Matthew 24 may be one of the most difficult passages in the book. It has been the opportunity for much speculation regarding when Jesus will return. But Jesus is very plain here: one cannot know the day nor the hour of Jesus’ return.
So what is Matthew 24, at least the first 35 verses, about?
The chapter begins with Jesus taking a walk with his disciples through the Jerusalem Temple. Begun by Herod the Great, the temple has been a work in progress for over 45 years. It will be another 35 years before it is completed. But still, in Jesus’ day, it was a magnificent structure. The disciples were impressed by the temple. Jesus, it would appear, was not. The disciples, perhaps a bit puzzled (and perhaps a bit miffed – it was a matter of patriotism after all), were trying to get him to look at the buildings. Jesus says: “not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
The disciples confuse the destruction of the temple with the end of the world, and ask him when this will occur. Jesus replies that the destruction of the temple will happen in their lifetime (or their generation – vs. 35).
On the other hand, the end of the world is undated. The important point is to be ready.
It’s still the important point.