The five "comings" of Jesus
The eschatology of Jesus
Crucial to a right interpretation of chapters 24 and 25 in Matthew's gospel, is the way Jesus breaks open the meaning of "coming" in the disciples question, "What will be the sign of your coming" (parousia "coming / presence", usually translated "coming" in the NIV). There are many divine "comings". God's hand of judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah is a typical "coming", as is the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. D.B. Knox in "The five comings of Jesus: Matthew 24 and 25", The Reformed Theological Review, XXIV #2, suggests that it is possible to identify five "appearings" (comings) of Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus mentions four of them in these chapters.
The exegetical notes on this site do not follow the pattern suggested by Knox, but the approach is worth noting.
1. Jesus' appearing in his birth
Jesus' coming to this world. He comes as a light in darkness to save the world, Jn.12:47. He comes to complete the purpose of the law, Matt.5:7, and thus "call sinners to repentance", Matt.10:35.
2. Jesus' coming in judgement upon Jerusalem
This is the "abomination of desolation", 24:15, spoken of by Daniel and made explicit by Luke, 25:31. "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies then know that it's desolation is at hand." This is based on Daniel 7 where the Son of Man comes to (appears before and is accepted by) the Ancient of Days and initiates judgement. There have been many such "appearings" where the sinner is overtaken in judgement, unpredictable, swift, conspicuous and violent. The Bible often calls them "a day of the Son of Man". The flood in Noah's time was such a "day". Abraham rejoiced to see such a "day", Jn.8:56, the "day" being the judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah. The destruction of Jerusalem will be such a "day", says Jesus. That "day" occurred in 70AD.
3. Jesus' coming to reign through the gospel
The coming of Jesus in the clouds of heaven, Matt.24:30, 34, 26:64. This derives from Daniel 7:13 where the Son of Man comes with the clouds into the presence of the Ancient of Days and receives the kingdom. It is a "coming", an appearing, to reign. His reign is over the nations. This reign is exercised in the mission of the church through the conversion of the Gentiles via the preaching of the gospel. It was on the basis of this authority that Jesus sent his disciples out. This work begins in earnest after the destruction of Jerusalem, cf. Matt.21:40-43. As Jesus says to his disciples, "you shall not go through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes". ie. before Jerusalem is destroyed and the Gentile mission is launched in all its fullness. The Gentile mission is described in the terms of Isaiah 13:10, Matt.24:29, the imagery of a world turned upside down - social and national turmoil, through the proclamation of the gospel.
4. Jesus' coming as the Spirit of Christ
"The sign of the Son of Man in heaven", Matt.24:30. Through the Spirit, God's people are gathered and blessed. The gospel brings about repentance and draws a people to Christ, Jn.16:8, Rev.1:7. All this is initiated in the generation of the disciples, Matt.24:35.
5. Jesus coming with the angels for the final judgement
In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 we see the best description of this coming judgement, cf. Matt.25:31ff. Daniel 7:10, also Zechariah 14:5, defines the imagery of this appearing in final judgement.