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Matthew 24

Chapter 24:

The disciples ask Christ the following questions:

1) “When will this [the destruction of the temple] be?”

2)  “What will be the sign of your coming?”

3)  “What will be the sign…of the end of the age?”

But I think they are really only asking one question:  When will the end of the age be?  I think they are assuming (incorrectly) that the destruction of the temple which Christ alludes to in v. 2 will be a sign of the end of the age.  Their question might be paraphrased in the following way:  “When will the end of the age be, you know, the time you were just talking about when the temple will be destroyed and you will return with power?” Christ answers the essential aim of their question without directly correcting their false assumption that the destruction of the temple would be a sign of the end of the age.  See note on v. 15.

v. 4: I do not think that vs. 4-28 are describing a series of sequential events that will culminate in the end of the world.  Rather, I think that vs. 4-14 and vs. 15-28 are two similar descriptions of the same thing: a relatively short period of time (v.22) that will preface the end of the age (i.e. the end of the world).  Christ is not describing the events that will lead up to this short period of time; he is only describing the period itself.  This period of time will be characterized by “the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (v. 15).  When it comes, the disciples of Christ should recognize that the end is near.  Starting at v. 29, however, Christ does describe a sequence of events.  Below is the sequence.

Verses 4-28 describe the short period of world-wide suffering just prior to the end of the world.

Verse 29 describes the signs and portents following this short period and heralding the return of Christ.

Verses 30-31 describe the end of the age and the return of Christ “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” There will be a trumpet call, and the angels will gather all the faithful from every corner of the earth.

v. 15: Because Christ was frequently enigmatic, he was often misunderstood.  See John 6, for instance, or John 11:11-16.  I think it is especially important to note one such misunderstanding because it involves the temple.  In John 2:19-22 everyone, including his disciples, believes that he is taking about the temple when in fact he is talking about his body.  God has decided to keep the specifics of the end of this age a mystery even to his Son (v. 36), so naturally, one would expect Christ to be especially obscure and enigmatic when talking about that time.  Therefore, while Christ seems to be referring to the destruction of the physical temple here in Matthew 24:15, I wonder if that is actually the case.  Obviously, he alludes to the destruction of the temple in 24:2, but that does not necessarily mean that he is referring to the literal destruction of the temple in v. 15;  after all, he uses the imagery of destroying the temple in John 2:19-22, and yet is not talking about the temple at all.  Having said that, to what could he be referring in this verse?  Perhaps he is referring to the same thing John is referring to in Revelation 11:1-2.  What John is referring to is something in the future (relative to John) not the historical destruction of the temple, which happened around twenty years prior to the writing of Revelation.

v. 22: This verse indicates that the short period of time before the end of the age will be filled with suffering for all, Christians and non-Christians, but “for the sake of the elect [Christians] those days will be cut short.”

v. 34: I think my cautionary point (v. 15) about the enigmatic nature of some of Christ’s sayings should also be especially considered while interpreting this particular verse.  The word translated as “generation” is genea in Greek and has several applications: “age, generation, nation, time” (Strong’s entry 1074).  The disciples asked Jesus when the end of the age would come.  I believe Christ is answering that question here:  This age (generation) that we are speaking of will not end until all these things have come to pass.

One Response to “Matthew 24”

  1. […] In general, here is what I think is going on with these periods of time.  In 167 B.C. the Greek king Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) issued a decree forbidding, under penalty of death, the practice of Judaism.  Later that same year, he set up what Daniel and the books of Maccabees call the “abomination of desolation” in the holy temple.  This was an altar to Zeus on which the Greeks later made unholy sacrifices.  The period of time from the issuing of the decree to Antiochus’s death and the rededication of the temple was about 3 ½ years.  This event serves to foreshadow a later event, similar in kind but greater in degree.  This later event takes place under a Roman king, not a Greek one.  Antiochus, the Greek king, defiled the temple, but this Roman will destroy the city and sanctuary (9:26).  It is to this later, Roman event that Jesus’s “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15) alludes.  I believe the Roman event is either the crucifixion of Jesus (the destruction of the temple, in a sense – John 2:19) by Pontius Pilate or the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. (see notes on 9:27).  I also believe that the destruction of the temple itself (whether metaphorically in Jesus’s body, or literally in the actual building) could foreshadow still other horrible and blasphemous events during the reign of the Antichrist (see notes on Daniel 9:27, Revelation 11, and Matthew 24). […]

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