This post is the fourth in an unintentional miniseries. I initially blogged about the first three verses of Revelation, then verse 7, which confirmed the dating advanced in the first blog post, and then to further solidify the theme and timing of the events of Revelation I blogged about the phrase “coming with the clouds.” I explained in a previous post why all this matters if you are someone who is passionate about the kingdom of God. And that is how we got to Matthew 24.
Jesus and His crew are leaving the temple when His disciples point out the magnificence of the temple, to which Jesus responds by prophesying it will be utterly destroyed.
The disciples must have pondered Jesus’ prophesy because, when they got back to the Mount of Olives (about a 20 minute walk), they ask Jesus three questions: 1) When will these things happen?; 2) What will be the sign of Your coming?; and 3) What will be the sign of the end of the age? (Matt. 24:1-3). What follows in Matthew 24 is Jesus’ answer to those questions. It helps then to know what the disciples were asking if you want to understand what Jesus meant by His answer.
Question No. 1 is in direct response to Jesus’ prophesy about the destruction of the temple and his discourse immediately preceding with the Jewish leaders. Matt. 23:37-38 (“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets . . . “Behold your house is being left to you desolate!”). Jesus’ answer, which follows in Matthew 24, is a description of what will happen leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
In Question No. 2, the disciples were asking about Jesus’ “coming” in response to Jesus just having told the Jewish leaders God was getting ready to judge them, an event in which Jesus would be revealed as the Son of God to those who had rejected Him, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'” See Matt. 23:34-39.
The disciples weren’t asking about Jesus’ second coming; that wasn’t even on their radar screen. It’s questionable whether they even understood at this point that Jesus had to die. See Mark 9:31-32; John 14:5 (“Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”) If they didn’t get that Jesus was going away, why would they be asking about His return? That is not the context of this discussion.
Question No. 3 is not an inquiry into the end of the world, but the end of the age. The Greek word used here is not the Greek word for world, which is kosmos, but aion, which means “age.” If the temple was destroyed, there would be no place for sacrifices to take place. It would be the end of the age of the Jewish sacrificial system, just as the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. ended the age of Solomon’s temple and began an age of exile.
All three questions are really about the same event. In Matthew 24, Jesus answered their questions. He would “come on the clouds” in judgment on Israel, destroying the temple, and bringing about the end of the age of the Jewish sacrificial system, and all these things would happen within a generation. (Matt. 24:34). There would be no need for a temple for sacrifice because Jesus was the sacrifice and the only way to the Father. There was no better way to show that than to destroy the temple. Within a generation, 70 A.D. to be exact, all these things happened, just as Jesus said they would. GS