Prophecy on Mount Olivet
By Arlen L. Chitwood
The Lord’s Return
For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
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.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:27-31)
In verses twenty-seven through thirty-one, the Jewish section of the Olivet discourse deals with Christ’s return and attendant events. Christ will return immediately after the Great Tribulation; and His return will be accompanied by a great shaking and decimation of governmental powers on earth, depicted in verse twenty-nine by a darkening of the sun and moon (signifying the main governing powers) and the stars falling from heaven (signifying lesser governmental powers). And this great shaking of governmental powers will occur in connection with “the sign of the Son of man . . . in heaven,” when He appears “with His mighty angels” in “power and great glory” (cf. Joel 2:1, 10; 3:15, 16; Haggai 2:21, 22; Matthew 24:3, 29, 30; Luke 21:7, 25, 26; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Hebrews 12:26; Revelation 7:12-17).
(For additional information on the symbolism used in verse twenty-nine — a shaking of “the powers of the heavens,” referring to a decimation of Gentile powers on earth at the end of the Tribulation — refer to Chapter 15, “The Great Seismos,” in the author’s book, The Time of the End. Also see Chapter 2 in this book.)
Christ’s return will occur at the full end of the “seventy weeks” determined upon the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24). This is a four-hundred-ninety-year period of time, and the Great Tribulation will constitute the concluding three and one-half years of this time, concluding the Jewish dispensation during Man’s Day and bringing an end to Man’s Day itself.
Antichrist will rule the earth during these climactic three and one-half years, and a time of such unparalleled trouble will ensue within his kingdom during this time that the Lord will have to shorten those days in order to prevent the very destruction of mankind itself (Matthew 24:21, 22). And it will be immediately after the fulfillment of this predetermined period that Christ will return (vv. 29, 30).
Manner, Time of His Return
False Christs and false prophets appearing to Israel during the reign of Antichrist will seek, by a manifestation of “great signs and wonders,” to mislead the people of God concerning the appearance of their Messiah. They will proclaim such things as “Look, He is in the desert!” or “Look, He is in the inner rooms [KJV: ‘secret chambers’]!” (vv. 23-26).
These false messages will be proclaimed during the darkest hour of Israeli history; and these messages will form part of Satan’s strategy as he, through the man of sin, seeks to destroy the nation of Israel during this time (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9).
The manner of Christ’s return though is revealed to be just the opposite of that which will be proclaimed by the false Christs and false prophets. Christ is not going to return in some secret manner or to some secret out of the way place. He is going to return in an open, visible manner for all to behold:
. . . every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. (Revelation 1:7)
To show a contrast between that which is false and that which is true surrounding His return, Christ, in verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight, called attention to two things:
1) His return will be as the lightning that appears in the east and shines to the west.
2) His return will be as the eagles being attracted to the carcass of a slain animal or an individual.
Both of these together show the time, the suddenness, the openness, and that which will occur at the time of His return.
1) As the Lightning
Lightning appears suddenly and flashes across the sky for all to behold. Apart from atmospheric conditions being conducive, there is no forewarning for lightning.
And Christ chose this natural phenomenon to describe the nature of His return. When conditions are as foretold — as the days of Noah and as the days of Lot (Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-30) — Christ, as is the manner with lightning, will appear without warning. His appearance will be sudden, it will be open, and it will be clearly visible for all to see.
Christ’s return is not likened to lightning that flashes across just any part of the sky, but it is likened to lightning seen in the east and which flashes to the western part of the sky.
The significance of this is seen in the movement of storm systems. Aside from that part of the earth near the equator and the poles, storm systems track from west to east (this movement is reversed near the equator and the poles, which is why hurricanes, which form in the equatorial zone, move from east to west and then tend to slowly swing around and veer in a more easterly direction once they begin moving north into latitudes out of the equatorial zone).
The Middle East though, where Scripture was written, lies between the equatorial and polar zones, and the west to east movement of storm systems would be in view; and lightning flashing from east to west, as in the text, must be understood in the light of the movement of storm systems in that part of the world.
Lightning seen in the west would signal an approaching storm. From the vantage point of the observer, the time element involved would be preceding the storm. The opposite though would be true concerning lightning seen in the east. The storm would be moving away; and from the vantage point of the observer, the time element would be following the storm.
Christ will return “immediately after the tribulation of those days . . . .” He will appear suddenly, and He will appear immediately after the storm, as lightning that “comes from the east and flashes to the west.”
And the thought of deliverance for Israel, with the days having previously been shortened for the nation’s sake, would be in view.
For the Gentile nations though, the storm will not be over at this point in time. Rather, the storm will still be raging, though about to be brought to an end. The storm for the nations will continue until Christ treads the winepress at what is often called the battle of Armageddon.
2) The Eagles and the Carcass
Matthew 24:28, associating Christ’s return with eagles hovering over a carcass, is often interpreted as a reference to the battle of Armageddon following Christ’s return (cf. Revelation 19:17-21). It is true that the end result of that which is referred to in this verse has to do with this battle, but the contextual setting has to do with the manner of Christ’s return rather than with Christ subsequently treading the winepress.
Christ’s return being likened to eagles hovering over a carcass, as the previous reference to lightning, also has to do with the fact that Christ is not going to return back to this earth and appear in some out of the way place (e.g., as mentioned in the text, “desert,” or “inner rooms”). Rather, He is going to return and appear openly among those who are corrupting the earth, with a view to bringing such corruption to an end. As the eagles devour a corrupting carcass, so will the Lord do away with corruption in that day (cf. Psalm 18:8).
Christ’s return being likened to eagles hovering over a carcass is simply another way of saying the same thing, by way of introduction, to that which is seen in the next verse, in verse twenty-nine — the decimation and destruction of Gentile world power, depicted in verse twenty-eight as the corrupting force on earth that must be done away with.
Corruption in the kingdom of Antichrist at the time of the Lord’s return will be centered in Babylon, and an end to this corruption will be effected by the Stone smiting the image, as revealed in Daniel 2:34, 35, 40-45. This foreshadows Christ (depicted by the Stone) suddenly appearing and destroying the final form of the kingdom of Babylon under Antichrist (depicted by the final form of the image).
Note that Christ will destroy Gentile world power by striking the image at its feet, showing that the final form of the image (the final form of Gentile world power, centered in Babylon) will then be in existence; but it will not be the feet, part of iron and part of clay, alone that will be destroyed in that day. The Stone, “cut out of the mountain without hands,” by striking the image at its feet, will break the complete image into pieces; for “the iron [the legs, and a part of the feet], the clay [the other part of the feet], the brass [the belly and thighs], the silver [the breast and arms], and the gold [the head]” will all be “broken to pieces together” — broken into such fine pieces that the wind is seen carrying the remains of the complete image away like chaff (pointing to both the full end and the ultimate worth of Gentile world power [Daniel 2:35, 45]).
Thus, the final form of the image is seen incorporating all that previously existed in the Babylonian kingdom, dating all the way back to the days of Nebuchadnezzar (that part of the kingdom depicted by the head of gold); and the destruction of Babylon in its final form is seen as a destruction of not only that which will then exist but also all that had previously existed — that which is depicted by the entire image, from the head of gold to the feet part of iron and part of clay.
The image covers the entire Times of the Gentiles — from the head of gold to the feet part of iron and part of clay. This period began about 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, first came against Jerusalem and began to carry away Jewish captives into Babylon.
Then, the first major change in the governmental administration in Babylon during the Times of the Gentiles occurred when the Medes and the Persians came against Babylon and conquered the city in 536 B.C. The next major change occurred when the Grecians under Alexander the Great came against Babylon and conquered the city in 330 B.C.
And the next major change, as it pertains to Babylon, is yet future and will occur after Antichrist establishes his headquarters in Babylon. This time though Babylon will not be conquered; rather, this time Babylon will be destroyed in a sudden and complete manner, never to rise again.
Note that Babylon has never been destroyed during the Times of the Gentiles. It has been conquered several times, and it simply faded from view as a world power after its four-way division among four of Alexander the Great’s generals following his death in 323 B.C. Its destruction, as is prophesied numerous places in Scripture, awaits the final form of the image — the final form of the Babylonian kingdom, which will exist during the reign of Antichrist. It will be during this man’s reign that the complete image will be destroyed, in complete accord with references such as Isaiah 13:19, 20; Jeremiah 50:39, 40; 51:7-9, 37, 58-64.
(A destruction of the complete image in its final form is necessary for the simple reason that no destruction of any part of the image has ever occurred in history.
Thus, nothing short of a destruction of the complete image will suffice; nothing associated with Gentile world power — from beginning to end — can remain and co-exist with the kingdom of Christ.)
Yet Once More
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” (Hebrews 12:26; cf. Haggai 2:5-7, 21, 22)
Numerous metaphors and various types of symbolic language are used throughout Scripture in the whole overall thought surrounding that which is depicted by the eagles being gathered in connection with a carcass, or the sun and moon being darkened, the stars falling from heaven, and “the powers of the heavens . . . [being] shaken” in Matthew 24:28, 29.
This is presented more than one way in the Olivet Discourse and in numerous related ways in other parts of Scripture elsewhere.
For example, note several sections of Scripture from the books of Isaiah and Joel:
Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine…
Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger.” (Isaiah 13:9, 10, 13)
The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again.
It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of exalted ones, and on the earth the kings of the earth. (Isaiah 24:19-21)
Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand:
A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness . . .
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.
The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness.
The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 2:1, 2a; 3:14-16).
Events surrounding Christ’s return, both immediately before and immediately following His return, are depicted by a darkening of the sun and moon, with the stars withdrawing their shining and falling from heaven (together depicting the decimation and destruction of Gentile world power).
And the whole of the matter subsequently being brought to a grand climax is described by an additional means, by “a great earthquake [‘a great shaking’], such a mighty and great earthquake [‘so mighty a shaking’], as had not occurred since men were on the earth.” (Revelation 16:17-19).
To further describe this time, there will be such turmoil within the government of the earth in that day that “men’s hearts” will be failing “them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” (cf. Psalm 18:7, 8; Isaiah 2:17-21; Matthew 24:28, 29; Luke 21:25, 26; Revelation 16:10).
Then, to even further describe this time, the “cities of the nations” are seen falling, with “every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (depicting the finality of the matter at the time Gentile world power is destroyed, at the time the Stone smites the image at the feet, with the image completely destroyed and the wind carrying it away as chaff [Revelation 6:14; 16:18, 19]).
(Note that a shaking of Gentile world power is in view in sections of Scripture such as Matthew 24:7, 29; Mark 13:8, 24, 25; Luke 21:11, 26; Revelation 6:12-14; 8:5; 11:13, 19; 16:18-20, not earthquakes. The Greek word seismos [shaking] is used in all of these passages, referring mainly to a shaking of heavenly bodies [the sun, moon, and stars] — “the powers of the heavens” [cf. Daniel 4:26]. Refer to information at the top of page 92 in this chapter.)
Darkness, Light in Egypt
Drawing from the type in the book of Exodus — Moses returning to the Jewish people in Egypt, followed by subsequent events surrounding both the Jewish people and the kingdom of the Assyrian of that day — numerous things can be seen regarding Christ’s future return to the Jewish people, followed by subsequent events surrounding both the Jewish people and the kingdom of the Assyrian in that coming day.
Darkness covered the kingdom of the Assyrian in Egypt immediately preceding the death of the firstborn (Exodus 10:21-23; 11:1ff), foreshadowing the darkness that will cover the kingdom of the Assyrian immediately preceding the death of the firstborn yet future (Revelation 16:10-17; ref. “Anti-Semitism,” Appendix).
(In the account from Exodus, Paschal lambs died in the stead of the firstborn in every family throughout the nation; and, in an equal respect, the Jewish people forming the nation, by slaying the Paschal lambs and applying the blood, could only have given rise to a lamb dying for the entire nation, for God’s firstborn son, with the blood properly applied in both individual and national respects.
In the account yet future, the Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God, has died in the stead of the firstborn, which would include not only every single Israelite but the nation as a whole, God’s firstborn son. Israel slew the Lamb almost 2,000 years ago, but the Jewish people, comprising the nation, have yet to apply the blood.)
The darkness that the Lord brought upon the kingdom of the Assyrian in Egypt is described in Scripture as a “thick darkness [‘dense, deep darkness’]” of such a nature, apparently so completely void of light, that it could actually be felt (Exodus 10:21, 22). And it will be no different in the future kingdom of the Assyrian.
Joel 2:2 and Zephaniah 1:15 record the same words in the Hebrew text as used in Exodus 10:22 to describe the darkness during that coming day, associated with the destruction of the kingdom of the future Assyrian.
Also, when darkness covered the land in the past kingdom of the Assyrian, the children of Israel had “light” where they dwelled, pointing to conditions that will surround the nation of Israel in relation to the restoration of the nation that will be saved out of the Tribulation (both physically and spiritually) and the subsequent restoration of the theocracy.
The darkness brought upon the kingdom of the Assyrian in Egypt was connected with God’s judgment upon this kingdom. The firstborn was about to die, not only in an individual respect but in a national respect as well.
God recognized Israel, not Egypt, as His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22, 23); and for Israel to realize the rights within this firstborn status, the scepter had to pass from Egypt to Israel. Such necessitated the destruction of Egypt as a world power.
And this destruction occurred in the Red Sea, following Israel’s safe passage through the sea. Why could Israel pass safely through the Red Sea but not so with the military power of Egypt? The answer is simple. It has to do with the previous death of the firstborn, whether experienced vicariously or personally.
With the Israelites, it was the former (experiencing the death of the firstborn vicariously). The firstborn had died, and he was to be buried (in the sea, in the place of death). But once in the sea, death could not hold the Israelites, for the firstborn had already died, both individually and nationally. Thus, the sea — the place of death — had no power over the Jewish people, and they subsequently found themselves not only out of the sea but out of Egypt, on the eastern banks of the sea.
But for the Egyptians, it was the latter (experiencing the death of the firstborn personally). They could not safely pass through the sea, for, though the firstborn in the family had previously died, there was no vicarious death; there was no individual or national vicarious death of the firstborn, as in Israel’s case (actually, in a national sense, there couldn’t be a vicarious death for the firstborn, for the nation of Egypt was not God’s firstborn son). Thus, the sea — the place of death — had complete control over the Egyptians. They went down into the place of death and remained there, apart from any thought or hope of every rising out of this place.
And, as it occurred in the type, so will it occur in the antitype. The type has been set, and it cannot be broken.
The destruction of the power of Egypt foreshadows the destruction of Gentile world power yet future. After the kingdom of the Assyrian of that day had been shaken to its knees, this kingdom was destroyed, never to rise again. And thus will it be with Gentile world power yet future.
The Jewish people though, in the type, are seen standing triumphant, out of Egypt, on the eastern banks of the sea, with the land in the Abrahamic covenant and a theocracy in view. And exactly the same thing is seen in the antitype.
The Jewish people, in that future day, will be removed from a worldwide dispersion and will, as it were, stand triumphant on the eastern banks of the sea, with a restoration to the land in a restored theocracy in view.
Darkness, Light in the World today
Darkness covered the entire land for the last three hours Christ hung on the Cross at Golgotha. Then, immediately after Christ died, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:45-51).
God judged sin in the person of His Son at Golgotha during a time of darkness. He “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God’s Firstborn Son died in the antitype of all the Paschal lambs slain in Exodus 12:1ff, a substitutionary death to rectify the sin problem surrounding the firstborn in the human race.
The firstborn is under the sentence of death (Exodus 12:12; cf. Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27), but this death can now be realized through the One who has died in man’s stead (Exodus 12:3-13, 21-23; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7). And, by and through believing, Christ’s substitutionary death is reckoned to man’s account. The person becomes a new creation “in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). God removes “the first that He may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9).
Then, moving beyond the point of man’s salvation through faith in the One who died in his stead, it must be recognized that this salvation is for a purpose; and that purpose has to do with the coming kingdom. Individuals are saved today with a view to their reigning as co-regents with Christ in His kingdom. God is taking an entire dispensation to call out the rulers for the coming age. He is presently extending to Christians an invitation to occupy positions of power and authority with His Son during the coming day when He reigns over the earth.
And the shaking of the material creation immediately after Christ died reflects on the very reason He died — to redeem that which Adam forfeited in the fall, which has to do with man’s rule over the earth. This shaking of the earth reflected on the same thing as the shaking of the mount at Sinai during Moses’ day (Exodus 19:18). The shaking in both instances looked out ahead to the great shaking and destruction of Gentile world power at the end of Man’s Day, allowing God’s firstborn Sons to realize the reason for man’s creation in the beginning.
And, inseparably associated with the preceding, the graves of many Old Testament saints were opened at the time God shook the earth following the death of His Son, with these Old Testament saints being raised from the dead and coming out of their graves following Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 27:52, 53).
(Note that the graves of these Old Testament saints were opened to allow them to come out, exactly as seen in the resurrection of Lazarus in John chapter eleven. This would indicate that they, exactly as Lazarus, came out of their graves in natural bodies of flesh, blood, and bone, both pointing to the future resurrection of Old Testament saints in natural bodies at the end of the Tribulation, following the great seismos, the great shaking.
In contrast, note the resurrection of Christ, when a great shaking occurred as well [Matthew 28:1-6]. The stone was rolled away, but not to let Christ out. The stone was rolled away to let others in to see that He was already out. Death could not hold the One who had previously said, “I am the resurrection and the life” [John 11:25; cf. Acts 2:24].
Christ [as Christians one day will be as well] was raised in a different type of body, referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:44 as “a spiritual body” — the same body of flesh and bone, but with the life-giving, animating principle being the Spirit, not the blood [the blood carries oxygen from the lungs throughout the cells of a natural body; the Spirit, the very Breath that produces and sustains spiritual life today, performs this function in the spiritual body].
And, as well, the spiritual body has capabilities not seen in the natural body — e.g., movement from place to place at will [cf. Luke 24:13-15, 36-40; Acts 1:9; 9:3-5].)
The resurrection of individuals immediately after Christ was raised, following a time of darkness and a shaking of the earth, can only form a first-fruits of the future resurrection of Old Testament saints. This future resurrection, the main harvest, will also occur following a time of darkness and a shaking of the material creation, allowing God’s firstborn son, Israel, to occupy the nation’s proper place on the earth in the theocracy (Ezekiel 37:12-14; Daniel 12:1, 2; cf. Ezekiel 39:21-29).
Israel Re-gathered, Restored
Christ, at His first coming, appeared in two related fashions, seen in John 1:11:
He came to His own [neuter in the Greek text, referring to His own things], and His own [masculine in the Greek text, referring to His own people, the people of Israel] did not receive Him.
Christ, born “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2), came to the things associated with His kingship, offered an heirship in these things to His own people, the Jewish people; but they rejected both that which was offered and the One making the offer.
This resulted in Christ subsequently leaving the house of Israel desolate (Matthew 23:38), with a further desolation to be effected during the Tribulation by the one who will one day come “in his own name,” whom the Jewish people will receive (Daniel 9:27; John 5:43).
But the long night will not last forever. The time is coming when a new day will dawn, when “the Sun of Righteousness” will “arise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2).
In the day, when Messiah appears the second time to His own things and His own people — when the Jewish people “look upon” the One “whom they . . . pierced” — there will be acceptance, not rejection. A nation will be “born at once” (Isaiah 66:8), and Christ will then send His angels forth (those accompanying Christ at the time of His return) with “a great sound of a trumpet,” and they will re-gather the dispersed Jewish people back to the land.
The Jewish people will be re-gathered “from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” God will re-gather them “from all the nations” where they have been scattered (Deuteronomy 30:1-3). He will send forth His angels who will be “fishermen” and “hunters” in that day; and “they shall fish [for] them . . . and they shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks” (Jeremiah 16:14-16). And if any Israelites have been driven out even into “the farthest parts under heaven” (removed from the earth, e.g., on places such as the international space station, or beyond), the angels of God will find them and bring them down (Deuteronomy 30:4).
Before the Jewish people enter the land though, God is going to deal with them in judgment; and He is going to make a new covenant with the nation (Ezekiel 20:33-38; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6-13). This judgment and the ratifying of this covenant will possibly occur in the wilderness of Sinai, the same place the old covenant was made with Israel.
And the new covenant will be established with the people of Israel for the same purpose that the old covenant was established — rules and regulations governing the people of God within the theocracy (Exodus 19:5, 6). God will make a new covenant with His people in view of the theocracy being restored to the nation.
The nation of Israel is to be placed in the land covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob under a new covenant within a restored theocracy. And, dwelling in the land in this position, Israel is to realize the rights of primogeniture.
God’s firstborn son will then be the ruling nation on earth and will be the channel through which all the Gentile nations will be reached with God’s message and blessed. Nothing short of this will satisfy the requirements of Scripture concerning Israel’s national future and the national future of the surrounding Gentile nations.
Events on this earth are about to move full circle. The story of the Israelites in the brickyards of Egypt under bondage to an Assyrian ruler during the days of Moses is about to be repeated. The wrath of the Assyrian in the latter days though will be far worse than during Moses’ day (Matthew 24:21, 22), for Satan will know that his time is rapidly running out.
God called Israel into existence for definite, specific purposes; and these purposes must be realized.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [KJV: “without repentance,” i.e., “without a change of mind”]. (Romans 11:29)
God is not going to change His mind concerning the reason He called Israel into existence. God, in that coming day, will deliver Israel from the hand of the Assyrian; and He will then establish Israel in her rightful place with respect to the nation’s calling.