What does Matthew 24:29 mean?Jesus has been telling the disciples that He does not want His followers to be deceived about His return to earth. False prophets and false messiahs will claim that Jesus is back, possibly out of view somewhere. Jesus has said flatly that those claims will not even be worth investigating. No one on earth will have to wonder whether Christ has come back. It will be obvious that He has returned (Matthew 24:23–28).
To demonstrate what He means, Jesus describes just how obvious it will be. These are the signs of the end of the age and Christ's return that the disciples had asked for earlier (Matthew 24:3).
Jesus sets this moment immediately after the epic struggles of "those days." This is more evidence that Jesus cannot be describing the days of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. Instead, He is pointing further forward to another period of "tribulation," a term referring to suffering and trials. That future period will be marked by dramatic and catastrophic signs in the sky. The sun will be darkened. The moon will offer no light. The "powers" of the heavens will be shaken, perhaps meaning the planets or other objects in the night sky.
Christ refers to "stars" falling, a point which raises confusion for modern audiences. It's important to remember that terms such as "star" have been given modernized definitions which did not exist in the ancient world. As a parallel, the word "bird" is used today to imply biological features such as feathers and eggs. "Fish" likewise implies scales and "cold blood." The ancient equivalents of those terms, however, did not carry those exact details. An ancient person could rightly call a bat a "bird," or a whale a "fish," simply because the definition of those terms, in that era, included those animals.
In very much the same way, Jesus is not saying that "enormous spheres of gas" will come to earth. He's referring to something we see in the night sky—just as even a modern person might speak of a "falling star" when they see certain events in the atmosphere.
Some Bible scholars say these signs should be read literally, as events that will actually take place in the sky in real time. One suggestion is that the atmosphere will be congested in some way, reducing the available light from the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Other Bible teachers speculate that these words from Jesus could be metaphors to describe massive geo-political events. Others try to combine these two possibilities to cover both viewable events in the sky and political events on the ground. Whatever happens, it will not be subtle.