I. The near term signs of Jesus’ coming (Verses 1-8)
II. The need to be ready for the coming persecution (Verses 9-13)
III. The coming tribulation (Verses 14-23)
I. Verses 1-8
What is significant about this time that Jesus left the temple (it would be for the last time)?
How did His disciples feel about this temple?
What was the temple actually like?
How did Jesus feel about this temple? Why did He highlight its coming destruction?
When will what things be? (verse 4)
When would the signs in verses 5-8 take place? What would they be a sign of? Have they happened yet? Are they still happening?
What do you think is the main point Jesus wants His disciples to get by sharing these signs?
Matthew 24:1 – Jesus departed from the temple, ending His public ministry after teaching his last public sermon.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Jesus was going out of the temple – In chapter 12 Jesus gave a lot of public teaching. Most of it was focused on the hypocrisy and emptiness of the religious leaders specifically and therefore all of Judaism by extension. The religion had become ritualistic and external, a system of good works motivated by corrupted hearts. It had no power to regenerate or transform hearts. This marks the end of Jesus’ public teaching ministry. All the rest of His teaching would be done in private to His disciples. Was Jesus’ public teaching fruitful? How fruitful? Did a revival begin sweeping through the country and bringing the nation to its knees? What lessons can we learn from Jesus’ public teaching ministry that we can apply to our own teaching in the modern world?
2. What wonderful stones and buildings – The disciples were enthralled with the imposing magnificence of this building. And it was magnificent. Josephus records that some stones were as large as 13 meters long and 6 meters tall, weighing as much as 628 tons, while most were about 28 tons.
3. Jesus was not so enthralled – The temple could almost be considered a sign of the current state of Judaism. Outwardly it was beautiful, spectacular. People who saw it would be struck by its grandeur and sheer size. Yet inwardly it had become a place of business. People used it for making money. Leaders who ran it cared more about getting their clothes straight than they did about the needy sinners Jesus ministered to. Instead of believing in the Messiah they schemed and plotted to kill Him and any who stood as evidence of His miracles (such as Lazarus.) This is what happens when people try to bridge their own way to God. They strive for doing good deeds, but end up falling woefully short because they have no real relationship with God. Would you Jesus condemn your church like He did the temple? Would He condemn you like He did the religious leaders?
4. Not one stone will be left upon another – This temple which the people so revered would be completely destroyed in A.D. 70. This destruction was one of the most catastrophic in all of Jewish history. Zealots had become more and more powerful. A vile, horrific governor named Florus had taken over. He did everything in his power to stir up discontent, perhaps hoping a rebellion would cover the shortcomings of his own rule. The Jews revolted and won a few victories until three legions were sent by Rome. These marched through the country taking down strongholds. Titus took over for his Vespasian, who became the new emperor. He built siege walls around Jerusalem and waited for starvation to set in. Within months all food was exhausted and city dwellers shelled out huge sums for the most disgusting “food” such as bird dung. People gnawed on leather to try to subdue their hunger. Finally the city was broken into and reduced to rubble. Virtually everything inside the walls was ripped down including the temple. In A.D. 132 there was another revolt, called the “Bar-Kokhba Revolt.” Its head was the leading Rabbi of his day. They actually put him on a white horse and paraded him through the city, saying, “Son of a Star,” which was a Messianic reference.
5. The signs – The disciples asked Jesus for the signs that this would be fulfilled. It seems that their question when “all these things” are going to be fulfilled refers to Jesus’ second coming, which would be the culmination of all these things. Jesus lists out many signs. While many of them were fulfilled at least partially in A.D. 70, it is clear from verses 24-27 that the ultimate fulfillment would be Jesus’ second coming. Because Jesus describes the first of these signs as the beginning of birth pangs, we can conclude that this period of turmoil in world history started all the way back in A.D. 70 and will merely increase until Jesus’ second coming. A woman might experience some birth pangs weeks before her baby is born. Sometimes they grow more serious and sometimes they lessen again. Finally in the last day before the birth, they grow steadily more painful until the pain is almost impossible to bear. Then finally the baby is born. That is very much what these signs are like. Basically they last from the beginning of the church age until the end of it. Sometimes these signs are more evident and sometimes they are less evident, but in general they would increase, especially towards the end right before Jesus’ second coming. Let’s take a look at some of the signs.
A. Many will come in My name saying “I am He.” – Ever since Jesus’ ascension this has been true. Many false prophets and Christ’s have come and made claims and tried to get a following. It is still happening today in cults across the world.
B. Wars and rumor of wars – These point to the instability of this world. The world is not going to be a paradise prior to Christ’s return. Satan and sin still reign. Unlike some people believe, the world is not going to keep getting better and better until Christ’s return.
C. Nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom – This has happened throughout the history of the world. In the 1900s nationalism was in a fever pitch. Wars occurred on a global scale never seen before.
D. Earthquakes and famines – All the way back in Genesis we see that God’s curse because of sin includes separation from God, conflict with other people, and an earth that is cursed and will cause problems for people. These things again show instability and the need for divine intervention. No matter how smart people get, they have not learned how to control nature. No matter how advanced technology is, people have not figured out how to eliminate hunger. These signs show us that the pride of man which has caused us to believe we can do anything (Genesis 11:4) is ill-placed.
6. Application - What do we learn from this?
A. See to it that no one misleads you – We must be wary. The world is filled with false teachers seeking to lead people astray for their own benefit. Do not believe them. Always look to the Bible and ask, “What does the Bible say?” Do not fall for smooth sounding speech which is contrary to the Word of God.
B. These are merely the signs – Generally speaking these things tell us that the world is unstable and Jesus will return. Generally speaking these signs will increase prior to Jesus’ return. Yet one specific war, earthquake or famine (or even ten of them) do not necessarily mean that Jesus’ return is going to happen within a specific timeframe. Remember that in A.D. 70 many of these signs were happening. And yet we know that Jesus still hasn’t returned almost 2000 years later.
C. Be ready – (See verse 9a). I believe that this is the most important principle Jesus wants us to get from this. His coming is imminent. It could be at any time. These signs are happening (perhaps He gave these general and somewhat vague signs primarily so that we would always be reminded that He is coming back to set all of this right.) Are you ready?
II. Verses 9-13
What should we be on guard for?
Who is the “they” in verse 9?
Have these things happened? Are they still happening?
Explain verse 10.
What principle do we learn in verse 11? How can you prepare for that time of persecution without planning what you will say?
How serious will this persecution get?
How would unbelievers view believers?
What does it mean that the one who endures to the end, he will be saved?
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Be on your guard – The world in general is not going to be an easy place. There will be insecurity, turmoil, unrest, wars, natural disasters, and famines. Beyond those things, believers are going to face persecution. Jesus wants us to be prepared.
2. Persecution – The church is going to face it, and lots of it. Ephesians 2:2 tells us that Satan is the prince of the power of the air. He is currently ruling the world and we know his stance on Christ and the church. He is diametrically opposed to both. Like the signs listed through verse 8, these too are cyclical, sometimes increasing and sometimes decreasing. Sometimes persecution is heavy in one country and light in another. But it is always there, and in general it will increase until Christ returns as the battle of good and evil, God and Satan reaches its climax. This persecution will include being taken in before powerful people. We should remember the lesson in Matthew 10:28 which tells us to fear God who has power over the soul rather than man.
3. Be a good testimony – Believers should take persecution as an opportunity to let the light of Christ shine in the dark. We should not fight fire with fire. We should not fight hate with hate. We should not trade insults or return evil for evil. See 1 Peter 3:9. Rather persecution is an opportunity to show the love, patience, gentleness, and forgiveness of Christ. We should remember Stephen who forgave his murderers. Paul too, sought every chance while in court to share the gospel with the rules whom seemingly had the power to set him free or declare him guilty. When you are persecuted, do you give a blessing instead? Or you argue back? Do you harbor bitterness in your heart or do you forgive? Persecution is to be expected. How we react to it is what is important.
4. The gospel must first be preached to all the nations – See Matthew 24:14. What can we do about all of this persecution, turmoil, and unrest? The only thing we can do is to help see this verse fulfilled and in essence speed the return of Christ. Has this happened yet? How can you help achieve this? Is your life vision and goal tied to this?
5. The Holy Spirit will lead you – The religious leaders probably would have planned out meticulously how to scheme their way out of such persecution. But this is not what Jesus wants for believers. Who we are on the inside is more important. It’s not so much about saying the exact right words as it is about relying on Christ and having a close relationship with Him. We need to be willing to submit ourselves and our situation into His hand, pray for guidance, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. So we prepare not by thinking of our defense to the authorities, but by building up our relationship with Christ, by building up our faith and confidence in Him. See Psalms 46:1.
6. Brother will betray brother - Persecution will come even from the most surprising places. Even family members will turn against their own. Our ties to Christ are stronger than our ties to blood.
7. You will be hated by all – This verse shows the depth of emotion against believers. It is not a casual dislike, but an intense and deep hatred. See 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
8. The one who endures to the end will be saved – This could refer to physical salvation from the tribulations of some believers in the last day who will still be alive (and hence saved during the tribulation period) when Christ returns. Or it could refer to spiritual salvation whereby one’s persistence to follow Christ until the end proves the sincerity of His belief and therefore the reality of His salvation. The perseverance of the saints is a biblical concept taught throughout Scripture which tells us that real believers will follow Christ to the end no matter what trials they face.
Matthew 24:15 – The abomination of desolation in the holy place.
On the abomination of desolation:
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4