This morning we want to look at the disciples' question to Yeshua in verse 3 of Matthew 24.
Yeshua left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:1-3 ESV
Matthew 24, commonly known as the Olivet discourse, is by far the most full and explicit of our Lord's prophetic utterances regarding His Second Coming. Verse 3 is the most important verse in this whole chapter. If you don't understand their question, you will never understand Yeshua's answer. We must be sure we understand the questions.
The way many deal with these questions is a good example of how our paradigms can blind us from seeing certain truths. If, in your eschatological paradigm, you see the Second Coming of Christ as the end of the physical world, a cataclysmic, earth burning, total destruction of life as we now know it, you will certainly miss what Yeshua is saying here. Because life goes on, you can't believe that Yeshua returned as he said he would. It just won't fit your paradigm. Let's begin by looking at a verse that shatters the paradigm that views the Second Coming as the end of the world. To get some context let's start in:
Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV
The Thessalonian believers were suffering for their faith in Christ. So Paul comforts them by saying:
since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Yeshua. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 ESV
So they are going to get relief "when" the Lord Yeshua is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels—this is speaking of the Second Coming. This was written in the first century so suffering believers promising them relief at the Second coming. If that second Coming is still future, how will it give relief to the believers in Thessalonica? Paul goes on:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 ESV
In chapter 1 he was talking about the Second Coming and now he says, "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ." He's continuing the subject of the Second Coming. The Complete Jewish Bible puts verse 2 this way:
not to be easily shaken in your thinking or anxious because of a spirit or a spoken message or a letter supposedly from us claiming that the Day of the Lord has already come. 2 Thessalonians 2:2 CJB
Now, if the Thessalonians believed that the nature of the Second Coming was an earth burning, total destruction of planet earth, how could they be deceived about its arrival? If the Second Coming was, as many view it today, Paul could have written them and said, "Look out the window, the earth is still here; so the Lord has obviously not come." They thought it had already happened, so they must have viewed it differently than most folks today do. Would you agree with that? If we can allow a crack in this earth-ending Second Coming paradigm, maybe we can begin to understand the truth of the Second Coming.
Let's see if we can understand the disciples' questions; then we will be able to understand Yeshua's answer. Correctly understanding this question could cause a paradigm shift in the eschatology of many.
Let me briefly remind you of what we saw last time. Throughout Matthews gospel Yeshua continually warned the Jews of their coming judgement because of their apostasy. I believe that most, if not all, of Yeshua's parables deal with the kingdom of God or the destruction of Jerusalem because of their rejection of that Kingdom. As we move closer to chapter 24, we notice the building of the judgement theme.
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. Matthew 21:43 ESV
The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Matthew 22:7 ESV
Yeshua continues to warn them of a coming judgement because of their rejection of the Messiah. It is clear that the reference here is to Jerusalem's destruction in AD 70.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Matthew 23:37-39 ESV
By "house," he was referring to Jerusalem, and certainly the Temple was included. The word "desolate" is the Greek word eremos; it means: "waste, desert, desolate, solitary, or wilderness." The city and theTtemple were both destroyed in AD 70.
Now, with this in mind, we move into chapter 24 and the Olivet Discourse of Yeshua. In verse 1, as they depart from the Temple, the words of Yeshua, "Your house shall be left to you desolate," still burned in their ears. In verse 2, Yeshua predicted that this massive Temple would be utterly destroyed in an act of God's judgement.
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:3 ESV
The Mount of Olives was just east of Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. It is about a mile in length and about 700 feet in height, and overlooks Jerusalem, so that from its summit almost every part of the city could be seen. It was from Jerusalem about a Sabbath day's journey.
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. Acts 1:12 ESV
A Sabbath day's journey was as far as the law allowed (not the law of Moses, but that advanced by the Jewish teachers) one to travel on the Sabbath. This was 2,000 paces or cubits, which would be not quite one mile.
This walk, uphill with sandals, would have taken them maybe 15-30 minutes. During this time they were no doubt thinking about what Yeshua had just said about the destruction of the Temple and how their house would be left desolate. Once Yeshua sat down on the mountain, the disciples approached Him and questioned Him about the Temple's destruction. According to Mark 13:3, the questions were asked by Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Matthew and Mark say they came "privately." In both Matthew and Mark this is used to set the disciples apart from the crowds, not from each other. I think that this means that they were the ones who raised the questions, not that they were the only disciples present.
Their question was two-fold. First they ask, "when will these things be?" All three of the Synoptic Gospels ask, "when."
Matthew 24:3 ESV "Tell us, when will these things be…"
Mark 13:4 ESV "Tell us, when will these things be…"
Luke 21:7 ESV "And they asked him, "Teacher, when will these things be…"
The "these things" refers to the Temple's destruction in verse 2. In verse 1 the disciples point out the Temple buildings to Yeshua. In verse 2, Yeshua says, "'All' these things' shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the Temple be destroyed? When will our house be left desolate?" After all, Yeshua had just said about judgement on Jerusalem, and then about not one stone not being left upon another, the disciples' response is, "When?" That makes sense, doesn't it? I would hope so. It is the second part of their question where things get sticky.
The second part of their question is," What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age." To help us understand the question, we need to compare all three Synoptic Gospels.
Matthew 24:3 ESV "…and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
Mark 13:4 ESV "…and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?"
Luke 21:7 ESV "…and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?"
Comparing all three accounts shows us that the disciples considered His "coming" and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the temple.
"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?" Mark 13:4 ESV
Notice in the first part of the verse he says, "When will these things be?"—referring to the Temples' destruction. Then in the second half, he asks, "What will be the sign when all 'these things' will be fulfilled?" The sign of His coming and the end of age was the same as the "these things," which referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year AD 70. These are not separate questions that can be divided up into different time-events. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their mind and that was the destruction of the Temple. With the destruction of the Temple, they connected the coming of Messiah and the end of the age.
Listen to what some have done to the disciples' questions. Ryrie says this, "In this discourse Jesus answered two of the three questions the disciples asked. He does not answer 'When will these things happen?' He answers, 'What will be the sign of Your coming?'"
John Walvoord in his commentary on Matthew, says this, "Matthew's gospel does not answer the first question, which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70."
Their main question was, "WHEN?"; and Ryrie and Walvoord say the Lord doesn't even answer it. He ignores their question about the destruction of the temple and he proceeds to talk about a far distant, 2,000 plus years, coming and end of the world. Does that make sense to you? More important, would it make sense to them? I think not!
They associated the destruction of the Temple with His coming. The Greek word for "coming" is parousia, which means arrival, not return. The disciples could not have been asking about a future return of Christ, because they had no idea that he was leaving. They believed that Yeshua was the promised Messiah.
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:15-16 ESV
They believed that Messiah would come and rule, they had no idea of Him coming, then leaving, then coming again.
So the crowd answered him, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" John 12:34 ESV
Yeshua talked to them about His death and going to the Father, but they did not understand it at all.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come.' John 13:33 ESV
Think of how these disciples must have felt hearing this. They had given up their lives, their jobs, and left their families behind, just to follow Yeshua. And now, Yeshua was going away and leaving them behind.A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Yeshua answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward." John 13:34-36 ESV
I think Peter was so shocked by our Lord's words in verse 33 that he just couldn't get past them. So he seems to ignore the love command and ask, Where are you going?"A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me." So some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I am going to the Father'?" John 16:16-17 ESV
This account in John takes place after he had given them the Olivet Discourse and they still didn't understand that He was leaving them. After the crucifixion, they still didn't understand that Yeshua was going to rise from the dead.Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. John 20:8-9 ESV
Now let me ask you a question, "If they had no idea that Yeshua was going to leave them, why would they ask Him about His return?" They didn't understand anything about a Second Coming. You might ask, "Why did they ask, "what will be the sign of your coming," if they didn't think He was leaving?" Good question. The answer is in understanding the Jewish concept of the parousia. As I said, the word meant "arrival or presence", and not return. It didn't refer to any future return of Christ. To the disciples the "parousia" of the Son of Man signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power. William Barclay says of parousia, "It is the regular word for the arrival of a governor into his province or for the coming of a king to his subjects. It regularly describes a coming in authority and in power."
The disciples were accustomed to hearing Yeshua speak of His coming in His kingdom, coming in His glory and power, and that within their lifetime.For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." Matthew 16:27-28 ESV
They didn't know He was leaving, but they looked for a time when He would appear in full glory and power bringing in the Kingdom and rewarding every man. Some try to explain this verse as relating it to the transfiguration or Pentecost. But the verse says it would be a time when every man would be rewarded for their works. That cannot refer to the transfiguration or Pentecost, but it does refer to His Second Coming, as can be seen from:"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. Revelation 22:12 ESV
Compare that with Matthew 16:27. They knew that His parousia would be in their life time, and they looked for, and expected it. Even after His resurrection, they questioned Him about the restored Kingdom.So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. Acts 1:6-7 ESV
They didn't understand that Christ would sit upon His throne by means of His Resurrection and Ascension."Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Yeshua God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. Acts 2:29-33 ESV
Christ was now reigning on the Father's right hand and the manifestation of that Kingdom would come, when Christ would come in judgement on Jerusalem.For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, "'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."' Acts 2:34-35 ESV
Now, you might ask, "Why would the disciples connect the destruction of the Temple with Christ's parousia?" The disciples knew the Tanakh and they knew that the destruction of Jerusalem would usher in Messiah's Kingdom.Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. Zechariah 14:1-5 ESV
In the day of the Lord, Jerusalem is destroyed and the Lord comes with His saints. Also, look at:And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. Daniel 9:26 ESV
The disciples believed that the coming of Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and the temple.
Notice that they also associated the destruction of the temple with the end of age.
Matthew 24:3 ESV "…and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"
Mark 13:4 ESV "…and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?"
Luke 21:7 ESV "…and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?"
Now again, the "these things"—the destruction of the temple, are connected with the end of the age. Some translations render this "world." That is very confusing. The Greek word used here is aeon which means, "age." It is not the Greek word "kosmos" or "oikoumene," which mean the world and its inhabitants. It is not talking about the end of the physical world; the word aeon means age, era, or a period of time. The expression "end of the age" refers to "the end of the Jewish age." The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a new age. William Barclay says, "Time was divided by the Jews into two great periods—this present age, and the age to come. The present age is wholly bad and beyond all hope of human reformation. If can be mended only by the direct intervention of God. When God does intervene the golden age, the age to come, will arrive. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a new age."
Remember from Zechariah 14 that the "Day of the Lord" and the destruction of Jerusalem were connected.
William Hendriksen, in his commentary on Matthew, says this about 24:3, "The very form of the question is cast—the juxtaposition (a putting or being side by side or close together) of the clauses—seems to indicate that, as these men interpret the Master's words, Jerusalem's fall, particularly the destruction of the temple, would mean the end of the world. In this opinion they were partly mistaken, as Jesu is about to show. A lengthy period of time would intervene between Jerusalem's fall and the culmination of the age, the second coming."
He sees that by the form of the question, they viewed the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the age to be simultaneous. But he says they were wrong. Were they wrong? If they were mistaken, why didn't the Lord correct them? Why didn't the Lord say the temple will be destroyed soon but the end of the age is a long way off? What Yeshua did tell them was that all the things they asked about would be fulfilled in their life time:Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Matthew 24:34 ESV
If you look at the way Yeshua used the word "generation," I think it will be abundantly clear that it always refers to His contemporaries, the Jewish people of His own period. Yeshua here, very plainly and very clearly, tells HIS DISCIPLES that ALL of the things He had mentioned, the destruction of the Temple, His Parousia and the end of the age, would come to pass in THEIR GENERATION. This is so clear that it greatly troubles those who hold to a Futuristic eschatology.
Yeshua uses the near demonstrative "this" generation. Every time "this" is used in the New Testament it always refers to something that is near in terms of time or distance. Yeshua doesn't say, that generation, referring to a different generation than the one He was speaking to. But "this generation" the very people to whom He was speaking.
We saw earlier from the Barclay quote that to the Jews, time was divided into two great periods, the Mosaic Age and the Messianic Age. The Messiah was viewed as one who would bring in a new world. The period of the Messiah was, therefore, correctly characterized by the Synagogue as "the world to come." All through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age" and the "age to come." The understanding of these two ages and when they changed is fundamental to interpreting the Bible. Most Christians believe that most all of the New Testament prophecies deal with a time future to us. When they read in the New Testament the words "the age to come," they think of a yet future age. But the New Testament writers were referring to the Christian age. We live in what was to them the "age to come," the New Covenant age.
Let's look at some scriptures that talk about these two ages.And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32 ESV
The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means " about to be." We could translate this, the "age about to come" (in the first century). Many think that the age to come will be a sinless age; not according to this verse. Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in that age, referring to the age of the New Covenant, our present age.So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:49-50 ESV
Notice who is taken—the wicked. Is this a reverse rapture? I believe this speaks of the Judgement of Jerusalem in AD 70. It was the end of the Jewish age, and the wicked Jews were burned in the destruction of Jerusalem.Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 ESV
Who are these rulers? Most would say they are the Jewish rulers. And that is possible, but I think this is a reference to the watchers, the spiritual rulers, the anti Yahweh forces. In a Greek translation of Daniel, a text many scholars consider even older than the Septuagint currently in use, the prince of Persia and Israel's prince, Michael, are both described with the Greek word archon. That is the term Paul uses here for "rulers."
Paul says that had "the rulers of this age" known what God's plan of redemption was—that the messiah must die to accomplish salvation—they "would not have crucified the Lord of glory." They would not have crucified Him because they wanted to thwart the plan of redemption.
The wisdom and rulers of "this age" were coming to nothing, because the age was passing away. He is speaking of the spiritual archon, which were about to be judged at the end of the Old Covenant system. These rulers would shortly have no realm in which to rule, because "this age", the Old Covenant system was about to end.Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV
Paul said very plainly that the end of the ages were coming upon them, the first century saints.Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV
Yeshua was speaking in the last days. Last days of what? The last days of the Old Covenant age.for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26 ESV
When was it that Yeshua appeared? He was born not at the beginning, but at the end of the ages. To suppose that he meant that Yeshua's incarnation came near the end of the world, would be to make his statement false. The world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. Yeshua was manifest at the end of the Jewish age. Peter says the same thing.He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 1 Peter 1:20 ESV
Yeshua came during the last days of the age that was the Old Covenant age, the Jewish age. That age came to an end with the destruction of the temple in AD 70. All the things prophesied by Yeshua in Matthew 24 occurred at the end of that age. Nothing is taught in the Bible about a millennial age. The Bible talks about "this age"—the Old Covenant age, and the "age to come"—the New Covenant age. The millennium was the time of transition between "this age"—the Old Covenant age, and the "age to come"—the NOW present New Covenant age. You and I live, in what was to the writers of the New Testament, the age to come. We are no longer under the Old Covenant, we live in the Messianic age of the New Covenant.
The age we live in will never end, it is an everlasting age.Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Yeshua, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, Hebrews 13:20 ESV
The Bible doesn't teach about an age future to us. The age in which we live is the everlasting age of the New Covenant. Yeshua's disciples believed that His presence would be acknowledged, and so would the end of the age when He arrived in judgement on Jerusalem. They were thinking of the temple and the immediate future: would He speak to them of the world and the indefinitely remote?
F.C. Cook in his commentary says this, "From the form of the question we may infer that two separate events, the destruction of the temple, and the final coming of Christ at the end of the world, were closely connected together in the minds of the disciples. The popular belief of the Jews at this time seems to have been that the coming of the Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and temple" (Emphasis mine, D.B. Curtis). Cook sees them as two separate events but admits that the disciples didn't. I think he sees them as separate because his paradigm of the Second coming blinds him.
So, we have seen that the disciples questions all revolved around the temple and its destruction. To them the destruction of the temple would mean the parousia of the Lord and the end of the age. The answer that Yeshua gives is to THEM, not some future generation, and it all deals with the fall of Jerusalem. You must keep this in mind as we look at Yeshua's answer to their questions. We'll begin to look at Yeshua's answer next time.