The Coming of the Son of Man
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 13:24–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Christ’s Spectacular Appearance (13:24–27)
As the Lord described His second advent, He paid particular attention to four aspects of His return: the sequence, the staging, the sign, and the saints.
The Sequence. After warning His disciples about the abomination of desolation in the temple (v. 14), and the terrible holocaust that will follow it (vv. 15–23), Jesus explained that in those days, after the tribulation period ends, He will return. In light of the context, those days can only refer to the three and a half years of great tribulation that will follow the Antichrist’s desecration of the temple in Jerusalem (13:14–19; cf. Matt. 24:21; Rev. 6–19). Earth’s final days will be characterized by unrestrained immorality, unparalleled devastation, and unrelenting violence (toward all believers and also toward the Jewish people) under the satanically inspired influence of the Antichrist and his forces. Only as the tribulation ends and its judgments are exhausted will the Lord return to conquer His enemies and establish His earthly reign and rule.
The Staging. The cosmic backdrop for history’s most climactic moment will be total darkness, after God extinguishes the sun, moon, and stars (cf. Zech. 14:6–7), which will later be relit during the millennial kingdom (cf. Isa. 30:26). As Jesus explained, at the end of the tribulation period the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven. When the One who “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3) withdraws that sustaining energy, the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken, indicating that the orbits of stars and planets will careen off course, and cosmic bodies will begin to rip apart. Yet, God will not allow the universe to disintegrate entirely; He will preserve it for the establishment of Christ’s domination.
In predicting these traumatic events, Jesus echoed the words of Old Testament prophecy. The book of Isaiah exclaimed:
Behold, the day of the Lord is coming …
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light.
Thus I will punish the world for its evil
And the wicked for their iniquity …
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,
And the earth will be shaken from its place
At the fury of the Lord of hosts
In the day of His burning anger. (Isa. 13:9–13; cf. 24:1–6, 23; 34:1–6)
About a hundred years before Isaiah, the prophet Joel similarly declared:
Before them the earth quakes,
The heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark
And the stars lose their brightness.
The Lord utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word.
The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?…
The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
(Joel 2:10–11, 31; cf. 3:15)
Other prophets similarly predicted the devastating events that will occur during the great tribulation (cf. Ezek. 38:19–23; Hag. 2:6–7; Zeph. 1:14–18; Zech. 14:6). Jesus’ words corresponded exactly to what the Old Testament promised would take place during the eschatological day of the Lord when He will establish His glory before the watching world.
In response to these cosmic events, unbelievers who are alive on the earth will react in terror and confusion. As Luke’s parallel account explains, the Lord added that there will be “on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25–26). The world’s inhabitants will go into severe shock, some undoubtedly traumatized to death from the unbearable dread over what is happening to them.
The Sign. Against the pitch darkness of that time, suddenly and vibrantly “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire” (2 Thess. 1:7). His presence will be unmistakable, and all the world will witness His appearing (Rev. 1:7). The disciples had asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of Your coming?” (Matt. 24:3). As Jesus explained to them, God’s wrath will be released so that the world will be replete with natural disasters and man-made crises, all of which preview the future, global devastation of the final tribulation period that immediately precedes the second coming. But the ultimate sign will be Jesus Himself, when He appears in glorious and undiminished brilliance (cf. Mark 9:3). Just as He ascended two millennia ago, He will one day descend to this earth (cf. Acts 1:9–11). Then all the world will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. In describing that future event, Jesus borrowed the language of Daniel 7:13–14, where the prophet Daniel declared:
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.
Coming in the clouds as if they were a divine chariot (cf. Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1), the Son of Man will appear with great power and glory, returning to establish His kingdom and to destroy the ungodly. On that day, heaven will open to reveal the conquering King. Rather than riding the humble foal of a donkey, as He did at His earthly entrance to Jerusalem (Mark 11:7–10), He will be seated as the eternal Sovereign atop a royal white steed.
The apostle John described the majesty and power of Jesus’ return with these words:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Rev. 19:11–21)
With perfect righteousness and absolute authority, the Lord Jesus will enact judgment on His enemies (2 Thess. 1:7–10; cf. Isa. 11:4; 63:1–4; Rev. 1:16), including the Antichrist whom He will cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). Satan will be bound for a period of a thousand years (20:1–3), and Christ’s millennial reign will begin (20:4–6). Seated at last upon His earthly throne, the Lord Jesus will unilaterally and perfectly rule the nations as their sole Sovereign and King (cf. Ps. 2:8–9; Rev. 12:5).
The Saints. At the Lord’s return, He will be joined by “many thousands of His holy ones” (Jude 14), a heavenly army that will include both angels (Matt. 24:31; 25:31; Mark 8:38; 2 Thess. 1:7) and glorified saints (Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 3:13; Rev. 19:14). The church, having been raptured before the seven-year tribulation began (cf. John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–52; 1 Thess. 4:15–18; Rev. 3:10), will compose the entourage that accompanies Christ in His triumph. (For a discussion on the timing of the rapture of the church in light of the Olivet Discourse, see John MacArthur, Luke 18–24, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary [Chicago: Moody, 2014], chap. 22.)
After the enemies of Christ are vanquished, then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. With the blast of “a great trumpet” (Matt. 24:31), those believers who are alive on the earth, having come to saving faith during the tribulation and survived, will be gathered from all across the world and assembled together. Their number will include the 144,000 Jews who were supernaturally protected during the tribulation (Rev. 7:4–8; 14:1–5), along with myriads of other converts, both Jew (Zech. 12:10–11; cf. Isa. 59:20; Rom. 11:25–26) and Gentile (cf. Rev. 7:9). Having never bowed the knee to the Antichrist but remained faithful to the one true Lord, they will be rewarded by their King and welcomed into His glorious kingdom (cf. Luke 21:28). Joined by all the redeemed of all the ages, all the elect will be assembled together with Christ. Gathered from both the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven, they will enter the perpetual joy of the kingdom where they will reign with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:3–6; cf. Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:29; 1 Cor. 6:2–3), after which they will continue to experience the glories of eternal life on the new earth forever (cf. Rev. 21:1–22:5).
The Coming of the Son of Man (13:24–27)
Verses 24–27 form a unit and relate to the parousia and the end of the age. They are set off from the previous verses by the strong adversative alla (“but”). Whereas the preceding verses (5–23) point ambiguously to both the destruction of Jerusalem and the end time, these verses appear to speak exclusively of the end time. Following a series of catastrophic signs in the heavens, the Son of Man, returning in the clouds, will send his angels to gather the elect from the ends of the earth, judge the wicked, and establish his eternal kingdom. The salvation achieved through the ransom-sacrifice of the Son of Man on the cross will reach its consummation with his return in glory.
With the majority of commentators, we take this section to refer to the final act of history and the establishment of the kingdom of God. For a contrary view, see Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 354–68, 510–19, who argues that the “coming” of the Son of Man refers not to the physical descent from heaven of the Messiah but to the vindication of God’s people and their representative, Jesus Christ, in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. According to this perspective, the apocalyptic language used here was never intended to be taken literally, but instead (and characteristically for such language) stands for something else, namely, God’s victory over and judgment against those who opposed his representative. Wright, 515, summarizes his perspective:
The discourse as a whole then works as follows. Jesus has been asked about the destruction of the Temple. His reply has taken the disciples through the coming scenario: great tribulation, false messiahs arising, themselves hauled before magistrates. They need to know both that Jerusalem is to be destroyed and that they must not stand and fight, but must escape while they can. There will then occur the great cataclysmic event which will be at the same time (a) the final judgment on the city that has now come, with awful paradox, to symbolize rebellion against YHWH; (b) the great deliverance promised in the prophets; and (c) the vindication of the prophet who had predicted the downfall, and who had claimed to be embodying in himself all that Jerusalem and the Temple had previously stood for.
A similar view is espoused by France, 530–34, who claims that the disciples’ question about the destruction of Jerusalem is not answered until this point in the discourse (vv. 24–27). We will discuss particulars of this interpretation in the notes at the end of this section.
24–25 “In those days,” a common OT expression having eschatological associations, further evidences that something beyond the destruction of Jerusalem is in view (cf. Jer 3:16, 18; 31:29; 33:15–16; Joel 3:1; Zec 8:23). In Mark, Jesus speaks of a period “following that distress” (or “tribulation”). Matthew, however, says that these cosmic events will occur “immediately” after the distress of those days (24:29), which seems to connect the destruction of Jerusalem directly to the return of the Son of Man. D. A. Carson, however, argues that the distress (thlipsis; GK 2568) Matthew is referring to is the thlipsis of Matthew 24:9, 22, not the “great distress” of vv. 15–21. “The celestial signs and the coming of the Son of Man do not immediately follow ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ but ‘the distress of those days’—i.e., of the entire interadvent period of thlipsis” (see p. 567 in this volume). Like Mark, then, Matthew would be moving back and forth between references to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the end.
The coming of the Son of Man will be associated with celestial phenomena. The imagery and language derive from OT descriptions of the day of the Lord. The quotation echoes Isaiah 13:10 (“the stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light; the rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light”), but other OT passages reveal similar language (Isa 24:23; 34:4; Eze 32:7–8; Joel 2:10, 30–31; 3:4, 15, 20; Am 8:9). These celestial events are not so much portents or signs that Christ is about to return, but rather the radical transformation of creation that accompanies his return. G. R. Beasley-Murray (Jesus and the Last Days [Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1993], 375) writes, “The fundamental idea of signs in heaven and on earth is the reaction to the stepping forth of the awesome and terrible Creator. The elements of creation go into confusion and fear because he appears, not as a sign that he is about to do so (see, e.g., Jdg 5:4–5; Am 1:2; Hab 3:3–6, 10–11; Pss 77:14–16; 114:1–8).” This language is that of theophany. God is about to reveal himself through awesome power and judgment by the divine Son of Man.
It is difficult to know how much the poetic language here is to be understood literally and how much figuratively. The repeated assertion in Scripture that the end times will be accompanied by cosmic disturbances seems to imply that there will be unprecedented celestial disturbances of some sort that are literal (cf. 2 Pe 3:10). This literality is not to deny that Mark may be using phenomenal language, but his language is nonetheless referring to objective events in the physical universe. These events will occur when God brings history to an end by the coming of his Son. Ladd (Theology of the New Testament, 203) writes, “This language does not mean necessarily the complete break-up of the universe; we know from similar language elsewhere that it designates the judgment of God upon a fallen world that has shared the fate of humanity’s sin, that out of the ruins of judgment a new world may be born.”
26–27 The celestial drama climaxes when the Son of Man comes in the clouds with “great power and glory.” Jesus describes his coming in these verses almost entirely in the words of Scripture. The reference here is to Daniel 7:13, the first time Jesus explicitly connects the title “Son of Man” with this prophecy in Daniel (cf. Mk 14:62; for a discussion of the title “Son of Man,” see comments at 8:31).
The great emphasis of these verses is on disclosure and triumph. Whereas the Son of Man has been hidden, or at least veiled, in his first coming, now he will be revealed. People “will see” him and see him for who he really is. Whereas he has been the lowly Suffering Servant, despised and rejected, the Son of Man at his parousia will come in triumph—“with great power and glory.” And his chief concern at his coming will be to bring together his people so that they may be with him; so he sends forth his angels to gather the elect from all over the world (v. 27). The gathering and restoration of the remnant of God’s people is a common theme in the OT and Judaism (Dt 30:4; Isa 11:11–12; 43:5–6; Jer 23:3; 32:37; Eze 34:12–13; 36:24; Zec 2:10; Pss. Sol. 8:28; 11:1–4; 17:21–28). The fact that they are called “his angels” reflects a remarkably high Christology. Throughout the OT it is God who commands and directs the angels of heaven (Evans, 329). Here it is the Son of Man, the one who is “given authority, glory and sovereign power” and who will be worshiped by “all nations and peoples of every language” (Da 7:14 TNIV).
13:26–27. The return of Jesus will not be seen by just a few people, as was true of his entrance into the world when he was born in a manger. This time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. The reference here is to Daniel 7:13. This is the first time Jesus definitely connected the title “Son of Man” with the Daniel prophesy (cf. Mark 14:62).
All of humankind will see the Son of Man as the ruler of this universe. His major concern will be to gather his people together so they might share in this time of triumph. The phrase, gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens, has a dual meaning. Not only will he send his angels to gather his people from the ends of the earth but apparently those in the heavens who have gone on before will also be with him to celebrate his triumph.
26. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. This “they” must mean “all mankind,” cf. Rev. 1:7. As was pointed out above, Matt. 24:30 states, “And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in the sky,” but both Mark and Luke leave out the word “sign.” They simply represent Jesus as declaring that men will see “the Son of man coming” majestically. Probable solution: the very appearance of the Son of man upon clouds of glory is itself the sign, the one great, final sign from the point of view of the earth. Christ’s brilliant self-manifestation will be the sign or signal that he is about to go forth to meet his people, while they ascend to meet him in the air. He comes to deliver the oppressed elect people (clearly implied in verses 20, 27; see also Luke 21:28). In fact, he will gather all the elect—both the survivors and those who had previously fallen asleep—to himself, to be with him forever.
This appearance of the Son of man in majesty is a sign in still another respect: the glorious manner of his appearance corresponds exactly with the prediction of Dan. 7:13, 14; cf. Mark 14:62. For the significance of “clouds” see N.T.C. on Matthew, p. 667. The glory that marks the Son of man’s sudden and brilliant manifestation is a definite proof of the Father’s delight in his Son and of the justice of the cause of him who was once “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).
Note “the Son of man,” see on Mark 2:10; and note also “with great power and glory.” That “power” is evident from what happens at his coming: see verses 24, 25, 27; add Rev. 14:14–16; also 20:11 (in view of Rev. 3:21; 5:7, 8, it is impossible to remove the Son from this throne). “And glory,” for at his coming all his attributes—power, wisdom, holiness, love, etc.—shine forth brilliantly. This “great power and glory” is enhanced by what is stated in the next verse:
Assembly of the Scattered Eject
27. And then he will send forth his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from farthest reach of earth to farthest reach of heaven. At Christ’s return, the already “departed ones,” that is, the souls that had previously exchanged their earthly for their heavenly dwelling, are quickly reunited with their now glorified bodies. The “survivors,” that is, those children of God that are still living on earth at Christ’s return, are changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). Together, all the elect, now forming one countless multitude, thus gathered “from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven,” accompanied by the angels who were divinely instructed to gather them, now go forth as the Bride, to meet the Bridegroom, and to be with him forevermore. See N.T.C. on 1 Thess. 4:13–18.
Evidence for the separate units of this representation:
- The sending forth of the angels.
Though none of the following passages teach exactly what is stated here with respect to their task at Christ’s return, Mark 13:27 (cf. Matt. 24:31) is in line with the following: Matt. 13:41, 49; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 16:22; 2 Thess. 1:7; Heb. 1:14. See also the summary of biblical teaching on angels, N.T.C. on Matthew, pp. 694, 695.
See above, on verse 20.
These represent the four points of the compass; hence, “from the four winds” means “from everywhere.” See Zech. 2:6; and Cf. Deut. 30:4; Isa. 11:12; Ezek. 7:2; Rev. 7:1; 20:8.
- “from farthest reach of earth to farthest reach of heaven.”
It is true that the Old Testament contains many passages which show that the scattered children of God will be gathered (Deut. 30:4; Isa. 11:11–16; 27:12, 13; Ezek. 39:27, 28; Zech. 2:6–11, etc.). But such references, though indeed helpful, merely anticipate or foreshadow what is taught here in Mark 13:27. They predict a return to the land of Canaan, and it is a known fact that the remnant did actually return. What Jesus teaches, as recorded here in Mark 13:27, is something else; namely, the collective gathering of all the elect to himself at his glorious return. So, if one is looking for parallel passages (in addition to Matt. 24:31), he should turn rather to Matt. 25:31–40; John 10:16; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; and Rev. 19:6–8.
 MacArthur, J. (2015). Mark 9–16 (pp. 253–258). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 Wessel, W. W., & Strauss, M. L. (2010). Mark. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 929–932). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Cooper, R. L. (2000). Mark (Vol. 2, p. 221). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Vol. 10, pp. 536–538). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.