Introduction and Outline to Chapter 24

  1. The temple destruction and the resulting questions, Matthew 24:1-3.
    • Matthew 24:1-2, Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple.
    • Matthew 24:3, the disciples ask 2 main questions: 1. When will the temple be destroyed, and 2. what will be the sign of his coming and the end of the age?
  2. Jesus answers the second question, Matthew 24:4-31.
    • Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus gives the signs that describe history or events that are immediate to his coming and the end of the age.
    • Matthew 24:15-28, Jesus gives the specific signs that indicate his return to earth is very near and that the end of the age is very near.
    • Matthew 24:29-31, Jesus describes his return to earth.
  3. Jesus tells a parable, a comparison, and an illustration to answer the questions and to alert those interested in his return and the end of the age, Matthew 24:32-51.
    • Matthew 24:32-35, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree to illustrate that signs point to something.
    • Matthew 24:36-41, Jesus compares his coming to what happened in Noah’s day.
    • Matthew 24:42-51, Jesus tells them to be alert and illustrates this with the faithful and unfaithful slave.

Exposition of Matthew 24

  1. The temple destruction and the resulting questions, Matthew 24:1-3.
    • Matthew 24:1-2, Jesus predicts the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. This occurs in sight of the temple.
      • Matthew 24:1, All hope for repentance was now gone. See Matthew 23:37-39. The next time the nation will see Jesus and believe him will be at the end of the times of the Gentiles as noted in Luke 21:24
      • The temple in the background. This is Herod’s temple. See Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “Temple.” The first temple was Solomon’s. It was finished in 960 BC. The second was Zerubbabel’s. It was finished in 516 BC. The Third was Herod’s. It was built from 20 BC to 64 AD. Herod’s was built upon Zerubbabel’s temple. In fact, Herod said that he only wanted to enlarge and beautify Zerubbabel’s temple. Jesus was talking about this third temple.
      • Jesus does talk further about the temple, but Luke records that in Luke 21:20-24. Matthew and Mark focus only on the signs and his return.
    • Matthew 24:3, Jesus has moved to the Mount of Olives and gives a private lesson to his disciples. They ask 2 main questions: 1. When will the temple be destroyed, and 2. what will be the sign of his coming and the end of the age? The disciples thought that all the things they asked would happen at the same time. They are wrong. The temple would fall in AD 70. He would return and end the age in the future.
      • Israel eschatology thought of the present age in which they lived and the age to come. Jesus talks about the present age when he talked about the temple. He talked about the age to come when he talked about his coming and end of the age.
  2. Jesus answers the second question, Matthew 24:4-31.
    • Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus gives the signs that describe history or events that are immediate to his coming and the end of the age. There are two main views of this section and some modification of these views: The inter-advent age view and the tribulation period view.
      • We do have trends of history occurring from Jesus day until the end of the church and these are likely precursors to the signs of Matthew 24, but in Matthew 24 Jesus is answering the second question with its two parts recorded in verse 3. He is speaking of the future time of trouble that will come upon the entire world. For this study on trends of history in our time see the doctrine, Trends of History, and also study Revelation 2-3 for the spiritual trends seen in those seven historic city churches of the first century.
      • Therefore, from the context of Matthew 24 Jesus is highlighting the signs during the tribulation period—that is of most interest to the Israeli people and the disciples. They were not informed about a church age.
    • Jesus makes certain statements made that seem to indicate that he is addressing the future period known as Daniel’s seventieth week. Now we have these kinds of events throughout history, but here Jesus mentions them in connection with his coming and it seems best to relate them to that period immediately surrounding his coming.
      • Matthew 24:3, sign of your coming and the end of the age.
      • Matthew 24:4, no one mislead you.
      • Matthew 24:5. People who claim to be Messiah. There were none before Bar Kokba in 132-135 AD. Quite a few people have made this claim now. But in the tribulation they will affect history more.
      • Matthew 24:6-7. Wars and rumors of wars. We have had this throughout history. It will center more on Israel in the future. Verse 6, the end is not yet.
      • Matthew 24:7. Famines and earthquakes.
      • Matthew 24:8, the beginning of birth pangs.
      • Matthew 24:9, Persecution of Jewish believers and deliver you to tribulation.
      • Matthew 24:13, endures to the end will be saved.
      • Matthew 24:14, then the end will come.
      • Matthew 24:10. Apostasy.
      • Matthew 24:11. False prophets will arise and mislead many.
      • Matthew 24:12. Lawlessness and lack of love.
      • Matthew 24:14. The gospel of the kingdom will go out to the whole world and then the end can come.
    • Matthew 24:15-28, Jesus gives the specific signs that indicate his return to earth is very near and that the end of the age is very near.
      • Jesus draws the primary sign that he is coming soon from Daniel’s prophecy. That prophecy says that the placement of the abomination of desolation in the temple in Jerusalem will occur three and one-half years into the tribulation period—Daniel’s 70th week. This implies that the temple or something like it will be built so the abomination can be placed there. This indicates that the 70th week and the abomination will be after the 70 AD destruction of the present temple. The persecution and ungodliness will be so terrible that Jesus instructs that when that time comes people must flee quickly. And it will be much harder if mothers are nursing, if it is in the winter, or on the Sabbath.
      • The term “abomination of desolation” is also found in Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; and 12:11. Jesus used the term because this was the same thing spoken of in the book of Daniel. Jesus was telling his disciples about the events that were in the future, about which Daniel also spoke. The Hebrew word abomination  (Strong’s 8251 שִׁקּוּץ  shiqquts ) means detested thing, something that causes horror, related to heathen worship (BDB 1055). The Greek word (βδέλυγμα, ατος, τό) means something is so disgusting that it arouses wrath, something defiling, a pollutant (BAGD 1031). This is so abominable that it causes people to flee in horror. The temple will be rebuilt sometime before this happens. When the Roman dictator of the future (Daniel 9:26-27) causes this abomination in the temple Israel is told to flee. This will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation period.
      • Here is a summary of Daniel Chapter 9, National confession and the seventy weeks. Daniel, in 538 BC, was reading Jeremiah’s prophecy (Daniel 9:1-2). He came to the section that told about Israel’s 70 year captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10). Because of what he read he began to pray a prayer of confession (Daniel 9:3-15) and intercession for national deliverance (Daniel 9:16-19). The angel Gabriel came to Daniel with God’s message in response to Daniel’s prayer. God had determined to take, in the future, 70 weeks of years (490  sabbatical years of 360 days each) to conclude his judgment on Israel (Daniel 9:24-27). This time clock will begin with Artaxerxes’ decree in 444 BC that gave Nehemiah the authority to return to Jerusalem and restore the city, gates, and walls (Nehemiah 2:1-8). This decree was dated March 5, 444 BC. There were two other decrees: by Cyrus in 537 BC to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:2-4 and 6:3-5); and by Artaxerxes in 458 BC to provide money and supplies for the temple (Ezra 7:11-26). Neither meets the requirements of Gabriel’s message to Daniel. The first seven weeks, 49 years, refer to the troubles of Nehemiah’s time. After the conclusion of the sixty-two weeks “Messiah the prince” will come, followed by “Messiah will be cut off” which means he will die, and following that “the people of the prince who is to come” (Rome) will destroy Jerusalem and the temple (9:26). Between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week we have at least a 40 year gap; this gap has now extended past AD 70 into the twentieth-first century. Verse 27 concludes the prophecy about the seventieth week. “The prince who is to come” (the little horn, anti-Christ, dictator) will make and then break a covenant with Israel. This final seven years is the tribulation period of Matthew 24. Daniel now knows the future course of the times of the Gentiles.
    • Matthew 24:29-31, Jesus describes his return to earth. Note the details.
      • It is after the tribulation of those days. Which days? The days he has been mentioning, Daniel’s 70th week.
      • There will be observable changes in the sun, moon, and stars (Matthew 24:29).
      • The sign of the son of man in the sky. Zechariah wrote of this in 518 BC in chapters 12-14 of his prophecy. This sign (Greek semeion) will be visible to earth dwellers world wide. People will actually see Jesus Christ returning to earth in power and glory. Revelation 19 gives details of this return.
      • Jesus will send his angels to gather the believers (elect) from the entire world. These will be protected and will enter the kingdom over which Jesus will rule (Messianic Kingdom predicted in the Old Testament).
  3. Jesus tells a parable, a comparison, and an illustration to answer the questions and to alert those interested in his return and the end of the age, Matthew 24:32-51.
    • Matthew 24:32-35, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree to illustrate that signs point to something. The fig tree is not Israel. The fig tree is a fig tree that Jesus uses to press home what he has been teaching: when people see the signs, and specifically the sign of the abomination of desolation, they are to know that his coming and the end of the age has arrived (Matthew 24:3). The fig tree leaves sprout just before summer begins. The signs show just before Jesus returns.
      • generation that sees all these signs will be the generation that experiences Jesus return to earth and the end of the age. Note that the meaning of generation is dependent upon the context. This generation refers to the generation at the end of the age. Preterists are wrong when they say the generation was the generation that Jesus was physically addressing. The signs did not happen then. They claim to be literal on generation, but they are not literal on the rest of the passage. A normal reading tells us that many signs will occur during a future period of tribulation. The distinct sign is the abomination of desolation. None of these specific signs happened in the time around AD 70—the abomination of desolation in the temple, the signs in the heavens, the sign of the son of man in the sky, the Son of Man coming in power and glory and the tribes of the earth will see him coming in power and glory, and the angels gather the elect from the four winds (four compass directions).
      • Note: generation (Greek genea, used 43 times in 37 verses in the NT. Strong 1074) in general means those born or living at about the same time and then those with similar characteristics such as religious view, morality immorality, and race. Illustrations include 1. The people at the time of speaking, the present generation (Matthew 12:41, 42 45; 2. A generation of people in the past or future (Luke 1:48), a certain generation specified by the context (Matthew 24:34; Acts 13:36), people with similar characteristics (Philippians 2:15; Matthew 17:17; Mark 8:38).
    • Matthew 24:36-41, Jesus compares his coming to earth—for judgment and to begin his messianic kingdom—to what happened in Noah’s day.
      • Some hold that the comparison is to the rapture. The context makes it clear that this is not a reference to the rapture. The rapture was unknown to the people and the disciples. John 14:3 is the only statement in this time period and it is given in a context of preparation for the coming age. Did the disciples take John 14:3 as different from the anticipated second coming to earth? Possibly.
        • Some claim that the beginning of Matthew 24:36, “but” (peri de) makes a strong contrast and therefore refers to the rapture, not the Second Advent. De is a post positive conjunction with a weaker sense than alla. It is often just a continuation, with a mild reminder to pay attention. It does not necessarily mark a change to a different event and time in this context.
        • Some say that because the Greek word for “took away” (airo) in verse 39 is different from the Greek words “taken” (paralambano) in 40 and 41, that this is a different event. This is a very weak argument. The words can mean either. The words do not decide the interpretation one way or the other.
          • Airo (Matthew 24:39) is found in Matthew 14:12, 24:17 and 18, 27:32, John 19:38, and many other passages.
          • Perilambano (Matthew 24:40) is used 49 times and is found in Matthew 12:45, Matthew 27:27, John 19:16, and many others. .
      • In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus tells a parable of what will happen when the Lord returns to earth. There is a judgment. The sheep represent believers and the goats represent unbelievers—not stated but obvious in the context. The sheep pass into the kingdom while the goats are sent into eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels. The context is Jesus’ visible and predicted return to earth. This parable tells of the judgment that will occur when he returns and adds information, but with an added emphasis, to the days of Noah story.
      • Therefore, the context is overwhelming in support that this is the second coming and at that time unbelievers will be taken in judgment. Read through the passage and compare it to the Noah history in Genesis 7-8, especially Genesis 6:1-13; 6:17-20; 7:21-23; 8:16-22. In Jesus message believers in physical bodies will go into the kingdom and populate it. Non-believers will be taken in judgment.
    • Matthew 24:42-51, Jesus tells them to be alert and illustrates this with the faithful and unfaithful slave. The faithful slave will obey the master and so be ready whenever he comes. The unfaithful slave will ignore the master’s wishes and so be surprised when the master comes.
      • People who watch the signs and heed them will believe the Messiah’s words and wait for him. Those who do not believe him will not pay attention and so not be ready for his coming.
      • Those who continue to watch and work for the Lord will be ready when he comes. They will be rewarded (Matthew 24:45-47).
      • Those who do not watch and work will be punished (Matthew 24:48-51).
  4. Summary of Chapter 24.
    • The temple in Jerusalem was to be destroyed. The Romans did destroy the Jerusalem temple in AD 70.
    • Jesus will return at the end of the inter-advent age. This age ends with the Tribulation period that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24. He will come to judge, punish, reward, and rule the anticipated Messianic kingdom.
    • There are certain signs that will mark the rapid approach of his coming, and there is one very specific sign that signals his very soon coming. That one sign is the placing in the temple of some sort of horrifying statue or image.
    • When Jesus comes to earth he will come publicly and quickly and accompanied by visible and obvious signs in the sky.
    • When he returns he will judge the inhabitants of the earth. Those who believe him will move into the kingdom on earth. Those who disbelieve him will be judged and removed from the earth into judgment.
  5. What are some applications for us in the church?
    • God has his plan for history. History is not chance happenings. God is now directing history toward his purposes and end.
    • Jesus will return to earth and judge, reward, and rule the messianic kingdom.
    • Though the signs given are distinct for the future time Tribulation time—these are spoken of here and in Daniel 9 and elsewhere—we can see the trends that are setting the stage for this coming Tribulation period.
    • Though we are not destined to live in the coming Tribulation, we should also watch and work because the rapture of the church will come first and we do not want to be ashamed at Jesus’ coming for the church.
    • What is happening in the world is not outside of God’s control. The world is filling up its rebellion. When God’s time comes he will intervene exactly as the prophets and Jesus say he will. Believing this chases away fear and uncertainty and replaces it with confident expectation in our God.