Matthew 24 Study Notes


24:1-2 This remarkable prophecy must have stunned the disciples. Josephus (Ant. 15.392) stated that the temple was constructed of blocks of white limestone that measured thirty-seven and a half feet long, twelve feet high, and eighteen feet wide. Some of the remaining foundation blocks weigh nearly four hundred tons.

24:3 The separate questions imply that Jesus’s disciples understood that the destruction of the temple and his second coming would be separate events.

24:4-14 These verses describe events that will happen between Jesus’s prophecy and the end of the age. Believers must be prepared. False Christs and false prophets will arise to deceive. Christian persecution will increase. Lawlessness will multiply; love will wane. But the good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world. In spite of the adversity, the gospel will not be hindered.

24:15-22 These verses probably describe events related to the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in AD 70. However, Mt 24:29 closely associates this period with the second coming of Jesus. This implies that these events closely parallel things that will occur immediately before Jesus’s return (2Th 2:3-4). The entire period ranging from the destruction of the temple to the events preceding Christ’s return may be described as a period of great distress for Christ’s followers. The abomination of desolation is an idolatrous object that will desecrate the Jerusalem temple as foretold in Dn 9:27. Though Josephus identified it as the shedding of priestly blood in the sanctuary several years before the destruction of the temple (War 4.147-201; 4.343; 5.17-18; cp. Mt 23:29-36), Jesus’s description of the abomination as standing in the temple implies that it is an object, not an event.

24:23-26 God protects and preserves the faith of the elect. Those who truly believe in Jesus as God, Savior, and King will persevere in their faith to the end.

24:27 The second coming will be visible to everyone on earth.

24:28 Some interpreters believe this verse refers to eagles that were emblazoned on the standards carried by Roman soldiers as they destroyed Jerusalem, but it is probably a reference to birds of carrion descending upon the corpses of those destroyed during this judgment (Dt 28:26; Jb 39:30; Ezk 39:17-20).

24:29 Jesus’s words combine allusions to Is 13:10, which describes the fall of Babylon, and Is 34:4, which describes the judgment of Edom and the nations. In the OT context, the words were metaphorical. Jesus may also have used the words in a symbolic portrayal of the judgment and destruction of people and nations who opposed his rule.

24:30 The sign of the Son of Man may resemble military banners that signal the onset of battle, calling all who belong to Christ to gather around him (Is 13:2-4). Such a sign would parallel the function of the trumpet in Mt 24:31. However, since Is 11:10 figuratively identified Messiah himself as a military banner, his own appearance may be the sign about which he spoke. Matthew 24:30b is an allusion to Zch 12:10-14 in which the Jews will mourn for the one they pierced (crucified). The reference to the Son of Man coming on the clouds is an allusion to Dn 7:13. It identifies Jesus as the King who will descend from heaven to establish an eternal reign over the earth.

24:31 This verse combines Dt 30:4; Is 27:13; and Zch 2:6 (LXX). The Son of Man will gather the elect, his followers both living and dead, from heaven and earth. The angels are his angels because he has absolute authority over them (see note at 4:10-11).

24:32-34 All these things refers to the distress that will precede Jesus’s return, not the second coming itself. He is near means that Christ is prepared to return at any moment, not that he must return immediately after these events unfold. All of these events occurred within Jesus’s generation, particularly in the circumstances surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Thus Christ’s followers must always be ready for his return. Others interpret “this generation” to refer to those alive during the final period of distress before the end.

24:35 Jesus’s words have the same reliability and enduring quality as the OT itself (5:18).

24:36-44 Close observation of world events will not enable us to predict the time of Christ’s return. Rather, Jesus’s followers should live in a state of constant preparation. Some interpret the words one will be taken and one left to mean that some will be gathered by Christ at his return while others will be left behind. Others understand this to mean that some are taken in judgment while others are left with Christ. On Son of Man, see note at 8:18-20.

24:45-51 We must not take advantage of the delay in Christ’s return by pursuing sinful pleasures. Rather, we must live each day as if it were the day of his return.