How this must have astonished the disciples.
Over 500 years earlier the prophet Daniel had revealed that beginning
with a decree authorizing the reconstruction of Jerusalem, Israel would be
given 490 years during which all necessary preparations for the Messianic
Kingdom would be made . They
would finish transgression, put an end to sin, atone for wickedness, bring
in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the
most holy (place). The most holy place refers to the Temple.
Accomplishing this would require the Messiah to come and die for the
sins of the people (Daniel 9:24-26).
The disciples knew the 483 year mark had been reached a
few days earlier and that the Messiah was among them.
He had explained to them that when they got to Jerusalem He would be
executed but would come back from the grave three days later (Matt. 16:21,
Luke 18:31-33). So there
were only seven years left of the 490 years.
The Temple had been undergoing a major reconstruction that so far had
required 46 years (John 2:20) and wasn't complete yet. But now Jesus
was saying everything would be torn down.
Not one stone would be left standing on another. How could that be?
As they began their trek up the Mt. of Olives on their
way back to Bethany, four of the disciples (Peter, James, John and Andrew)
approached Jesus to ask Him about these things.
They had 3 questions for Him. First they wanted to know when this
would happen. They also wanted
to know what would be the sign of His coming, and what would be the sign of
the end of the age (Matt. 24:3).
By their questions we can tell they'd been discussing
this among themselves. Wanting
to know when the Temple would be destroyed was an obvious reaction to his
earlier statement, but the Lord's 2nd Coming was still a new idea
to them. And if the Temple was
going to be torn down how would they know when the end of the age would
come? They certainly could no
longer count on it it happening in 7 years.
Matthew's account of the Lord's response does not
contain an answer to their first question. But Luke's does, so let's go
Jesus told them, “When you see Jerusalem being
surrounded by armies you will know its desolation is near.
There will be great distress in the land (Israel) and wrath
against this people (the Jews).
They will fall by the sword and be taken as prisoners to all the
nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of
the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:20, 23,24).
The disciples were to understand that when they saw the
Roman Armies surrounding Jerusalem it would mean Temple was about to be
destroyed. The Jews mounted an unsuccessful revolt against Rome in 66 AD and
by 70AD Jerusalem and the Temple lay in ruins.
In answering their 2nd and 3rd
questions, Jesus began with an overview.
In the times ahead there would be false messiahs, wars and rumors of
wars, but they would not signal the end.
He said nation would rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.
There would be famines and earthquakes in various places. He
characterized these as the beginning of birth pangs, meaning they would be
indicators that the time of the 2nd Coming was near.
He said the Jewish people would be persecuted and hated
by all nations because they would be blamed for His death. There would be
false prophets, and an increase of wickedness, but he who stands firm to the
end would be saved (Matt. 24:4-13).
We know he wasn't talking about the Church here because
our salvation is not contingent upon standing firm to the end. Our salvation
was assured from the moment we believed (Ephes. 1:13-14).
God has set His seal of ownership on us and put His Spirit in our
hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing this (2 Cor. 1:21-22).
Jesus had post rapture believers in mind here, because they have no
such guarantee. As you'll see there's no mention of the Church anywhere in
this discussion because Jesus was speaking as a Jewish prophet explaining to
His Jewish disciples about the end times as they concern the Jewish people.
Remember, their questions to Him were about the remaining seven years
of Daniel's 70 Week prophecy, which is all about Israel.
Then He completed His overview by saying the Gospel
would be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then
the end will come (Matt. 24:14).
Now before you say, “There's where the Church comes in,” let me take
you to Rev. 14 to see the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he
had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every
nation, tribe, language and people.
He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the
hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth,
the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:6-7)
Now the Lord gave them the first specific sign in
answer to their questions. He said when the people of Judea see the
abomination that causes desolation standing in the Holy place they should
immediately flee for their lives (Matt. 24:15-16). The term
abomination that causes desolation was well known to them even though it had
only happened once previously.
In one of history's clearest models of the anti-Christ, the Syrian ruler
Antiochus Epiphanes placed an image of the Greek god Zeus with his face on
it in the Temple and demanded that the people worship it on pain of death.
This rendered the Temple unfit for use and started the three and one half
year Maccabean revolt. The annual celebration of their victory over the
Syrians is called the Feast of Hanukkah. Every Jew knows the meaning of the
abomination of desolation from this celebration.
It was a sign they could all could recognize.
Jesus told the people of Judea to pray their flight
wouldn't be in winter or on a Sabbath when that happens again, because that
sign would signal the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21).
It's more difficult to travel in the winter and it's against the Law for
Jews to travel on the Sabbath.
It's hard to over estimate the significance of that
statement. Even though Jesus had earlier warned the disciples the Temple was
soon to be destroyed and the people would be scattered to the nations, He
now said there would be a Jewish nation in Israel with a working Temple
again as the End of the Age approached.
From about 135 AD until 1948 there was no Jewish nation, and since
70AD there hasn't been a Temple there.
With 20-20 hindsight we can see that with the rejection
of the Messiah, Daniel's 70 week prophecy was suspended 7 years short of
it's fulfillment. The Lord's
brother James explained to the Early Church leaders that this suspension
would remain in force while the Lord took from the Gentiles a people for
Himself (the Church) and after that Israel would be restored (Acts
15:13-18). Therefore the
Church Age didn't cancel the remaining seven years, it has just postponed
their fulfillment. After the
Church has been raptured
Israel's final 7 years will resume and this time all their objectives will
The 3 ½ years of judgment that begins with the
abomination that causes desolation will be the worst the world has ever seen
or ever will see again (Matt. 24:21)
No period of time is more carefully measured
in all the Bible. It's
variously described as being 3 ½ years, or 40 months or 1260 days long.
And then the Lord will return and put an end to it.
He said if it was allowed it to run its course not a single human
being would survive, but for the sake of His elect He will put an end to it
at its appointed time (Matt. 24:22).
Immediately after the end of the Great tribulation the
Sun and Moon will go dark and the stars will fall from the sky.
The world will be plunged into darkness.
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear as the only light
in the sky and all the nations of the Earth will mourn.
Then they will see the the Lord coming on the clouds of the sky with
power and great glory (Matt. 24:29-30).
Jesus said in effect that the generation of people
being born when the first of the end times signs appear will still be alive
at the 2nd Coming (Matt. 24:34). Since He began by saying
there will be a nation of Jewish people in the Promised Land at the End
times, and since that hadn't been the case until 1948, scholars believe that
the rebirth of Israel was the event that kicked off the End Times. If so,
then many of the people who were born in 1948 will still be alive when He
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the
angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36)
From Matt. 24:29-30 we can tell that Jesus was
speaking about the day and hour of his return to Earth after the end of the
Great Tribulation, and while you have likely seen different different
interpretations of what follows, it's important for you to understand that
all of it pertains to the time immediately surrounding the 2nd
First He said it would be similar to the days of Noah.
Before the flood unbelievers had no idea what was coming and why, and
when Noah tried to warn them about it they just laughed, as if he was crazy.
Right up to the day of the flood, they kept going about their lives,
clueless to the fact that life as they knew it was about to end forever. It
will be like that at the End of the Age as well.
This is why Jesus said the nations will mourn when they see Him
They'll finally realize that what they've been hearing is true and it will
be too late for them to do anything in response.
He gave three examples of people appearing to be just
alike and doing the same things, but one would be received into the Kingdom
while the other would be sent away to eternal punishment.
Matthew mentioned only two of them, the men in the field and the
women grinding with a hand mill (Matt. 24:40-41).
Luke added the two people sleeping in the same bed (Luke 17:34).
The Lord's point was that what differentiated them was not external
and physical, but was internal and spiritual.
It's what they believe that makes them different.
The key to understanding these examples lies in the
words taken and left. The Greek word for taken means to take unto oneself,
or receive, and refers to surviving believers who will be received into the
Kingdom. The word for left means to send away. These are the unbelievers who
will be sent away for judgment.
This example speaks of Tribulation survivors who will stand before the Lord
upon His return to learn of their destiny.
Then He gave a warning that those who survive the Great
Tribulation will not know the day or hour of His return so they should be
watching for Him like a homeowner watches for a thief he knows is coming (Matt.
Next, the Lord told them four parables, each one an
example of how it will be just after the 2nd Coming.
You'll see that throughout this discussion there's been no mention of
a rapture or even of the Church itself. Nor will there be.
This discussion is about Israel's last seven years.
The Church will be gone by then.