Let’s begin our journey through Matthew chapter 24. Did you read Matthew chapters 21 to 23 to get the overall context–the lead up to Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse?
- Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came to point out the temple buildings to Him.
the temple buildings: Mark (13:1) notes that one of the disciples exclaimed “Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” This complex took 46 years to build (John 2:20) and was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was built of stones weighing up to 400 tons and was capable of accommodating up to one million people. Think about that.
2. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”
- Truly: Amen!Jesus often used this word when about to say something extremely surprising and unbelievable—as if to warn them they were about to be shocked—see v.34. And so this event was the most shocking and tumultuous thing any Jew could imagine would happen. This struck at the very heart of Judaism, their religion, God’s house. This was unimaginable, incredible, beyond belief.
- you: 2nd person, plural—these disciples are specifically addressed here and throughout this discourse and not for people of future times. Jesus provokes these disciples to ask questions.
- not one stone: The destruction of the temple will happen because it was now no longer God’s house, but ‘desolate’ (Mat 23:38) and by then Jesus would have made the sacrifice once for all (Hebrews 10:9, 12, 14, 18). See also Jesus’ words recorded in Luke 21:24. The Roman army under Titus destroyed the temple in 70 AD along with the city of Jerusalem.
3. As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”
- on the Mount of Olives: After ascending the mount they would have a clear view of the subject of Jesus’ shocking prophecy.
- privately: Mark wrote that Peter, James, John and Andrew were present (Mk 13:3). Luke identified the questioners as ‘they’ who were some of those who admired the temple area (Luke 21:5-6). Jesus spoke these words to people in his generation, not future generations.
- So the disciples had two questions for Jesus: a ‘when’ question about the destruction of the Temple buildings, and a ‘what’ question about ‘his parousia’ and ‘the end of the age’ which are inseparably bound in one sign (singular) to come.
- coming: (Grk ‘parousia’) means ‘presence’, a period, a state, not an action—Strong’s G3952. The word implies a visit or visitation and this one is of judgment and wrath. It is also for His people a coming to be present with them—God with them! Abiding in us!
- age: Grk aionos, not ‘kosmos’ world as in KJV. This is about the end of an age, the Mosaic age, the old covenant age—here and in the other occurrences of this phrase in this discourse. See 1 Cor 10:11—Paul wrote about his age which was already at an end. Hebrews 9:26 says ‘Jesus appeared at the end of the age, to put away sin.’ Jesus first coming was a past event, marking the beginning of the end of a period, the end of the Jewish or Mosaic age.
- The term ‘the end’ is repeated in vs. 4, 13, 14, so it is critical to know what is meant by ‘end’.
- Their questions used the terms ‘parousia’ and ‘end of the age’ as Jesus had already taught the disciples about his coming and the replacement of the current age (see Mat 16:27-28).
- The discourse that follows vss.4-36 must be seen as Jesus answering the disciples’ two questions—when these things will happen and what will be the sign of His presence. The central issue is Jesus’ coming in judgment on Israel and the Temple which no longer was fit for his presence among them and his parousia (presence) among a new ‘nation’ of the elect.
4. Jesus answered them “See to it that no one misleads you.
- Jesus warned them—they were likely enough to be misled. We can be misled too if we think these words are addressed to us!
5. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.
- The times were awash with end-of-age and coming of Messiah beliefs, Josephus talks about these in his Jewish Wars 9:3’.
6. You will be hearing of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.
- Today end-time preachers use these texts to frighten people that his return is near. But It is clear Jesus was prophesying here to his disciples, not to 21st Century readers. It is nonsense to hold that what was ‘near’ for these disciples (‘you’) can be ‘near’ for us today.
- At the Jewish council, Gamaliel mentioned uprisings led by Theudas and Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:35-38).
- Jesus here dealt with the ‘when’ question and continues this until at least verse 15.
7. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places, there will be famines and earthquakes.
- nation against nation: See Josephus Jewish Wars, b. 6, 9:3. Coffman concludes “Such things as famines, wars, and earthquakes seem to have been multiplied during that period”. Also Albert Barnes Commentary
- earthquakes: John Gill comments that “at Crete, and in divers cities in Asia in the times of Nero: particularly the three cities of Phrygia, Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colossae; which were near to each other, and are all said to perish this way, in his reign.”
8. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.
- birth pangs: Jesus had spoken to these disciples of ‘the regeneration (Grk, ‘paligenesia’= rebirth, renewal) when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne (Mat 19:28, Luke 22:28) as pictured in Daniel 7:13-14, and following his ascension into heaven (see Acts 2:33-36)—not in any worldly ‘millennium’ as taught by many endtime teachers. These disciples will live through all these things—this is just the beginning of birth pangs.
- But they are not to fear, as something much, much more heavenly and serious will happen.
- Jesus continues warning them not to be misled. Political conflicts, famines and earthquakes have been commonly reported in history and preachers then and today have often used current troubles in to convince hearers of the imminent end of the world.
9. “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
- Then:here is one of several time stamps e.g., v.10, which show that the narrative is a unity.
- Deliver you: Jesus was prophesying to those who asked the questions not to us today. This was part of the disciples’ inevitable sufferings “because of My name” we find recorded in Acts and epistles and foreshadowed in Mat 23:34.
- Tribulation: The word tribulation or suffering is used multiple times in the NT, and here is not connected to the “great tribulation” Jesus would refer to in v.21.
- all nations: Strongs 1483 (ethne); better translated ‘multitudes’ including Jews and Gentiles.
To be continued . . . .