Matthew Chapter 24 (1)

This chapter gives us the great prophecy of the end of the age. Prophecy is history in advance, and we do well to understand, and to take action, on the warnings God gives us in His Word. In both Mark's and Luke's Gospels, this prophecy is also recorded.

Here in the first verses of Matthew chapter 24 we read:

'And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately'.

They then questioned Him concerning three things. Firstly, they wanted to know when the glorious temple that Herod had made more splendid at such enormous cost, would be destroyed, for the disciples had drawn His attention to the magnificent buildings. With the courts, the halls, the colonnades, the towers, the wings, their adornment with precious stones and ornaments, it had taken nearly twenty years to rebuild this temple. The original temple or House of God, was built by King Solomon. David would dearly have loved to build it, but God would not allow him to do so because he was a man of war. His task was to defeat all Israel's enemies, and to hand over the kingdom to Solomon his son at rest, as the most powerful sovereign state in the Middle East. Solomon was to build God's House, and it would be the most magnificent building that had ever been built.

This was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in approximately 477 B.C. and completely razed to the ground. In 426 B.C. Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, and the foundations of a new temple were laid, and in 405 B.C. this temple was completed and dedicated. Herod had repaired and beautified the outside in his day, the enormous and costly construction seemingly indestructible. Imagine then the amazement and consternation of the disciples when the Lord said: 'I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down'.

In the previous chapter 23, the Lord's scathing denunciation of the Pharisees and Sadducees and the doctors of the Law, that is the religious leaders of the nation, is proclaimed in no uncertain condemnation. In the last three verses, 37 to 39 we read:

'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord'.

How ominous were the words 'your house, (that is the magnificent temple) is left unto you desolate'. At the beginning of the Lord's ministry it was 'My Father's house' -- not so now, for already these religious leaders were plotting His death. They had totally rejected His credentials as their long awaited Messiah, despite the fact that He had fulfilled every prophecy concerning Him in the Old Testament Scriptures. Now His words to friends and foes alike were:

'For I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord' (23:39).

Evidently the disciples had been discussing what this should mean among themselves, for in 24:3 they come to Him privately and ask Him three things, three questions about these shattering statements He had made:

(1) When shall these things be?
(2) What shall be the sign of Thy coming? and,
(3) The end of the world?

Have we not echoed those questions as to what the future holds for us? The Lord does give the disciples the answers to their questions in this chapter, and surely it would be wise for us to see that we know and understand and take heed to what He says here. His answers are given in reverse order, taking up the last question first -- 'When will be the end of the world'?

The Greek word in the original script here for the English word 'end' is not 'telos ' but 'sunteleia '. 'Telos' means the final end, the terminus on the railway, and we find it used in verses 6, 13 and 14. Paul uses it in his first Epistle to the Corinthians chapter 15, verses 24 and 28: 'Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and authority and power', that 'God may be all in all'.

Sunteleia on the other hand has not this meaning, but means the completion or consummation of an age or dispensation, the closing of one leading on to another. This phrase 'the sunteleia of the age' occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew, while 'the sunteleia of the ages' occurs only in Paul's letter to the Hebrews, chapter 9:26. Matthew 13:39 is the first time it is used. The Lord is explaining to His disciples there the inner meaning of the parable of the tares -- the weeds. He says, 'The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels'. The 'end' -- the 'sunteleia'.

In Leviticus chapter 23 we have given to us the feasts of the Lord and the exact dates the people were to observe them. There are seven, and the first four have been fulfilled, namely The Sabbath, The Passover, The Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost. Then there is an interval of some months, and after that the three that await their fulfilment -- The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, and finally Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates both the harvests of the corn and wine, the last of the feasts, or The Feast of Ingathering at the year's end, as we read in Exodus 34:22. This Feast of Tabernacles is the feast picked out by God for annual observance by all the nations left after the coming of the Lord, as we read in Zechariah 14:16-19:

'And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles'.

Here then is the link between the sunteleia and the ingathering of God's people, when the Lord Jesus Christ sets up His millennial kingdom on the earth with Jerusalem as its centre. As we know, His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives, the same place from which He ascended when He was taken up to the highest heaven at the close of His first coming, and verses 1 and 4 of Zechariah 14 confirm this.

Then again the word 'world' used in Matthew 24 is not kosmos , which means the world as created by God, but aion , which means 'age' or 'age-time'. Israel's Old Testament prophets all gave witness that God's blessings for His people Israel are all to be enjoyed on the earth. Their calling and hope are centred on the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ when He will restore their land and set up His throne in Jerusalem. The Lord's answer then to the last question of the disciples is first of all deception, being led astray by those who make out that they are the Christ. Also wars from far and near will abound, but 'the end is not yet', as we read in verse 6; and then in verse 7 -- 'there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places'.

As in the prophecies of the Old Testament, such as Isaiah, Daniel and Zechariah, the nations are involved in His Second Coming. In verse 6 the Greek word for 'end' here is telos , not sunteleia , so 'all these are the beginning of sorrows', and take us on to the three and a half years of Satan and his 'man of sin', the great Tribulation, and on to verses 15-22. The warning about false prophets is emphasized again in verse 11, and as a result of that see verse 12: 'And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold'. However in verse 13, where the word is still telos , we read:

'But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved'.

In verses 23 and 24 once again false Christs are emphasized, and that is the third time this warning is given, so how important it is for those people living on the earth at this time:

'Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect'.