27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Matthew 24:27, KJV
Yeshua is using metaphorical language to describe His second coming, that is, comparing His return to a New Moon ritual. The Testaments consists of many Hebrew idioms and a few times hyperbole in order to make a point that would have been familiar to those in their cultural settings.
Israel centered on two things: the Torah and the Temple.
All the first century culture and rituals in the Torah aligned with the Temple, the Beit Din, Sanhedrin, Sabbath, the feasts of the Lord and priestly functions, circumcision, purity, sanctifying the New Moon, witnesses, etc. Some of these play a part, a foretelling of those things that pertain to the Messiah, His birth, death, resurrection, return, His judgment on those who oppose Him, His reign in the Messianic Age, and the Eternal Day (witnessed by John in Revelation 21 and chapter 22).
In Matthew 24, the disciples are asking about the sign of His coming. Yeshua offers them a number of signs instead. His disciples would also understand these signs as ‘the footprints of Messiah’ (signs that herald His coming). Mishnah, Sotah 9.15
Some of ‘the footprints of Messiah’ Yeshua refers to as a time of sorrows in Matthew 24:5-8, coincides with seals 1, 2 and 3 in Revelation 6.
He moves forward and speaks of tribulation, which is martyrdom, persecution of His servants, by all the nations. Mt. 24:9-14. This would parallel with the overlapping of seal 3 with the seals 4, 5, and 6. Revelation 6
According to Yeshua, a Great Tribulation will follow after the abomination of desolation in verse 15. Mt. 24:15-28. This corresponds with seals 6 overlapping with seal 7 in Revelation.
Yeshua mentions in (Mt 24) verse 27: For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
For as lightning goes out from the mizrach (east) and shines to as far as the maarav (west), thus will be the Bias haMoshiach (coming of the Messiah, the Ben HaAdam, the Son of Man. The Orthodox Jewish Brit Chadasha
This is in reference to the Temple and how the sighting of the New Moon was announced and messaged to those in diaspora, that is, to the exiles in Babylon and the west.
Lightning is the Hebrew word barak. This metaphorical language is to describe the arrival of the Messiah like the torches and bonfires used to signal the arrival of the New Moon.
The early believers in Colossae observed the New Moon and other feasts of the Lord. Colossians 2:17
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.
They were encouraged to observe the ‘substance of Christ.’
The ancients used a method described in Rosh Ha-Shanah (FEAST OF THE NEW YEAR) 2.3-4, in the Moed Division of the Mishnah.
3. Beforetime they used to kindle the flares? They used to take long cedar-wood sticks and rushes and oleaster-wood and flax-tow; and a man bound these up with a rope and went up to the top of the hill set light to them; and he waved them to and fro and up and down until he could see his fellow doing the like on the top of the next hill. And so, too, on the top of the third hill.
4. And from what place did they kindle the flares? From the mount of Olives [they signalled] to Sarteba, and from Sarteba to Agrippina, and from Agrippina to Hauran, and from Hauran to Beth Baltin. They did not go beyond Beth Baltin, but there the flare was waved to and fro and up and down until a man could see the whole exile (Babylon or Bavil) before him like a sea of fire.
Below is an excerpt from Tractate Rosh Hashana: Chapter 2 (jewishvirtuallibrary.org)
MISHNA: Formerly bonfires were lighted (to announce the appearance of the new moon); but when the Cutheans (Samaritans) 2 practised their deceit, it was ordained that messengers should be sent out. How were these bonfires lighted? They brought long staves of cedar wood, canes, and branches of the olive tree, and bundles of tow which were tied on top of them with twine; with these they went to the top of a mountain, and lighted them, and kept waving them to and fro, upward and downward, till they could perceive the same repeated by another person on the next mountain, and thus, on the third mountain, etc. Whence did these bonfires commence? From The Mount of Olives to Sartabha, from Sartabha to Grophinah, from Grophinah to Hoveran, from Hoveran to Beth Baltin; they did not cease waving the burning torches at Beth Baltin, to and fro, upward and downward, until the whole country of the captivity appeared like a blazing fire.
It is interesting the description the Jewish Virtual Library has: “Until the whole country of the captivity appeared like a blazing fire.”
Ancient Israel called the New Moon, Molad, birth of New Moon. Once it had been determined by two or more witnesses, the Council would proceed in celebratory manner. The chatsotserah (silver trumpets) would be blown and festivities of sacrifices and feasting would begin. A pyre would be lit as a beacon atop Mount Olives in concentric circles radiating out across Israel into diaspora to signal the beginning of the month.
Also in the day of your gladness and in your solemn days and in the beginnings of your months, you will blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings so they will be to you for a memorial before your God, I am the LORD your God.
The two silver trumpets were used to signal the entire encampment. We can imagine their use as similar to modern army buglers sounding an assembly or charge. The sound must have carried over the heads of the Israelites for miles. The new month and feast days were marked, various assemblies could be called, alarms sounded to move forward, or even to go to war, depending on the signal given, not unlike the system still used on naval vessels today. One trumpet blown (Hebrew teru’ah) a prolonged blowing, called the leaders of Israel to Moses (verse 4).
Eleazar and Ithamar, sons of Aaron, were to blow the two silver trumpets as an ordinance forever (verse 8). Of course, there is no functioning Levitical priesthood today to carry out this ordinance. These trumpets were a type or a picture of the heavenly trumpets that will sound at the return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
So, He is saying His return will be like the lighting of the bonfires and torches coming from the east at Mount Olives and moving out to the nations as far as the west. It will light up the west. The Temple is also situated east to west. The announcement of His coming will begin in the east, and it will go as far as the nations of the west. People will see it, and will not miss His appearance. It will be observable.
Therefore if they would say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the desert,’ do not come out; ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
His appearance is not in the inner rooms, or the desert, etc. This is alluding to the Beast. He will be found in here on the earth, and will call himself god, and say he is here to save humanity. Unless he comes like fire from the east that lights up the west, until the whole country of the captivity appeared like a blazing fire; do not believe it.
Yeshua will come to deliver Israel, and to destroy the Beast, the false prophet, and his military. He will destroy those who worshipped the dragon, the Beast, his image, those who took his name or the number of his name. The whole country of captivity will appear like a blazing fire. People should fear the Lord.
Below are just notes.
As I was reading this out, it may be a hint that He would perhaps come at the New Moon, which is the first day of every month. The feast of Yom Teruah/Rosh haShanah is the only feast that begins at the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei).
New Moon, Molad, birth of New Moon. The Council would question 2 witnesses on the sighting of the first light (crescent) of the moon. If evidence was genuine, a new moon was sanctified. Head of the court would cry out: M’kudash (New Moon) is consecrated. Others in the court would repeat: M’kudash! M’kudash!
And from which mountains would they light the torches? They would transmit the message from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to Sartava, and from Sartava to Gerofina, and from Gerofina to Ḥavran, and from Ḥavran to Beit Baltin. And from Beit Baltin they would not move to light torches in any other predetermined location. Rather, the one who was appointed for this task would wave the torch back and forth and up and down, until he would see the entire Diaspora before him alight like one large bonfire, as they would light torches to continue transmitting the message from place to place all the way to the farthest reaches of the Diaspora.
Originally each Hebrew calendar month started after the observation in Israel of the first visible crescent after the new moon. Jewish communities outside Israel depended on messengers to communicate calendar decisions. In Hebrew year 4119 (Julian 358 AD), after Roman Emperor Constantius II outlawed New Moon announcements, Hillel ben Yehudah, the second-last President of the ancient Sanhedrin, promulgated a fixed arithmetic calendar (probably developed a century earlier by Amora Shmuel the Astronomer of Nehardea, Babylonia) based on the Metonic cycle of leap years (235 months in 19 years, with 7 leap months per 19 year cycle) and using simple arithmetic to approximate the moment of the mean lunar conjunction (the molad, or in plural moladot). Since then, the molad of the Hebrew calendar has been nothing more than a fixed arithmetic cycle that determines the provisional date of Rosh Hashanah (the Hebrew New Year Day), subject to possible postponement of 0, 1 or 2 days (depending on the weekday and timing of the molad moment).
For centuries Jews have followed a tradition of announcing the moment of the molad for the coming month in their synagogues during the morning services on the last Sabbath before the start of each month except Tishrei. All of these announced moladot are of no relevance to the Hebrew calendar! The only molad that matters in Hebrew calendar arithmetic is the molad of Tishrei, yet that molad is never announced!
In Temple times, the new month was a festival, marked by the blowing of the shofar and special sacrifices. Messengers were sent out and a series of mountaintop pyres lit to spread the word to outlying communities.
Using a long torch on top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a representative of the Sanhedrin would light a fire on top of the hill. People watching on nearby hills would see the flames and light their own fires. In this way, notice that the New Moon had been sighted spread far and wide. (This practice also explains why most Jewish holidays are celebrated for an extra day outside of the land of Israel; since it could take days for the news of the New Moon to spread, far-flung Jewish communities adopted the custom of celebrating for two days.) In later days, the Samaritans would sometimes try and confuse Jews by lighting their own fires, so the Sanhedrin began to send out news that a new month had dawned using messengers instead.