How will the Lord shorten the days of the “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21, 22) for the sake of the elect (those who will believe on Him during the Tribulation)? It has to last exactly 1260 days (Rev. 12:6-12), three and a half years (Dan. 12:6, 7), 42 months (Rev. 13:2-5). Some say He was going to make it last longer but shortened it to 1260 days. But after Daniel said it would last three and a half years the Lord said the days “shall be” shortened, future tense. No, He won’t shorten the number of days, He’ll shorten the days by doing the opposite of what He did in Joshua 10:12,13.
When those days come, false christs will claim to be Christ in hiding (Mt. 24:23-26). The Lord told His disciples not to believe it because His coming will be like lightning (v. 27). Lightning always gets our attention! So He was saying when He comes everyone will know about it—specially if it starts in the east and goes all the way to the west! But lightning that starts in the north and goes to the south would only reach the south pole, for after that it would be going north again. If the Lord came like that, only half the world would see Him. But lightning that comes out of the east and goes to the west has to circle the globe, meaning “every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7).
Since lightning travels 3700 miles per second, some think the Lord was talking about the Rapture (cf. I Cor. 15:52). But He compares this coming to what happens when eagles gather around a dead body (Mt. 24:28). That’s Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21). The Lord will use the birds of the earth as a sort of heavenly cleanup crew to cleanse the planet of the rot and stench of the dead before establishing His beautiful kingdom
But if this coming of the Lord is associated with Armageddon, that means it is a coming that will take place after the Tribulation—and that’s what the Lord went on to say (Mt. 24:29,30). But Paul promises we’ll be raptured before the Tribulation (I Thes. 4:15—5:5) and escape that wrath (I Thes. 1:10; 5:9) by the “salvation” of the Rapture (Rom. 13:11).
Part of the “wrath” that the ones left behind will have to endure will fall when the stars fall (Mt. 24:30) to the earth (Rev. 6:12,13). These can’t be literal stars. Stars are suns, and even one falling would incinerate us. Stars in the Bible can be an-gels (Job 38:4-7). The ones that will fall are the fallen angels, the “powers” that rule “high places” (Eph. 6:12). That’s why “the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Mt. 24:30). There’s going to be a shakeup in the government of heaven.
Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven (v. 31). Normally we can’t see into heaven because the “curtain” of the stars keeps us from seeing into the “tabernacle” of God in heaven (Isa. 40:22 cf. Heb.8:1, 2). But God is going to peel back the curtain of the heavens “as a scroll” (Rev. 6:13-16) and they’ll see the Son looking slain (5:6), i.e., still bearing the wounds of Calvary. Knowing that men like themselves gave Him those wounds, they’ll fear His wrath. That explains how they’ll see Him “sitting” and then “coming” (Mt. 26:64) instead of coming and then sitting in the kingdom.
People also think Matthew 24 is about the Rapture because people will be gathered with a trump (24:31 cf. I Thes. 4:16, 17). But God only uses angels with Israel (cf. Gal. 3:19). And right before angels gather saved Jews into the kingdom He’ll use them to weed out the tares of the unsaved (Mt. 13:38).
Knowing that the fig tree (Mt. 24:32, 33) is a symbol of Israel (Hos. 9:10), prophecy preachers got excited when the nations of the world created what is now known as the nation of Israel in 1948. Some added the “generation” (Mt. 24:34) of 33 years to 1948 and predicted the Rapture would come in 1981. But national Israel is represented by the olive tree (Ps. 80:8). The fig tree represents religious Israel. Adam used fig leaves to cover his sin, and covering your sin is the very definition of religion. Antichrist will rebuild Israel’s temple and give them back their sacrifice system, something the Lord cursed (Mt. 21:18). That’s the sign of the fig tree that will signal the Lord’s coming and the end of the world.
Don’t you love it when prophecy preachers try to determine the day of the Rapture from a passage that says you can’t know it (Mt. 24:35, 36)! Those that claim they know when He will return claim to know more than the Lord (Mark. 13:32)!
Video of this sermon is also available on YouTube: The Shortest Days in the History of the World – Matthew 24:22-35