Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2)
The discourse of Matthew 23:1-39 had evidently been given in the temple precincts. The first temple, built by Solomon, was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.. The second temple, built under the encouragement of Haggai and Zechariah and the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua (Hag. 1:1), was completed after considerable delay in 516 B.C.. This second temple was completely and lavishly renovated by Herod the Great. He began the work around 20 B.C., but the renovations were not completed during the lifetime of Christ (John 2:20). The work was finally finished in A.D. 64, and the temple stood completed for only six years before it was reduced to rubble by the Romans.
Although no one knows exactly what this temple looked like, it must have been beautiful. Herod had helped the Jews remodel it, no doubt to stay on friendly terms with his subjects. Next to the inner temple, where the sacred objects were kept and the sacrifices offered, there was a large area called the court of the Gentiles (this was where the money changers and merchants had their booths). Outside these courts were long porches. Solomon’s porch was 1,562 feet long; the royal poritico was decorated with 160 columns stretching along its 921 foot length. Gazing at this glorious and massive structure, the disciples found Jesus’ words about its destruction difficult to believe. But the temple was indeed destroyed only 40 years later when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The devastation of the temple by the Romans was so thorough that the precise location of the sanctuary is still unknown today.
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
Undoubtedly the disciples were immediately confounded by the Lord’s prophecy (Matthew 24:2); however, they held their tongues until they had crossed the Kidron valley and come to the Mount of Olives. When Jesus sat, as Jewish teachers did (Matthew 5:1), the disciples finally questioned Him about His statement regarding the destruction of the temple. Some say that this verse contains two questions: (1) when will these things be? That is, “When will the temple be destroyed?” and (2) what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? Others believe that one basic question was in the disciples’ minds. To the disciples, the devastation of the city and the coming of the Messiah were part of one event. The disciple’s questions should probably be taken as one question, though the fulfillment would come in stages.
Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the very place where the prophet Zechariah had predicted that the Messiah would stand when He came to establish His kingdom (Zechariah 14:4). It was a fitting place for the disciples to ask Jesus when He would come in power and what they could expect then. Jesus’ reply emphasized the events that would take place before the end of the age. He pointed out that His disciples should be less concerned with knowing the exact date and more concerned with being prepared – living God’s way consistently so that no matter when Jesus came in glory, He would claim them as His own.
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. (Matthew 24:4-6)
The disciples asked Jesus for the sign of His coming and of the end of the age. Jesus’ first response was “Watch out that no one deceives you.” Jesus’ warning about being deceived was especially appropriate for the disciples. The destruction of Jerusalem did not necessarily mean the nearness of the end of the age. This principle was a point of confusion for them (Luke 19:11–27; Acts 1:6, 7). The fact is that whenever we look for signs, we become very susceptible to being deceived. There are many “false prophets” (Matthew 24:11, 24) around with counterfeit signs of spiritual power and authority. The only sure way to keep from being deceived is to focus on Christ and His words. Don’t look for special signs, and don’t spend time looking at other people. Look at Christ.
Three indicators of time are given in Matthew 24:6–14. The first is found in v. 6, the end is not yet. The second is found in v. 8, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” The third is found in v. 14, “then the end will come.” Matthew 24:4–6 may describe the first part of Daniel’s seventieth week (Dan. 9:25–27), but possibly they present a general picture of the present age. False messiahs and wars and rumors of wars are characteristic of the fallen world in which we live. When the Lord said all these things must come to pass, He used a word for must that indicates a divine or logical necessity. Such activities are necessary because of the people’s sin. False messiahs had existed before (Acts 5:36, 37; 21:38), and false preachers would come in the future (Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Cor. 11:13–15).
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, £pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24: 7-12)
This passage describes characteristics of the end times. Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom seems to indicate wars on a broad or worldwide scale. The famines, pestilences, and earthquakes are more fully described in Revelation 6:1–8; 8:5–13; 9:13–21; 16:2–21. Sorrows literally mean “birth pangs.” The earth continually has birth pangs today (Rom. 8:22); during the tribulation, these “sorrows” will increase in intensity and frequency until Jesus returns in glory (Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:21).
The Old Testament frequently mention false prophets (2 Kings 3:13; Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 23:16; Ezekiel 13:2, 3; Micah 3:5; Zechariah 13:2). False prophets claimed to receive messages from God, but they preached a “health and wealth” message. They said what the people wanted to hear, even when the nation was not following God as it should. There were false prophets in Jesus’ day, and we have them today. They are the popular leaders who tell people what they want to hear – such as “God wants you to be rich,” “Do whatever your desires tell you,” or “There is no such thing as sin or hell.” Jesus said false teachers would come, and He warned His disciples, as He warns us, not to listen to their dangerous words.
With false teaching and loose morals comes a particularly destructive disease – the loss of true love for God and others. Sin cools your love for God and others by turning your focus on yourself. You cannot truly love if you think only of yourself.
But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24: 13-14)
You may not be facing intense persecution now, but Christians in other parts of the world are. As you hear about Christians suffering for their faith, remember that they are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for them. Ask God what you can do to help them in their troubles. When one part suffers, the whole body suffers. But when all the parts join together to ease the suffering, the whole body benefits (1 Cor. 12:26).
Jesus predicted that His followers would be severely persecuted by those who hated what He stood for. In the midst of terrible persecutions, however, they could have hope, knowing that salvation was theirs. Times of trial serve to sift true Christians from false or fair-weather Christians. When you are pressured to give up and turn your back on Christ, don’t do it. Remember the benefits of standing firm, and continue to live for Christ.
Jesus said that before He returns, the gospel of the kingdom (the message of salvation) would be preached throughout the world. This was the disciples’ mission – and it is ours today. Jesus talked about the end times and final judgment to show His followers the urgency of spreading the good news of salvation to everyone.
The final evidence of the end times will be the universal proclamation of the gospel. The antecedent of “this” must be Matthew 24:13. The good news is that the final battle of the tribulation known as Armageddon will not result in the destruction of all people. The Lord Jesus Christ will intervene, bringing an end to the destruction and preserving a people for His kingdom.
THUS SAYS THE LORD, "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Father God, it is my prayer today that I only focus on your Son and My Lord and Savior Christ Jesus who died for me on the cross so I could have freedom from the grasp of sin and eternal life. You have promised me that You will never leave me nor forsaken me. Thank you Lord for Your forgiveness, love, mercy, and grace. I pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.