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The Olivet Discourse: Matthew 24 (also 25); Mark 13; Luke 21
The Olivet Discourse can be very confusing, which is why there is so much disagreement about the event in view and the timing of it. On the one hand, Jesus appears to be talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, which occurred in AD 70. On the other hand, Jesus appears to be talking about the end of history prior to His Second Advent. There are three keys that enable us to determine what this discourse is all about. When we set our positional biases aside and consider this discourse in light of those keys, it then becomes a lot easier to identify what Jesus was actually talking about.
This passage holds the primary key to understanding the Olivet Discourse. When we compare this passage with Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, it provides a guide for interpreting those chapters. Why? Because it reveals that Jesus is talking about the same event throughout His discourse. In other words, everything He says in those chapters is referring to the same event, in the same time period. Without this passage, this fact would not be readily apparent.
Luke 21:20 — “Surrounded by armies.”
While Luke 17 provides the key passage for interpreting the Olivet Discourse, this is the key verse for interpreting it. This verse interprets what Matthew and Mark referred to as the “abomination of desolation” (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14). When Luke says, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,” we know that he is referring to the “abomination of desolation” spoken by Matthew and Mark. We know this to be true because of what each of the three authors say immediately after, which is exactly the same thing.
Time of transition from Old Covenant (OC) to New Covenant (NC).
When reading the four gospels, we have to keep in mind that during the time of Christ, they were in a time of transition from OC to NC. The OC was coming to an end. God’s dealing with the nation of Israel was coming to an end. Instead of the focus being the nation of Israel, and God dealing with mankind through that nation, under the NC God now deals with mankind through His Son. The focus is now on His Son and on His Church. Jesus fulfilled what Israel did not and could not fulfill themselves. Jesus Himself said that He came to fulfill the law and the prophets (Matt 5:17), which essentially represents the whole OC. Just as Israel rejected Jesus as their Messiah, God rejected them (Luke 19:44). We see the final form of that rejection in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70.
I don’t believe that the establishment of the NC should be considered a single event, but as a series of events. The establishment of the NC was a process that consisted of several events: the baptism of Christ, His earthly ministry, His death and resurrection and ascension, the tearing of the temple curtain upon Jesus’ death, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the leadership of the Apostles, the writing of the NT Scriptures, and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. These should all be viewed as part of the process of fully establishing the NC in Christ.
Therefore, when we read the Olivet Discourse, we need to keep in mind that the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70 was the last event that needed to take place for the NC to be fully established. It was an outward sign to Israel, the exclamation point of God’s judgment and rejection of that people for their unfaithfulness and rejection of His Son. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:38, “See, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt 23:37-39) — which then leads right into the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24.
One may argue that the NC was fully established before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. Spiritually and theologically, I believe that’s true. However, the events of AD 70 served as a visible sign to Israel (and to the world), that God was totally finished with that nation, and that He now deals with individual Jews as He does everyone else, and that’s through His Son and His Church.
Study Guide: I’ve provided cross-references between Luke 17 and the the chapters of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (in green). As you compare these scriptures, you’ll discover that the whole discourse of Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, is all about the same event of the same time period — which is the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple — which occurred in AD 70. Once you’ve completed your full comparison, then read the commentary that I’ve provided within the text. Pay close attention to words in bold. I’m not going to explain every detail. When you do your own comparing between Luke 17 and the other three chapters, it will be self-explanatory — that those three chapters in their entirety deal with the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. Most of my commentary will be in Matthew 24, since the three chapters are so similar.
Transitional Verses: Matt 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-27.
I believe these three passages speak of the transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant, from Israel to Christ. In other words, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple signified the complete end of the OC and the nation of Israel in the plan of God. We also see in these passages the beginning of the NC in Christ and His Church.
These three passages will serve as a dividing line within the three chapters of Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. What I mean by that is, many Christians believe that these three passages deal with the return of Christ at the end of history, the end of the world. It’s these verses that has caused the most confusion. However, when you do your comparing with Luke 17, you’ll see that some of what’s referred to after these verses, are also found in Luke 17. That’s all-important because much of what’s said before these verses is also found in Luke 17, which reveals that all of Luke 17:20-37 is dealing with the same event — which means that all of Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 is also dealing with the same event in its entirety, which is the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70. But again, to be clear, these three passages also reveal the full transition from Old Covenant (Israel-centered) to New Covenant (Church age).
17:20 Now at one point the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming, so he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,
17:21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
The Coming of the Son of Man
17:22 Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.
Matt 24:27,30,37,39,44; 10:23; 16:27-28; 26:64
Mark 13:26; 14:26
Luke 21:27,36; 22:69
17:23 Then people will say to you, ‘Look, there he is!’ or ‘Look, here he is!’ Do not go out or chase after them.
17:24 For just like the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.
17:25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Matt 24:34; 11:16; 12:41,42,45
Mark 13:30; 8:12,38
Luke 21:32; 7:31; 11:29-32,50-51
17:26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man.
17:27 People were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage – right up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
17:28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot, people were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building;
17:29 but on the day Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
17:30 It will be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
Verse 30 refers primarily to the Jews of Jesus generation. He would reveal Himself to the Jews who rejected Him as their Messiah. When the destruction of Jerusalem was upon them, they would perceive that it was Jesus bringing that judgment (see commentary on Matthew 24:29-31).
17:31 On that day, anyone who is on the roof, with his goods in the house, must not come down to take them away, and likewise the person in the field must not turn back.
17:32 Remember Lot’s wife!
17:33 Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.
17:34 I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.
17:35 There will be two women grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
17:37 Then the disciples said to him, “Where, Lord?” He replied to them, “Where the dead body is, there the vultures will gather.”
24:1 Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts and walking away, his disciples came to show him the temple buildings.
24:2 And he said to them, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
Signs of the End of the Age
24:3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
It’s unknown what the Apostles understood at this point in time, but they did specifically refer to the temple (“these things”). When we read “the sign of your coming and the end of the age,” we immediately think end of days, end of the world. That’s the way we’ve been conditioned to think. But we have to place ourselves in the days of Christ and the Apostles. We have to place ourselves in that all-important transitional period from Old Covenant to New Covenant. Therefore, regardless of what they had in mind when they asked the question, I believe Jesus was answering His own statement in verse 2 about the destruction of the temple. It’s more important to be aware of what Jesus was referring to, than it is what the Apostles were referring to.
24:4 Jesus answered them, “Watch out that no one misleads you.
24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many.
24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come.
Again, when we read the words “the end,” we tend to think the end of history. But we have to keep in mind the time period and what was going on during that time. We have to keep in mind the subject matter that Jesus Himself referred to, which was the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. Therefore, we know that Jesus was referring to “the end” of Jerusalem and its temple (the whole temple system), the end of the OC, the end of God’s dealing with the nation of Israel.
24:7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
24:8 All these things are the beginning of birth pains.
Persecution of Disciples
24:9 “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name.
“nations” – The Greek word for this may be translated as either nations or Gentiles.
Here Jesus specifically refers to “you,” which would be the Apostles. However, as the leaders of the Church, as those who would establish the Church, Christians in general would be an extension of them. While this is true of all Christians throughout the Church age, we have to understand this in the context Jesus is speaking of, which is the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in their day.
24:10 Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another.
24:11 And many false prophets will appear and deceive many,
24:12 and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold.
24:13 But the person who endures to the end will be saved.
We have to be clear about this; when we see the words “the end,” we automatically think of the end of the world, when Jesus returns. However, in context, beginning in verse 9, I believe that Jesus is referring to remaining firm in their faith until the end of their lives, in the midst of persecution for their faith in Christ. But as verse 15 reveals, it also refers to the end (destruction) of Jerusalem and its temple. In other words, the end of the Old Covenant, the end of Israel’s role in God’s plan.
24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
“nations” – (same vs. 9)
Jesus is still talking about what He said in verses 9-13. We have to get out of this end of the world mindset, and keep ourselves in the context of His discourse, which is revealed by way of comparison between Luke 17 and Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. The “gospel of the kingdom” would be preached to the then known world, which was very small at that time. When that was accomplished, then “the end would come.” What Jesus says next in the next verse (15), confirms that He’s referring primarily to the end of Jerusalem and its temple), but also to the end of their lives — whichever came first.
The “gospel of the kingdom” is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the salvation provided by Him through His death and resurrection. When we place our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, we enter His kingdom (Col 1:13). The Kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical, earthly kingdom. Mentioning this kingdom is important because the Jews of that day (and still today) were looking for their Messiah to come and set up an earthly kingdom, where he would reign as their king. They had it wrong then and they have it wrong today. The prophesied kingdom of the Old Testament, is the spiritual kingdom of Christ, which is His Church. Thus the spread of the gospel message to the then known world, would serve as a testimony to them (the Jews), and against them. The coming of Christ in judgment against Jerusalem and its temple would confirm the truth of what Jesus prophesied in this discourse. The kingdom that was prophesied in the OT, Jesus continues that same prophecy here. Between what Jesus taught about the kingdom of God (of Christ) and what His Apostles taught, the true nature of His kingdom is revealed to be different than how the Jews (as a nation, as a religion) understood it then (and now). With the spread of the gospel of the kingdom to the Gentiles, it was important for the Jews to recognize that it wasn’t about the nation of Israel anymore, but about Christ and His message through His Church. The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in this discourse about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, would serve as a witness to the truth that is in Him. The fulfillment of this prophecy served as an outward sign (to the Jews) of God’s rejection of Israel, that He was finished with that nation and the Old Covenant. It served as the final event that fully established the New Covenant in Christ and His Church.
The Abomination of Desolation
24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
(See commentary on Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20)
Luke 21:20 interprets this verse for us. There Luke says: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” This is referring to the Roman armies that surrounded Jerusalem in AD 70, which was a situation that actually began in AD 66. This reminds us of what Jesus said in the previous chapter: “23:38 Look, your house is left to you desolate!” I encourage you to read about this siege against Jerusalem online.
Quote from the IVP Bible Background Commentary:
24:15. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus felt that Daniel was fulfilled when Zealots slaughtered the priests in the temple in A.D. 66, committing a sacrilege for which God brought about the desolation of the temple (human bloodshed in the temple desecrated it; cf. comment on Mt 23:35). This sacrilege would have been the signal for Christians to flee Jerusalem (24:16); early Christian historians tell us that Christian prophets warned the Jewish Christians to flee Jerusalem at this time. The temple was left “desolate” in 70, when the Romans destroyed it with fire and then erected their own standards on the site. As Jewish people knew (it is lamented in the Dead Sea Scrolls), these standards bore the insignia of the Roman emperor, who was worshiped as divine in the Eastern Mediterranean; they would thus have sealed the site’s desecration.
That this discourse is about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, there should be no doubt. I think the only way to interpret this chapter as a description of end of the world events (or a combination of AD 70 and end of the world), is to have a biased eschatological position to uphold. It’s such a mistake to interpret Scripture through the lens of our preconceived notions about what the Bible teaches. We must allow Scripture to mean what it says, rather than trying to force an interpretation to comply with a certain theological position. If we’re not honest about what God’s Word is saying and revealing, we won’t have a correct understanding. We must allow truth to lead us where it wants to take us. If we’re not really careful, our positional biases will blind us to the truth.
24:16 then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.
24:17 The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house,
“Judea” was a province of Israel. Jerusalem was a city within that province. Thus we see that while Jerusalem (and its temple) is central to the Roman invasion, the surrounding cities of Judea were also a part of that siege. Mentioning Judea makes it clear that Jesus is referring to that particular geographical region, not to the whole world. Furthermore, when we keep this discourse in the flow of the discussion and context, there’s no way one can interpret this chapter as referring to the end of days before the second coming of Christ. That idea has to be both assumed and forced.
24:18 and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.
24:19 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days!
When you compare all the Luke 17 verses with this chapter, and Mark 13 and Luke 21, it’s really quite indisputable that this whole discourse is about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
24:20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.
Mentioning of the Sabbath places this in a Jewish context.
24:21 For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen.
I believe the language Jesus uses here is hyperbolic to indicate extreme nature of this event and suffering. I don’t think many Christians realize the horrible devastation of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. Over a million people were killed in that siege, through both sword and famine.
24:22 And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
It’s not real clear what Jesus was referring to exactly. It’s possible He was talking about the fact that if God did not limit the destruction of Jerusalem (and surrounding cities), the Roman military may have continued their conquest against Christians too. We know that the Roman Empire did come to an end, and that may be in view here.
24:23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him.
24:24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
24:25 Remember, I have told you ahead of time.
This is an important statement. Jesus is telling His disciples, that when all these things begin to happen, they’ll be prepared for it. It won’t catch them off-guard. They’ll be able to flee the city when that time arrives. And of course, by way of extension, it was a warning to all the Christians of that time period still left in the city. They would know about the prophecies regarding this destruction within the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Here’s a quote from an article titled A.D. 70 Titus Destroys Jerusalem, by Christianity Today:
“Where were the Christians? Out of town, basically. Many had been driven out of Jerusalem by persecution decades earlier. Eusebius wrote that when the revolt began, in A.D. 66, some of the remaining Jewish Christians fled to Pella, a city across the Jordan River.”
So we see that the Christians who were still living in Jerusalem at that time, would have seen things starting to build up no later than AD 66. There probably would have been indications even sooner than that.
24:26 So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him.
24:27 For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.
We’ve been conditioned to automatically think of Christ’s second coming at the end of the world whenever we read the words “coming of the Son of Man.” But that’s not what Jesus is referring to. We have to keep everything in context and in the flow of the discussion. He’s referring to His coming in judgment against Jerusalem, via the Roman armies. Just as God used Assyria to Judge Israel (the northern kingdom), and just as He used Babylon to judge Judah (the southern kingdom), do did He use Rome to judge Jerusalem (Israel).
In regard to the coming of Christ being “like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west,” I think we normally picture the suddenness of lightning, and so we naturally think of the sudden appearance of Christ in His Second Coming. However, I don’t believe that is the way Jesus is using it here. When there’s a major strike of lightning, it lights up the sky from one end to the other. We see it’s power and we see the wide-sweeping effect of it. I believe that is the way Jesus wants us to understand this. His coming in judgment against Jerusalem would be with power and it would have a wide-sweeping effect. But of course, the initial assault would be quick. By the time the Roman army was finished, it flattened the whole city and its temple, and the surrounding cities would also be caught up in this military siege. The whole city was in flames.
24:28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
According to the historian, Josephus, 1.1 million people were died in AD 70, either through sword or through famine. This would attract a large number of scavengers.
The Arrival of the Son of Man
24:29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
Gen 37:9-10; Rev 12:1
Here is where things get very confusing for most Christians. But kept in context and being aware of the situation of that day, I believe we can correctly interpret – with confidence – what’s going on in verses 29-31. First we have to consider the words “immediately after.” Immediately after what? Immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem; immediately after Jesus came in judgment against Israel. It was this judgment and destruction that caused the “suffering.” (tribulation). Therefore, Jesus can’t be talking about His coming in judgment, but about what happened afterwards. At this point in Christ’s discourse, that event has already taken place. It’s over. Mark confirms this by saying, “But in those days, after that suffering…” (Mark 13:24). So when we look at this without a positional bias, we must conclude that Jesus is still talking about that same time period and that same event, not about the end of history. More specifically, He’s talking about what happened after that event or upon that event.
Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. The temple was there. It represented all of Israel. So this judgment was against the whole nation and its religious system. It was an outward sign that the Old Covenant had come to an end. It was an outward sign that Israel was no longer the focus in God’s plan. It was an outward sign that the transition to the New Covenant had been completed.
Many believe that the description of this verse is hyperbole to describe the devastation of Jerusalem. I agree that it is hyperbole, but I don’t believe it’s solely describing that event, but primarily describing what happened after that event, which is the inauguration of the New Covenant in Christ of the Church era. The crucifixion of Christ and the redemption that He provided for the world, was cataclysmic — as Jesus put it, “the powers of heaven will be shaken.” Jesus and what He came to do is central in the plan of God for the world. Therefore, the hyperbolic language must be applied to that primarily, and not to the destruction of Jerusalem.
However, within this hyperbolic language, I believe there’s a “hidden” meaning. We’re looking at what happened after that event, or more accurately, upon the conclusion of that event. I believe Gen 37:9-10 gives us a clue as to what Jesus was talking about:
9 Then he had another dream, and told it to his brothers. “Look,” he said. “I had another dream. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 When he told his father and his brothers, his father rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream that you had? Will I, your mother, and your brothers really come and bow down to you?”
The sun and moon and eleven stars represented Israel — Joseph, of course being the twelfth star (brother). We see the same thing in Rev 12:1. Considering the time of transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant that was taking place during the days of Christ and His Apostles, I believe Jesus was using figurative language to describe Israel. With this judgment, it was lights out for Israel. The light of Israel had gone out (Is 49:1-6; Is 60:1-3). No longer would the light of Israel shine. The nation of Israel had “fallen” out favor with God. They rejected His Son. The centrality of Israel had come to an end. Its importance in the plan of God had come to an end. The nation of Israel served its purpose in the plan of God, for Jesus fulfilled the covenant promises and prophecies of Israel. He is now the light of the world (Jn 1:4-9; Jn 8:12). Israel has its fulfillment and continuation in Christ and His Church. God’s dealing with the nation of Israel is past, as the destruction of Jerusalem signified.
24:30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Keeping everything in its proper context, I believe “the sign of the Son of Man,” refers to the seating of Christ upon His throne in Heaven, which occurred after His ascension — proving that He was who He said He was, the Son of God, Savior of the world. He was the prophesied Messiah and King. I believe this sign is what Jesus was referring to in the following verses:
64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt 26:64)
62 “I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62)
69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (Luke 22:69)
Notice that Jesus said these words to the religious leaders right before His crucifixion. His mission on earth was almost over. They didn’t believe in Him. They rejected Him as their Messiah. However, He let them know that from that point forward (after His death and resurrection and ascension), they would “see” Him seated at the right hand of the power of God — in other words, they would see Him seated on His throne next to His Father. But one may ask, in what way did they “see” Him seated upon His throne? Sam Storms provides a good explanation for this in his book “Kingdom Come”:
The “tribes” are to “see” the vindication and enthronement of the Son of Man in heaven, but how or in what sense are they to “see” it, that is, to know that it is true? Not perhaps by a celestial phenomenon, but “by what is happening on earth as the temple is destroyed and the reign of the ‘Son-of-Man-in-heaven’ begins to take effect in the gathering of his chosen people. In that case the ‘sign’ is not a preliminary warning of an event still to come, but the visible manifestation of a heavenly reality already established, that the Son of Man is in heaven sitting at the right hand of Power (26:64).”23 Therefore, this “coming” is not a visible, physical appearance by which Jesus returns to earth (although that will most assuredly occur at the end of history). Rather, they will “see” him in the sense that they will “understand” or spiritually perceive that he is the vindicated and enthroned King. As Gentry points out, “this actually refers to Jesus’ ascension [not his second advent]. In the destruction of the temple, the rejected Christ is vindicated as the ascended Lord and shown to possess great power and glory.”25
So then, while Jesus sat down upon His throne after His ascension, the sign to Israel (and to the world) that He did so, would be the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. This signified the full establishment of the New Covenant in Christ, that the Old Covenant was now past, and that God’s purpose for the nation of Israel had been completed. What Jesus said in Matt 26:64, Mark 14:62, and Luke 22:69, along with His prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in His discourse, would be known. It would serve as a witness against those who rejected Him.
To be clear, the New Covenant in Christ had already begun before this destruction. In other words, the Church age, the gospel age, had been inaugurated. But this was the sign to Israel that it had. As I talked about in the beginning of this study, the establishment of the New Covenant should not be viewed as a single event, but as a series of events. The final event to be fulfilled, was the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. With the picture now complete, we can see the Church age in the second part of Christ’s description in this verse: “and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
All “the tribes of the earth” refer to all the nations and people of the earth throughout the Church age. The people of the world will perceive (“see”) the power and great glory of Christ as the gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed throughout the earth. Jesus is glorified through His message and through His people. The power of Christ is seen through His life-changing message and through His followers. This was especially seen through the Apostles as they confirmed the message through signs and wonders as they were establishing His Church (He 2:4). The message of Christ stands out among all others. The truth of Christ is in contrast to all the false religions of the world. The truth of Christ causes the unbelieving world to “mourn.” They hate its message. They hate that it exposes their sins and lifestyle:
2:14 But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place. 2:15 For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing— 2:16 to the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2 Cor 2:14-16)
In regard to “arriving on the clouds of Heaven,” I believe this refers to both the redeemed of Heaven and to the holy angels. This “cloud of witnesses,” serve as a witness to the truth (He 12:1). So in other words, throughout the Church age, Jesus comes to this world with the truth and with the testimony of His redeemed and with the assistance of His angels. Again, this does not refer to Christ’s arrival in judgment against Jerusalem. That event is already past when Jesus speaks the words in verses 29-31. The focus at this point is on the result of that destruction, which is the full establishment of the New Covenant. The death and resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the inauguration of the Church era, was cataclysmic, impacting the entire world throughout history.
Now you may be thinking, “but I thought you said that Christ’s coming (“arriving”) was one of judgment against Jerusalem. But now you’re saying that His coming has to do with the message of Christ during the Church age. I don’t get it.” The confusion here is understandable. His coming was like a double-edged sword: One side is a sword of judgment against the city (Israel) and its temple, and the other side is a sword of truth which pierces the hearts of men with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, it was a two-fold event. Two different aspects of the same coming. His coming in AD 70 was both one of judgment and one of grace that signified the full establishment of the Church age. The judgment of the city was the outward sign that the New Covenant had fully come. It was a single event that accomplished two purposes.
Therefore, where Jesus uses hyperbolic language in verse 29, while I believe Jesus is primarily referring to the full establishment of the New Covenant (the Church age), I believe it also has in view the judgment of Jerusalem, since they’re two sides of the same event — a double-edged sword that accomplished two purposes. It was an event that has Christ coming as both judge and as as Redeemer of the New Covenant. Therefore, when we read about the coming of Christ, we must be careful to identify which aspect of His coming is in view.
24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
A “trumpet blast” always refers to an announcement of some important event. Thus I believe this represents the announcement of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ. This verse describes the gathering of “His elect” via the gospel message throughout the Church era. Those who respond to the gospel message in faith, join the elect people of God. In other words, they become members of the elect Church.
The Greek word for “angels,” means “messengers.” The context needs to identify if the author is talking about the angels of Heaven or to followers of Christ who spread the gospel message throughout the world (“from the four winds”). While the Bible does indicate that angels assist in the plans of God, I tend to believe that here Jesus is referring to His people, His witnesses, His messengers within the Church.
The Greek word for “heaven,” can refer to Heaven, the sky, or to the universe (heavens). Context must determine which is in view:
NET Notes: tn Or “of the sky”; the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context.
I think “sky” fits our present context best. Coupling this word with “from the four winds” (of the earth), helps to confirm this rendering. The NASB, CSB, WEB, Amplified, and Green’s Literal Translation agree.
Important note: Verses 30-31 are not to be confused with Matt 25:31-32:
25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25:32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
In verses 30-31 of chapter 24, we see Jesus coming via the gospel of the New Covenant. He is sitting upon His throne in Heaven as the reigning King over His people (the Church). In 25:31 we see Jesus returning in judgment of the world (Rev 19:11-21), where He then sits upon His throne of judgment — on the Day of Judgment. Two different comings, two different thrones, two different time periods. In 24:31 we see Jesus gathering only the “elect” (into His Church) via the gospel message throughout the Church age. In 25:32 we see all people, both saved (the elect) and unsaved being gathered to stand before Christ to give an accounting of their lives on the Day of Judgment (Rev 20:11-15; Ro 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10).
In summary, when we read verses 29-31, we normally think of the Second Coming of Christ at the end of history, where He returns in judgment of the world and the gathering of His people (via resurrection). However, I don’t believe His return is in view until we get to verse 25:31. Jesus’ begins His discourse with His coming in AD 70 in the judgment of Jerusalem and the full establishment of the Church age (as a sign to Israel), but ends with His physical return at the close of the Church age.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
24:32 “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
24:33 So also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near, right at the door.
We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples. If we were in the presence of Jesus, and He said these words to us, there would be no doubt in our minds that He was referring to us when He says “you.” It matches what He said in verse 25: “Remember, I have told you ahead of time.” And if there’s any doubt left, what Jesus says next should remove all doubt:
24:34 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Many believe that “this generation” refers to the future generation who will supposedly “see these signs” just prior to the return of Christ at the end of history. However, that idea has to be forced out of context. In every other place where “this generation” is used in the gospels (by Jesus), there’s no doubt that He’s referring to the generation in which He was living and to whom He was speaking (Matt 11:16; 12:39,41,42,45; Mark 8:12,38; 13:30; Lu 17:25; 11:29-32,50-51; 21:32). It’s completely unreasonable and inconsistent to accept that Jesus was referring to His particular generation in all the other passages, but to some other generation in this passage — namely, the last generation of history.
Therefore, Jesus is letting the people of His generation know that when they begin to see all of these things (in this chapter) take place, then they know that Christ’s coming in judgment against Jerusalem is near. This would give His people plenty of time to get out of the city and out of that region before the Roman siege that burned and flattened the city. I encourage you to read the history of that event.
24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
24:36 “But as for that day and hour no one knows it – not even the angels in heaven – except the Father alone.
24:37 For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.
Compare Matt 24:37-41 with Luke 17:26-35
Within the total context of this chapter, and when you compare verses 37-41 with Luke 17:26-35, there really shouldn’t be any doubt that what Jesus is talking about here in these verses, is what He’s been talking about throughout the whole discourse — which is the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. It’s just not reasonable that He be talking about this destruction at one point, then all of a sudden begin talking about some other event in some other time period (end of history). It makes no sense that He be talking about His “coming” in judgment against Jerusalem (His generation) in one breath, then about His second coming in the final generation in the next breath. This causes a lot of unnecessary confusion. In fact, if we just stay with the subject that’s introduced in beginning verses, and stay with the flow of this discourse, there is no actual confusion. Things only get confused when we impose our own preconceived notions upon the text.
In regard to Jesus not knowing the “day and hour” of this event, this should be understood in the context of His humanity. For whatever reason, the Father chose not to disclose this to His Son at that time. When Jesus rose from the dead in His glorified body and ascended back into Heaven, He was again omniscient as He was before He left Heaven.
24:38 For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark.
24:39 And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.
Jesus is still talking about His coming in judgment against Jerusalem via the Roman armies. If you read the history of that event, it didn’t happen in one day. That situation developed over a period of years. Thus it would have given His people plenty of time to leave the city. We also see that normal life would continue until the time of invasion, or until things began to rapidly develop.
24:40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left.
24:41 There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left.
See verses 36-37
Those who weren’t killed in the siege against Jerusalem, were carried away as captives (Luke 21:24). The situation was much like the siege against Jerusalem when Babylon came against them. Thus, some would be “taken” (captive) and some would be “left” (killed).
24:42 “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
He specifically tells them to “stay alert,” He doesn’t want His people to be taken by surprise and be caught up in the destruction of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.
24:43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into.
24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
“You also.” – Again, Jesus is addressing and talking about His people of His generation. He wants them to be ready when the Roman army begins their siege against Jerusalem. Since it took a few years for that situation to develop, they wouldn’t know exactly when the major attack against the city would occur. In other words, Jesus would come against the city in judgment “at an hour when you do not expect him.” Meaning, anything could happen at any time once they began to see the situation developing. So Jesus is telling them not to wait, but when they “begin” (Luke 21:28) seeing these things take place, get out of town!
The Faithful and Wise Slave
24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time?
24:46 Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes.
24:47 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions.
24:48 But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’
24:49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards,
24:50 then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee,
24:51 and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The point Jesus is making is clear. Those who were living at the time of the siege against the city, those who professed Christ, they needed to be ready for that day. If they were true believers, they would heed the warning and escape the city while they still had opportunity. If they were not genuine believers, they would scoff at the idea of this prophecy against the city, while living a sinful life. They would stay and be caught in the judgment along with all the rest. They would be “assigned a place with the hypocrites,” proving themselves to be false believers.
Question: Can the Olivet Discourse also be a type and shadow of the events at the end of history, when Jesus returns in judgment of the world? Yes, I think that’s possible, but only in the general sense. Since this discourse is about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70, I don’t think it’s wise to try and apply every detail to the events of the latter days of mankind — as we may end up with an inaccurate picture. Therefore, don’t place too much emphasis on the types and shadows that it possibly, might provide.
About chapter 25: It’s not my objective to do a verse by verse commentary on that chapter, but I do think it’s important to address the connection between the two chapters. In regard to the Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13), this is about a wedding celebration. It’s a joyful occasion. A time of union. Therefore, there’s no way that we can tie this to the first aspect of Jesus’ coming, which was judgment. On the contrary, I believe Jesus is now focused on the Church age that was fully established after the destruction of the city with its temple, which is the other aspect of His coming. Again, His coming was like a two-edged sword. The Jewish era of the Old Covenant is past, and the Church era of the New Covenant is fully established — and that is what Jesus is dealing with in regard to the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and with the Parable of the Talents (25:14-30).
In chapter 24 we dealing with the judgment of a city and a people. In the two parables of chapter 25 we’re dealing with individual accountability for both believers and unbelievers. In verses 31-46 we see the return of Christ in judgment of the world, which is followed by the Great White Throne Judgment where every individual who has ever lived will be judged.
13:1 Now as Jesus was going out of the temple courts, one of his disciples said to him, “Teacher, look at these tremendous stones and buildings!”
13:2 Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
Signs of the End of the Age
13:3 So while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,
13:4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?”
13:5 Jesus began to say to them, “Watch out that no one misleads you.
13:6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will mislead many.
13:7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come.
Referring to the end of Jerusalem and its temple in the Roman siege in AD 70. This marked last of a series of events that signified the end of the Old Covenant and the end of Israel being the focus of God’s plan. It marked the end of one era and the beginning of another.
13:8 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines. These are but the beginning of birth pains.
Persecution of Disciples
13:9 “You must watch out for yourselves. You will be handed over to councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them.
The mention of synagogues indicates that we’re dealing with a Jewish situation, not an end time event. This is about that period between the ascension of Christ and AD 70.
13:10 First the gospel must be preached to all nations.
13:11 When they arrest you and hand you over for trial, do not worry about what to speak. But say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
13:12 Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death.
13:13 You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
(See Matthew 24:13)
The Abomination of Desolation
13:14 “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.
(See commentary on Matt 24:15 and Luke 21:20)
Quote from the IVP Bible Background Commentary:
13:14. Josephus, who lived through the war of 66-70, thought the “abomination of desolation” (the reference is to Dan 9:27; cf. 11:31; 12:11) happened in A.D. 66, when *Zealots shed the blood of priests in the temple. Others date the abomination of desolation three and one-half years later, in 70. The Jerusalemites had considered it a sacrilege for the Roman standards, which bore the image of the worshiped emperor, to enter Jerusalem. But in the year 70, when the temple was destroyed, the Romans erected these standards over the desolate site of the temple. Both views may be true: if the phrase means “abomination that causes desolation,” then the abomination of A.D. 66 may have led to the desolation of A.D. 70.
13:15 The one on the roof must not come down or go inside to take anything out of his house.
13:16 The one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.
13:17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days!
13:18 Pray that it may not be in winter.
13:19 For in those days there will be suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, or ever will happen.
I believe Jesus is using hyperbolic language to describe the horribleness of this event and suffering that took place in AD 70.
13:20 And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved. But because of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut them short.
(See commentary on Matt 24:22)
13:21 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe him.
13:22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect.
13:23 Be careful! I have told you everything ahead of time.
This is a significant clue as to the time period that Jesus is talking about. He’s giving warning to His followers way “ahead of time,” so that when they begin to see the things happening that He’s describing, they’ll have plenty of time to flee Jerusalem and the whole region of Judean.
The Arrival of the Son of Man
13:24 “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light;
Gen 37:9-10; Rev 12:1
13:25 the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
13:26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man arriving in the clouds with great power and glory.
13:27 Then he will send angels and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
(See commentary on Matt 24:29-31)
The Parable of the Fig Tree
(For the remainder of this chapter, see commentary on Matt 24:32-51)
13:28 “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
13:29 So also you, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, right at the door.
13:30 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
13:32 “But as for that day or hour no one knows it – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son – except the Father.
13:33 Watch out! Stay alert! For you do not know when the time will come.
13:34 It is like a man going on a journey. He left his house and put his slaves in charge, assigning to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to stay alert.
13:35 Stay alert, then, because you do not know when the owner of the house will return – whether during evening, at midnight, when the rooster crows, or at dawn –
13:36 or else he might find you asleep when he returns suddenly. 13:37 What I say to you I say to everyone: Stay alert!”
21:5 Now while some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and offerings, Jesus said,
21:6 “As for these things that you are gazing at, the days will come when not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
21:7 So they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that these things are about to take place?”
21:8 He said, “Watch out that you are not misled. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them!
21:9 And when you hear of wars and rebellions, do not be afraid. For these things must happen first, but the end will not come at once.”
Persecution of Disciples
21:10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
21:11 There will be great earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven.
21:12 But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you, handing you over to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.
21:13 This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses.
21:14 Therefore be resolved not to rehearse ahead of time how to make your defense.
21:15 For I will give you the words along with the wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
21:16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death.
21:17 You will be hated by everyone because of my name.
21:18 Yet not a hair of your head will perish.
21:19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
The Desolation of Jerusalem
21:20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.
(See commentary on Matt 24:15 and Mark 13:14)
19:41 Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it, 19:42 saying, “If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 19:43 For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. 19:44 They will demolish you—you and your children within your walls—and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”
Quote from the IVP Bible Background Commentary:
21:20. Luke’s language is less ambiguous than Mark’s “abomination of desolation”: the war with Rome began in A.D. 66, and soon Roman armies had marched through the rest of Palestine and surrounded Jerusalem, then laid siege to it until it fell in A.D. 70. Those who tried to flee shortly after Jerusalem was surrounded found that it was too late; some who escaped the Zealots inside Jerusalem were cut open by Syrian recruits outside, who were looking for jewels they might have swallowed.
21:21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Those who are inside the city must depart. Those who are out in the country must not enter it,
21:22 because these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.
The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, is the fulfillment of Daniel 9:26-27:
26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” NASB
Messiah (or anointed one) = Jesus
Prince who is to come = Titus, Roman General
City and the sanctuary = Jerusalem and temple
There will be war; desolations = Roman siege AD 70
He will make a firm covenant = Jesus
One who makes desolate = Titus, Roman General
Complete destruction = Of Jerusalem and temple AD 70
Sam Storms, from his book “Kingdom Come:
As noted earlier, in view of the parallel construction of verses 26 and 27, the Messiah or “anointed one” of verse 26a is identical with the “he” of verse 27a, and the “prince” of verse 26b is identical with the “one who makes desolate” of verse 27b, i.e., the Roman general Titus in A.D. 70. In addition to this, I conclude that he who, literally “causes a covenant to prevail” is Jesus, the Messiah. This he does through the shedding of his blood (cf. Matt. 26:27-29; ark 1:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb. 8-10). Finally, to what does Daniel refer when he speaks about Messiah putting “an end to sacrifice and offering”? There are two possibilities, as I see it. This may be a reference to the sacrifice of Christ whereby he abrogated the Jewish sacrificial system (see Heb. 7:11-12, 27; 9:26-28; 10:9; Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38). Or, more likely still, this is a reference to the cessation of Jewish sacrifices by the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70 (see Matt. 23:37-24:2).
(I encourage you to purchase Sam Storms book, as he does a great job of explaining the seventy weeks of Daniel)
21:23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people.
“In those days,” “this people.” – It should be clear by now that Jesus is referring to the Jews of His generation (AD 70). The next verse provides further confirmation:
21:24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
In the Roman siege of AD 70, those who weren’t killed by sword or died from famine, were taken captive. It’s a historical fact that the Jews were scattered throughout the world.
I believe the “times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” is referring to the completion of the Roman siege against Jerusalem and throughout Judea. They would be “trampled down” until conquered and controlled by Rome. As an extension of that event, I believe it also means that the nation of Israel would no longer be dominant in the plan of God, and that this will continue until the return of Christ at the end of history.
The Arrival of the Son of Man
(For verses 25-27, see commentary on Matt 24:29-31)
21:25 “And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth nations will be in distress, anxious over the roaring of the sea and the surging waves.
Gen 37:9-10; Rev 12:1
21:26 People will be fainting from fear and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
21:27 Then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory.
21:28 But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
“Begin” is the operative word. When the Christian Jews of Jesus’ day began to see the things that He mentioned in His discourse, then they were to get out of the city and out of Judea, before the major Roman army invasion.
In regard to “redemption,” I don’t believe that this refers to the redemption (deliverance) of our souls. That was provided for us at the cross. The followers of Christ at the time of the Roman assault, were already saved. The Greek word for this can refer to deliverance in the general sense, like deliverance or rescue from calamities. Therefore, in context, I believe Jesus is referring to deliverance from the Jews, who were severely persecuting Christians at that time. Once the Roman army defeated Jerusalem and all of Judea, the Jews would no longer be a threat to Christians. Barnes Notes on this verse:
Your redemption draweth nigh – See the notes at Matthew 24:33. This is expressed in Luke 21:31 thus: “the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” – that is, from that time God will signally build up his kingdom. It shall be fully established when the Jewish policy shall come to an end; when the temple shall be destroyed, and the Jews scattered abroad. Then the power of the Jews shall be at an end; they shall no longer be able to persecute you, and you shall be completely delivered from all these trials and calamities in Judea.
The Parable of the Fig Tree
21:29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the other trees.
21:30 When they sprout leaves, you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near.
21:31 So also you, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.
“The kingdom of God is near”
Once Jerusalem and its temple had been destroyed, and the whole Jewish economy (OT system) had been abrogated, and national importance of Israel in the plan of God had been superseded, then that would mark the full establishment of the Kingdom of God — referring to the Kingdom of Christ over His Church. This would mark the last in a series of events that ushered in the New Covenant in Christ: His baptism, His ministry, His death and resurrection and ascension, the tearing of the temple curtain, the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the leadership and miracles of the Apostles, the writing of the New Testament Scriptures, and finally the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.
From that point forward, the Church in Christ of the New Covenant would be central in the plan of God, not the nation of Israel. It would be through His Church that God would deal with the world, not through Israel. Jesus and His Church fulfilled the covenant promises and prophecies regarding Israel. Jesus is, thus, true Israel, and His Church is Israel in Him (Gal 3:16,26-29).
21:32 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
21:34 “But be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap.
Jesus was exhorting His followers to be alert for “that day” of judgment against Jerusalem. He didn’t want them getting caught up in the things of this life, but to be focused on the things of God. If they got complacent, they wouldn’t be able to recognize the signs of the times. They would get trapped in the city and in that judgment. However, if they were faithfully following Christ, faithfully serving God, they would recognize the time of impending judgment at the hands of the Roman army (for those Christians still living in Judea at that time).
21:35 For it will overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth.
This sentence “it will overtake all who live on the face of the whole earth,” is absent from Matthew and Mark (Matt 24:34-51; Mk 13:30-37). To understand this, we must realize that the destruction of Jerusalem was not a global event, but limited to the region of Judea. This was not a judgment of the world. Jesus will not judge the world until He returns at the close of history. Therefore, we’re not to interpret “overtake” (to come upon) to refer to the Roman invasion, but to the global effect or results of that invasion.
So then, we have to ask, “what happened at the time of this judgment? What was it that was to come upon the whole earth? It could refer to the global effect that it would have on the Jews from that point forward. They would be scattered and nothing would ever be the same for them after this event and after the full establishment of the Church era, which this event accomplished. Or it could refer to the accountability of the world to Christ and His message through His Church. I believe Jesus is referring to both.
Therefore, considering the global impact of the destruction of Jerusalem (and temple) and the full establishment of the New Covenant, Jesus wanted His followers to be prepared for it. This was an historical event, and they were an integral part of it. He didn’t want them to miss the significance of it. He didn’t want them to be caught living a life of unfaithfulness when He came in judgment — perhaps being found as false believers.
21:36 But stay alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that must happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Jesus instructed His people of His generation to “stay alert,” to be fully prepared for what was to come upon Jerusalem and the whole region of Judea. This would involve primarily those who were living there in AD 66 – 70. Not only did He want them to be able to escape before the Roman siege, but He also wanted them to be able to “stand before Him” in faithfulness. Just as we want to be found faithful when we die, and just as we want to be found faithful when Jesus returns at the end of history (for those living at that time), so did the Christians of His day need to be found faithful when He returned in judgment of that city. Jesus elaborates on this in Matt 24:45-51 and Mark 13:34-37.
21:37 So every day Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, but at night he went and stayed on the Mount of Olives.
21:38 And all the people came to him early in the morning to listen to him in the temple courts.