What does it say?
This is Matthew’s version of the material we have seen in Luke 21 and Mark 13. This teaching of Jesus is centered on the imminent destruction of the temple and Jerusalem and looks forward through the ages to his return to earth and the final fulfillment of the kingdom prophecies. This teaching by Jesus is often called the Olivet Discourse because the setting is on the Mount of Olives directly across to the east from the temple complex.
Jesus has been announcing the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as he does again here in Matthew 24:1-2. This teaching is the direct response to his disciples’ question in Matthew 24:3, asking him what will be the signs of his coming and the end of the age.
What does it mean?
The desire to know the future seems to be a common element of human nature. But when it comes to biblical predictions of the future we must exercise great care, and this is one of the main themes of Jesus in this discourse. It’s much easier to look backwards through history than to look into the future. This chapter of Matthew is filled with Old Testament references and reminds us that Matthew had a Jewish audience in mind.
What we know for certain is that Jesus Christ has promised to come again to earth. He warns us in this chapter against trying to set dates (24:36; 42-44). Instead, he tells us repeatedly that we are to watch and be ready for him. He warns us against those who traffic in false prophecies and claim divine approval. He also warns us that his followers will face opposition and even persecution.
You could spend a lifetime reading the countless books written to speculate about what Jesus says here. Don’t try to read current events into what Jesus says. They may or may not have relevance. Don’t try to figure out every detail. Focus on the promise of Christ’s return and what this should mean to you. And, notice what Jesus says in 24:14. Before Christ’s return this Gospel will be preached among all nations or ethnicities. The idea is not that the last person will hear and then Jesus can return, but that the Good News of Jesus Christ will be made accessible to peoples from all cultures, languages and locations. This is the mission.
How will I respond?
This is the third time I have read the Olivet Discourse. What did I see today that I had not seen previously in Mark and Luke? What is one practical response that I can implement in my life today on the basis of this readying?