Matthew 24:1-14, October 11, 2020
The Beginning of the Conclusion of One Very Long Day
The prior day He left Bethphage on the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem as the King and Messiah, when the city quaked because of His entrance. Upon entering the temple, He threw out the money changers for the second and last time. He healed the blind and the lame with children shouting inside the temple courts Hosanna to the Son of David. The chief priests complained about this. He replied by quoting Psalm 8:2 and left them to go to Bethany where He spent the night.
Then this very long day begins in 21:18 and finally concludes in 26:2. It begins with the disciples being amazed at the withered fig tree He had cursed the prior day. Then they entered the temple (21:23) and Jesus began teaching. That is when His long series of verbal battles or engagements began with the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. This ended when Jesus posed a question to the Pharisees (22:42) on whose Son is the Messiah? He quotes from Psalm 110:1 showing the Messiah is more than just a man. At this point they gave up and asked no more questions (22:45). It was at this point Jesus addressed the temple crowds and His disciples about the incredible depth of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (23:1-39) declaring woe after woe upon them. Then (24:1) He left the temple with His disciples through the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives.
24:1-2 The destruction of the temple. The first thing we notice is that Jesus has left the temple to never return in this earthly ministry. Originally built by Zerubbabel and Ezra (Ezra 6:15) over 500 years prior. Herod the Great started work on the temple enlargement in 20 BC and it would not be completed until 64 AD. When it was completed the temple was 5 football fields long and 4 football fields wide and 18,000 workers were out of work. Most were put back to work upgrading the colonnades.
It was big and beautiful. The Jewish historian Josephus said that the temple was covered with gold plates, and when the sun shone on them it was blinding to look at. Where there was no gold, there were blocks of marble of such a pure white that from a distance, strangers thought there was snow on the temple.
Destruction began by Vespasian who became ruler of Rome and sent his son, Titus to finish what he had started. How it finished, I would like to read primarily from Josephus’ account of the destruction of the temple.
Now let us look at Jesus’ reply to His disciples. He calls the buildings at the temple, things. Things. Things do not matter. Your relationship with God is what matters. In Mark 12:33 we learn Jesus’ answer about the most important commandment is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Things will not last, but (unstated) your relationship with God will last.
24:3-14 The opening of the Olivet Discourse. The disciples asked two questions. The second a compound question is the question Jesus answers in verses 4-14. The first question When will these things be? Jesus said the temple would be completely destroyed. Of course the disciples would want to know when it would happen. Jesus addresses this question, but only in the context of answering their next compound question: And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?
The disciples likely thought of all of this as one question because they thought it would all happen simultaneously. Jesus’ answer corrects this error in their thinking. As Jesus answers this second question many interpretations have been given and some have simply ignored these verses. Walvoord and others take them literally as does Calvary Chapel and me.
24:4-8 Jesus provides world conditions between His Ascension and the time immediately preceding His Second Coming. Jesus warned the disciples that many would be deceived as they anticipated His return. One major example of this was the prophetic expectation in 1844 with William Miller in the United States. When Jesus described these calamities as the beginning of sorrows, He literally called them the beginning of labor pains.
24:9-14 Here Jesus tells His disciples and us what we must expect between His Ascension and his Second Coming. The you in these verses is not just for the disciples, but for us as well. His disciples should expect to be persecuted. This may make His followers believe the end is near, but this also is not the specific sign of His return. Jesus promises before the end, the gospel would go out to the whole world. Walvoord and others say this is after the rapture and will occur from the 144,000 in Israel.