NOTES ON MATTHEW 24:1-35
This chapter is one of the most fascinating chapters in the Book of Matthew. Many christians call this the “Olivet Discourse”. It’s called this because Jesus gave this discourse on the Mount of Olives. This discourse was made after Jesus denounced the temple and left the temple in the previous chapter. Matthew Mark and Luke record what is called the “Olivet Discourse”. Some believe that Revelation is John’s version. In any case this chapter is often referred to as the end times, or the end of the age or world, or the second coming of Christ or the Great Tribulation. This discourse refers to famines, earthquakes, nations rising against nations, false messiahs’ etc. We live in a time with a fascination among christians with the subject of the signs of the times or end time prophecy. When many talk about the end times more often than not they are referring to something they read in Revelation or this chapter.
Now I understand the olivet discourse quite differently than the common and popular way to understand it today. It is not for a lack of consideration of this popular view because I use to believe the popular view for some time. I use to take this chapter to mean that certain things were going to happen for a brief period of time called the tribulation period. But as I grew older and studied the scriptures a little more deeply or carefully and also became familliar with relevant history, it occurred to me that this discourse occurred. That is, the things in this chapter already happened. Jesus said these things would happen at the end of this chapter. Jesus said “this generation will by no means pass away until all these things be fulfilled”. He was referring to the fact that in 70AD Jerusalem would be destroyed. The parallel passages to Matthew 24:1-42 are Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. A cursory comparison reveals the congruity between these accounts.
Below is a verse by verse look at Matthew 24.
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 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.”
Jesus references the fate of the temple in these two opening verses of Matthew 24. Jesus predicts that the temple would be destroyed. He makes reference that the stones will be torn down from the temple. Not one stone will be left upon another. Now, this fulfillment occurred 40 years after Jesus made this prediction. Historically, the temple and the city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD. The Romans surrounded Jerusalem with it’s armies and destroyed the temple. They eventually dismantled it and destroyed it. Therefore, Jesus was predicting what would happen about 40 years from the time He predicted it.
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 of the end of the age ?”
This question by the disciples has been interpreted variously by christians. Many times we are told by some teachers that the disciples are asking three separate questions. One of them is when will these things happen? Now that question would refer back since they simply say that “these things’ refer to the things that Jesus just predicted. What Jesus had predicted was “not one stone of the temple would be left standing on another”. In other words the destruction of the temple, when will that be? In retrospect we know when that was. That was in 70AD. They did not know when it would be, therefore they asked. We would expect Jesus to answer that question to have something to do with that event. However, there question is extended further. They say “what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age or “end of the world”. Now there are some who feel that these are two additional questions in addition to the original.
The first question being when shall Jerusalem be destroyed? These things that Jesus just predicted. A second question – when would Jesus’ coming be – that would be the second coming, and the third- when will be the end of the world. Now there are many who believe that Jesus will come but that will not be the end of the world and there will be a thousand year millenium after Jesus has come back and then the end of the world will be after that. If the disciples are asking when will Jerusalem be destroyed, when will Jesus return, and when will the world end, these would be three different questions having three different answers or three different times for that. This is a very popular belief among christians. But there is another view to consider.
I would encourage you to be open minded here and compare scripture with scripture so that we might see what the disciples were really asking. Were the disciples asking three questions or only two? What was it that they were really questioning. If you look at Mark 13, we will see how Jesus tells the four disciples about the temple. We also get to see from Marks perspective the questions these four disciples ask Jesus regarding the sign of when these things will be fulfilled.
And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”
Now notice there is some different detail here that is of value to us in Mark 13 that Matthew leaves out. In Matthew he tells us that His disciples came to Him, whereas, in Marks’ gospel he writes that four disciples came to Him. They were Peter, James and John, and Andrew (Peter’s brother). So this discourse was given privately to four men. Notice here is Marks’ version of the question. In Matthew’s account there seems to be three questions. When will these things be? What will be the sign of your coming? When will it be the end of the age? In Mark’s account he says “tell when will things be”? So far it’s just like Matthew. Then the second part, “and what will be the sign”. So far that’s verbatim with Matthew’s. But from this point it diverges in wording. Because, Mark has him saying “what will be the sign when these things are going to be fulfilled? So Mark has the four disciples asking two questions. One question is when will these things be – that is the destruction of the temple. Secondly, what sign will there be when these things are fulfilled. In other words in Mark 13 there is no mention of the second coming of Christ, and there is no mention of the end of the world. It is just these things that Jesus has just already predicted. There are two questions about one subject. The one subject is “these things” meaning the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The two questions are “when will it be” and “what sign will there be that it’s about to be fulfilled.
So the way Mark has it though he records the same discourse that Matthew does, the discourse is given in answer to questions about 70 AD and not anything else. Look at Lukes’ parralel now.
And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, “As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
Notice the agreement here between Luke and Mark. Both of them agree that the disciples asked two questions about the same subject. The subject was Jesus said not one stone will stand upon another. We know when that happened. History knows when that happened. History says it happened about 40 years after this prediction in 70AD. The disciples asked two questions about that event. When will it be? And, what sign will there be when these things are about to to take place? These are the two questions. Mark records them and Luke records them and then both of them record the discouse afterward. Why do christians so often think that the Olivet Discourse is about the end of the World?
It is because of the misunderstanding regarding the wording of the disciples question as it is recorded in Matthew. I do not think it was a misunderstanding on Matthews part. I believe modern christians misunderstand the language. Jesus spoke in what is called apocalyptic language. The disciples were Jewish people and they understand and recognized the language of prophets and they used that language.
Let’s now focus on Matthew 24:3. Let’s look at the disciples question. When the disciples came to Jesus privately, they ask “tell us when will these things be”? Now this question is in agreement among all gospel writers. Next, the disciples ask “what shall be the sign”. Again all the gospels agree with this question. But in Mark and Luke, the question is phrsed this way “what will be the sign that these things are about to happen”? But the way the same statement it is worded in Matthew it states “what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age”? Now, it is possible that “your coming” and the “end of the age” is just another way of saying “the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD”? If so, then Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree with each other as to what the disciples asked? If “your coming” and “the end of the age” is not equivalent to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, then Matthew does not agree with Mark and Luke as to what the question was. What do you think the liklihood of Matthew not agreeing with Mark and Luke is? This depends on your view of scripture. In my opinion, Matthew, Mark and Luke gave accurate reports of what Jesus said.
Therefore, what Matthew records the disciples saying agrees in content with what Mark and Luke say the disciples asked. It’s just giving different wording. One example, is that Matthew calls the kingdom, “kingdom of Heaven” while Mark and Luke calls the kingdom “kingdom of God”. The terms “kingdom of Heaven” and “kingdom of God” are synonymous.
The “End of the Age” refers to the Jewish age which begun at Mount Sinai when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He gave them a covenant at Mount Sinai. He warned them in Deuteronomy 28 in which God describes their national blessings if they obey and their national curses if they disobeyed. He gave them fair warning. In subsequent history, most of the time the Jews violated the covenant. Because they violated their covenant, God said “I will scatter you out of your land and make you live among the heathen”. This is what happened in 70AD. It brought an end to the Jewish age. The Jews were scattered. The ultimate curse that Moses said would come upon them if they violated the covenant was realized and that ended one age, and a new age began. The age of the law, the age of temple sacrifices and the age of jewish priestly order ended. The disciples apparently understood that. That was indeed the end of the age. Jesus had predicted that the temple would be destroyed.
What is the sign of your coming? This is where many christians feel that this refers ot the seccond coming of Christ. It was weeks later when the disciples stood on the same mountain with Jesus. In Acts 1, they said to Jesus “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel”?. Jesus responded and said “it’s not for you to know the timess and seasons, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. You will be my witnesses to the end of the world. Afterwards, Jesus ascends into heaven to schock them. The disciples did not know that he would come back! They thought that Jesus was going to setup the kingdom on earth according to Acts 1. They did not know that Jesus was going to go away in this manner. Therefore, they did not know He would come back. We speak of the coming of Christ as the second coming because we live after His ascension and He has been gone for awhile. The disciples did now know He would be gone for 2000 years or so, nor did they know that Jesus would ascend. Remember, the disciples did not fully understand that their teacher would eventually die. Jesus told them at least a few times that He would die and rise again. They did not understand what He was saying to them.
So, what does “your coming mean” – I believe the disciples understood it in the same sense the old tesstament writers understood it. After all these were Jewish men who were well acquainted with the Old Testament. When God would bring judgment on a system or a nation, the Old Testament frequently spoke of it as God “coming” or a “visitation from God”. Images of judgment typically involve a “coming.” This is true whether the subject is judgment against other nations or judgment against Israel. The following are examples of some passages in the Old Testament about “coming” referring to a judgment from God.
The oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and is about to come to Egypt.
In this passage in Isaiah 19, when it speaks about the Lord coming to Egypt, we cannot take this to mean that God was going to literally come to Egypt and show Himself to them. This “coming’ has to do with a judgment on Egypt. This was very common language expressions among the Jewish people. Next, look at Isaiah 66:15
ISAIAH 66:15 “See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. 16 For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD”.
The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah—the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. 2 Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it, that the Sovereign LORD may witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. 3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. 4 The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope. 5 All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sins of the house of Israel.
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. 5 So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.
Images of judgment typically involve a “coming.” This is true whether the subject is judgment against the nations or judgment against Israel.
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.
5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.
A) Now did this happen before 70AD? We know of at least one person who claimed this that the bible records in Acts 8:9-10. Simon the Scorcerer we are told that the people of Samaria were convinced that he was the “mighty Power of God’ because of the majic he did. More than that, this man’s was Simon Magus was well know in early church history. Some of the early church fathers tell us more about him. Justin Martry tells us that Simon the Scorcerer was worshipped as a god in Rome because of his powers and that they made a statute in his honor. Jerome quotes Simon as saying “I am the word of God, I am the comforter, and Almighty. Iraneaus tells us that Simon claimed to be the Son of God. Now this man was in contemporary with the apostles and certainly lived during the 70AD era. So, here is a man claiming to be the son of God, the word of God, etc. Is this not a false christ? I would suggest that it is.
B) Josephus the Jewish historian states “that a certain magician, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; for he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it; and many were deluded by his words. (The Antiquities Of The Jews, 20:5:1).Josephus was a former leader of the Jewish Revolt who had surrendered to the Romans and had won favor from Vespasian. In gratitude, Josephus took on Vespasian’s family name – Flavius – as his own. We join his account as the Romans fight their way into the inner sanctum of the Temple:
C) Josephus claimed that, “there was an Egyptian false prophet that did the Jews more mischief than the former; for he was a cheat, and pretended to be a prophet also, and got together thirty thousand men that were deluded by him; these he led round from the wilderness to the mount which was called the Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force from that place.” (The Wars Of The Jews, 2:3:5).
6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.
Wars and rumors of wars – Shortly after this discourse was uttered, there were four emperors who came to violent deaths in the span of 18 months. This was a result of a civil war in Rome. The disciples would have heard about this as a rumor of war.
There were uprising against the Jews in Alexandria.
In Caesaria, 20,00 Jews were slain by the Syrians. Hostility between the Jews and Syrians divided many towns and villages and to arm camps. Josephus tells of a day in which “the people of Caesarea had slain the Jews that were among them on the very same day and hour [when the soldiers were slain], which one would think must have come to pass by the direction of Providence; insomuch that in one hour’s time above twenty thousand Jews were killed, and all Caesarea was emptied of its Jewish inhabitants.” (Wars, 2:18:1).
According to Josephus 10,000 at Damascus died. Civil war in Scythopolis left 13,000 corpses. The news of these wars and killings would have certainly landed in the disciples ears. The disciples would have heard about these wars and rumors of it.
Tacitus, a Roman historian, said of this period: “The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time.”
Wars and rumors of wars – kept the Jews in an unsettled state for the whole time. There was great hostility towards the Jews in various places.
“But that is not the end” – The end of what? That end about which the disciples had inquired, Le. the Temple’s destruction and anything else actually involved in that event. He refers, therefore, not to the destruction of the universe, but to the end of the exclusively Jewish age, their world, not ours; the world as they had known it hereto fore, not as it became thereafter.
7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.
Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom – Because of the horrific famines and pestilences that occurred, it would cause nations and kingdoms to be at war with each other for purposes of food.
In wartime, uncertain living and working conditions hinder the normal production and marketing of food, leading to shortages and famines. These lead to uneven diets, vitamin deficiencies and sickness. Where normal hygiene is interrupted by civil chaos, pestilences fester and spread.
Famines – You do not have to leave the pages of scripture to find that there was a great famine mentioned in the Book of Acts. In Acts 11:27-28 “And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.”
Josephus tells of queen Helena’s relief effort for Jerusalem. “Now her coming was of very great advantage to the people of Jerusalem; for whereas a famine did oppress them at that time, and many people died for want of what was necessary to produce food withal, queen Helena sent some of her servants to Alexandria with money to buy a great quantity of corn, and others to Cyprus, to bring a cargo of dried figs” (Antiquities, 20:2:5).
Tacitus wrote: “Many prodigies occurred during the year. Ominous birds took their seat on the Capitol; houses were overturned by repeated shocks of earthquake, and, as the panic spread, the weak were trampled underfoot in the trepidation of the crowd. A shortage of corn, again, and the famine which resulted, were construed as a supernatural warning.” (The Annals of Imperial Rome, 12:43
Earthquakes – Concerning the year 62 A.D. Tacitus wrote (XV,22): During the same consulship a gymnasium was wholly consumed by a stroke of lightning, and a statue of Nero within it was melted down to a shapeless mass of bronze. An earthquake too demolished a large part of Pompeii, a populous town in Campania.
And as to earthquakes, many are mentioned by writers during a period just previous to 70 A.D. There were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judea. It is interesting to note that the city of Pompeii was much damaged by an earthquake occurring on February 5, 63 A.D.”
Lastly, many who view Matthew 24 to be referencing the second coming of Christ often point out the fact that we have more earthquakes then ever before. They also point out recent earthquakes like Japan, and Haiti. However, if you research earthquakes, there is not much of a difference at all in regards to an increase on the number of earthquakes. Plus, we have more seismographs in the world today than ever before. During biblical times the seismograph was not invented at that time. Therefore, they did not have the luxury of recording the earthquakes back then. Therefore, they may have had earthquakes that nobody would ever know about due to no seismographs invented. Today, we have seismographs all over the world that record earthquakes. So, we cannot really compare our time today verses biblical times concerning earthquakes.
9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
They will deliver “you” meaning the apostles. Remember there were only four disciples who are having this conversation. The apostles were treated in this way. James in Act 12 was the first apostle to die when he was put to death by Herod Agrippa. The Apostle John was subjected to mortal danger, was beated, but supernaturally survived. Peter historically was said to be crucified upside down approximately the same time Paul had died around AD67 or AD68. Origen says that Peter felt himself to be unworthy to be put to death in the same manner as his Master, and was therefore, at his own request, crucified with his head downward.” For Andrew, Traveling to what is now modern-day Russia, to the “land of the man-eaters,” Andrew preached Jesus to its inhabitants. Christians there claim that he was the first to bring them the gospel. It is also said that he preached in the Roman province of Asia (modern-day Turkey). Tradition also has him preaching in Greece, and says that he was crucified there.. Philip: Again, the Bible does not say when he died nor do we have accurate information. According to tradition he preached in Phrygia, and died at Hierapolis. Matthew: He must have lived many years as an apostle, since he was the author of the Gospel of Matthew which was written at least twenty years after the death of Christ. There is reason to believe that he stayed for fifteen years at Jerusalem, after which he went as missionary to the Persians, Parthians and Medes. Older sources say that he did not die a martyr, but other sources say that he was stabbed to death and that he died a martyr in Ethiopia. Thomas: The earlier traditions, as believed in the fourth century, say he preached in Parthia or Persia, and was finally buried at Edessa. James Alpheus : is said to have proclaimed Jesus in Syria. Josephus (a Jewish historian writing for Romans; see also our page: Josephus On Jesus) reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death.. Simon the Caanannite: it is held, traveled to Persia. Tradition says that he refused to sacrifice to the Persian’s sun god, and was killed because of it.. Jude (Thaddeus) according to tradition Jude taught in Armenia, Syria and Persia where he was martyred. Tradition tells us he was buried in Kara Kalisa in what is now Iran. Bartholomew: Tradition says that he went on missionary journeys to Southern Arabia and Ethiopia. That with Thomas he traveled to India, and also that he preached in Armenia. Accounts of his death vary, but all agree that he was martyred for the faith.. Paul suffered beatings throughout the book of Acts and then was eventually beheaded around 67 OR 68 AD by the Roman Emperor Nero.
This is not talking about people living in the end times!
10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.
The bible says that his happened. Paul said that Demas has forsaken me having loved this present world. We hear of many falling away from the faith in the New Testament
11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.
We spoke about some false prophets in verse 5’ notes.
12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.
In Revelation 2 we read that the first love of the Ephesians had grown cold. The left their first love. The Laodocea church in Revelation grew luke warm. Many will fall away as a result of false prophets.
13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
He who endures to the end, he will be saved – here it could mean the end of the age as in verse 3. But not all the good people survived all things. The apostles died. But I believe it means they endure of their life. Those who remain faithful until the end of their life will be saved.
14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
There are a couple of views as to what this verse means.
This first view of the statement “the gospel shall be preached in the whole world” can be taken in two ways. One is that we take this literally. Every nation on the planet will have a chance to hear the gospel before Jesus comes back and then the end of the world comes. Therefore, many people look to the modern mission’s movement as to hasten the Lord’s coming. This is happening now of course probably more than ever. This is possible that this is what Jesus means.
The second view and this would be mine. Jesus’ discourse here is largely not about the end of the world but regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. If Jesus’ is talking about the end of the temple, then how do we understand the statement “the gospel must be preached in the whole world”. Certainly do we not believe that all the nations of the world were preached to before 70AD? But let’s take into consideration the regular use of “hyperbole”. A hyperbole is basically an exaggeration or an overstatement. Take a took at some other scriptures that have similar wording. Is it possible that Jesus could have meant that before the end of the Jerusalem destruction, the gospel would be preached to all the Roman nations? For similar language regarding “whole world” look at the next scriptures.
Colossians 1:5,6,23 (5) because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel (6) which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you hear of it and understood the grace of God in truth. 23 if indeed you contiue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
‘In all the world’ in Colossians 1:5,6 could not mean the whole world literally. But what Paul means is the whole Roman world. I’m sure Paul new that Spain had not heard the gospel or Great Britain.
Notice in verse 23 in Colossians, Paul says in a past tense “the gospel which you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation”.
Now has the gospel been preached to every creature under heaven. Well, not literally. This is a hyperbole. Since Paul used this quite often, is it not possible for Jesus to use this same hyperbole. This is the way the Jews spoke.
Acts 2:5 5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.
Now, it is so that there were Jews from China, North America, Phillipines? Of course not. The Jews had not spread out thus far. Again, this is not a literal meaning here. This is a hyperbole again. Remember that the way in which the disciples spoke is of a different culture. We need to move away from trying to interpret the bible in our own western culture.
15 “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand ),
In Luke’s parallel in Luke 21:20 it reads ““When ye see Jerusalem surrounded with armies, then know the it’s desolation is near”. So the “abomination of desolation” is the destruction of the city by the Roman armies”. The apostles would see the abomination of desolation. Compare Matthew 24:15 with Luke 20:21. This comes from Daniel 9:26,27. In Daniel this abomination comes after the Messiah is crucified. Daniel refers to the Romans coming to destroy Jerusalem. Let’s look at Daniel 9:26,27.
Daniel 9:26, 27 26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off (Jesus death) and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the temple). And its end will come with a flood ; even to the end there will be war ; desolations are determined. 27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering ; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
The desolate is Jerusalem. Remember at the end of Matthew 23, Jesus told the religious leaders (the Pharisees and Scribes) “your house is desolate”. It is Jerusalem invaded by pagans, the Romans.
“Let the reader understand” – Matthew adds this because he wanted to be sure the readers understand what he is saying. Matthew did not believe that his readers would understand what the “abomination of desolation would be” since Matthew primary audience was Jewish people. Luke primary audience on the other hand was Gentiles, therefore, Luke does not use the term “abomination of desolation” because the Gentiles would not have understood that term. The Jews however, did undestand that term.
16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
He does not say “those in Jerusalem” but “those in Judea.” The legions were camped around Jerusalem. “Let them flee” means that they should get away as quickly as possible.
Josephus in his book described Jerusalem an overcrowded condition. We know that the Jews in general rushed into Jerusalem, resulting in a horrible blood bath. Notice Jesus says “those who are in Judea”. He does not say “you” apostles flee to the mountains. This is because all the apostles with the exception of John were already dead.
17 “Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house.
Jesus is saying don’t even go back to you houses to get your things. Just leave when you have the brief chance. Remember Jerusalem was overcrowded because of the wars. Houses in Judea and Jerusalem had flat tops and people often sat up there on the roof. So dire and terrible was the onslaught of the Roman legions that, at first notice of their coming, the man who was relaxing on the roof should not even try to pack a few things for the flight.
18 “Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.
Those people who were in the field were not going to have adequate time to rush home and try and get his or her cloak. Thus, Jesus tells them to not turn back and try to get his or her cloak because of the sudden
19 “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days !
I’ve heard people say that they do not want to have babies in the last days because of how awful it was going to be. It was not a blessing for the Jewish women in that time. They were in Jerusalem at this time. This was a very difficult time for women and children. They were starving to death according to Josephus.
20 “But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.
The reason that Jesus said that it would be difficult in winter or the Sabbath is because the gates of the city would be shut on the Sabbath. It would be difficult to escape the danger. In addition winter does not offer as much provision and spring or summer.
21 “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.
The dispensational view would say that this is the Great Tribulation is a period of time at the end of the world before Jesus comes back that there will be a seven year period of tribulation or testing. These seven years will fill up the space between the rapture of the church and the coming of Christ in judgment. They believe the coming of Christ is in two stages. The first stage is Jesus comes for His saints in the rapture, and then the second he comes with His saints for judgment in the last day. But in between these stages there is a seven year gap in the tribulation period. The first half of the seven years is simply called “tribulation” and the second half is called “the Great Tribulation”. The 7 years is nowhere to be found in scripture. Many use Daniel 9:27 to imply the seven years, since each week in Daniel refers to seven years.
What is this Great Tribulation? I am going to suggest to you that it is not 7 years long nor is this in the future. I believe that this is going to occur in the lifetime of the early Christians of 70AD. At the time of 70AD there was great tribulation. Jospehus wrote a whole book about this. Jospehus was in it. He was a jewish commander fighting against the Romans. He documented the horrendous things that came in Jerusalem. It was as bad as any condition that you will read in any society. If you read Josephus books you will see.
Such has not occurred since the beginning of the world nor ever will – what does this mean? It’s sounds like a unique event unlike anytime else at any other time. However, to say that something is worse than anything before or after is commonly used in scripture. It is another hyperbole. It’s like saying “this is the worst day of my life”. They are probably exaggerating. But they are getting they are point across. They are using a figure of speech. The old testament prophets used it all the time. Look in Exodus 9 when it talks about the locust plague that came on Egypt, it says specifically there never was a locust plague like that before nor shall there ever be. However, in the book of Joel we have another locust plague is described and it says again nor was there ever like this plague nor shall there ever be.
Likewise it is said about Solomon that he was the wiser than any man before him or after him. We know this not to be exactly accurate. Since Jesus was more wiser than Solomon.
First Destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
This event was much like the 70AD event. The first destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Some of the prophets like Jeremiah spoke about what would happen as never before or after, yet we have another destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
Josephus tells how Roman soldiers “went in numbers into the lanes of the city, with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook, without mercy, and set fire to the houses wither the Jews were fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is of such as died by the famine; they then stood in horror at this sight, and went out without touching anything. But although they had this commiseration for such as were destroyed in that manner, yet had they not the same for those that were still alive, but they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many houses was quenched with these men’s blood.” (The Wars Of The Jews, 6:8:5).
22 “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved ; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
When Jesus says “those days” here, what is He referring to? What days is Jesus talking about? Well, Jesus is talking about the days of the tribulation. These days must be shortenened or no one would have been saved. Remember the Jewish war lasted about three and a half years long. If you want to shorten something, you can either take some time off the beginning of it and start it later, or you can take some time off the end, that is end it earlier. You can also take a chunk of time off the middle but one way or the other to take a piece of time out of a given piece of time is how you shorten it. For the elect’s sake the days were shortened – that is the siege of Jerusalem.
What actually happened was Vespasian who was a General then became Emperor after Nero died, besieged Jerusalem. The city was doomed as it would seem. But developments in Rome occurred – Nero’s death, and a civil war had broke out. This caused Vespasian to leave Jerusalem and return to Rome. He went back to Rome, became Emperor and sent his son Titus to take over. Titus eventually destroyed Jerusalem. Between the time that Vespasian left and Titus took over, there was a period of time for the Christian Jews to flee and escape. Eusebias, the historian said that all christians living in Jerusalem were warned by God to leave and they did leave. They all escaped to a town across the Jordan called Pella in the mountains. They were given an opportunity for the elects sake to save the church that was in Jerusalem. God shortened the days. The siege of Vespasian could have well resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem immediately.
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him.
I believe the word “then” here means at that time. So, when the disciples see Jerusalem surrounded by Armies “then”. During the siege in Jerusalem inside the city there would arise leaders of factions of Jews who would claim to be the messiah. This is confirmed in Josephus’ writings. Jesus was saying “do not believe it”. Now there have been false christs and prophets have come along in modern times. But Jesus here is not talking about our modern times. Jesus was talking about “then”. This is the word Jesus begins with in this verse. He is talking about “meaning” at the time of the siege of Jerusalem. Jesus was explaining that the disciples could be deceived by people who are going to say “Look, He is in the desert”.
On this verse compare Luke 17:21.23. Evidently the same kind of false teaching lies behind that reference. The word “at that time” indicates that we are still talking about Jerusalem. The condition here is future more vivid which means that it is very likely to happen. The word “look” means that someone is attempting to get attention.”Do not” with the aorist subjunctive prohibits beginning to do something. As verse 24 indicates verse 23 is speaking about false Christ’s. In times of stress false Saviors arise. In desperation people follow them to their own destruction. This happened just before 70 A.D. and still happens today.
24 “For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
The verse is explanatory. Here compare 1 John 2:18. The closer the end, the more false Christs. The destruction of Jerusalem began ushering in the end. The curtain of history was beginning to fall. Theologians debate the question whether or not Satan and false teachers can actually perform great signs and wonders. We won’t try to answer the above question. But one thing is certain. So terrible is their deception that all except those who are firmly grounded in the faith are subject to be deceived. This verse, on the one hand, is Law, warning us of the terrible deception. On the other hand it would seem that the thought of John 10:28 hovers in the background.
If you look at Galatians 1, we see that Paul is speaking to the Galatians about others preaching a false gospel. There were false teachers and false apostles who would bring their own “gospel”. Apparently, this occurred during the ministry of Paul.
Josephus’ history documents the appearance of a number of politico-military messiahs who cruelly deceived themselves and the people with unfounded schemes for re-establishing the ancient independence of the theocracy as they conceived it (Wars, 11,13,4; VI,5,2f.). Althoughthe Lord had predicted the appearance of false prophets before the end (24:5), there would also be impostors during the Roman siege of Jerusalem too.
25 “Behold, I have told you in advance.
The reason Jesus says this is because if I tell you beforehand that you are forewarned and therefore you will have no excuse to follow these people in the next verse.
26 “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.
If they say “behold He is in the wilderness, Jesus says “don’t go out. Or in the inner rooms, do not believe them.
27 “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
The coming of the son of man is used in a variety of ways in scripture. Jesus’ coming in judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple functions as a type of his coming at the end of the age.
I think the question to consider here is what does Jesus mean by just as the lighting comes from the east and flashes even to the west. When we use lightening as a metaphor, we think of suddenness, and quickness. We often think that this is what Jesus means that His coming will be sudden and quick.
But, I wonder is this what Jesus is saying. It is not a given that lightening comes from east to west. The greek word “lightening” here means two different things. One is lightening as we think of it. It also means “bright shining”. This could refer to the sunlight because the sunlight flashes from the east to west. This may not refer to a bolt of lightening. I believe that Jesus is saying His coming is like the coming of the sunrise.
2 Peter 1:19
This means that all will see this sunrise or His coming in judgment.
28 “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
What Jesus is saying here is that the city of Jerusalem is spiritually dead and rotten corpse. These eagles are probably a reference to the Romans swarming in on the carcass of the apostate Jerusalem. However, since Jesus’ larger context includes the destruction ofJerusalem, the carcass could be Jerusalem while the vultures would be the Roman army.
29 “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
This sounds like a global cosmic event than something that occurred in 70AD. It sounds like the second coming and its results. I do not believe these verses are speaking about the second coming though, even though I do believe in the second coming of Jesus.
Jesus says “immediately”. Immediately those things as of verse 19 and following, will happen. Remember that the disciples and Jesus were Jewish and only had the old testament scriptures, since the new testament had not been written yet. The reference to the darkeing of the sun, moon, and stars is a figure of speech from the Old Testament. Here are some examples in the Old Testament.
Isaiah 13:10 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light.
Now what does this passage speak about. Well, the destruction of Babylon (see verse 1) which occurred in 538BC. In verse 17, it was ancient Bablyon being destroyed by the Medes. This event occurred some 500 years before Christ, and yet it says the sun will be dark and the moon will not shed it’s light. Again, this is not literal. Next, turn too Isaiah 34:4-6
Isaiah 34:4-6 4 And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll ; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree. 5 For My sword is satiated in heaven, Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction. 6 The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, It is sated with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, With the fat of the kidneys of rams. For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
Now look at the figurative language in verse 4. The sky will be rolled up like a scroll and their hosts will wither away. This nation of Edom no longer exists today.
Ezekiel 32:7,8 7 “And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud And the moon will not give its light. 8 “All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you And will set darkness on your land,” Declares the Lord GOD.
Again we have another nation (Egypt). Babylon conquers Egypt. This is apocalyptic language. This was not the end of the world. This was a figurative description of judgment.
Jeremiah 4:27,28 For thus says the LORD, “The whole land shall be a desolation, Yet I will not execute a complete destruction. 28 “For this the earth shall mourn And the heavens above be dark, Because I have spoken, I have purposed, And I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it.”
Jerusalem and the first destruction by the Babylonians.
The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall beshaken.
Here Jesus is using old testament language to describe the coming judgment on Jerusalem again. He is using apocalyptic language and should not be taken literally.
30 “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.
How is this to be understood? There are two views here. This was a visible sign that would appear that the Son of Man is in heaven. The very destruction of Jerusalem was the sign that the Son of Man was reigning in heaven and had taken powere against those who murdered Him.
The other view is to consult Josephus the historian. He was a eyewitness of this war. One of the things that he recorded.
“A supernatural apparition was seen, too amazing to be believed. What I am now to relate would, I imagine, be dismissed as imaginary, had this not been vouched for by eyewitnesses, then followed by subsequent disasters that deserved to be thus signalized. For before sunset chariots were seen in the air over the whole country, and armed battalions speeding through the clouds and encircling the citie”. (Josephus).
All the tribes of the earth will mourn – the greek word “tribes” sounds like it’s global. But the greek word “ge”. This could be translated earth or land depending on the context. In this context it is more fitting that it be translated “all the tribes of the land”. The tribes of Israel will mourn at the destruction of Jerusalem. This is, either all the tribes or people of the land of Judea shall mourn at the great calamities coming upon them
31 “And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Nevertheless, this prophetic language appears to have been borrowed from Moses and Zechariah. Surprisingly, nothing actually celestial is alluded to in one end of heaven to the other. Infact, Zechariah (2:6) quotes the Lord as calling, “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north, for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven.” This idiom is only natural, since God had promised compassion on the exiles.
32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;
This parable describes that new branches and leaves indicate summer is near
33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
Jesus likens a fig tree when it’s branches become tender and leaves begin to grow, that all these things He just described with the persecutions, false christs, famines, the sun being darkened, the moon not shedding it’s light. This when they know the time is near for Jerusalem to be destroyed.
34 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
The generation in which Jesus is saying this too will not pass away until all these things He just explained take place. If it is translated by race or nation, then our Lord is saying that the Jewish people would never be fully destroyed. If it is translated by generation, in the sense of Jesus’ contemporaries, then the Lord is saying that some of the people who were listening to him would be alive when the Temple was destroyed, when “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”