“Immediately after the tribulation of those days, ‘the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’Matthew 24:29–31 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
“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 shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
“But in those days, after that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers that are in heaven will be shaken.’Mark 13:24–27 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of the earth to the farthest part of heaven.
“There will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men fainting from fear and expectation of what is coming on the inhabited earth. For the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.”Luke 21:25–28 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
In the harmony of these presentations of the special briefing that Jesus gave His disciples at the end of the age, there are similarities that can be harmonized. All three are describing a time of great tumult, with signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and the heavens being shaken. We also see Jesus coming in the clouds.
To understand the coming in the clouds, we must delve into the old testament. We find over the many mentions of clouds associated with God it came in the form of divine intervention for His people. During the exodus, God led the Israelites in a pillar of cloud by day. When the cloud descended on the tent of meeting, it signified the presence of God. God coming in the clouds is a powerful and symbolic way to demonstrate divine intervention, divine judgment, or divine provision for the preservation of His people.
In this ‘sign’ we see ALL three. There is also another truth in the harmony that isn’t discussed. That is, Jesus is referring to Himself as God. If one understands the trial with the high priest, Jesus was asked if He was the Messiah, the Son of God. In His reply, He affirmed the questions the priest asked and claimed He is God. This is understood when we know the identity of Who comes in the clouds. Jesus said it would be Him by the title He chose for Himself. This title is also a direct reference to all of this.
I saw in the night visions, and there was one like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. There was given to Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.Daniel 7:13–14 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
The differences are also important. Let’s poke at some of these.
The first is the introductory phrase to this time. In the Matthew and Mark account, the audiences’ attention is drawn toward the period after these distresses. More things would happen on Earth and in the heavens, and then the Son of Man would appear. The elect would be gathered, and a kingdom established (The latter part is inferred.) Both accounts seem to give a contemporaneous account of events.
Now note how Luke explains it, paying special attention to where he wants the audiences’ attention drawn. From the outset, Luke is asking his reader to understand the time before these events occur. This is clearly understood by this phrase “of what is coming on the inhabited earth.” Luke describes the same events that will happen, not contemporaneously.
Then we encounter the last sentence. “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.” Luke is a gentile writing to gentiles. He is admonishing them to pay attention to when these things begin to happen. We also have the use of a unique word, ‘redemption.’
Matthew and Mark are drawing attention to the time of God’s intervention, judgment, and preservation of His people. Perhaps it could be redemption. Yet they did not use the word. I think it is because the attention of the reader is being drawn to two different events. Luke is drawing attention to redemption that occurs before the harmonized disasters that are described.
Considering redemption and the way the word is used in the New Testament, we can readily see the references of the majority of forms in the graphic. There are two other uses, one reference meaning ransom/release is cited in Hebrews 11:35 (Red.) The other is referencing an event and is the one word from Luke 21:28 we are discussing, ‘Redemption.’