Matthew 24:3 contains the question the disciples asked Jesus privately about His remarks in 24:1-2, when overlooking downtown Jerusalem; He told them that the place was going to be destroyed. Their question, as I mentioned last time, was a twofold one: When would “this” happen”, and “what would be the “sign of your coming and the end of the age”. In our text Jesus answers the first part of the question: “When will this happen?”
Verses 4-14 speak of the run up to this time of Jerusalem’s destruction: There will be false Messiahs, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, hatred…
His message is that they should not be alarmed or deceived, for these things show us business as usual in this world, not the end.
What? You don’t believe me?
People in our time tend to be unfamiliar with history, but surely no one will claim that war, famine, earthquakes, persecution, hatred turning away from God and false messianic claims were just invented! No, of course not; these things have been going on since day one, and they will continue until day last…
The next section, in 24:15-28, tells of how they would know that the end has come for Jerusalem: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel” they are to get themselves out of Judea as quickly as humanly possible. To fully understand this statement, we must first recognize that the word “desolation” means “emptiness”; a “desolate” place is a place that is empty. In this case, Jesus is referring to a pagan Roman army that has arrived at the holy city for the purpose of destroying it and murdering its inhabitants. In the end, the ruins of their once great city were desolate indeed.
24:22-25 tell of an opportunity to escape the siege of the city for those who had been unable to flee earlier, for without any warning, the Romans withdrew from the siege, fell back, joined with another Roman army that had come to reinforce them, and then returned to the siege. When this happened, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Jews celebrated, while the Christians fled. The Christians were saved, the Jews were not.
Finally, we see some transition in 24:26-28 where Jesus once again reinforces that we need never listen to anyone who tells us that He is coming or about to come soon. His coming did not take place when God’s judgment of the Jerusalem occurred in 70 AD; that is for certain. When He does come, everyone will know about it.
Remember the context in which this passage falls; Jesus has just completed the conflict with the Jewish authorities (21-22) and has just pronounced God’s judgment on their unbelief in chapter 23, then He tells the disciples Jerusalem will be destroyed; they ask about it, and He gave His answer that we have just surveyed briefly. Next time, we will look at His answer to the other question they asked in 24:3.