Jesus tells His disciples the Temple will be destroyed, which worries them, then he tells them how they will know when it’s about to happen, along with other ‘end-time’ events: Mark 13:1–23; Matthew 24:1–25; Luke 21:5–24; Mark 13:24–31; Matthew 24:26–35; Luke 21:25–33
When Jesus prophesied the fall of Jerusalem, it seems the disciples believed it would be the end of the world. Why else would they ask this just because one Temple would be destroyed?
Matthew 24:3 Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?
Some people cast this as two questions, but it is possible that seeing the Temple fall, again, would have been the end of the world for the Jews, including the disciples.
But Jesus answered the broader question with what is basically a NOT YET. The start of it all would be:
- many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’
- you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic.
- there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.
So disaster would happen and keep happening. No point in counting earthquakes then (as some do).
… and there was more to come:
- you will be hated, arrested, persecuted, and killed
- many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other
- many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people
- sin will be rampant everywhere (when hasn’t it been?)
- the love of many will grow cold
- the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world.
And then the end will come. But not quite. First (or maybe it’s the start of the end), Daniel’s prophesied abomination that causes desecration will be standing in the Holy Place.
Somewhere in there, Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies, she’ll fall, her people will be slaughtered, and those who escape slaughter will be scattered. Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.
And in the middle of all that, Jesus started talking about budding fig trees! He’d cursed a fig tree very recently, as a symbol of Israel’s fate. Now the fig tree would come back to life and that was a sign of when these things would happen.
What things? I suspect it’s these things, because that’s what Jesus said just before He started talking about fig trees:
Luke 21:25-26 And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
And only then:
Matthew 24:24-27the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.