was no miraculous phenomenon in the heavens. The analogy between Christ and Jonah for three days and three nights (Matt. xii,40) may be compared with John ii, 19-21 as suggesting that 'the temple of his body,' which was raised up in three days, was a prophetic sign that upon the ruin of Judaism and its temple there would rise that nobler 'spiritual house' (I Peter ii,5) 'which is his body, the fullness of him who filleth all in all' (Eph. i,23)" (Biblical Hermeneutics, p.452).
"Such apocalyptic forms of speech are not to be assumed to convey in the New Testament a meaning different from that which they bear in the Hebrew Scriptures. They are part and parcel of the genius of prophetic language. The language of Isaiah 13:10, is used in a prophecy of the overthrow of Babylon. That of Isaiah 34:4, refers to the desolation of Edom. The ideal of "the Son of man coming in the clouds" is taken from a prophecy of the Messianic kingdom, which kingdom, as depicted in Daniel 7:13,14, is no other than the one symbolized in the same book by a stone cut out of the mountain (Dan. 2:34,35). It is the same kingdom of heaven which Jesus liken to a grain of mustard seed and to the working of leaven in the meal (Matt. 13:31-33). The other citations we have given above show with equal clearness how both Jesus and his disciples were wont to express themselves in language which must have been very familiar to those who from childhood heard the law and the prophets "read in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 13:27; 15:21). A strictly literal interpretation of such pictorial modes of thought leads only to absurdity. Their import must be studied in the light of the numerous parallels in the Old Testament writers, which have been extensively presented in the foregoing part of this volume. But with what show of reason, or on what principle of "interpreting Scripture by Scripture," can it be maintained that the language of Isaiah, Joel, and Daniel, allowed by all the best exegetes to be metaphorical when employed in the Hebrew Scriptures, must be literally understood when appropriated by Jesus or his apostles?
So the Son of man coming on the clouds means here just what it means in Daniel's vision. It is an apocalyptic concept of the Messiah, as King of heaven and earth, executing divine judgment and entering with his people upon the possession and dominion of the kingdoms of the world. Here again the element of time does not enter, except it be the associated thought of Daniel's prophecy that "his dominion is an everlasting dominion" (Dan. 7:14). It is the same coming of the Son of man in his kingdom which is referred to in Matt. 16:27,28, the inception of which was to occur before some of those who heard these words should taste of death. The mourning of all the tribes of the land is the universal wail and lamentation of Judaism over its national overthrow. In the fall of their city and Temple the priests, scribes, and elders saw "the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power" (Matt. 26:64), and thus it was made manifest to all who read the prophecy aright that "Jesus the Galilean" has conquered. The gathering of Christ's elect from the four winds is the true fulfillment of numerous prophecies which promise the chosen people that they shall be gathered out of all lands and established forever in the mountain of God (comp. Amos 9:14,15; Jer. 23:5-8; 32:37-40; Ezek. 37:21-28). The time and manner of this universal ingathering of the elect ones cannot be determined from the language of any of these prophecies. As well might one presume to determine from Jesus's words in John 12:32, where, when, and in what manner, when the Christ is "lifted up out of the earth," he will draw all men unto himself. The point made emphatic, in the eschatological discourse of Jesus, is that all things contemplated in the apocalyptic symbolism employed to depict his coming and reign would follow "immediately after the tribulation of those days" (Matt. 24:29); or, as Mark has it, "in those days, after that tribulation." That is, the coming of the kingdom of the Son of man is coincident with the overthrow of Judaism and its temple, and follows immediately in those very days.
Whatever in this picture necessarily pertains to the continuous administration of the kingdom on the earth must of course be permanent, and continue as long as the nature and purpose of each work requires. When, therefore, it is affirmed that "this generation shall not pass away until all these things be accomplished," no one supposes that the kingdom and the power and the glory of the Son of man are to terminate with that generation. The kingdom itself is to endure for ages of ages. It is to increase like the stone cut from the mountain, which itself "became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." It is to grow and operate like the mustard seed and the leaven until it accomplish its heavenly purpose among men. The entire New Testament teaching concerning the kingdom of Christ contemplates a long period, and the abolishing of all opposing authority and power; "for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (I Cor. 15:25). The overthrow of Jerusalem was one of the first triumphs of the Messiah's reign, and a sign that he was truly "seated at the right hand of power." ... (Biblical Apocalyptics, pp. 238-245)
Foy Wallace (1966)
Exodus 16:10 "And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud."
Exodus 19:9 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the LORD."
Exodus 34:5 "And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD."
Leviticus 16:2 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. "
Numbers 11:25 "And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. "
Psalm 18:9-12 "He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. 10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. 12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
Psalm 97:2-5 "Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. 3 A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. 4 His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. 5 The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
Psalm 104:3 "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind. "
Isaiah 19:1 " The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. "
Daniel 7:13 "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him."
Nahum 1:3 "The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet."
References to "Comings-down" in the Old Testament
Genesis 18:20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
Exodus 3:8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians..
Deuteronomy 33:2 " And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. "
Psalm 18:7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. 8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. 9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. 10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. 12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. 13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
Psalm 97:5 " The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
Psalm 50:3 " Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him."
Psalm 144:5 " Bow thy heavens, O LORD, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. "
II Samuel 22:7 " In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears. 8 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth. 9 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. 10 He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. 11 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind.
Isaiah 31:4 " For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me, Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for mount Zion, and for the hill thereof.
Isaiah 64:3 " When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. "
Isaiah 66:15 " For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. "
John Gill (1809)
N. Nisbett (1787)
Rev. William W. Patton (1877)
Adam Clarke (1837)
Milton Terry (1898)
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