Since the application of Jesus’ prophecy to the temple in Jerusalem was completely fulfilled with its destruction in AD 70, the rest of the prophecy applies only to the beginning of the time of the end and the Second Coming of Christ.

“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” (Matthew 24:29). The period of papal supremacy ended in the late 1700’s. Around that time there was a day when the sun was darkened, May 19, 1780. A strange and extensive darkness covered much of New England, which people at the time interpreted as a sign of the end of the age. A few years later on Nov. 13, 1833 one of the most spectacular meteor showers in history occurred, with up to 60,000 meteorites per hour. These celestial signs arrested the attention of those Christians who were aware of Jesus’ prophecy and that of Revelation 6:12,13.[1] They were interpreted as signs of the imminent coming of Christ, and served their purpose of directing attention to the beginning of the “time of the end” in 1844.

The primary fulfillment of these celestial signs will take place “immediately after the tribulation of those days” at the end of the seven last plagues (see Appendix 10 footnote). In the parallel passage, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus describes these as “signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25-27). John mentions these same signs in the context of “the great day of His wrath” (Revelation 6:17) with the additional detail of the great earthquake that will destroy “great Babylon”—“there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its untimely figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. And the sky departed as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island was moved out of their places” (Revelation 6:12-14). The "great earthquake" that moves every "mountain and island" takes place during the seventh plague, just before the Second Coming (Revelation 16:17-20).

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn” (Matt. 24:30). It is no wonder that the ungodly mourn as they witness the world as they have known it crumbling around them. At this time “the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘fall on us and hide us from the face of Him that sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16). They are afraid of the One who longed to be their Savior, because they did not know Him.

But for those who have known Him this will be the day they have been waiting for, when they will meet their Savior face to face: “And it will be said in that day; ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him and He will save us…We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Isaiah 25:9). “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). “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 25:30,31). "And it will be said in that day, 'behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him and He will save us...We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isaiah 25:9). “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).

With the threefold application of His prophecy of Matthew 24 Jesus has given those who will be living during the final time of trouble an outline and some clues from the past applications so that we can recognize the final events by comparing them with the previous ones. He also gave links to other prophecies such as the abomination of desolation and the final signs. In the book of Revelation He has given the details of the trumpet plagues, including the final war, the appearance of the angel from the bottomless pit, the mission and experience of the two witnesses, as well as the events described in Revelation 13:11-18 (the mark of the beast, etc.), chapter 14 (the three angels' messages), and the seven last plagues, including the judgment of Babylon (chapters 15-19). In other words, God through the prophecies has given us a treasure of information about what will happen during the time of trouble. We should become very familiar with these prophecies now, even though we do not fuly understand whta they mean, trusting that the meaning of these prophecies will become obvious as they unfold.

Most Christians will go into the time of trouble not really knowing what is happening, why God is allowing it, and how long this most fearsome time will continue. The message of the seven thunders is the revelation of all this. It has been sealed but will be revealed as the knowledge becomes essential. “See, I have told you beforehand.” “Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (Matthew 24:25, John 13:19). God’s people may never know the “day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming,” but they will know many details in advance. This will be a witness to “the great multitude” of God’s people who are in “Babylon.” God’s messengers will be able to predict and explain the awesome events that are taking place, and this will give hope and courage.

Continue to next section: 10:7 THE MYSTERY OF GOD

[1] The prophecy of Revelation 6:12 also mentions “a great earthquake”, and again around this time, on Nov. 1, 1755, the Lisbon earthquake, which was one of the most extensive and destructive in history, was seen as a fulfillment of this prophecy.