And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, "Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Matthew 24:3
Dispensationalists teach that the disciples had asked three questions here. They must in order to impose their system of theology into the text. But Dispensationalists are wrong once again. There are two questions asked here:
- When shall these things be?
- What shall be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?
Jesus' return and the end of the age are one and the same. They happen at the same time. The moment Jesus returns, it is the end of this age and the age to come (eternity) is ushered in. The second question is one question, not two.
When Will the Temple Be Destroyed?
The first question was in regard to the destruction of the temple. They were told that there would be many false signs (24:4-8). The first true sign of the temple's coming destruction would be tribulation (24:9-14). The second and final sign would be the "Abomination of Desolation" (24:15-20). The answer to their first question was fulfilled in 70 A.D.
With verse 21, things start to get a little stickier to interpret. There will be an increase in tribulation leading up to the destruction of the temple. But the language seems to go beyond just 70 A.D. ("no human being"). There will continue to be false prophets during this time of further tribulation (vv. 23-28), but do not be tricked because when Jesus returns, everyone will know it (v. 27). Jesus begins to answer the second question (vv. 29-31). The period of tribulation will some day end without warning. What has to happen before Jesus returns? Tribulation. The church has lived in constant tribulation, and it will continue to do so until Jesus returns and the end of the age occurs. Jesus' point here, through the end of chapter 25, is that there is no specific sign or warning.
When Will You Return and the End of the Age Occur?
Jesus speaks specifically about signs preceding the two events (the destruction of the temple, and His return). With regard to the first question, they were told to watch for the signs (vv. 32-35). With regard to the second question, they were told that there would be no signs preceding His return because no one knows when Jesus will return (v. 36).
- Will catch people unaware (24:37-44 [especially 42 and 44]).
- May come sooner than you think (24:45-51).
- May come later than you think (25:1-13).
Be prepared for His return. Do not become preoccupied with looking for signs. How can you be prepared? We prepare for His return by being good stewards of what He has given us (25:14-30).
Matthew 25:31-46 is Jesus' discourse on the final judgment.
Eschatology is primarily ethical—not a detailed road map into the future. People who get preoccupied with looking for this sign and that sign have taken their eyes off of Christ. They examine this tree and that tree, but miss the forest for the trees. Our eyes are to be set on Christ and focused on Him alone. We are to be striving to enter heaven and to become like Him. Remember, the Bible tells us that without holiness no one will see Jesus. Faith "alone" is not enough. We need to act in accordance with that faith. "Actions speak louder than words." Do not just talk the talk, walk the walk.