One thing we must keep in mind as we read Matthew 24 is that we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets – Jesus Christ, himself, being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The point is: we are not built upon the foundation of Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Calvin, or any other man or group of men, however mightily they may have been used of God. These latter at best comment upon God’s word, while the apostles and prophets spoke the very words of God. They alone were moved of the Spirit to write down what God said. Other religious figures have their place within the Church, but their place is not the foundation upon which we rest.
If we fail to remember this, who is it who teaches us? Do men teach us or does the Spirit of God? We must remain within the teaching of Jesus (2John 1:9), and no matter how great the man of God, if we wish the Holy Spirit to lead us, we must not be overly impressed with the words of men. Really, why go to Jesus through the messenger, when all of God’s people are granted an audience with God through the Spirit? While it is true God has given gifts to the church in the persons of apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, if men presume upon the teaching of Scriptures, they are not remaining within the words of Jesus (2John 1:9) and the Scriptures say they do not know as they ought. In other words, their doctrines are not everything they should be.
As one reads Matthew 24 and as this Scripture concerns prophecy, the question arises, if the Apostles’ wished to know about the visible return of Jesus, why would they want to know the sign of his parousia (G3952; i.e. arrival or presence)? In other words, if everyone will see him, what need would there be for a sign that he is here? In my own mind at least, the answer has to be that his coming is not known to all. It is known to only those who look for it. Moreover, did the apostles even understand that Jesus would leave them at this point in time? It is my understanding that Jesus revealed he would leave and go to the Father during his final meal with them. They did not know at the time of the Olivet Prophecy that Jesus would be leaving.
At the time of the Olivet Prophecy, there was peace throughout the Roman Empire, so Jesus explained that trouble of all kinds, wars, pestilence, earthquakes, false christs, false prophets and persecution would arise, but these were merely the beginning. According to Luke 21:20-21 the end would be very near when the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and stood in the Holy Place (Matthew 24:15). At that time everyone would have to flee, because one didn’t even have time to pack. Immediately after the tribulation of those days, viz. the Roman army capturing Jerusalem,
1. the sun would be darkened
2. the moon wouldn’t give its light
3. stars would fall from heaven
4. the powers of heaven would be shaken (viz. Satan’s power).
These very same judgments were pronounced upon Babylon in Isaiah 13:1, 10 upon Pharaoh and Egypt in Ezekiel 32:2, 7-8 and upon Judah in Joel 2:10, 31. The judgment of Idumea in Isaiah 34:4-5 told of the hosts of heaven being dissolved and being rolled together like a scroll. The point is that Matthew 24 is written in apocalyptic language. What Jesus said was the leaders of the nation of Judea would no longer rule. The future was dark, and the literal sun, moon and stars would no longer shine upon their nation. Why? Because, the nation of Judea would no longer exist as the homeland of God’s people, the Jews. Death and destruction was in the future.
Then, in Matthew 24:30, the sign appears that proves or shows the Son of Man, Jesus, is in the heavens (cp. 1Thessalonians 4:16). The tribes of the earth (the Jews) mourn as they see the Son of Man, the Messiah, coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory to execute his prophetic judgment by destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish nation, (cp. Revelation 17:1-5 and 18:1-24; cp Matthew 26:64 and Mark 14:62). The Jews did not literally see Jesus coming, just as Babylon and Egypt didn’t see the Lord coming in judgment. However, they were able to see their impending fall. So, too, the Jews could see their imminent defeat at the hands of the Romans. All this occurred, because the Jews rejected their Messiah. This is implied in the Seventy Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:26-27).
In Isaiah 19:1, the Lord is shown going to Egypt to judge the nation, yet Egyptians didn’t see him. Psalm 97:2-3 and 104:3 do not portray a visible coming but a visitation of judgment and power. Remember this is apocalyptic language and not to be taken literally. Christ isn’t seen but his judgments are.
This interpretation or visualization of Scripture does not meet with the majority of what could be called current Christian thought. Nevertheless, this seems to be what the Bible teaches, and I don’t need a man to tell me where Jesus is (Matthew 24:26). I can recognize the effect of lightening and so can anyone else. Matthew 24 seems to indicate that Jesus has come and the sign of his presence is the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE.
I don’t mean to imply that Jesus will never come visibly to the earth and reward his servants. He definitely will do that, but Matthew 24 is not speaking of this. It tells of the presence of Jesus in the heavens, ruling from his throne and bringing the nations to naught. This coming requires a sign to understand that he is there. Jesus’ judgment upon the Jews in 70 CE is that sign.
May the Holy Spirit help all God’s people to see and acknowledge the truth of Scripture and stop wasting their time looking for the vain imaginations of men to take effect. Let God be true though all men be found liars.
 Much of the content of my post here was inspired by J. Marcellus Kik’s book Matthew Twenty-Four. I take full responsibility for the direction I take here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Rev. Kik’s work is largely responsible for my understanding of the Olivet Discourse.