Matthew 24:1-14 Part 1



Before we come to this text in Matthew 24, I want to address, as I promised last Lord’s Day, the last statement of our Lord in chapter 23.  And, as usual, reading in context is the important thing.

And since that’s the case I’m going to read for you a few verses from Psalm 118, which is the Psalm that was sung by the priests and the scribes and the Pharisees and the elders and the people of Israel at every Passover event!  (Remember, that’s the context in which our Lord is speaking here in the temple complex.  It’s Tuesday before Passover Friday!)

Here it is.  And listen carefully to the very words that Jesus quotes in verse thirty-nine of Matthew twenty-three as He condemns Israel and Jerusalem to utter destruction:  “The Stone the builders refused is become the Head of the corner.  This is the Lord’s doing.  It is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.  Save now, I beseech Thee, O Lord.  O Lord, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity.  Blessed be the One coming in the name of the Lord.”

And now… verses thirty-eight and thirty-nine of chapter twenty-three:  “Lo, your house is left to you a desolation.  For I say to you, by no means shall you see Me from now until you shall say, ‘blessed be the one coming in the Name of the Lord.’”

Do you see the context?  He quotes word for word from the Psalm that they, themselves, are singing at Passover!  And the One they’re singing about is standing right in front of them, and they’ve already planned His murder!!!

And the next time they SEE Him, it will be for their utter ruin; and they’ll STILL be singing, “Blessed be the one coming in the name of the Lord!”  They’ll be “blessing” the One coming when He comes to execute their desolation!  The irony that our Lord constructs here is beyond wonderful!  No wonder the hymnist writes, “How sweet and awful is the place….”



Matthew 24:1-14 Part 1


We have now before us two glorious chapters wherein our Lord Jesus Christ speaks to His disciples about those things which would shortly come to pass.  As is our pattern, now established in over five years of preaching through the Gospel of Matthew, we will continue to preach through the text.

Although on occasion there have been brief comments on related subjects, we have resisted the temptation to depart from the text for any extended period.  The temptation is very strong right now to spend a couple of months (in advance of coming to the text) treating the subject of eschatology.  But, again, I’m going to resist that.  We’ll instead, concentrate on what Jesus said, and put in some comments here and there as we go with regard to today’s Church and what it preaches.

But just to introduce the subject of “where the Church is today,’ let’s remember that our Lord has spent the better part of the day on Tuesday of Passover week in the Temple.  We can say that, just as the Passover lambs were carefully examined for their purity for a week prior to Passover, Jesus has been found absolutely faultless in a relentless “testing” by the priests and scribes and pharisees of Israel.  And during that process He has condemned them for their lawlessness and hypocrisy.  He called them “sons of Gehenna, and “a brood of vipers.”  They were “sons of their fathers” who had led Israel into gross idolatry, and who had persecuted and killed the prophets of God.

At the end of this lengthy confrontation Jesus tells the Sanhedrin that He leaves their house “desolate”; and Jesus says to them that He will now send prophets and scribes whom they will pursue and persecute – in order that all the righteous blood spilled from Abel to the present might come upon them.  In other words, the Church for which Christ was crucified and resurrected will be persecuted by these “sons of vipers” in order that the spilled blood of all of God’s elect people would be laid to their account!  The price for it all would be exacted from them.  And it will all happen to this generation, He says in verse thirty-six of the last chapter.

So, from Jesus’ words, we now have the context for the beginning of the Church; and we are therefore to anticipate extreme persecution and entrapment of the Church and its apostles by Judaizers – everywhere the Gospel is preached and everywhere the Church is established!  The Church is to be brutally persecuted – especially its apostles and evangelists - by pharisaical judaizers, in every city.  They will attempt to crush it everywhere it arises!  Pseudo prophets and teachers will entrap the people; and apostles will be thrown out of synagogues and stoned and whipped; some are to be crucified and imprisoned – we heard about that last Lord’s Day when we reviewed the persecution of the apostle Paul.

And we are also to anticipate that this generation of Jews would receive their reward for all of the spilled blood of God’s elect from the beginning!

In other words, the New Testament is to be read, in its entirety, in this context!  So when reading and studying and preaching the New Testament, every document is to be seen in that light: the Acts of the apostles, the letters of Paul and James and Jude and Peter, the Letter to the Hebrews, the letter of the apostle John – and the Revelation…all of them.

One more time…just so we get it set in our minds.  The context of the sacred Scriptures of the New Testament is clearly given by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  There is to be a pervasive and intrusive, external and internal, persecution of Christ’s Church by pharisees who will kill and stone and crucify and beat and pursue and humiliate and entrap them; and therefore God will require the price – from this generation of pharisees – for all the spilled blood of the righteous,  from the beginning!

Now.  With that context in mind, let’s get a very simple, three-point, skeleton outline (so we can easily see it and remember it), an outline of today’s evangelical assumptions as to the context in which the New Testament is written.  And I’d like everybody to be able to remember this so that we can refer back to it and fit other things in as we go through the text of Jesus’ words here in chapter twenty-four and twenty-five.

And here’s evangelical assumption one:  God has purposed to set up on the earth a fulfillment of the Davidic covenant – a kingdom.  An earthy, physical, political (and spiritual), Israelitish, universal kingdom – over which Jesus Christ, David’s great Son would reign.  And which would be the manifestation of the righteousness of God in human affairs for one thousand years.  But that original purpose of God failed when the Jews rejected and crucified Jesus Christ.

And point two:  therefore there is a “pause” in history!  And all of the prophecies of the Old Testament (along with the Law), and the prophecies of Jesus before His crucifixion, are put “on hold” until God fulfills the original purpose of an earthly kingdom.  So the New Testament Church, and all of the writings of the New Testament, refer to that whole period of “pause” and have their context only in that pause (with few exceptions when the Scriptures refer to the future setting up of that yet-to-be-established kingdom).

And, thirdly:  as a result of that, the New Testament Church and the nation of Israel have two different destinies!  The Church has one destiny (and there are arguments and differences about what that destiny is [the rapture, and so forth] and when it is to come to pass); and Israel has another destiny, which includes the rebuilding of the temple, the coming of the Christ and the setting up of His thousand-year reign on earth, the glory and world-wide dominion of Israel and Jerusalem from Mt. Zion, and the fulfilling of all of all Old Testament prophecies and the prophesies of Christ.

Now that’s a very basic outline of dispensational thought concerning the context in which the New Testament is written.  And the evangelicals of today, almost entirely dispensational, support the new nation of Israel with its prayers and money and political activism, because, in their view, the re-establishment of Israel and the coming rebuilding of the temple, signal the “end”!  The end of the “pause”; the end of the Church dispensation; the beginning of the “kingdom”!  And the faster Israel gets it done, the sooner Jesus comes and the Church goes to heaven!  So, with its presuppositions guiding its actions, the modern, dispensational Church has a “vested interest” in the survival and progress of the nation of Israel and the reinstitution of the temple and the sacrifices!

Sermons from thousands and thousands of pulpits; countless books and magazines and “prophecy meetings”; continuous messages on television and radio – all filled with sensational sermons and warnings concerning war, earthquakes, stars falling from the sky, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, the rapture, the second coming of Christ, and other “expressions” of Jesus from His discourse here in Matthew chapter twenty-four and twenty-five – all backed up with the same presuppositions concerning the prophecy of Daniel and of the apostle John in the Revelation!

The television evangelist and former political candidate, Pat Robertson, was once asked by a reporter, “If God called you to run (for president), then why did you fail to get the Republican presidential nomination?”  And he answered like this: “I suppose we could ask the same question of Jesus.  God sent Him to be the Messiah of Israel and King of Israel; so why did he fail the first time around and get crucified?”

We can thank God that, in all His wisdom, this man wasn’t elected to anything, because his Christian tenets are so mixed up with false prophecy, and sensationalism, idolatrous theology, and mystery and mysticism.  At least what we have had instead was “black and white.”  In other words, we know who Bill Clinton was and what he was.  His hypocrisy was blatant and transparent.  And then newborn babes of the Kingdom are less likely with him to be entrapped by false prophecy and teaching concerning the Kingdom of Christ!  His concern for Israel was immediate and pragmatic – having to do only with his own electability in the following election!

So you see, the “hope” of much of modern Christendom has a special link with the future of the nation of Israel.  And any national leader who is a dispensational evangelical would link the future of our nation, in a maze of false prophecy, with that of Israel!  And the hope of our future would be the kingdom of Israel rather than the Kingdom of Christ!

Millions of our citizens are already entrapped in these pseudo-prophecies; and if our leader is a pseudo-prophet, the principle concern of the nation would be with a future age of salvation which would never come.  Our policies and dreams and hopes would bring the force of religious conviction to the side of political Zionism, where we already contribute billions of dollars to a socialist regime which has no more claim to the land than any other nation in that area!

But, as one writer has put it, the hope is nothing more than a “hoax.”  And that will become more and more evident as we place Jesus’ two-chapter discourse within the context which He, Himself, gives us.  And that’s the reason we follow the text!

So let’s begin now with verses one and two:  “And Jesus, when He had come out of the temple, was going away; and His disciples approached Him to point out the buildings of the temple to Him.  But He, answering, said to them, ‘Do you not see anything?  Truly I say to you, there shall in no way be left here a stone upon a stone which shall not be thrown down.’”

Jesus is now on His way from the temple complex where He has left the Sanhedrin stunned and silent.  His disciples were with Him, but we can only guess about the large crowds of people.  Assuming the extended length of time that they were in the temple watching and listening to Jesus contend with the pharisees, there were probably, by now, some immediate personal concerns.

There were also children to deal with, animals to handle, facilities to find; locating food and water, finding housing or places to camp – remember that this was Passover week.  Tens of thousands of people, from every nation in the world, would come to Israel’s Passover festivities, since it was the highest holyday.  All of them wouldn’t have shown up by Tuesday, but there were probably enough there already to put a strain on the marketplace and to limit accessibility to facilities!

So most of the crowd probably dispersed to take care of these more immediate concerns, but we can imagine that some might have continued to follow Jesus.

Anyway, Jesus had come out of the temple, and He was leaving the temple complex.  And His disciples approached Him, stopping Him and pointing to the buildings in the complex.  One of the questions that comes up here is, why did they do that?  Since Matthew doesn’t say, he probably assumed we would know!

The most probable answer is that at least some of what Jesus had been saying for three years was beginning to make sense!  Events of a drastic nature were about to take place; and the very strident condemnation of the Pharisees made that more evident.  And that, coupled with the fact that some of the peripheral edifices of the temple complex were still under construction!

Herod the great had begun rebuilding the temple in the fifteenth year of his reign, and it took forty-six years to complete all the buildings.  So it was still being built as Jesus’ disciples look up at the magnificent structures – the temple proper being the highest at three hundred feet.  The whole complex was twice the size of Solomon’s (Herod wanting to outdo him for political reasons), and it spanned the length of two and a half football fields.  And it was all surrounded by a high wall.

So the disciples were more than likely in wonder about these great buildings under construction, and, at the same time, concerned with what they were beginning to understand.  And, with apprehension, they point it all out to Jesus.

And with a bit of chastening at their continued blindness, Jesus says to them, “Do you not see anything?”  Don’t you see what’s happening right before your face?  Jesus has told them a number of times already that it was necessary that He go into Jerusalem and put Himself in the hands of the priests and scribes and elders of Jerusalem, to suffer and be humiliated under them, and to be killed, and to be raised on the third day.

He was the Passover Lamb before the entrance to the Holy of Holies!  At His sacrifice and resurrection from death, there was no more need for an animal sacrifice to be made; no more need for an entrance to the throne-room of God; no more need for a man-made replica of God’s judgment seat – therefore no more need for the temple!

“As of this week, Peter and James and John and Andrew and Matthew and the rest, the temple will be obsolete!”  Everything about it, and all that was done in it, foreshadowed the Christ and access to God!  As of Friday, the Reality of it all has been accomplished!

Then Jesus says to them, verse two, “Truly I say to you, in no way shall there be left here a stone upon a stone which shall not be thrown down.”

All this beauty!  And the money, and the man-hours; - the glory, the history, the very center of Israel – the promise of the great glory of Jerusalem and Mt. Zion among the nations!  “…not one stone on another one?”

The “house” of Israel had been left desolate.  The nation and all that it had been was to be destroyed.  And the one edifice in all the world which distinguished it from any other was the temple.  Even though it now was a place filled with demons and great iniquity, it was still the center of Jewish culture and the place of ceremonial sacrifice.

And it was all coming down, in this generation, during the wrath of God upon Israel.  We know from the history books that Titus, after three years of siege, finally broke through the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed all remaining life.

He wanted to retain the temple and all its beauty and its art work, but he couldn’t control the zeal of his troops.  And those from a distance who might have been looking toward Jerusalem would have thought the entire top of the mountain was on fire!

What was burnable was burned; what was meltable was melted; what was stone left on stone was pulled down as the entire city was destroyed in the fury of God.  The zeal of His servants, the Roman troops, saw to it.  The Revelation of the apocalypse was complete.  God’s covenant nation was divorced and put to death and was made desolate.

And through the agonizing birth-pangs of persecution and tribulation, a new covenant nation was born in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Next Lord’s Day we examine the things that Jesus said would happen to this generation before the end of the age.  And I stimulate your personal reading of the prophecy of Daniel by reading seven verses for you from chapter nine (verses twenty through twenty-seven).