Jesus had already predicted the destruction of the temple in Matthew 23:38: “Look, your house is left to you desolate.” This meant the temple would one day be desolate, empty and demolished, as a result of the Jews’s disobedience and rejection of the reason the temple stood. And that was to worship and honor God, and therefore Jesus as well.
But they failed.
Therefore, the temple would be destroyed and the people, those who refused to believe, would lose their lives. God’s just judgment would fall on the very people He loved and grieved over because they refused to believe in Him. They refused to believe in Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God and their deliverer!
Apparently these words of Jesus kept the disciples quiet, for it was not until after they had crossed over the Kidron Valley and climbed to the top of the Mt. of Olives that Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13 tells us) raised two questions about when this event would take place.
The Mt. of Olives was opposite the temple and, as I mentioned, across the Kidron Valley. It sat above Jerusalem to the east. And from its slopes a person could look down and see the city and its temple. So it is there that these disciples asked Jesus, “When will this happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
A Firm Warning
And Jesus answered their questions with a firm warning. He knew that though He would soon leave this place, one day He would indeed return just as it was prophesied in Zechariah 14:1-4.
Zechariah tells us that when the Messiah, King Jesus, returns He will stand on that very mountain and set up His eternal kingdom. But sitting with His disciples at that moment, He said,
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming I am the Christ, and they will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).
Jesus here seemed to be prophetically referring to multiple fulfillments. One is before the other and the first is a picture of the later.
The first would the judgment of the temple in 70 A.D.–about 6-7 years after Jesus’s departure, which stood in front of them and yet behind us. And the second judgment, which refers to “the end of the age,” is still future to us.
The phrase “the end of the age” is mentioned six times in the Greek Scriptures and five of them are found in Matthew. These references always look to the final judgment, the end of all things as we know them!
It will be a time of great upheaval universally, but also with a glorious ending for those who have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior!
Therefore, it would appear that Jesus was speaking of both judgments here in this portion of Matthew. The first on a much smaller scale, and the second, the final judgment of all!