The Coming of the Son of Man
And then if any one says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.
"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 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.
Theophylact - After that the Lord had finished all that concerned Jerusalem, He now speaks of the coming of Antichrist, saying, "Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, to, he is there; believe him not." But when He says, "then," think not that it means immediately after these things are fulfilled about Jerusalem; as Matthew also says after the birth of Christ, "In those days came John the Baptist;" [Matthew 3:1] does he mean immediately after the birth of Christ? No, but he speaks indefinitely and without precision. So also here, "then" may be taken to mean not when Jerusalem shall be made desolate, but about the time of the coming of Antichrist.
It goes on: "For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect."
For many shall take upon them the name of Christ, so as to seduce even the faithful.
Augustine, de Civ. Dei, xx, 19 - For then shall Satan be unchained, and work through Antichrist in all his power, wonderfully indeed, but falsely. But a doubt is often raised whether the Apostle said "signs and lying wonders," because he is to deceive mortal sense, by phantoms, so as to appear to do what he does not, or because those wonders themselves, even though true, are to turn men aside to lies, because they will not believe that any power but a Divine power could do them, being ignorant of the power of Satan, especially when he shall have received such power as he never had before. But for whichever reason it is said, they shall be deceived by those signs and wonders who deserve to be deceived.
Greg., Hom in Ezech. i, 9 - Why however is it said with a doubt "if it were possible," when the Lord knows beforehand what is to be? One of two things is implied; that if they are elect, it is not possible; and if it is possible, they are not elect. This doubt therefore in our Lord's discourse expresses the trembling in the mind of the elect. And He calls them elect, because He sees that they will persevere in faith and good works; for those who are chosen to remain firm are to be tempted to fall by the signs of the preachers of Antichrist.
Bede - Some however refer this to the time of the Jewish captivity, where many, declaring themselves to be Christs, drew after them crowds of deluded persons; but during the siege of the city there was no Christian to whom the Divine exhortation, not to follow false teachers, could apply. Wherefore it is better to understand it of heretics, who, coming to oppose the Church, pretended to be Christs; the first of whom was Simon Magus, but that last one, greater than the rest, is Antichrist.
It goes on: "But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things."
Augustine, Epist., 78 - For He did not only foretel to His disciples the good things which He would give to His saints and faithful ones, but also the woes in which this world was to abound, that we might look for our reward at the end of the world with more confidence, from feeling the woes in like manner announced as about to precede the end of the world.
Theophylact - But after the coming of Antichrist, the frame of the world shall be altered and changed, for the stars shall be obscured on account of the abundance of the brightness of Christ. Wherefore it goes on: "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; and the stars of heaven shall fall."
Bede - For the stars in the day of judgment shall appear obscure, not by any lessening of their own light, but because of the brightness of the true light, that is, of the most high Judge coming upon them; although there is nothing to prevent its being taken to mean, that the sun and moon with all the other heavenly bodies then for a time are really to lose their light, just as we are told was the case with the sun at the time of our Lord's Passion. But after the day of judgment, when there shall be a new sky and a new earth, then shall happen what Isaiah says: "Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold." [Isaiah 30:26]
There follows: "And the powers of heaven shall be shaken."
Theophylact - That is, the Angelic virtues shall be astonished, seeing that such great things are done, and that their fellow-servants are judged.
Bede - What wonder is it that men should be troubled at this judgment, the sight of which makes the very Angelic powers to tremble? What will the stories of the house do when the pillars shake? What does the shrub of the wilderness undergo, when the cedar of paradise is moved?
Pseudo-Jerome - Or else, the sun shall be darkened, at the coldness of their hearts, as in the winter time. And the moon shall not give her light with serenity, in this time of quarrel, and the stars of heaven shall fail in their light, when the seed of Abraham shall all but disappear, for to it they are likened [Genesis 22:17]. And the powers of heaven shall be stirred up to the wrath of vengeance, when they shall be sent by the Son of Man at His coming, of whose Advent it is said, "And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory," He, that is, who first came down like rain into the fleece of Gideon in all lowliness.
Augustine, Epist., cxcix, 11 - For since it was said by the Angels to the Apostles, "He shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven," [Acts 1:11] rightly do we believe that He will come not only in the same body, but on a cloud, since He is to come as He went away, and a cloud received Him as He was going.
Theophylact - But they shall see the Lord as the Son of Man, that is, in the body, for that which is seen is body.
Augustine, de Trin., i, 13 - For the vision of the Son of Man is shewn even to the bad, but the vision of the form of God to the pure in heart alone, "for they shall see God." [Matthew 5:8] And because the wicked cannot see the Son of God, as He is in the form of God, equal to the Father, and at the same time both just and wicked are to see Him as Judge of the quick and dead, before Whom they shall be judged, it was necessary that the Son of Man should receive power to judge. Concerning the execution of which power, there is immediately added, "And then shall He send He angels."
Theophylact - Observe that Christ sends the Angels as well as the Father; where then are they who say that He is not equal to the Father? For the Angels go forth to gather together the faithful, who are chosen, that they may be carried into the air to meet Jesus Christ.
Wherefore it goes on: "And gather together His elect from the four winds."
Pseudo-Jerome - As corn winnowed from the threshing-floor of the whole earth.
Bede - By "the four winds," He means the four parts of the world, the east, the west, the north, and the south. And lest any one should think that the elect are to be gathered together only from the four edges of the world, and not from the midland regions as well as the borders, He has fitly added, "From the uttermost part of earth, to the uttermost part of heaven," that is, from the extremities of the earth to its utmost bounds, where the circle of the heavens appears to those who look from afar to rest upon the boundaries of the earth. No one therefore shall be elect in that day who remains behind and does not meet the Lord in the air, when He comes to judgment. The reprobate also shall come to judgment, that when it is finished they may be scattered abroad and perish from before the face of God.
- text taken from by Saint Thomas Aquinas, translated by William Whiston, 1842