It was in response to these direct and specific questions that “Jesus answered them” (Matthew 24:4a). Jesus did not set about answering an unasked question about the end of time. No, He answered the question that He was asked. No, one does not always expect this from Jesus, but then again, He is not answering a challenge from the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, or experts in the law. He is answering His disciples, and as usual, when it comes to them, He is speaking plainly. Yes, to the crowds He speaks in mysterious language, but He gives answers to His disciples. So Jesus answers them. His answer begins in verse five of chapter twenty-four, and it runs to the end of chapter twenty-five.
The entire time, the focus of the answer remains unchanged, though He does provide interesting information in the process---unexpected information (unexpected in terms of Mark and Luke’s presentation of the disciples’ question, but anticipated in the question from the disciples as presented by Matthew) about the connection of the fall of the Temple to the time of the Son of Man’s coming to the Ancient of Days. He even reinforces the connection, speaking about the Son of Man beyond the thrust text of this study, repeating the term three times in rapid succession, from verse thirty-seven to verse forty-four. In all three cases, the Son of Man comes to receive His kingdom at an unexpected time---no one knows the hour.
Throughout the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew (as well as Mark thirteen and Luke twenty-one), Jesus gives His disciples a great deal of information, clueing them in so that they will have a decent idea as to when the Temple is going to fall. However, He could not be more clear that they will not know the exact moment that events will coalesce and conspire to bring down the Temple. When it comes to that, “as for that day and hour, no one knows it---not even the angels,” the ones that will be sent out to gather His elect (24:31) and that accompany the Son of Man when He comes in His glory (25:31), “except the Father alone.”
With the repeated mentions of the Son of Man, which seems to override the importance of fall of the Temple and truly becomes the point of the discourse, one gets the sense that Jesus’ words, though initially prompted by the question about the Temple, becomes less about them knowing the exact time of the Temple’s collapse, and more about them knowing that when it happens, and when Jesus’ prediction comes true, that they can then know that He, the Son of Man, has had His universal dominion confirmed and that He indeed rules as King and Lord of all.
Had one been in the position to hear Jesus speak, that one may not have been able to know the hour that the Temple was going to come crashing down. However, that same one could be certain that, according to His words, when it did, it would be possible to be supremely confident that He ruled as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Indeed, it is appropriate to look to the place where the Temple once stood, see that it stands there no longer, and know that Jesus spoke truly, that He rules His kingdom, and that He demands participation in that kingdom along the lines outlined in the narrative found in Matthew. Is it not that knowledge that should animate the lives of believers in this day?