As always, it is crucial to get the contextual setting. Jesus “departed from the temple” (Matt. 24:1). But this follows His most terrible message to Israel in Matthew 23, in which He announces eight “woes” to the nation for their rejection of Him. He concludes this message with the warning, “You shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” (Matt. 23:39). Jesus never entered the Temple again. This departure was a fulfillment of the vision of Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:18–19), where he saw the “glory of the LORD” depart from the temple.
The disciples’ comment on the buildings of the Temple (Matt. 24:1) results in Jesus’ prophecy of its ultimate destruction. This, in turn, causes the disciples to ask three questions. These questions are vital to all that follows. Jesus’ response is a prophetic overview of future history.
Jesus’ Prophecy of the Temple, Matthew 24:1–2
Although this prophecy certainly anticipates the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. (dealt with in Luke 21:20–24), we know that not “every stone” of the Temple was thrown down at this time. The very existence of the western or “wailing” wall is proof of this. Jesus had in mind the total destruction that would precede His Second Coming (Rev. 16:17–21).
The Questions of the Disciples, Matthew 24:3
The three questions are related, yet they address separate issues:
1. “When will these things be?” This question has to do with time. The question is answered in the Tribulation portion of the message (Matt. 24:9–28).
2. “What will be the sign of your coming?” This specifically relates to the Second Coming of Christ (Matt. 24:29–31). This does not refer to the Rapture, which is at this time part of the unrevealed “mystery” of the Church Age (Eph. 3:1–10).
3. The final question has to do with “the end of the age,” which I take to mean the “Age of Israel” since the disciples did not yet know about the Church Age. We now know that the Age of Israel has been interrupted by the Church Age (an intercalation). The final seven years of the Age of Israel is the Tribulation period, also known as Daniel’s 70th week (Dan. 9:24–27), which is divided into two portions of “1,260 days,” or “42 months,” or “three and a half years” (see Dan. 12:7; Rev. 12:6, 14; 13:5).
The Olivet Discourse -- Jesus' Roadmap for the future, is one of the three major discourses (sermons) of Jesus. They include:
1. The Sermon on the Mount/Galilee Discourse (Matthew 5–7)
2. The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24–25; Mark 13; Luke 21
3. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17)
Each of these messages is aimed at a specific period of history, which we call a dispensation. They lay out God’s dispensational plan, like a road map, from the time of the crucifixion to the end of time. The Sermon on the Mount was directed to the generation in which Jesus lived and was His platform as King—if Israel would receive Him. Obviously, they rejected Him as their King. However, this will be the basis of Jesus’ administration during the 1,000-year Kingdom Age (Millennium).
Then, the Olivet Discourse was aimed at the consequences of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and anticipated the destruction of the nation (70 A.D.) and the final Tribulation period. Remember that the Church Age is an intercalation—meaning an insertion, like a parenthesis, into the Age of Israel. This means that with the Rapture of the Church, the Tribulation picks up where 70 A.D. leaves off. This is why the Church Age is called a “mystery” (Rom. 11:25; 16:25; Eph. 3:1–13; Col. 1:26–27), which is a graduate course to “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
Finally, the Upper Room Discourse was directed toward the Church Age, which began at Pentecost and would continue to the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13–18). The uniqueness of this Age is summarized by Paul’s phrase “in Christ,” and all of the elements involved in what we call “positional truth”—our total union with Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit in us, which occurs nowhere else in history. With the removal of the Body of Christ, the Church, Israel would again become the focus of God’s working on this Earth (Romans 9–11; Revelation 6–19).