Apocalytic literature such as this emphasizes three things:
A prophecy of an event which will soon take place.
A prophecy of an event in the distant future.
An exhortation to live faithfully for God.
The Prediction of the Temple's Destruction and the Resulting
Questions (Matt. 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4; Luke 21:5-7)
1) When Jesus says the stones of the temple will all be thrown
down, the disciples later ask, "When will these things be?"
2) Apparently they thought that when the temple was destroyed,
the end of the world would come! (compare Daniel 9:27 LXX)
a) Mark gives their mixed up second question, "What will be the
sign when these things are all to be fully ended?"
b) Matthew separates the two themes and has the second question
as, "What will be the sign of your advent and of the
full end of the age?"
c) Luke moves much of the second coming material to Luke 17:22-37
and gives the second question as, "What will be the sign when
these things are about to happen?
Warnings Against Being Led Astray and Falling Away Under
Persecution (Matt. 24:4-14; Mark 13:5-13; Luke 21:8-19)
Jesus warns against misunderstanding. When wars, earthquakes,
famines, plagues happen, "the end is not yet." If someone says
these things mean "The time is near," do not go after them. The
disciples will be persecuted and must endure.
(Matt. 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; Luke 21:20-24)
This begins the answer to the 1st question: When you see (thus
in the lifetime of the apostles) the abomination of desolation
(the hated thing that destroys) standing in a holy place (on holy
ground--NAB), where they must not, as Daniel said (9:27; 12:11),
then FLEE! Luke paraphases to make it clear,
When you see armies
surrounding Jerusalem, its desolation has come near. This will
be the time of great tribulation, when Jerusalem is trodden down
by the Gentiles.
In AD 66 the Roman general Cestius Gallus surrounded Jerusalem
with the 12th Legion. They pushed to the temple gates before
retreating. The Christians fled to Pella. The Romans returned
in AD 70 and destroyed the city and temple. The famine in the
seige was so severe that one woman cooked her son. Josephus
estimates over a million Jews died and 90,000 were taken captive.
Warnings Against False Christs and False Prophets
(Matt. 24:23-28; Mark 13:21-23)
If someone says then that the Christ has come, do not believe it.
The second coming does not happen at the desolation of Jerusalem.
His advent will be as obvious as lightning or vultures over a
The Coming of the Son of Man
(Matt. 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28)
Beginning immediately after that tribulation,
there will be signs
in the sun and moon and stars. This language is symbolic for
political upheavel (see Isaiah 13:1, 10, 17 and Ezekiel 32:2, 7,
11). Luke describes it as "destress of nations ... foreboding of
what is coming on the world." It is then, during this time of
political upheavel that the Son of Man will come. Then they will
see (after the lifetime of the apostles) the sign of the Son of
Man in heaven. That is, the sign is the Son of Man in heaven.
This is the answer to the 2nd question. This is the second
coming, when He comes on the clouds* (Rev. 1:7), with power and
glory (Matt. 16:27; Col. 3:4; Titus 2:13), and sends out His
angels (Matt. 13:39-49; 25:31; II Thess. 1:7) with a loud trumpet
call (I Cor. 15:52; I Thess. 4:16) to gather (II Thess. 2:1) His
*the symbol "cloud" represents "diety"--see Ex. 16:10; 19:9;
34:5; Num. 11:25; 12:5; Is. 19:1; Ezek. 30:3; Dan. 7:10-13
The Parable of the Fig Tree
(Matt. 24:32-33; Mark 13:28-29; Luke 21:29-31)
Just as when you see fig leaves, you know summer is near, so when
you see all these things happen, you know that He (Luke--the
Kingdom of God) is near. Note that "these things" precede His
coming--they do not include it!
Statements About Time
(Matt. 24:34-36; Mark 13:30-32; Luke 21:32-35)
"This generation [the people then in existence] will not pass
away until all these things happen." This is the answer to the
1st question. Note that, as above, "these things" include only
the events that precede His coming.
Jesus then gave a statement about the certainty that this
would be fulfilled: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my
words will not pass away." Then He said, "But of that day and
hour [when heaven and earth pass away], no one knows", except the
Father. That day will not come just upon Jerusalem, but "upon
all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth" (Luke 21:35).
Exhortation to Watch
(Matt. 24:37-25:46; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 21:36)
Matthew concludes with several parables on the need to watch for
the advent (parousia) of the Son of Man; chap. 25 concludes with
the last judgment. Mark concludes with Jesus saying, "What I say
to you I say to all: Watch."
Page maintained by
Last Modified 1/23/99