The twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is a complex composition of prophecy and design. This chapter is controversial in the minds of some because it prophesies the events of 70 A.D. (the destruction of the Temple) and also future events. Some do not think that the Lord can include two prophecies in one text. I am not one of them. This chapter also tells of events that are more fully described in the Revelation.
The Book of Matthew contains Alphabetic designs. Alphabetically, chapter 24 is a Beit chapter. Beit means house in Hebrew and chapter 24 is about the House of God. The twenty-fourth chapter is also a final Mem chapter. (There are five letters with final, or ending, forms in the Hebrew alphabet.) The letter Mem stands for revealed and concealed. This is an excellent description of Matthew 24.
The Book of Matthew contains Torah designs. Chapter 24 is the fourth in the Torah cycle (chapters 4,9,14, 19, etc.). The fourth book of the Torah is Numbers, which is about the testing of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness. Matthew 24 prophesies the testing of the Children of Israel at some time in the future.
In verse 4 Jesus warns the Disciples to watch out for false Christs. Obviously, He knew that the Disciples would not be alive when this happened. Also, the Church Age had not yet begun. The Church began on the Day of Pentecost about fifty-three days later. In Matthew 24, Jesus was speaking to the Jews. The Church will not be fooled by people claiming to be the Messiah. However, the Jews might be misled because they expect the Messiah to lead them in the building of the Temple. If an international politician (peace-maker?) can arrange for the rebuilding of the Temple, some Jews will consider him to be the Messiah.
There are clues for the Church in this chapter. Matthew 24 is about the testing of the Jews. I do not believe the Church will go through this test, just as the Christians were able to escape the horror of 70 A.D. because of the warning of Jesus.
In verse 15 Jesus warns the Jews to flee when they see the Abomination of Desolation as spoken of by Daniel. This event will be when the false Messiah goes into the Temple and declares himself to be God!
The Apostle Paul tells us in Second Thessalonians that the Church will not be here for that event. We will be gathered to the Lord Jesus when this person is revealed. (II Thess. 2:3) This revelation may occur before the Abomination of Desolation. The fact that he will be revealed does not mean that the world will recognize him for what he is. The Lord’s Plan has been revealed in His Word, but the world does not recognize the Plan.
Jesus was speaking to the Jews. If the action of the false Messiah in the Temple is the revealing event, the Church will be taken and the concern about fleeing in the winter (verse 20) is unnecessary. Also, verse 20 notes the Jewish restriction on travel on the Sabbath; a restriction that does not apply to the Church.
A parallel text to Matthew 24 is Mark chapter 13. Interestingly, chapter 13 is a Mem chapter which, again, means revealed and concealed. The Lord gives the Church another clue in Mark 13. He notes that there are four watches in the night and the second one is the midnight watch. In Matthew 25, which is part of the same discourse as chapter 24, Jesus tells of the bridegroom coming at midnight. Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride! (Revelation 19:7)
Moses, in Psalm 90:4, tells us that a thousand years in the sight of the Lord are but a day or a watch in the night. The concept of the second watch or the second Millennium is consistent with many prophecies and Biblical types. “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.” (Hosea 6:2) In Luke 12:35-38 Jesus gives us a warning to be watchful. He says that the “owner” may come even in the second or third watch. After Jesus spoke to the “woman at the well” in John 4, he stayed with these Gentiles for two days (John 4:41) This is a picture of the gentile Church Age.
There are more clues for us in Matthew 24. Jesus gives us the picture of the fig tree in verses 32 through 34. The fig tree is a sign that winter has ended and summer is near. Some, myself included, believe that the nationhood of Israel in 1948 is a sign that the winter of evil is nearly over.
In this same passage (vss. 32-34) Jesus notes that the generation that sees this will see the events that He has been describing. A Biblical generation is frequently forty years. For example, the unbelieving generation of the Children of Israel were caused to wander in the Wilderness for forty years. At the time of this passage, it was probably 29 A.D. Forty years later, in 69 A.D. the Romans began their siege of Jerusalem which resulted in the destruction of the Temple.
In Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus describes the culmination of those future days. The Sun, Moon and stars will be darkened. This closely parallels the Sixth Seal of the Revelation 6:12-13.
Jesus warns us three times in this one chapter to be watchful. He tells us that it will be as in the days of Noah where, despite the preaching and preparation of Noah, the people continued their daily lives and were totally surprised when their end came (vss. 37-39). As noted earlier, the Plan of the Lord has been revealed. The Church has been preaching and preparing for two thousand years. But the people of the world just continue in their daily lives as if all will continue forever.
Jesus concludes this paragraph about “that day or hour” by telling of two people being together, with one taken (raptured?) and one left (vss. 40-41). He is telling us about the day or hour that the Church will be gathered to Him. And it will totally surprise the world.
The Disciples asked Jesus two questions in Matthew 24. Jesus answered the questions, I am sure, but His answers are like the riddles or parables that the Lord loves to use. He wants us to study His Word and to find the answers. I encourage you to study this chapter. Every time I study it, I find something new. Please let me know if you find all the answers. Study the Word. You will be blessed for it.