Matthew 24 is the first chapter people refer to regarding Jesus’ teaching on end times. It is paralleled in Luke 21. I felt it useful to translate this into my own words as I compile a book on end times.
After the text, I’ll provide my commentary.
Matthew 24:1 Jesus went out and left the temple. And his disciples came to him to point out the buildings of the temple. 2And Jesus told them, “Don’t you see everything here? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on top of the other, that won’t be thrown down.”
3As he sat 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 world?”
4Jesus answered them: Watch out that no one deceives you. 5Because many will come in my name, saying, “I’m the messiah” and they will deceive many. 6You’ll hear of wars and rumors of wars. Don’t let these bother you, because all of these things must happen, but they don’t mean the end has come. 7For one nation will come against another nation, and one kingdom against another kingdom. There’ll be famines, plagues and earthquakes in many different places. 8All of these are just the beginning of the birthing process. 9Then they’ll give you up to be mistreated, and they’ll kill you, and you’ll be hated by every nation because of my name. 10Then many will turn their backs on their faith, betray each another, and hate each another. 11And many false prophets will turn up and will deceive many. 12And because God’s laws will be abandoned, the love of many will grow cold. 13But those who endure to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations. Then the end will come.
15So, when you see the disgusting thing that causes destruction standing in the holy place, which Daniel the prophet spoke of, (let the reader understand). 16Then those who are in Judaea must flee into the mountains. 17Don’t let anyone who is on the roof come down to take anything out of his house. 18And don’t let anyone in the field return to pick up his clothes. 19It’ll be horrible for pregnant women and those nursing babies in those days! 20But pray that you won’t have to flee in the winter, or on the sabbath day. 21For these will be terrible times – the worst the world has ever seen or ever will see. 22Without those days being shortened, no one would survive. But for the sake of God’s chosen ones, those days will be shortened. 23Then, if anyone tells you, “Look, here’s the messiah, or there” don’t believe it, 24because there will be false messiahs and false prophets who will even perform amazing signs and wonders. Through these, they would even deceive God’s chosen ones – if that were possible.
25Look, I’ve told you already. 26So if they tell you, “Look! He’s in the desert” don’t go there. Or, “Look! He’s in this secret place” don’t believe it. 27For the coming of the Son of Man will be like lightning coming out of the east and shining right over to the west. 28For wherever there’s a carcass, vultures will gather.
29So immediately after the trouble of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will cease to shine, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30And the sign of the Son of man will appear in the sky. Then all the tribes of the earth will grieve, and they’ll see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he’ll send his angels with a great trumpet blast, and they’ll gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32Now learn a parable from the fig tree: When its branch is still tender and sprouts leaves, you know that it’s nearly summer. 33So similarly, when you see all of these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34I tell you the truth, this generation won’t pass away, until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words won’t pass away. 36But no person knows when that day and hour will be, not even the angels of heaven, but only my Father. 37But just like in the days of Noah, the coming of the Son of man will be similar. 38In the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage – until the day that Noah entered the ark. 39And they didn’t know until the flood came and took them all away. That’s what it’ll be like when the Son of man comes. 40Then there’ll be two in the field – one will be taken, and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill – one will be taken, and the other left.
42Therefore remain vigilant: because you don’t know when your Lord will come. 43But know, that if the master of the house had known what time the thief would come, he would have been on guard, and would not have suffered his house to be broken in to. 44Therefore be ready: because the Son of Man will come when you least expect him. 45So, who is a faithful and wise servant that the lord has entrusted to manage his household – to give them food at the right time? 46That servant is blessed, if lord finds him doing so when he comes. 47I tell you the truth, he’ll make him ruler over all his goods. 48But if that evil servant tells himself, “My lord isn’t coming any time soon.” 49And he begins to abuse his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunks, 50the lord of that servant will come on a day when he’s not expecting him, and at a time he’s unaware of. 51He will cut him in pieces and throw him out with the hypocrites. There they’ll cry and gnash their teeth in pain.
1. The disciples marvel at the impressive architecture of the second temple.
This was built by the Jews returning from exile in Babylon around 516BC, as recorded in the book of Ezra. In the century before Jesus, Herod the Great greatly enhanced the temple.
2. Jesus predicts the temple will be destroyed, with not one stone left upon the other.
This was fulfilled in 70AD, when Titus destroyed the rebellious city and its temple. https://youtu.be/y741QbT1YEo (45min) documents the siege of Jerusalem.
3. The disciples came to him privately with a flurry of questions:
- When will this happen?
- What sign will precede your coming?
- And the end of the world?
4. Jesus’ immediate response is, “Watch out that no one deceives you.”
This implies that there’ll be lots of deception about the future. Some is intentional and nefarious, some is innocent and well-intended, but nevertheless deceptive. It is therefore critical that we continuously return to the Bible to examine every teaching and idea – particularly on this topic.
5. For example, many will blatantly proclaim themselves as the saviour and deceive many.
The Jews were looking for another Messiah like Judah Maccabee who overthrew the Greek occupation. Jesus obviously wasn’t going to lead them to military victory, so they had him killed. In Acts 21:38, Paul was confused with an Egyptian who led a revolt. Many died in the Siege of Jerusalem in 70AD. In the fortress of Masada in 73AD https://youtu.be/11iPrDv8aBE (16min). In 132AD Bar Kochba claimed to be the Messiah https://youtu.be/FUNurxGFGjE (5min). In fact, Jewish-Roman history is full of “Messiahs” https://youtu.be/pJOM3aLXhc4 (10min).
In modern times, we’re familiar with sect leaders, some claiming to be the Messiah/Christ. Often this does not end well. Then there’s charismatic leaders like Napoleon and Hitler who lead their people on the promise of a new world order. The antichrist will follow this pattern, deceiving the world with claims of being their Saviour. He will claim to be Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, the Muslim Mahdi, the Hindu Vader – the bringer of world peace.
6-8. Don’t worry about wars or natural disasters or the prospect thereof.
We’re not going to be obliterated by aliens, artificial intelligence, a mega-virus or climate change. Although these might be problematic, don’t let these bother you. These are just the world doing its thing, getting ready for Jesus to return.
9. Then you’ll be persecuted and killed in every nation.
We’ll have to get to every nation first. This disproves claims that 70AD was the tribulation and we’re now living in the millennial kingdom – besides the fact that Jesus is not the world governor with a temple the size of a city centre (Ezekiel 40:5 rod = 3.6m, Ezekiel 42:15-20 500 rods = 1.8km).
10-13. Then many will turn away from Jesus and hate each other
There’ll be many making dodgy predictions about the future. Some will convince many of impending doom. Maybe this can be avoided with three easy payments of $99.99. Others will preach a God too good to bring wrath on the Earth, which he foretold throughout the Bible. But those who hold on to the entire truth of God’s word will be saved.
14. The gospel will be preached in every nation, then the end will come.
There are many organisations that focus on this mandate. They see much of the world’s population has not yet been reached with the Gospel. So, we’re still a way off this being fulfilled. Therefore, the end can’t come yet. However, this could be fulfilled during the tribulation with the 144,000 Jewish evangelists.
15-20. When you see the temple desecrated, flee Judaea, don’t even stop for essentials.
When this was seen in 70AD, christians heeded this warning and fled the destruction of Jerusalem before the Roman armies encircled the city.
21-22. For these will be the most terrible times the world will ever see.
The book of Revelation, in particular, describes events far worse than 70AD, dwarfing the plagues on Egypt before the Jewish exile – on a global scale. Verses 15-20 will really be fulfilled during this time. I expect over 90% of the world’s population will be destroyed during these seven years. Humanity will only survive because those days are shortened.
23-24. Even then, don’t believe claims of Messiah.
False Messiah’s will perform amazing miracles that will deceive the whole world, except it’s not possible to deceive the “sheep” who intimately know the voice of God.
25-28. Jesus’ return will be as obvious as lightening across the sky.
You don’t need to follow some dude out into the desert or some secret place. Even in such cases, Jesus’ presence would be like a carcass in the wilderness – you might not see it, but you’d know it’s there because you’d see vultures circling above.
29-30. At the end of the tribulation, Jesus will return in the clouds in great glory.
The sky will be darkened, and the world will grieve at the realization of his coming.
31. He’ll gather his chosen ones from the heavens with a trumpet blast.
Those who believe the rapture occurs at the end of the tribulation quote this as proof – that Jesus won’t come secretly. But Jesus is not gathering the saints from the earth, but from the heavens. Jesus’ mission on the cross does not mean he wasn’t born 30 years earlier – that was all his first coming, which encompassed many different prophecies over many years.
32-35. Learn from the Fig tree.
Just as the fig tree’s budding proclaims the coming summer, these signs will proclaim Jesus’ coming, which will precede the passing of that generation.
Many have read into the budding of the fig tree as prophesying Israel’s rebirth (budding) in 1948. Hence “88 reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988”. Then, having missed this, 2018 was all the rage, as it was 70 years after Israel became a nation. Now I guess we should focus on Jesus coming before the last 1948 baby dies.
But read this in context! “After these things…” What things? The tribulation. In hindsight it seems like we’ve used this verse to justify another date-setting theory. I think we could equally say “When you see the cherry trees blossom, you know summer’s coming.” i.e. these are the signs, and when you see them, you know that Jesus is coming to put an end to evil authorities ruling the world.
36. No one knows the day or the hour, neither angels, nor Jesus, only God the Father.
This could be referring to an idiom describing Rosh Hashanah, the feast of trumpets, the only Jewish festival that starts on a new moon. This begins when two witnesses see the first sliver of the moon, which could be one of two days, depending on weather and astronomical circumstances.
For this reason, many expect the rapture to be on this festival. Maybe. But more likely, this heralds Jesus’ return in glory.
However, this correlates with many other verses about Jesus coming like a thief in the night at a time when no one expects. This suggests not Rosh Hashanah. I’m not sure if this refers to the beginning or end of the tribulation. It can be read either way.
37-39. Just like in Noah’s time, destruction will come suddenly, while people are going about the lives as usual.
If Jesus is still talking about his glorious return, I struggle to see how people could be going about life as usual – not with 90% of the world dead following more than a dozen apocalyptic world-wide disasters over seven years.
40-41. Two will be working, one taken, one left behind
“Two in the field”, “two at the mill”, in combination with Luke 17:34 “two in bed”, some note a day activity, and evening activity and a night activity
– all at the same time. This curiously supports the notion of time zones, which we expect ancients to be oblivious of.
Are the righteous taken or the wicked? This is debated – it could refer to the rapture of the righteous, or the obliteration of those allegiant to the Antichrist at the end of the tribulation.
42. Therefore remain vigilant – you don’t know when Jesus will come.
So, however you see things, what’s important is that you’re vigilant – living a life expectant of his sudden coming – whether by the sound of the heavenly golden trumpet or the desperate honking of a speeding truck.
43. If the master had known when thieves would come, he’d have been ready.
Many will be struck with regret, when Jesus comes.
44. He’ll come suddenly for each of us – at no further warning.
45-47. So who will be found faithful and wise when he comes?
God will reward those who are found doing their appointed work – whether that is leading a church or a family in righteousness, studying for missions or a lifetime sustaining a righteous family, or raising the next generation of Godly servants.
48-51. But if we disregard his coming and abuse others, God will destroy us.
I see so many slagging off about another part of Christ’s body – essentially because they’re different. They might have an immaterially different interpretation of scripture or worship differently. If they’re essentially preaching John 3:16 in its entirety, they’re God’s servant. It does not matter if they sing pop praise, hymns or nothing. It does not matter if they perform miracles or not. It does not matter so much what they call themselves. If they preach Jesus is God who became human to cover our sins, and we need only believe this to be saved, and to live a life changed by this fact. If they preach this, they are doing God’s work. If they slander any of those who do, they will be thrown into Hell with the wicked.
Remember the guy executed next to Jesus, he recognized Jesus’ deity and his own sin, and asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. He hardly knew a thing about theology, he was a criminal, but he stood up for and turned to Jesus in his dying moments.
I pray this is a blessing to you all