Prophecy can be confusing.
Matthew 24 is one of those places. Some have interpreted these events to have already been fulfilled. Some do not believe in the tribulation.
When I began to study this passage, I also was confused. Where do all these events fit into the prophetic timeline? Is this talking about signs to look for before the rapture or Christ’s second coming?
Dr. John F. Walvoord wrote an article, “The Signs of the End of the Age”, which I found helpful in deciphering this chapter of Scripture. Please read the whole article for yourself at www.walvoord.com.
The chapter is broken down into five sections.
Prediction of the destruction of the temple (v. 1-2)
Questions of the disciples (v. 3)
Course of the present age (v. 4-14)
Sign of the tribulation (v. 15-25)
Second coming of Christ (v. 26-31)
Second coming of Christ (26-31)
“Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.27 For 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.28 For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.29 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:30 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.31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
“Taken as a whole, the second coming of Christ is a majestic event, not instantaneous like the rapture, but extending over many hours. This perhaps explains why everyone can see it, because in the course of a day, the earth will rotate and the entire world will be able to see the approach of Christ accompanied by the hosts of heaven, which will descend to the earth in the area of the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
The entire passage from Matthew 24:15-31 is the specific answer to the disciples of the sign of His coming and of the end of the age, with the climactic sign being the second coming and the glory that attends it, and will fulfill the prophecy of Acts 1:11 that Christ will return as He went up into heaven, that is, His return will be physical, gradual, visible, and with clouds. Matthew 24:31 brings to a close the first doctrinal section of the Olivet discourse, and what follows is a series of applications and illustrations.” (The Signs of the End of the Age, Article contributed by www.walvoord.com)
Matthew 24 is prophetic
Matthew 24 is not about the rapture
Matthew 24 looks forward to the great tribulation
Matthew 24 tells us about the Second Coming of Christ
Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain, 907 715-4001