Matthew 24:1-3 (NKJV) “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” 3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
1) The chapter starts out with Jesus’ disciples asking him three questions that Jesus then proceeds to answer.
- “When will these things happen?” (The destruction of the temple.)
- “What will be the sign of Your coming?” (The Second Coming.)
- “What will be the sign of the end of the age?” (The end of the world.)
These are the questions that were put to Jesus so it would be strange to think that he was only answering the first one and ignoring the last two. Some say that all three have their fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. But this cannot be since in Matthew 24 Christ also describes His Second Coming and the end of the age. To say this has already happened hardly complies with reality let alone the way Scripture describes the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the age. I believe that what Jesus was explaining was the imminent destruction of Jerusalem as well as what the end of the age will be like.
The language Jesus uses in Matthew 24 is interwoven to describe not only local events but global events that will affect all of mankind. Yes Israel was about to face a horrific tribulation like it had never faced before, but globally the world would face even greater tribulations in the future and especially the final Great Tribulation at the end of the age.
2) Matthew 24:9 (NKJV) “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”
Certainly Jesus wasn’t limiting this only to His disciples here but to believers everywhere being hated by all nations. Jesus’ twelve disciples were not hated by all nations. They were only hated by a few. The destruction of Jerusalem wasn’t perpetrated by all nations but only one nation, Rome. So why would Jesus even be talking about all nations here as a sign that Jerusalem was about to be destroyed by Rome? It doesn’t make sense if the context is only limited to the destruction of Jerusalem. By the time of 70 AD not all the nations of the world had even heard of Jesus, let alone hated His disciples because of Him. This is something that will become increasingly more real as we approach the end of the age. The world’s hatred for Christians is growing and only going to get worse. So “all nations hating Christ’s followers” is not a sign of Jerusalem’s imminent destruction but a sign of the end of the age which Jesus was also explaining here. This shows that the destruction of Jerusalem is not the entire fulfilment of Matthew 24.
3) Verse 14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
The destruction of Jerusalem is something that was about to happen, which Jesus was explaining, but this would only be a foretaste of even greater global events that will take place at the end of the age. Christ was explaining both. One of the reasons Matthew 24 could not have been fulfilled in 70 AD is because the Gospel had not yet been preached to all nations and more obviously the end did not come. The end that Jesus was talking about is the end of the age. It doesn’t make sense for Jesus to say that the gospel will be preached in all nations and then the end of Jerusalem would come. No, He was saying that the end of the world wouldn’t happen until the gospel of the kingdom had first been preached to all the nations of the world.
Revelation 14:6-7 shows us how the gospel will be preached to all nations just before the Second Coming of Christ:
“Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
Then from verse 14 it starts to explain the Second Coming of Christ and the harvest of the world: “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man…”
All this shows that Jesus wasn’t just talking about the destruction of Jerusalem but literally the events taking place just before the end of the world.
4) Verse 21 “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
Now it’s true that there was great tribulation during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and Jesus was describing imminent destruction. But this is not the same tribulation spoken of later in verse 29 which is the great tribulation of Revelation 7:9-17 which takes place at the end of the age just before Christ returns. This tribulation doesn’t just affect Jews and Israel, but the entire planet. It involves Christ returning in the clouds, an angel blowing a loud trumpet (the 7th and final trumpet of Revelation 11:15 & Revelation 14), great signs and wonders in the heavens and earth and the gathering of His elect. (Matt 24:27-34, 1 Thess 4:13-17, 1 Thess 5:1-11, 2 Thess 2:1-12, 1 Cor 15:51-52, Rev 1:7, Rev 6:12-17, Rev 11:15-19, Rev 14, Rev 15 & 16, Rev 19, Rev 20).
This great tribulation that will happen at the end of the age is even greater than the destruction of Jerusalem, and anything else in history combined. It’s a tribulation that will only be brought to an end at the Second Coming of Christ with the ending of the age (see verse 29-31).
Revelation 7 clearly shows that the Great Tribulation is not limited to Israel but to the whole world on a global scale.
Revelation 7:9 and 13,14 (ESV) “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands… 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
5) Verse 27 “For as lighting comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD along with the slaughter of 1.1million Jews was not “the coming of the Son of Man”. The coming of the Son of Man is the Second Coming of Christ. This is a global event that will affect all mankind, not just Jerusalem and will usher in the end of the world not the end of Jerusalem. Therefore Jesus was referring to something even more global and to do with end times and not only the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. He’s not just saying to Israel to be ready and watchful, He was speaking to all mankind to be ready for the return of Christ.
6) Verse 29 – 30 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
This is clearly referring to Christ’s Second Coming. There’s no third or forth coming of Christ. Only one more, His Second Coming. He didn’t come in AD70 to destroy Jerusalem and then plans to come again at the end of the age. No, Rome destroyed and persecuted Jerusalem not Jesus. Christ has yet to return and when He does it will be a global event that will affect all the tribes of the world, not just Israel.
If Matthew 24 was all fulfilled at in 70 AD then it means that Christ has returned. This clearly did not happen. Christ’s Second Coming will affect the whole world and not just Jerusalem. Verse 30 says, “Then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds…” Certainly this has not happened yet. When have all the tribes of earth mourned because they all saw Jesus returning in the clouds? This has not yet been fulfilled so that makes it impossible to say that all of Matthew 24 has been fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem.
Notice in verse 29 it says that there will be great signs in the heavens and Christ will return Immediately after the tribulation of those days. Well firstly these great heavenly signs have not happened yet (these are clearly the trumpet and bowl judgments of Revelation 8, 9, 11 & 16 which will happen on a global scale and are yet to be). Secondly Christ did not return immediately after the tribulation of Jerusalem in 70 AD. A reasonable person can only assume that Christ was not speaking only of the tribulation of 70 AD but also of an even greater tribulation that is worldwide and at the end of the age just before He returns.
Some try to say that Christ did come in 70 AD and is now reigning but that’s a distortion of the Second Coming. After Christ’s resurrection He ascended into Heaven. The only other time the Bible says that He will return is at His Second Coming. This Second Coming will see the end of the age and the Day of Judgement. Jesus speaks about His Coming a few verses later in Matthew 25. And note that He is not speaking about some temporary visitation of wrath on Jerusalem, He is speaking about His full return and the end of the world. Note that this return is the same return he is speaking about throughout Matthew 24.
Matthew 25:31-34 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (See the rest of the chapter for the full description. Also see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, 1 Corinthians 15: 50-55, Revelation 20 & 21 on the Second Coming.)
7) Verse 31 “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
This hasn’t happened yet so how can Matthew 24 already be fulfilled? This isn’t some local event in Jerusalem this is global and it’s end of the age stuff. This is the great harvest of believers (the elect) from all over the world at Christ’s return. (See end brackets on previous point.) How can Matthew 24 have all been fulfilled in 70 AD when this hasn’t happened yet?
8) Verse 34 “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”
Some people try to use verse 34 to say that Jesus was only speaking to that particular generation of Jews living at the time. They say Jesus said this around 30 AD and a generation is 40 years and so many from that generation would have been around during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The problem though is that that generation has long passed away and not all of the things that Jesus said have happened. Certainly not the great heavenly signs and the Second Coming or the end of the age or the gathering of His elect which was all supposed to happen “immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem”. The only deduction is that Jesus wasn’t only referring to that immediate generation of Jews but also the Jewish people as a race and that they would not pass away before His Second Coming and the end of the age. That current generation will witness the destruction of Jerusalem but the race of Jewish people will not be destroyed before the end of the world. Therefore what Jesus was saying was not just a prediction it was also a promise and a guarantee that Jewish people will not be wiped out. (The word generation in the Greek is genea and can mean race, family, generation.) Verse 34 is a covenant promise to the seed of Abraham that Israel would not cease as a people before Christ returns. (Compare Matt 24:34 with Jeremiah 31:35-37. God promises that if the stars and the sun and moon passed away then Israel could pass away too.)
9) Verse 37-42 “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”
These verses don’t say that the Roman army is coming to take people away and kill them and destroy Jerusalem. It say that Jesus is coming back and He will take people away and leave some behind. Those He takes away are the righteous who are gathered to Him in the clouds (after the first resurrection) who then return with Him to bring judgment on those left behind (see all the Second Coming scriptures of Christ as they confirm this.) The destruction of Jerusalem was not the return of Christ and was not the judgments of God. It was Rome attacking the Jews and destroying their temple as Jesus and other prophets had prophesied.
What Jesus is talking about here in verses 37- 44 is His Second Coming at the end of the age. It’s not the Roman soldiers taking the man in a field away and leaving the other, or one woman at the mill while leaving the other. It is Christ who is harvesting the earth at the end of the age (see Matthew 25:31-32, Revelation 14:14-20).
This event is global and will happen worldwide by Christ – “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” The flood of Noah was a global event and no one knew when it was going to happen, so it is with the return of Christ. No one will know when it will happen but when it does the righteous will be taken away and the unrighteous will be left. Then those who are left will also be harvested but unto wrath (Revelation 14:17-20). This global event did not happen in 70 AD. It didn’t happen immediately after the 70 AD tribulation of Jerusalem, nor has it happened even up until now. It will only happen in the future at the end of the age. That puts this “taking away” event that Jesus was describing in Matthew 24 in the future.
10) Jesus then goes on to give parables about the importance of being ready for His return because when He does return it will be to judge the nations (Matt 24:45 – end of chapter 25). Those found ready (those who have faith in Christ) will enter into Heaven. Those not ready (having not received Christ) will be caught by surprise upon His return and will face the wrath of God and be cast into eternal outer darkness.
These parables come within the context of all the events of Matthew 24 and reinforce the fact that Jesus was talking about heaven and hell issues that impact all of mankind and cannot simply be limited to just Israel in 70 AD.
What most people are trying to say when they say that Matthew 24 has all been fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD is that the book of Revelation has all been fulfilled and that there is no more judgement from God towards mankind and that the end of the world is not going to have tribulation but everything is just going to get better and better. I believe this is an unbiblical false optimism that produces weak believers who are not prepared to face whatever comes. If you just look at history, everything has not just gotten better and better. What is happening is that darkness is getting darker and brightness is getting brighter. The conflict and contrast between good and evil is becoming more pronounced and will only get more obvious as we approach the final end. The point of Matthew and Revelation and end time prophecy is not to scare believers but to forewarn and prepare us for what is coming, and to show us that no matter what happens, Christ is King and will bring all things under His control. We can stand strong through anything and even if we die for our faith, we all overcome in the end because we are in the One who has overcome this world. Christ is bringing a final end to satan and everything that is against Christ. We will reign with Him forever and ever. We have a short time left to tell this world to stop their rebellion against God, turn to Christ their saviour, be reconciled to God and receive eternal life. Because of Christ’s forewarnings, the believers were prepared for what was to come and fled Jerusalem and were saved. Likewise believers who hear Christ’s warnings about the end of the age will be prepared for what is to come and know how to stand strong in Christ in those days.
By Ryan Rufus
Ryan, thanks for taking the time to write on this topic. Many people are discussing futurism vs preterism these days. A lot of people are getting into preterism but some things never sat well with me. It seems that 70 AD becomes a rug, under which the preterist must keep sweeping prophecies and scriptures in order to keep the theory from falling apart. They also introduce new terms such as “covenant age”. I don’t see the mosaic covenant described as an “age”. Although I have many things I don’t understand about eschatology, this article helped clear things up. Blessings!
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.