In an attempt to move along and listen to Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question as they react to all that He has said and done in the Temple, this study will not attempt to interpret and apply every statement that Jesus makes. Rather, it is more important to listen to Jesus with the full realization that He is responding to a question about the fall of the Temple, whether it be the question on offer in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. In doing so, taking an unwarranted flight of fancy so as to hear Jesus talking about anything but that which He has been asked to address will not be allowed. The obvious intention of the authors does not allow for this.
So as Jesus answers, every word must be heard in connection with His statement, in reference to the Temple, that “not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down,” along the disciples’ inquisitive response to that statement, inquiring when this earth-shaking event will take place. This is not exactly a far-fetched or groundbreaking idea, especially when considering how Temple-centric the Gospel narratives have been since Jesus made His triumphal entry.
As Jesus tells His disciples how they will know that the Temple is about to fall, He begins by saying “Watch out that no one misleads you” (24:4b), which is quite prescient, considering the many strange paths down which many erstwhile interpreters have attempted to lead the Creator God’s people, as Jesus’ rather straightforward discourse is presented in isolation from all that comes before it. Continuing on, Jesus says “For many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come” (24:5-6).
What is “the end”? In context of the statement, the question, and the answer of course, “the end” is the fall of the Temple. Foreign notions are not to be here imported into the text. The end is the fall of the Temple, and for Matthew, it is already and also known that this end is connected to the son of man appearing before the Ancient of Days, as detailed in Daniel 7. Both Mark and Luke have Jesus here speaking of the end, and since neither one of those records have the disciples asking about the end of the age (which is most decidedly not a reference to the end of the physical world), this reinforces the fact that the end of which Jesus speaks is the end of the Temple that currently stands in Jerusalem, for that is the object that is squarely and most unmistakably in view.
Jesus continues: “For nations will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these things are the beginning of birth pains” (24:7-8). If these things are the beginning of birth pains, what will be the result of those birth pains? Clearly, the answer, unless one allow himself to be diverted from the subject at hand, is the throwing down of the Temple. What else will be associated with these birth pains? In conjunction with all that Jesus has said will happen in the lead-up to the fall of the Temple, Jesus says “They will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. But the person who endures to the end will be saved” (24:10-13). Yet again, here is another “end.” What is the “end”? The fall of the Temple. It is necessary to keep coming back to that point, for far too many are far too conditioned to let their minds wander off to different ideas.