The Temple will tumble
- 24:1 When Jesus walked out of the Temple, his disciples came over to him and started talking about the buildings of the Temple complex.1
- 24:2 Jesus told the disciples, “You can see all of this, can’t you? I’m telling you the truth, not one stone will be left sitting on top of another. They will all be ripped down and leveled.
Signs that the end is almost here
- 24:3 Jesus walked over to the Mount of Olives and sat down. The disciples came to him privately with a question. They said, “Would you tell us when these things you’ve been talking about are going to happen? How will we know when you’re about to come back and bring this age to an end?2 What signs will clue us that it’s about to happen?
- 24:4 Jesus told them, “Be careful not to let anyone mislead you.
- 24:5 A lot of people will borrow my name.3 They’ll say, ‘I’m the Messiah.’ They’ll fool a lot of people and mislead them.
- 24:6 You’ll hear news about wars breaking out. You’ll hear rumors about other wars that could start. But don’t sound the alarm. These aren’t signs that the end is almost here. Wars are going to happen.
- 24:7 One country will go to war against another, one kingdom against another. Scattered earthquakes are coming. Famines, too.
- 24:8 But these are only signs of the beginning of the end—like the first wave of birth pains.
- 24:9 There’s coming a time when you will be arrested, prosecuted, and killed. People scattered throughout all the countries will hate you because you embrace my name.
- 24:10 During those hard times, many believers will bail on the faith. Believers will not only leave, they’ll betray each other and they’ll even grow to hate each other.
- 24:11 A lot of fake prophets will mislead a lot of people.
- 24:12 The world is going to get more sinful. Because of it, people are going find it harder to love each other.
- 24:13 But believers who go the distance will be saved.
- 24:14 This good news I’ve been spreading about the Kingdom will eventually make its way into every nation. After it does, that’s when the end will come.
Something detestable comes
- 24:15 Keep your eyes open for what the prophet Daniel predicted: something detestable and destructive4 standing in the holy place. (Note to readers: Do your homework if you want to understand.)5
- 24:16 When you see this, that’s the clue for everyone in Judea to escape to the hills.6
- 24:17 If you’re on the roof of your house when this happens, get out of the house. Don’t stop to pack anything. Just go.
- 24:18 If you’re in the field when this happens, don’t take the time to go back to the house to get a coat.
- 24:19 When this happens, it’ll be bad news for pregnant women and for those who are nursing babies.
- 24:20 Pray that it doesn’t happen in the winter or on the Sabbath day.7
Time of Great Suffering
- 24:21 What’s coming is a time of Great Suffering. It’s going to be worse than anything that has ever happened before—since the beginning of creation until now. And it’s going to be worse than anything that will ever happen again.
- 24:22 Every human would die if this time of Great Suffering were not shortened. But the time will be cut short. It’ll happen for the sake of the believers.8
- 24:23 During this time, if anyone says to you, ‘Oh my, look! Here’s the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ don’t believe it.
- 24:24 Fraud messiahs and fake prophets are coming. They’ll perform signs and miracles, hoping to trick my chosen people and lead them away from me.
- 24:25 Stay alert. I’ve told you ahead of time what’s going to happen.
- 24:26 So if they tell you, ‘He’s out in the badlands!’ don’t go there. If they say, ‘He’s here, inside the house!’ don’t believe it.
- 24:27 The Son of Humans will come. And when he does, it’s going to be as obvious as lightning flashing from one end of the sky to the other, east to west.
- 24:28 If you want to find a corpse, go where the vultures gather.9
The comeback of Jesus, in the sky
After the Great Suffering,
the sun won’t shine
and the moon won’t glow.
Falling stars will paint the sky,
their powers shaken in the heavens10
- 24:30 That’s when the sign of the Son of Humans will finally appear in the sky. People all over the world will cry. Then they’ll see the Son of Humans descending through the clouds in a powerful and glorious entrance.
- 24:31 A loud trumpet will blow and he’ll send his angels on a mission: Bring all the chosen people from everywhere in heaven and on earth.
Know when to pick a fig, the parable
- 24:32 Take a lesson from this parable of the fig tree. When the tree’s tender branches pop out leaves, you know summer is almost here.
- 24:33 In the same way, when you see the events I’ve been describing, you know the time is near—right at the front door.
- 24:34 I’m telling you the truth, this generation of human beings will live to see everything I’ve described.11
- 24:35 The earth and everything in the sky will die someday. But my words will live forever.
- 24:36 No one knows when this is going to happen. Not the day. And certainly not the hour. Angels don’t know it. Even the Son doesn’t know it. The only one who knows it is the Father.
- 24:37 When the Son of Humans comes, life on earth will be like it was at the time of Noah.
- 24:38 Before the Flood, people went about their lives. They would eat, drink, get married, and give their children away in marriage. They did that right up until the time Noah got into the boat.
- 24:39 They had no idea what was coming. Then the Flood came and swept them all away. That’s what it’s going to be like when the Son of Humans gets here.
- 24:40 Two men will be working in the field, then suddenly one will be taken away and the other will be left standing alone.
- 24:41 Two women will be grinding grain at the village mill. One will be taken and the other will be left.
Jesus is coming, so stay ready
- 24:42 So stay alert and keep your eyes open because you know it’s coming, but you don’t know when.
- 24:43 I want you to get this: If a homeowner knows that a thief is coming, and when, the homeowner is going to be prepared. No one’s going to break into that house.
- 24:44 You, too, need to stay alert. The Son of Humans is coming, but you don’t know when.
Help wanted, the parable
- 24:45 Where does the master of a household find a servant he can trust to manage his home—a servant wise enough and devoted enough to do a good job? This servant would have to feed the other of the servants at the right time every day.
- 24:46 Let me tell you it is one happy servant who gets caught doing a good job when the master gets back from a trip.
- 24:47 I’ll tell you the truth, the master will put a servant like that in charge of everything he owns.
- 24:48 But suppose that servant is rotten from the heart to the bone. He says to himself, ‘The master isn’t coming back for a long time.’
- 24:49 So he exploits his authority by beating his fellow servants. And in his spare time, he eats and drinks with the village drunks.
- 24:50 The master will come back when that servant least expects it.
- 24:51 Then the master will tear the servant to pieces and ship him off to the place where all hypocrites go, where the people cry and clench their jaws and grind their teeth in misery.12
Mark report of this quotes one of the disciples as saying to Jesus, “Teacher, my goodness, look at those huge stones! The buildings are beautiful!” (Mark 13:1).
Literally, “consummation of the age.”
More literally, Jesus says people will “come in my name.” It’s unclear exactly what Jesus had in mind with the phrase. It could mean that people will pretend to be him or perhaps that they will invoke his name, possibly as a source of authority.
More literal translation: “abomination of desolation.” There are lots of theories about what Jesus meant. The prophet Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 44:22, uses those terms to describe what Babylonian invaders eventually did to Jerusalem in 586 BC. He said that because of the evil abominations the people committed, Jerusalem was going to be decimated. A later prophet, Daniel, seemed to pick up this phrasing when he talks about a future ruler who sets up a sacrilegious object that spiritually pollutes a holy place, which could be the Jerusalem Temple. Daniel says the abomination will cause desolation (Daniel 9:27). Contenders for the culprit behind this sacrilegious act: (1) Pontius Pilate tried to bring into Jerusalem Roman standards that had engraved images. Jews objected and Pilate backed down. (2) Emperor Caligula ordered that a statue of him be installed in the Jerusalem Temple. He died before he could enforce his order. (3) Roman general Titus led the Roman army in crushing the Jewish rebellion that started in AD 66. In AD 70, he went into the Jerusalem Temple and stood in the most holy room, according to Josephus, a Roman citizen and a Jewish historian who collaborated with Titus. (4) Some early Christians began to associate Jesus’s cryptic description with “the antichrist,” someone who would pretend to be the Messiah, but who acted like a devil of a Messiah.
This parenthetical note from Matthew, used also by Mark, may have intended to point readers to prophets who used the words “abomination” and “desolation.” The prophets would have included Jeremiah and Daniel.
Some early Christian writers, including Eusebius (about AD 260-340), said that when Christians saw what Roman general Titus was about to do to Jerusalem in AD 70, they remembered Jesus’s warning. They fled to the city of Pella, about 20 miles (32 km) south of the Sea of Galilee, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan.
Jerusalem fell to Roman general Titus in the summer of AD 70.
The days are shortened for the sake of the “elect,” a word often translated as “chosen.” The chosen people are often associated with the Jewish people. But in the Gospel of Matthew, the word refers to followers of Jesus, who were later called Christians (24:22, 31; 22:14).
This single-sentence proverb may be intended to send a message something like this: just as you know how to find a corpse by following the vultures, you can’t miss the coming of the Son of Humans if you look for the signs.
Jesus seems to be quoting two prophecies: Isaiah 13:10; 34:4. There, Isaiah is talking about a judgment “day of the Lord,” when the Babylonian Empire will be punished for destroying Jerusalem in 586 BC, and exiling the Jewish survivors to what is now Iraq. Some Bible experts say Jesus is probably using cosmic-scale exaggeration to describe the punishment God has in store for Jerusalem, much like Isaiah used the same kind of exaggeration to talk about what was going to happen to Babylon. Other scholars say Jesus was talking about something beyond the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. They argue that Jesus was talking about some kind of Tribulation or Great Trouble directed by some autocratic, antichrist character.
The Roman army crushed a Jewish rebellion and leveled Jerusalem about 40 years later, in AD 70.
This may sound like Washington DC, but it’s probably not.
Some Bible experts say that the Gospel of Matthew was written sometime before AD 70, when Romans crushed a Jewish revolt by leveling Jerusalem, destroying the Temple, and banning Jews from moving back to Jerusalem to rebuild it. Jesus seemed to predict that about 40 years ahead of time: “Not one stone will be left sitting on top of another” (24:2). If a Christian and non-Christian each read this prediction of Jesus, how do you think each one might react to it?
Bible experts say they see two different scenes in these prophecies of Jesus (see also Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-28). In some cases, they say they see the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, when Romans crushed a Jewish rebellion and leveled the city of Jerusalem. Others say they see references to the Second Coming. What are some of the quotes you see in here that seem to track nicely with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70? And what lines seem to point to something beyond that event?
Bible experts have a language to describe much of what Jesus is talking about in this chapter. Some would say Jesus is talking about “the future consummation of the Kingdom of Heaven.” The disciples’ question about when Jesus is going to “bring this age to an end” (24:3) is more literally “when will be the consummation of the age?” If we think of “consummation” in terms of what it means to “consummate a marriage,” how would you put the scholarly lingo into everyday English, to describe what Jesus is talking about?
How could Jesus, in one breath, say “There’s coming a time when you will be arrested, prosecuted, and killed. People scattered throughout all the countries will hate you because you embrace my name” (24:9), and in the next breath say that those who hang onto their faith and “go the distance will be saved” (24:13)?
Jesus seems to say that before he comes back, “This good news I’ve been spreading about the Kingdom will eventually make its way into every nation” (24:14). Are we there yet? There are a lot of people who have never heard anything about Jesus.
Jesus said there was coming a time of “Great Suffering” (24:21-28). He said “It’s going to be worse than anything that has ever happened” and “that will ever happen again” (24:21). What do you think he’s talking about?
Jesus said the people would see signs in the sky: “The sun won’t shine and the moon won’t glow. Falling stars will paint the sky” (24:29). What are some scenes that would qualify during the Roman army’s attack on Jerusalem? What are some scenes that would qualify today?
Jesus says that there is coming a day when everyone will “see the Son of Humans descending through the clouds in a powerful and glorious entrance” (24:30). Many preachers have gotten rich by writing books and hosting TV shows that focus on end times and the Second Coming. How much time and energy do you think Christians should give to studying and talking about these prophesied events?
Jesus said, “I’m telling you the truth, this generation of human beings will live to see everything I’ve described” (24:34). Does this suggest to you that everything Jesus said in this section about future events was about the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70? Or was he talking about the Second Coming and he was mistaken about the timing—which is a position some religion scholars take?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus said that some of his followers would be “arrested, prosecuted, and killed…During those hard times, many believers will bail on the faith” (24:9-10). In Mark’s version, Jesus adds that this would be their opportunity, forced though it may be, “to testify about me” (Mark 13:9). When we go through stressful situations, what are some of the ways we give others a glimpse of our Christian faith?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus told his followers that some of them would be “killed” (24:9). Christians in recent times have been executed by extremist groups who ordered Christians to either convert to another faith or die. Imagine one of the people you love most being put in that situation and converting. Would you think less of that person? Do you think God would think less of that person?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus says he’s coming back and he’s giving a warning to everyone. He’s telling us, “Keep your eyes open” (24:42). What does that mean?
LIFE APPLICATION. Some people spend a lot of time and energy focusing on the Second Coming of Jesus. What do you think might be some of the benefits of doing this? What are some of the drawbacks?