It is nearly beyond the pale of comprehension to hear Jesus make a reference to the Temple, saying “I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down” (Matthew 24:2b), and following that statement to have the disciples make a massive and dramatic shift away from that very Temple to which Jesus has clearly and obviously just referred, when they “come to Him privately” and say “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (24:3b) As Matthew goes on to demonstrate, by their question it is clear that the disciples well-understood that Jesus was speaking about the coming desolation of the Temple in which He had acted and in and around which the previous events of the narrative had all occurred.
Why this talk of the coming of Jesus and of the end of the age? Well, seeing as how Jesus has just been reported to have said, “For I tell you, you will not see Me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (23:39), which is only to be found in Matthew’s account, the question about Jesus’ coming is reasonable. That statement, of course, followed the statement concerning the house of Israel, that being the Temple (which was most assuredly understood to be the house of Israel), being left desolate. The desolation of the Temple, combined with the insistence that “not one stone will be left on another” and “all will be torn down” would be an unimaginably catastrophic event for a Jewish hearer of Jesus, and this point must be under continual consideration as the words of Jesus are heard.
In addition, there is no need to be hung up on “end of the age” language, because what inevitably happens is the importation of non-Jewish “end of the age” thinking, because this non-Jewish way of thinking about this concept has been long and unfortunately associated with the end of the physical world itself. The idea of the physical world coming to an end---the demise of the created order---is foreign to the Jewish way of thinking, as the constant affirmation of Scripture is that of a good creation gone wrong and the Creator God’s activity in and for the world, through the agency of His divine image-bearers and then through the agency of Himself as the Messiah, to set things right and restore that which has fallen.
In that light, it would be better to hear the words of Mark at this point (which are the basis for Matthew’s account), in which the disciples, in reference to Jesus speaking about the tearing down of the Temple, say “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to take place?” (13:4) Similarly, Luke reports the disciples asking, “Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that these things are about to take place?” (21:7) Neither Mark nor Luke have the disciples asking about Jesus’ coming, which, as was seen before in regards to the devouring of the property of widows and the story of the widow making her offering to the Temple (found in Mark and Luke, but not in Matthew), is an indication of textual integrity, as they do not, as has just been said, have Jesus talking about His coming.
So while the Jewish conception about “the end of the age” is a legitimate point of discussion and concern, it shall be sufficient for purposes of this study to say that it makes no reference to a supposed end of the world, and confirm that, regardless of the language used in Matthew, the question that is being asked by the disciples in Matthew is identical in content and context to the question that is being asked in Mark and Luke.