Is everybody looking for a sign? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
So this next verse is again one that many futurists will jump at and say “See! This has to be future!” No. It doesn’t. I will again here be explaining why it is that I think the context better fits a first-century milleu described in typical apocalyptic language of the time. Let’s look at the verse.
“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
What we have to ask is what is being seen. Does it mean that the sign will be seen in Heaven or that the sign is of something in Heaven? I have traditionally been using the ESV, but let’s point out other translations renders this differently.
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”
Berean Literal Bible: And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
Berean Study Bible: At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
NASB: “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
NKJV: Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
I could go on, but you get the point. Notice something about these other translations. Heaven comes after Son of Man each time. I personally think the NIV has it most accurately. However, if you think I’m being arbitrary….
καὶ τότε φανήσεται τὸ σημεῖον τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ καὶ τότε κόψονται πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς καὶ ὄψονται τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενον ἐπὶ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ μετὰ δυνάμεως καὶ δόξης πολλῆς·
Go to a site like Blueletterbible.com and look up the verse in Greek and see that Heaven follows AFTER the Son of Man each time. Note also this fits with other passages. In Matthew 26, Jesus tells Caiaphas that he will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Father and coming on the clouds of glory. I plan to look at this verse in greater depth later, but note what it says. Sitting and coming both. It doesn’t mean Caiaphas will look out his window one day and see Jesus riding on a cloud like Goku on his Nimbus. Also, Caiaphas certainly won’t see Jesus at the right hand of the Father literally since no one can see God and live.
Coming refers to judgment and sitting refers to ruling. Jesus sitting means that He is ruling and Jesus coming means that He is judging. What Jesus is saying is that Caiaphas will see that Jesus is ruling from the right hand of God and judging. This is quite the turnaround! The Sanhedrin is trying to judge Jesus, and Jesus is promising that He will judge them instead.
So what is Jesus promising that will be seen? The destruction of the temple as the location of the sign is not specified. Note that only at the beginning do we hear about the temple being destroyed explicitly. This is where Jesus is saying this is happening. The temple being destroyed means something new is being set up or at least an old way of doing things is ended. The system of Judaism at the time is ended. The new temple has been built. It is the temple of the church with the Spirit living in believers.
Why will the tribes mourn? Because the mourning means that judgment has come and Jerusalem will be no more. Also, I think Jerusalem is the Babylon that is pointed to in Revelation. We will spend more time on Revelation later in looking at eschatology and touching other passages like 1 Cor. 15, Psalm 110, and 2 Peter.