on Matthew 24 :29
Immediately after the tribulation, etc. - Commentators generally understand this, and what follows, of the end of the world and Christ's coming to judgment: but the word immediately shows that our Lord is not speaking of any distant event, but of something immediately consequent on calamities already predicted: and that must be the destruction of Jerusalem. "The Jewish heaven shall perish, and the sun and moon of its glory and happiness shall be darkened - brought to nothing. The sun is the religion of the Church; the moon is the government of the state; and the stars are the judges and doctors of both. Compare Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7, Ezekiel 32:8, etc." Lightfoot.
In the prophetic language, great commotions upon earth are often represented under the notion of commotions and changes in the heavens: -
The fall of Babylon is represented by the stars and constellations of heaven withdrawing their light, and the sun and moon being darkened. See Isaiah 13:9, Isaiah 13:10.
The destruction of Egypt, by the heaven being covered, the sun enveloped with a cloud, and the moon withholding her light. Ezekiel 32:7, Ezekiel 32:8.
The destruction of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes is represented by casting down some of the host of heaven, and the stars to the ground. See Daniel 8:10.
And this very destruction of Jerusalem is represented by the Prophet Joel, Joel 2:30, Joel 2:31, by showing wonders in heaven and in earth - darkening the sun, and turning the moon into blood. This general mode of describing these judgments leaves no room to doubt the propriety of its application in the present case.
The falling of stars, i.e. those meteors which are called falling stars by the common people, was deemed an omen of evil times. The heathens have marked this: -
Saepe etiam stellas, vento impendente videbis
Praecipites coelo labi, noctisque per umbram
Flammarum longos a tergo albescere tractus
Virg. Geor. i. ver. 365
And oft before tempestuous winds arise
The seeming stars fall headlong from the skies,
And, shooting through the darkness, gild the night
on Matthew 24 :29
Immediately after the tribulation of those days - That is, immediately after these tribulations, events will occur that "may be properly represented" by the darkening of the sun and moon, and by the stars falling from heaven. The word rendered "immediately" - εὐθέως eutheōs - means, properly, "straightway, immediately," Matthew 8:3; Matthew 13:5; Mark 1:31; Acts 12:10; then "shortly," 3 John 1:14. This is the meaning here. Such events would "shortly" or "soon" occur In the fulfillment of the predictions they would be "the next in order," and would occur "before long." The term here requires us to admit that, in order to the fulfillment of the prophecy, it can be shown, or it actually happened, that things "did" soon occur "after the tribulation of those days" which would be "properly represented or described" by the images which the Saviour employs. It is not necessary to show that there could not have been "a more remote" reference to events lying far in the future, in which there would be a more complete fulfillment or "filling up" of the meaning of the words (compare the notes at Matthew 1:22-23); but it is necessary that there should have been events which would be "properly expressed" by the language which the Saviour uses, or which would have been in some proper sense "fulfilled," even if there had not been reference to more remote events. It will be seen in the exposition that this was actually the case, and that therefore there was a propriety in saying that these events would occur "immediately" - that is, "soon, or the next in order." Compare the notes at Revelation 1:1.
Shall the sun be darkened ... - The images used here are not to be taken literally. They are often employed by the sacred writers to denote "any great calamities." As the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars, would be an inexpressible calamity, so any great catastrophe - any overturning of kingdoms or cities, or dethroning of kings and princes is represented by the darkening of the sun and moon, and by some terrible convulsion in the elements. Thus the destruction of Babylon is foretold in similar terms Isaiah 13:10, and of Tyre Isaiah 24:23. The slaughter in Bozrah and Idumea is predicted in the same language, Isaiah 34:4. See also Isaiah 50:3; Isaiah 60:19-20; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 3:15. To the description in Matthew, Luke has added Luke 21:25-26, "And upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; people's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." All these are figures of great and terrible calamities. The roaring of the waves of the sea denotes great tumult and affliction among the people. "Perplexity" means doubt, anxiety; not knowing what to do to escape. "Men's hearts should fail them for fear," or by reason of fear. Their fears would be so great as to take away their courage and strength.
on Matthew 24 :29
24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days - Here our Lord begins to speak of his last coming. But he speaks not so much in the language of man as of God, with whom a thousand years are as one day, one moment. Many of the primitive Christians not observing this, thought he would come immediately, in the common sense of the word: a mistake which St. Paul labours to remove, in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. The powers of the heavens - Probably the influences of the heavenly bodies. Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25.