Troublesome Topic: Will Jesus’ Return Be Visible or Secret?

Matthew 24:27


For the arrival

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of the SON OF MAN will be just like lightning that comes out of the East

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and shines

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as far as the West.


I tell you these things because I, GOD’S ANSWER TO MAN’S PROBLEM, will arrive on the scene and show who I really am in the most visible way possible, like lightning that comes at one end of the sky and brilliantly lights up everything to the other end of the sky.

Matthew 24:28


For wherever the carcass may be, there the vultures

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will gather.


I will indeed show my power and it will be obvious because there will be evidence of it. When you see the evidence, you will know what it means.

His return, i.e. the manifestation of His great power, will not be invisible, but visible. When it happens you will see it; like lightning, it will be evident to all at that moment, regardless of where they are. The reference to vultures drives home the same point. The fact that there is a dead carcass somewhere can be known by the vultures circling overhead. When Jesus returns it will not be a secret thing that leaves the unbelievers scratching their collective noggins; it will be obvious to all. Everyone will know exactly what happened, and know what it means.

This begs the question, “What will be the purpose of His coming?” Will it be to whisk away the believers so they do not have to endure what modern eschatologists call the “Great Tribulation,” or will it be to show His power by judging the nations? The word “arrival” used in verse 27 points toward the latter. First there will be signs of His power, but these demonstrations will only be to get people’s attention so they know that the powerful King has arrived on the scene. The true purpose will be to use His authority to act as judge over all nations by punishing and rewarding everyone according to what they have done (see Mt 16:27).

All this contradicts the modern teaching of a “secret rapture” which supposedly will happen without any warning and people will not know what is going on. According to the “secret rapture” idea, the believers will all suddenly disappear leaving cars without drivers, planes without pilots, and other such problems. According to the Pre-trib rapture theory, this will happen prior to 7 years of intense, world-wide persecution. The Post-Trib theory places this event after 7 years of “Great Tribulation,” while the Mid-Trib theory places it in the middle.  It is a “modern” teaching because this idea did not surface until 1827 or 1830 depending on who you credit for its origin (John Darby 1827, or Margaret MacDonald 1830). Before that no one heard the kind of teaching about prophecy which we hear today.

In verses 27 and 28 Jesus was saying, “When it happens you will know it, for it will be obvious.” The disciples were continually waiting for Jesus to fulfill His purpose and usher in a new era, which they would have called the age of the Messiah. He demonstrated His power over various things, such as sickness, death and the demonic world. But they knew He had come for a bigger purpose than just those demonstrations of power. They knew His power was going to be used to accomplish what no one else could accomplish; they hoped it would be used to kick the Romans out of their country.

The next lesson is: What Was Meant by the Title “Son of Man”?


1: “Arrival”

This is the same word the disciples used in their questions in verse 3 of this chapter. It usually referred to a king or other person of power showing up on the scene to fix a problem or correct a situation that only he could address. The term carried with it the idea of personal presence, and also that of power and glory. It was his “arrival on the scene in person to show his authority.”

Jesus was saying, “You wonder when I will reveal my full power? Well, that will happen at some point. In the meantime, do not believe others who claim to be the Messiah; do not look elsewhere just because I am different than you expected. I have true power, others do not. I will one day reveal my full power and glory, and I will do it in ways that everyone can easily see and understand. I will not make them come to me in some special place where they think God does His best work (the desert or the inner room), rather I will show myself equally to everyone everywhere, just as lightning is visible to all.”

2: "East”

Although this appears to be only an indication of something that can be seen from any vantage point because it fills the sky, in typical Jewish fashion, the thing that is coming has its origin in the East. For them life and everything that was important for sustaining life, came from the East. Their maps were oriented toward the East while ours are oriented toward the North. Jesus’ inclusion of this detail does not change the point being made, it simply fits how they thought.


This word means “to shine, to be bright or be brilliant,” hence it was used for lightning.


This word can mean “eagles, or vultures.” Because the context is specific to dead animals, vultures is the desired meaning.