Past History or Future Prophecy? By Dr. David Reagan
[This is an excellent study; it's too long to post all of it here, so I'll put the intro and ending, but the full text is worth a read]
Matthew 24 is a very important prophetic passage because it contains detailed prophecies of Jesus concerning future events. It consists of a speech delivered by Jesus during the last week of His life (in about 30 A.D.) as He and His disciples sat on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem and its magnificent Temple. The speech is recorded in three places: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
The discourse was prompted by one of Jesus’ disciples as they were leaving the Temple where Jesus had been teaching. The disciple, obviously overwhelmed by the beauty of the Temple, said, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (Mark 13:1). Jesus’ immediate response was a startling one: “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another which will not be torn down” (Mark 13:2).
This statement must have greatly perplexed the disciples of Jesus, because later, after they had ascended the Mount of Olives and had stopped to rest, they asked Jesus: “Tell us when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
Note carefully the three questions Jesus was asked:
1. “When will these things be?” That is, when will Jerusalem and the Temple be destroyed? 2. “What will be the sign of Your coming?” That is, what event will signal Jesus’ return? 3. “What will be the sign of the end of the age?” That is, what event will mark the consummation of history and the launching of a new world order?
Jesus does not address the first question in his discourse as it is recorded in Matthew 24. His response can be found only in Luke’s account, in Luke 21:20-24. The answer is that Jerusalem and the Temple will suffer destruction when the disciples “see Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20). This occurred 40 years later in 70 A.D. when the Romans besieged the city and then destroyed it. Jesus referred to this event as “days of vengeance” (Luke 21:22).
The answer to the second question is provided in Matthew 24:4-22. Basically, the point that Jesus makes is that the sign of His coming will be the Great Tribulation, a future period of seven years during which God will pour out His wrath on the nations of the world.
The third question is answered in Matthew 24:30. The sign of the end of the age will be the appearance of Jesus in the heavens, “coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”
Matthew 24 is not history. The terrible events of 70 A.D. were a classic prefillment in type of the ultimate fulfillment that will occur immediately before the Lord returns.
Matthew 24 is prophecy yet to be fulfilled. It is going to be fulfilled soon, for Israel has been regathered, the nation has been re-established, and the nations of the world are coming together against the Jewish state. The wrath of God is about to fall. We are on the threshold of the Great Tribulation.