This is a study of Mathew 24:1-51 verse-by-verse. The context for this chapter is set in Matthew chapter 23:38, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!“. Hearing Jesus’ warning about the impending destruction and desolation of Israel’s Temple, the disciples are shocked as they ponder the Temple’s magnificence. Leading up to this point, Jesus has been teaching and speaking in Israel’s temple and outer courts in Jerusalem. He has just completed pronouncing seven “woes” of judgment against Israel’s religious leaders (Matthew 23:13). He concluded with a declaration that He was officially abandoning Jerusalem, and the temple to coming judgment (Matthew 23:37–38). Jerusalem has refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah and receive His protection. So the disciples heard all these things, and they leave, wondering how this whole place, all these big buildings, surrounded with walls, are going to come under judgement? Starting in verse 1.
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him (Matthew 24:1)
So as Jesus was coming out of the temple, the disciples came up to Him. Gazing at the temple buildings, they could not make sense how all these great temple buildings will be brought down. As they departing for the Mount of Olives, the disciples remind Jesus of the Temple’s magnificent splendor.
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.” (Matthew 24:2)
And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? All these things refer to the temple, and the holy city of Jerusalem itself.
Not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down. Jesus draws the disciples’ minds to the sobering reality of Jerusalem’s fate. Every magnificent stone will be thrown down.This is talking about the ruin to come upon Jerusalem. After the city was taken by Romans, Jewish historian Josephus, who fell into the hands of Romans at this time, says that Titus (before becoming Emperor, he gained renown as a military commander), “gave orders that they should now “demolish the whole city and temple”. This sad prophecy would come true in AD 70 when the Roman Empire attacked Jerusalem, dismantling the entire temple in the process.2
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?” (Matthew 24:3)
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. The disciples were curious to know more about the destruction to come, so they came to Jesus privately. Jesus and the disciples have now come to Mount of Olives, from which they had a magnificent view of the whole city. The passage that begins with this verse is often called the Olivet Discourse. Christ is sitting on the Mount of Olives as He teaches.
Tell us, 1) when will these things happen, and 2) what will be the sign of Your coming, and 3) of the end of the age? The apostles ask three questions, but it is clear they believe all of these events will occur at the same time. Though grossly mistaken, they cannot imagine Jerusalem’s being destroyed unless it is accompanied by some kind of catastrophic end of the world. Jesus overlooks the apostles’ misconceptions and goes on to answer their questions by dividing His response into two parts. First, He deals with the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1–35), and then He turns His attention to His second coming (Matthew 24:36–25:46). Some commentators apply the end of the age to refer to the end of the Jewish age culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem. While this is possible, however, Jesus’ response shows the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of history are two different things as we shall see.
And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matthew 24:4)
So Jesus begins to answer the first question regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus cautions the disciples to beware of deception. They were to be constantly on their guard, because many would arise to deceive the people.
For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many (Mathew 24:5).
Many would lay claims to being the Messiah. Josephus (the Jewish historian) informs us that there were many who pretended to have divine inspiration; who deceived the people, leading out numbers of them into the desert.2This is the first sign, preceding the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem.
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 (Matthew 24:6).
The forty years that intervened before the destruction of Jerusalem were full of these commotions in all directions. Four Roman emperors, Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, suffered violent deaths in the short space of eighteen months. In consequence of these changes in the government, there were commotions throughout the empire. Be not be alarmed when you hear of those commotions. The end of the Jewish economy; the destruction of Jerusalem will not immediately follow with these commotions, because the end of it is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)
For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. At Caesarea the Jews and Syrians fought about the right to the city, and twenty thousand of the Jews were slain. Italy was also thrown into civil war by the contests between Otho and Vitellius for the crown.
Various places there will be famine. There was a famine foretold by Agabus (Acts 11:28), which is mentioned by historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius. It was so severe in Jerusalem, Josephus says, that many people perished for want of food. Four times in the reign of Claudius (41-54 a.d.) famines prevailed in Rome, Palestine, and Greece.2
Earthquakes. In prophetic language, earthquakes sometimes mean political commotions. Tacitus mentions of an earthquake in the reign of Claudius, at Rome, and says that in the reign of Nero, the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse were overthrown, and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed and almost destroyed by an earthquake.
But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs (Mathew 24:8)
This is a metaphor. A woman having birth pains, or contractions, may still be far from delivering the baby. Those pains contribute to the eventual time of birth (new age to come), but they don’t mean the child has actually arrived.
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name (Mathew 24:9)
They will deliver you to tribulation. From the calamities of the Jewish nation in general, afflictions will also come upon Christians in particular.
Will kill you. Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:59); James was killed by Herod (Acts 12:2); and, in addition to all that the sacred writers have told us, the persecution under Nero took place before the destruction of Jerusalem, in which were put to death, with many others, Peter and Paul. Most of the apostles, it is believed, died by persecution.
Hated by all nations because of My name. The Romans seem to have placed Jews and Christians in the same category, and to have bestowed on Christians the hatred felt for the Jews.
At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another (Mathew 24:10)
Many will fall away. The words point primarily to those who were believers in Christ, and abandoned the faith, either due to persecution or in rejecting the new aspects of new covenant truth presented by the apostles, or due to the delayed coming of the Lord.
Betray one another and hate one another. The apostates, who would fall off from the Christian faith, would prove treacherous to true believers, and give in their names to the persecutors. Bitter hatred of the Judaisers against Paul, and Christians are evidence of this.
Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many (Mathew 24:11)
The later writings of the New Testament bear repeated testimony to this feature of the ten years that came before the destruction of Jerusalem. John speaks of false prophets (1 John 4:1), and many antichrists (1 John 2:18) already existing at that time.
Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. (Mathew 24:12)
No word could more fitly represent the condition of Judea in the time just referred to: brigandage, massacres, extortion, assassination, came to be common things. Prevalence of evil within the Christian community will have the effect of cooling the brotherly love of the majority of its members.
But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Mathew 24:13)
Christians shall patiently bear all afflictions, to the end of his life, or to the end of sorrows. Patience and perseverance shall be crowned at the last day. “The end” here means primarily the destruction of Jerusalem, and the salvation promised is safety in that day of peril. It is believed that no Christians perished in the siege. It is a historical fact that Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, for some unknown reason, suspended the siege against Jerusalem, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies for an interval of time after the Romans had occupied the Temple, thus giving every believer the opportunity to obey the Lord’s instruction to flee the city. Josephus, the eyewitness, himself an unbeliever, chronicles this fact, and admitted his inability to account for the cessation of the fighting at this time after a siege had begun.2
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. (Mathew 24:14)
This gospel of the kingdom. The good news of the coming of Messiah’s kingdom. The gospel is the same gospel as you find in Paul. It is what God has ordained through his eternal Son, to pay the price of sin, to take on the effects of the curse, to release his people, to gather and transform men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation. It is the good news. It is the gospel, the life-changing focus on who Christ is and what he has done. That is the gospel.
Shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations. By the “whole world” means the then known world. The faith of the Christians in Romans was spoken of throughout the whole world even during the first century. “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). When the Jews rejected the Gospel from them, the apostles turned to the Gentiles; and before the destruction of Jerusalem, it was preached to all the nations under the visible heavens. Thus, Paul declares that it was preached to every creature “under heaven” (Colossians 1:6, Colossians 1:23)
Then the end will come. Not the end of the world but the end of the temple and city will come.
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) (Mathew 24:15)
When you see the abomination of desolation. Abomination of Desolation is literally, the abomination that causes desolation. In the Old Testament, “abomination” is an object of disgust, something that causes revulsion; an idolatrous offense or affront to the true worship of God. The Abomination of Desolation is referred to four times in Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11, which was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes (a Syrian king), who slaughtered 40,000 Jews and plundered the temple in 168 b.c. He sacrificed a pig on the altar of burnt offering, sprinkled broth from the unclean flesh all over the holy grounds as an act of deliberate defilement. He then erected an image of Zeus above the altar. It was a sacrilege of indescribable proportions indelibly imprinted on the minds of the Jews in Jesus’ day.
Which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand). Jesus envisioned something of a repeat performance in his day of what happened in 168 b.c. under Antiochus. When he says “let the reader understand” he means “let the reader of the Old Testament book of Daniel understand” the true meaning and fulfillment of the coming Abomination of Desolation standing in the holy place, the holy city and the temple in Jerusalem. The pagan Roman armies surrounding the holy places, the holy city is the abomination that causes [Jerusalem’s] desolation. “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.” (Luke 21:20).
Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains (Mathew 24:16)
“Judea” includes not only Jerusalem but also the surrounding province that will be most eminently affected by the cataclysmic events of Rome’s onslaught. The term “mountains” is a general phrase and probably refers to any of the nearby hills or mountains within reasonable traveling distance. The third century historian Eusebius also suggests many Christians fled to Pella, a city beyond the Jordan in the region of Perea, about seventeen miles from the Sea of Galilee.
Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house (Mathew 24:17)
Jesus says when Christians see the fateful hour upon them, they are not to come down from their housetops to take anything from within. Haste is the issue. Believers are not to worry about their material possessions nor to sort through their belongings so as to decide which “stuff” they will drag from the city.
Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak (Mathew 24:18)
Manual labor in the fields just outside the city gates is hot, sweaty work. Thus, the “outer garment” is often laid aside or perhaps even left at home in the city. If one in the field notices the “signal” for flight to safety, he is not to return to retrieve his clothing. He is to flee immediately without regard for his material possessions.
But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! (Mathew 24:19)
Travel under the best conditions will be difficult given the haste. But Jesus says it will be even more difficult for expectant and nursing mothers. For them, travel will be slow and difficult, and no doubt beset by inadequate shelter and provisions. For this group it is a time of “woe.” Unlike Matthew 23:13 (woe to you, scribes and Pharisees), Jesus uses the term here to express His deepest compassion and empathy.
But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. (Mathew 24:19)
Pray. Jesus tells His disciples to “pray.” They are to entreat God that He will make this traumatic time as easy as possible. Even though believers are innocent of the crimes of Israel and the rejection of the Messiah that brings this doom to their city, they are not exempt from its terrible effects.
That your flight will not be in the winter. In Palestine during the winter, roads were practically impassible because of mud; harsh weather and cold temperatures would also slow down one’s journey and make mountain hideaways unbearable.
Or on a Sabbath. On the Sabbath, gates would be closed; it would be difficult to obtain provisions (Jews prohibited anything more than a one-day’s journey on the Sabbath); buying and selling were not permitted; one travelling on a Sabbath would receive no assistance from the Jewish populace. The Puritans (the English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries), and present day Seventh day/First day Sabbatarians refer to this statement as an indirect argument in favour of continued Sabbath observance. Note that this warning was given “to those who are in Judea” (verse 16), not to disciples in other parts of the world. Jesus gave the warning here because he knew that the Jews would not allow the kind of escape in troubling times on the Sabbath. His warning was not a command to rest on the Sabbath any more than it was a command to rest in winter. These were simply inconvenient times to flee. Even a gentile Christian congregation not observing the Sabbath would be exposed to hardship and danger if its people attempted to flee on that day in a Jewish environment, in Judea.
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will (Mathew 24:21)
For then there will be a great tribulation. The afflictions which befell the Jews can be classified as great tribulations. Joshephus writes: “The greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those wherein cities have fought against cities, or nations against nations . . . it appears to me that the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to those of the Jews, are not so considerable as they were“.
Such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Many insist that this “great tribulation” cannot refer to the events of 70 a.d. because worse and more severe tribulations have since followed (World War II and the Holocaust, Stalin, etc.). Once one grasps the dimensions of what occurred in 70 a.d., one realizes that the savagery, cruelty, and the monstrosities that occurred were beyond comparison. Also, never so high a percentage of one city’s population was destroyed. Everyone was either killed or sold into slavery. As noted earlier, approximations are that 1,100,000 people were killed and 100,000 were enslaved. “Such as has not occurred…nor ever will” is language framed in terms of prophetic hyperbole, a common apocalyptic device used by the writers of Scripture. For Example: “There shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again” (Exod. 11:6).
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 (Matthew 24:22)
Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved. Jesus notes that unless God shows His mercy, none from the nation of Israel will be saved. The term “no flesh” refers to the physical nation of Israel and her physical salvation from the Romans.
But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Christians will be caught in the crossfire. For the sake of the elect, meaning Christians, however, the onslaught will be divinely curtailed. Historians note that if Rome’s siege had continued much longer, the entire Jewish race would have been destroyed.
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him (Matthew 24:23)
Jesus says, don’t look for the second coming of Christ in the chaotic events surrounding Jerusalem’s fall. Such troublesome times would prove to be a golden opportunity for false prophets to lead people astray with false expectations of Christ’s appearance. Hence, Christ warns His disciples, that they are not to follow any imposter back into the doomed city of Jerusalem.
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24)
Christ’s apostles are to expect charlatans to arise and attempt to deceive believers with “signs and wonders.” Josephus gives anecdotal evidence for unusual occurrences about this time: a star resembling a sword that stands over the city and a great light that appears for a half hour around the Temple. Just as “false prophets” in the Old Testament are those who offer “alternative doctrines” or “false hope” in the face of doom, so these “false prophets” will do the same during Jerusalem’s final hours, even to mislead the elect – the Christians.
Behold, I have told you in advance. 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 (Matthew 24:25-26)
Behold, I have told you in advance. The reason why he told them in advance of all these things was that they might be on their guard, and be prepared for those calamities.
So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms. Some might say the “Christ” has finally arrived to save Israel and He is hiding in the wilderness or in some secret room in the besieged city. Jesus wants His disciples to remember that He has already presented Himself to Israel as the true Messiah. Josephus actually records several instances of impostors who enticed people into the desert and elsewhere with promises of the Messiah’s appearance.2
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. (Mathew 24:27)
The coming of the Son of Man here is not the second coming of Christ, but His “coming” in judgment that appears like a destructive lightning bolt against Jerusalem. The direction of this judgment from the east may reflect the Roman armies marching toward Jerusalem from an easterly direction. Josephus’s record of the march of the Roman armies through Israel approaching from the east. Or it may mean that His judgment will come in a rapid and unexpected manner, like the lightning comes from eastward and flashes even westward, that those who witness it will not miss it. It is not a secret event.2
Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather (Mathew 24:28)
The meaning here is that the Son of Man will bring judgment on Jerusalem, by means of the Roman armies. In the Old Testament, to give someone’s flesh to be eaten by the birds was an expression of total defeat and their being put to shame. “And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air.” (1 Sam. 17:46-47). Vultures easily ascertain where dead bodies are and hasten to devour them. With the Roman army approaching, Jerusalem was like a dead and putrid corpse. Hence, the disciples are not to expect any “Messiah,” not even Jesus, to appear personally and save Jerusalem.
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 (Mathew 24:29)
But immediately after the tribulation of those days. The tribulation of which Jesus speaks is the same sufferings described previously, those that Rome will visit upon the Jewish nation (Matthew 24:19–22).
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. In the Old Testament, such language was used to portray not what is going on in the heavens but what is happening on the earth. Natural disasters, political upheaval, turmoil among the nations, etc., are often described figuratively through the terminology of cosmic disturbances. In Isaiah 13:9-10 we read of the impending judgment of God on Babylon, which he describes in this way: “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 (Isaiah 13:9-10)”.
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 (Mathew 24:30)
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky [heaven]. Jesus was not telling his disciples that He would appear in the sky. Rather, He told them that they would see a sign concerning “the Son of Man”. A sign, sēmeion in the Greek, is a symbol pointing to some reality. What is meant here is that the Son of man will give a proof of himself, whom Jews did not acknowledge: as proof, not in any visible appearance, but in judgment so visible from heaven, such that those who rejected Him shall be forced to acknowledge He is the resurrected Messiah, who is reigning in heaven.
Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn. The word translated “tribes” (phule) has the tribes of Israel in view. The Greek noun translated “earth” (ge) can refer generally to the tangible ground, the whole earth, or more specifically to a particular land area. In context, the land of Israel, i.e., Palestine (Mathew 2:20) is in view here. Hence, all the “tribes or people” of the land of Judea shall mourn at the great calamities coming upon them, and this is the proof that they rejected Him, and He has come in judgment upon them.
They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. This “coming” is not a visible, physical appearance by which Jesus returns to earth (although that will most assuredly occur at the end of history). Rather, the generation living at this time will “see” the Son of Man coming in judgement. Those who have refused to accept Him as King and Savior did indeed “see” Him come on the “clouds” of judgement. Coming in clouds represents God coming to earth in judgement. Isaiah 19:1 says, “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.” Obviously, the Egyptians did not see the Lord in a personal, visible way, but in powerful judgment. Psalms 97:2-3 says, “Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.” Power and great glory is manifested when the Lord comes on “clouds” of judgement.
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 (Mathew 24:31)
And He will send forth His angels. Angels (aggelos in Greek) signify “messengers” such as found in Luke 7:24 or Luke 9:52. “After John’s messengers (aggelos) left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John” (Luke 7:24). This is a reference to human messengers such as the apostles, and their successors in the Christian ministry, that God will send.
With a great trumpet. The Jewish assemblies used to be called together by the sound of a trumpet. “Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out” (Numbers 10:2). Here, Jesus, uses language familiar to the Jews, and describes the gathering together of His people, by alluding to a sounding of the gospel trumpet, by sending His messengers. Isaiah 27:13: “It will come about also on that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:13).
They will gather together His elect. Elect means Christians. The chosen of God. God shall send forth his messengers, with the trumpet of the gospel – whatever he chooses: human messengers, or the angels themselves – and gather Christians into a place of safety, so that they shall not be destroyed with the Jews. Thus, Jesus is depicting a time when His disciples, His messengers, will go into the visible world, preach the gospel, and gather the “elect” into the church (Mathew 28:18–19). The “gathering together” of God’s elect here is not a reference to the end-time harvest but “to the world-wide growth of the church” that increased exponentially after the destruction of the temple and has been on-going since then to this present age. It is true that angels, trumpets, and the gathering of God’s elect shall be part of the final end (that is the Second Coming of Christ) is beyond question (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). But the context of these verses points to the destruction of Jerusalem.
From the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. The phrase ‘from one end of the sky to the other’ does not indicate that the place of the action is in the sky (or heaven) above. The phrase often signifies nothing more than from the uttermost parts of the earth to the uttermost parts of heaven or “horizon to horizon”. “If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee (Deuteronomy 30:4). Likewise Isaiah 45:22 says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” Hence, this verse has no reference to Christ’s second coming but is prophetic of the time when salvation will be extended beyond the borders of Israel to outermost parts of the earth. In Luke 13:29, Jesus said, “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” Bringing together people from the four winds by God’s messengers is to show that the gospel dispensation will become universal in scope due to the fall of Judaism in A.D. 70.
“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 (Mathew 24:32)
Now learn the parable from the fig tree. Jesus says consider the fig tree. Because this discourse is given while Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives near the village of Bethphage (house of figs), the fig tree is appropriate to the illustration.
When its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves you know that summer is near. Just as a budding tree signals the nearness of summer’s warmth, the things Jesus predicts signal the heat of God’s judgement upon Jerusalem.
So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door (Matthew 24:33)
When you see all these things. “All these things” refers to all the things about which Jesus has warned so far: false Christs, wars, rumors of wars, famine, pestilence, earthquake, etc. It encompasses all that is connected with the fall of Jerusalem. It encompasses everything from verse 4-31.
Recognize that He is near, right at the door. When Christians see “all these things” coming to pass, they will know “it” is near.
Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (Mathew 24:34)
“This generation” is the immediate generation under the sound of Jesus’ voice. Every event regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, the Roman atrocities toward the Jews, abomination of desolation, coming of the Son of Man in judgment, gathering of the elect by God’s messengers, and the advancement of God’s kingdom to the uttermost part of the then known world are to be fulfilled within forty years from the time Jesus spoke these things. Forty years is the time span generally used to mark a generation in Jewish thought.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away (Matthew 24:35)
Although to the human mind nothing seems more stable than heaven and earth, Jesus says His words are more sure. ‘By heaven and earth will pass away’ also may refer to the imminent end to the social, religious and economic structure of Israel’s covenant relationship with God. Based on Jewish understanding, the temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met. Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality.
With this verse Jesus ends His discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem. In minute detail, He has answered the first question asked in verse 3, “When shall these things be?” In the next section, Jesus will turn His attention to events for which there will be no specific signs. Unlike the terror that is soon to befall Jerusalem, the end of time will come with no warning. In fact Jesus tells His disciples that of “that day and hour” no man can predict.
Remember, the question the disciples had asked Jesus back in verse 3 was a) When will “these things” be, i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple? b) When will you return and consummate the age? The disciples thought the two events would be simultaneous. Jesus says, “No, the destruction of Jerusalem will be in your lifetime, in your generation. I’ll even give you signs that will warn you of its nearness. But the day of my second coming will not be preceded by specific signs. It will come only after a period of delay of undetermined duration. Everyone of this present generation will be aware of when Jerusalem will fall, but no one knows the day or hour when the second coming will occur. Continuing from verse 36.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Mathew 24:36)
But. The use of the word “but” implies a contrast between verse 36 and what has previously been said. Our Lord is clearly moving from the subject of Jerusalem and its temple to that of his second coming.
That day and hour no one knows. In the first half of the sermon, Jesus gave specifics concerning events preceding and leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem; he gave instructions on how to escape; he even gave them one sign (abomination of desolation) in particular that would unmistakably indicate the imminence of the city’s fall. But now, in response to the second half of their question, he says: “No human knows or can know” the day and hour of His second coming.
Not even the angels of heaven. Even angels cannot reveal it.
Nor the Son but the Father alone. Jesus is not saying that He’s ignorant of the hour of His second coming, but rather, He simply will not reveal it neither will the angels, who generally announces God’s plans. The Greek word “eido” which is translated as ‘know’, can be translated as “cannot tell” or will not reveal. In the ancient Jewish wedding custom, the groom’s father arranges the wedding. During a period of betrothal, the groom prepares a bridal chamber at his father’s house while the bride waits at her house. It is only when the groom’s father is satisfied with his son’s preparations that he gives his permission to his son to go and get the bride, and bring her to the bridal chamber. With this custom, Jesus is saying that He cannot reveal it, neither can angels, because according to the wedding protocol, it is reserved for the Father only to announce that the preparations of his son are complete, and the time for the wedding has come.
For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37)
Jesus now takes His disciples’ minds back to the familiar account of Noah (Genesis 6-9). In so doing, He establishes the veracity and historicity of the biblical account of the flood.
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark (Mathew 24:38)
All seems normal before the flood. People go about their daily activities of eating, drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage. The people conduct their daily lives as if no judgment will come, as if Noah is a crazy man, and as if they will live forever.
And they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be (Matthew 24:39)
Those of Noah’s day heard and understood the warning, but they did not believe God was serious. “Took them away” refers to the wicked of Noah’s day. It is not “Noah and his family” who are taken from the earth but rather those who refuse to heed his preaching. This point is vital in understanding the next two verses. Those “taken away” in the following verses are the wicked, not the righteous.
Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. (Mathew 24:40-41)
Jesus here gives two examples of activities of daily living. One picture is of two farm workers tending crops in the field. The other picture is of two women, one on each side of a grinding wheel, preparing flour from grain. While people may be intimately connected by their jobs and daily activities in this life (that is, in the field, at the mill), judgment will find each on his own. The second coming will come so suddenly that no last minute preparation will be possible. The wicked will be taken away to meet their doom just as the flood took the wicked of the then known world.
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming (Mathew 24:42)
Because there will be no harbinger for Jesus’ second coming, He enjoins vigilance. The Greek word “watch” (gregoreite) means more than simply looking at something. It means to be awake, to be on guard as a soldier assigned to a night watch. The three parables that follow masterfully illustrate this point.
But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. (Mathew 24:43-44)
On a moral level Jesus has nothing in common with a thief. Yet the illustration is appropriate because just as the thief gives no advance warning so Jesus’ coming will be unannounced. The only way a homeowner can rest assured is to be on guard constantly.
“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? (Mathew 24:45)
The faithful and wise servant is the one who is vigilant. This man is just a servant, but he has been given great responsibilities as well. So, the picture is not merely that of a steward over material goods but one who is in charge of other servants as well.
Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions (Mathew 24:46-47)
God did not design man to be idle either physically or spiritually. Work is necessary in both the temporal and spiritual realms. Those whom the Lord will reward are those who are vigilant and who are diligent in the work of the Lord. Moreover Jesus will promote them to positions of greater responsibility in the kingdom that He will establish after His second coming in the new heavens and new earth that He will create.
But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards (Mathew 24:48-49)
Jesus raises the possibility that the same servant who has the potential for faithfulness has the same for being a scoundrel. The choice is up to the servant, and what he chooses to do in his lord’s absence is up to him. In this case, the same servant abandons goodness and follows the evil that apparently is in his heart all along. He begins to carouse at the master’s expense instead of keeping the household in order and exercising a prudent economy. He seemingly forgets that someday there will come a day of reckoning.
The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know (Mathew 24:50)
Jesus says, “at an hour which he does not know.” This statement is further proof that Jesus’ second coming will not be accompanied by specific warning signs. Therefore, constant preparedness is vital. Every day must be lived as if it were the day of the Lord’s return.
And will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51)
Jesus may be using hyperbole because He goes on to say this evil servant will have his portion with the hypocrites and will be cast in a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Presumably then he will still be alive. Some scholars believe “cut him in pieces” refers to severe scourging or perhaps to mutilation of some other sort. Whatever the case, the meaning is that this wicked servant will experience the most excruciating punishment. What awaits this wicked servant is “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
Final thoughts: It may well be that future events associated with the second advent of Christ at the end of the age are prefigured by the destruction of the temple and the city in 70 a.d. The mistake that many make, however, is in trying to project the historical details of 70 a.d. into a comparable and proportionate conflagration in literal, historical Jerusalem at the end of the age. They fail to realize that the events of 70 a.d. are a prototype on a microcosmic scale of what will occur on a macrocosmic scale when Jesus returns.
Referenced & Adapted:
- Storms, Sam. (MATTHEW 24 AND THE OLIVET DISCOURSE: https://www.samstorms.org/all-articles/post/matthew-24-and-the-olivet-discourse—part-i).
2. Study light commentary. (MATTHEW 24: https://www.studylight.org/commentary/matthew/24.html