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What are the signs of Jesus’ coming and the end of the age?

 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3

Matthew 24 and Luke 21, commonly called the Olivet Discourse since Jesus taught it after leaving the temple and walking up to the Mount of Olives, has caused much controversy over the years. Much of it has to do with whether Jesus is talking about a literal return, a figurative return and whether that return happened already or he’s foretelling a future return (soon or faraway).

Jesus just left the temple after smacking the Pharisees upside the head with a bunch of “Woe is you” statements.

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Matthew 24:1-2

He just told them the temple would be destroyed. So verse 3 follows that line of thought with a question from the apostles, “So in light of that information Jesus, when is that going to happen? What sign will signify your coming and the end of the age?”

Jesus prophesied about a coming judgment that would occur right there in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. when Roman forces, led by the General Titus, pillaged Jerusalem, killed hundreds of thousands of Jews (historian Josephus says over a million). The temple and the city’s walls were leveled. It was a Hiroshima moment, Jerusalem style.

That officially ended an era of the traditional Jewish faith. With no temple, there was no place to do sacrifices. Over the last 2,000 years since then, the temple has never been the same. Rulership of Jerusalem switched hands during that time, but never did the temple rebuild. Today a Muslim mosque sits on the site with no apparent plans to move away.

The “end of the age” means the “end of the Jewish temple age.”

But it’s not a bad thing. There is no more need for temple sacrifices to cleanse us of our sins. Jesus does that for us.

As for his return, Jesus told the listeners to read the signs.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:4-14

Here are the signs Jesus spoke of:

·         False prophets

·         Wars and rumors of war/nation rising against nation

·         Famines

·         Earthquakes

·         Persecution

·         Carelessness of faith

·         The gospel going to the whole world

Are these future events? Every one of them already occurred.

·         False prophets are mentioned in Acts (Judas of Galilee, Simon the Sorcerer). The historian Josephus told of a false prophet, a magician named Theudas. Paul tells of Hymenaeus and Philetus in 1 Timothy 2.

·         The Roman historian Tacitus (56-117 AD) told of conflicts and uprisings from land held in Europe, Asia and Africa.

·         In Acts 11, the book tells of a famine that was so great, the church of Corinth helped with relief efforts.

·         Tacitus tells of repeated earthquakes in 51 AD

·         The book of Acts tells of the persecution of Stephen (stoned), Paul (whipped with rods, jail) and Peter (jail).

·         The New Testament letters address the lawlessness of the church. Paul addressed a number of heresies in all his letters.

·         The Gospel did go to the whole world, the whole known world—from Asia to Europe to Africa. That was the Roman world.

If Jesus told of the destruction of the temple and the signs were fulfilled, where’s Jesus? Has he returned? Many recent false prophets theorize that Jesus has come secretly and he’s here…hiding or something. The sign of his coming was the sign of his judgment. The temple, the priests and the Jewish faith were judged and found deficient. Jesus executed his judgment on the temple, just as God did before with Jerusalem using the Babylonians. Now Jesus commanded the Romans.

So the age has ended. Jesus did come in judgment.