In Matthew 23 while Jesus and the disciples are inside the Temple, Jesus lamented on what will happen to Jerusalem after he called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites.
Matthew 23:37-39 (NKJV) – 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Jesus predicted Jerusalem to become desolated.
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple
On their way out of the Temple and walking towards the Mount of Olives, the disciples are proud speaking of the Temple stones. The Temple is the fortress for the Jews in the time of Christ. This is now the beginning of the Olivet discourse. The Olivet discourse is a name given to the orderly and extended teaching given by Jesus Christ on the Mount of Olives. His subject is the end times. This discourse is recorded in Matthew 24. Parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. The records in Matthew is the most extensive account. Let us start from Matthew 24:1 and read the parallel text.
Matthew 24:1 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.
Mark 13:1 (NKJV) Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!”
Luke 21:5 (NKJV) Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said,
Jesus talked about the destruction of the temple.
Matthew 24:2 (NKJV) – 2 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.”
Mark 13:2 (NKJV) – 2 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Luke 21:6 (NKJV) – 6 “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”
The disciples now start asking these questions:
Mathew 24:3 (NKJV) – 3 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?”
Mark 13:3 (NKJV) – 3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”
Luke 21:7 (NKJV) – 7 So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”
Notice that only Matthew appear to have three questions. Both Mark and Luke connects the question about the temple destruction by asking “when will these things be” then followed by another question “when will these things are about to take place?”. Matthew asked the questions “when will these things be“, “what will be the sign of Your coming?”, and “what will be the signs of the end of the age?”. We can tell Matthew’s questions speak of more but I think the disciples are familiar with the Old Testament and they have one thing in mind, the prediction of the destruction of the Jerusalem resonate to them it is the end of the age. They also expect the Messiah will come at the end of the age.
This is where different Christian religions have different views. Most Christians think the question is about the end of the world, the planet earth, the final judgement day when the earth is burned and Christ will return to reward the elect with eternal joy. There is the 5% of Christians who believe the questions all pertains to the destruction of Jerusalem. I now belong to the 5% believers because it is very clear in my mind when you connect the two ages of the bible, the decaying “this age” which is the age of darkness, the old covenant age.
Those who believe Matthew 24:3 is referring to the end of the world, they are likely using King James Version (KJV). Matthew 24 in KJV is archaic. That has been corrected in New King James Version (NKJV). Even if it reads “end of the world” it does not mean end of the planet earth. Think about the United States being attacked by a nuclear bomb, do you think the planet earth will be destroyed? For Americans, their world might come to an end, but other part of the earth will likely not even affected.
Why I am convinced Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:3 and Luke 21:7 are all referring to the Jerusalem Temple destruction? Because Jesus gave assurance that it will happen in their generations.
Matthew 24:34-35 (NKJV) – 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
Again Christ was talking to the Apostles when these words are spoken. Therefore Christ was referring to the generations of the disciples standing right in front of him.
[Related Topic: End Of The Age: This Generation]
For now we will focus on the signs.
Notice in the following verses the wars and rumors of wars are prelude to the actual signs.
Matthew 24:4-14 (NKJV) – 4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 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. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 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.
Mark 13:5-11 (NKJV) – 5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 6 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. 7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.
9 “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak.
Luke 21:8-12 (NKJV) – 8 And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. 9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”
10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.
Notice in Matthew and Mark both describes the signs as the beginning of sorrows. The NIV use the words “These are the beginning of birth pains” while NASB used “These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs“. These are significant words worthy of another topic.
[Related Topic: End Of The Age: The Thief and The Birth Pain]
Clearly in these text so far, the wars and rumors of wars cannot be associated with World War I or World War II. The are associated to the destruction of Jerusalem Temple. How can we be sure? If we consider all parallel text, Luke described it clearly: “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near“.
Matthew 24:15-18 (NKJV) – 15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
Mark 13:14-16 (NKJV) – 14 “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not” (let the reader understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house. 16 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
Luke 21:20-22 (NKJV) – 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
The bible sometimes use Israel as Judea and Jerusalem, sometimes Jerusalem is referred to as Judea. Judea was sometimes used as the name for the entire region of the Old Testament people.
There is so much to learn from the Olivet discourse and so far I have cited questions and signs only. I found too many references on the internet. Many of them have very good explanations but I tend to believe on the side of those who follow hermenuetics principles especially the application of audience relevance and Hebrew relevance.
The beginning of Matthew 24:1, Mark 13:1, Luke 21:5 is a conversation between Christ and the Apostles in the Mount of Olives. We have to understand when Christ was saying “you will hear wars and rumors of wars“, the “you” are the disciples. Not us, 20th century Christians because they are real people taking each other. I think the problem to most Christians is when they hear “you“, it means yourself or us people of our generation. If the “you” is us in our time, consider these verses:
Matthew 24:9 (NKJV) – 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you.
Mark 13:9 (NKJV) – 9 “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues.
So if the “you” refer to us, then we will get beaten and killed!
I will cover the signs in details in other parts of The End Of The Age.