Signs of Christ’s Return
1 Jesus left the temple area and was going on His way when His disciples came up to Him to call His attention to the [magnificent and massive] (a)buildings of the temple.(A) 2 And He said to them, “Do you see all these things? I assure you and most solemnly say to you, not one stone here will be left on another, which will not be torn down.”
3 While Jesus was seated on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, and said, “Tell us, when will this [destruction of the temple] take place, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end (completion, consummation) of the age?”
4 Jesus answered, “Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error]. 5 For many will come in My name [misusing it, and appropriating the strength of the name which belongs to Me], saying, ‘I am the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed),’ and they will mislead many. 6 You will continually hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end [of the age]. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs [of the intolerable anguish and the time of unprecedented trouble].
9 “Then they will hand you over to [endure] tribulation, and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 At that time many will be offended and repelled [by their association with Me] and will fall away [from the One whom they should trust] and will betray one another [handing over believers to their persecutors] and will hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will appear and mislead many. 12 Because lawlessness is increased, the love of most people will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures and bears up [under suffering] to the end will be saved. 14 This good news of the kingdom [the gospel] will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end [of the age] will come.
15 “So when you see the (b)abomination of desolation [the appalling sacrilege that astonishes and makes desolate], spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the Holy Place (let the (c)reader understand),(B) 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains [for refuge]. 17 Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things that are in his house [because there will not be enough time]. 18 Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. 19 And woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 Pray that your flight [from persecution and suffering] will not be in winter, or on a Sabbath [when Jewish laws prohibit travel]. 21 For (d)at that time there will be a great tribulation (pressure, distress, oppression), such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will [again].(C) 22 And if those days [of tribulation] had not been cut short, no human life would be saved; but for the sake of the elect (God’s chosen ones) those days will be shortened. 23 Then if anyone says to you [during the great tribulation], ‘Look! Here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and they will provide great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect (God’s chosen ones). 25 Listen carefully, I have told you in advance. 26 So if they say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out there, or, ‘Look! He is in the inner rooms [of a house],’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming [in glory] of the Son of Man [everyone will see Him clearly]. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the (e)vultures will flock together.(D)
The Glorious Return
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not provide its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.(E) 30 And at that time the sign of the Son of Man [coming in His glory] will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth [and especially Israel] will mourn [regretting their rebellion and rejection of the Messiah], and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory [in brilliance and splendor].(F) 31 And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet and they will gather together His elect (God’s chosen ones) from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.(G)
Parable of the Fig Tree
32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its young shoots become tender and it puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near;(H) 33 so you, too, when you see all (f)these things [taking place], know for certain that He is near, right (g)at the door. 34 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, this generation [the people living when these signs and events begin] will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth [as now known] will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
36 “But of that [exact] day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son [in His humanity], but the Father alone. 37 For the coming of the Son of Man (the Messiah) will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the [very] day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know or understand until the flood came and swept them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be [unexpected judgment].(I) 40 At that time two men will be in the field; one will be (h)taken [for judgment] and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken [for judgment] and one will be left.
Be Ready for His Coming
42 “So be alert [give strict attention, be cautious and active in faith], for you do not know which day [whether near or far] your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: If the head of the house had known what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.(J) 44 Therefore, you [who follow Me] must also be ready; because the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom his master has put in charge of his household to give the others [in the house] their food and supplies at the proper time?(K) 46 Blessed is that [faithful] servant when his master returns and finds him doing so. 47 I assure you and most solemnly say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that servant is evil and says in his heart, ‘My master is taking his time [he will not return for a long while],’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards; 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour of which he is not aware, 51 and will cut him in two and put him with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping [over sorrow and pain] and grinding of teeth [over distress and anger].
a. Matthew 24:1: The massive size and polished surfaces of the fitted stones that formed the temple structure created a magnificent sight (cf Luke 21:5). The refurbishing of the temple was begun by Herod the Great in 20 b.c. and was completed in a.d. 64 by Herod Agrippa II. The rabbis had a saying: “Whoever has not seen the temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building” (as quoted from the Talmud). They also said that Herod built it of yellow, white, and perhaps blue marble; and that he intended to cover it with gold, but the rabbis advised him not to because it was beautiful just as it was, looking like the waves of the sea.
b. Matthew 24:15: I.e. the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:4), “the prince who is to come” who will make a covenant with Israel, then break it in the middle of the tribulation (the seven-year period of Dan 9:27).
c. Matthew 24:15: I.e. the reader of the book of Daniel (cf 24:15). Jesus is indicating that the final fulfillment of this prophecy is yet to come.
d. Matthew 24:21: The most obvious sign during the tribulation, prior to the second coming of Jesus, is when the abomination that causes desolation (the Antichrist) sets his image in the temple.
e. Matthew 24:28: The Greek for “vultures” can also be translated “eagles,” but the reference is most likely to the vulture, which the Greek word includes with eagles as a class. The meaning of this much discussed verse is either that the corpse represents the returning Christ, whose appearance will attract the attention of the entire world, that is, the vultures; or that the corrupt world is the corpse, about to be judged by the returning Christ (Rev 19:18).
f. Matthew 24:33: I.e. false christs, wars, famines, earthquakes.
g. Matthew 24:33: I.e. the return of the Christ is imminent.
h. Matthew 24:40: This is not the removal of the church described in 1 Thess 4:13-18 and Rev 3:10. The one taken is taken for judgment just as the wicked were taken by the flood in Noah’s day. The one left is left to enter the kingdom that Christ will establish.