Understanding Matthew 24

In Matthew Chapter 24, we are given a list of the events that will take place in the Last Days and the order in which they will occur. The context in which we are given this list is a conversation that took place between Jesus and His disciples as the Lord was leaving the Temple grounds.

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. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 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?” Matt. 24:1-3

In answer to the disciple’s questions, the Lord described the events that would take place in the Last Days and that would continue until the end comes.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ 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. Matt. 24:4-8

Following the above description, Jesus warned the disciples that the events of the Last Days would bring a future period when God’s people would be hated by all nations and put to death. These are the same events that are described in the Book of the Revelation as the Great Tribulation. (To read about the Great Tribulation, click here: Revelation Chapter 7)

“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 the one 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. Matt. 24:9-14

From the above verses, we can make the following list of events found in Matthew 24

The List of Events found in Matthew 24
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. The Great Tribulation

After describing the above events, Jesus next answered the disciple’s original question concerning the specific timing of the Destruction of the Temple by explaining the things that would take place before and after the temple was destroyed.

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. Matt. 24:15-21

In these verses, Jesus explained how prior to the Temple being destroyed, the people would see the Abomination that Causes Desolation standing in the Holy Place, which is a description of how an unclean sacrifice would be made to an idol in the Temple. Jesus next instructed the people that when they saw the Abomination that Causes Desolation, they were to flee to the mountains, which tells us that the desecration of the Temple will take place as part of a larger Attack on Jerusalem itself. These same events are described in the following verses, which also describe the Attack on Jerusalem and that contain the very same instructions concerning fleeing to the wilderness.

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. Lk 21:20-21

Based on the above, we know that whenever we read about those fleeing to the mountains or not entering the city, we are reading about the Attack on Jerusalem. In the previous verses, the Lord also warned the people that following the attack there would be a Great Distress that would never be equaled. This is another description of the Great Tribulation when the disciples of Christ will be hated by all nations. (The Greek word thlipsis that is translated as Distress in the above verses is the same Greek word that is translated as Tribulation in Rev. 7:14.) The above account of the Attack on Jerusalem adds to our list of events as follows.

The List of Events found in Matthew 24
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. The Abomination that Causes Desolation takes place at the Temple
3. The Remnant flees to the wilderness
4. Jerusalem is Attacked
5. The Great Tribulation begins

Following the warning concerning the Attack on Jerusalem and the Great Distress, the Lord went on to say how this period would be cut short in order to spare a Remnant from the elect who would survive these events. This Remnant will include those who will flee to the mountains when Jerusalem is Attacked, and those who will be kept hidden throughout the world.

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 
Matt. 24:22-28


In these passages, we also read that wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. From the Gospel of Luke, we learn that the description of vultures gathering around dead bodies is another reference to the Attack on Jerusalem.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.  On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife!  Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:30-37

We know that the above verses are describing the Attack on Jerusalem because they contain the same warning concerning not entering the city as we saw in the previous verses that described this same attack. When we find that these verses also contain a reference to dead bodies and vultures, it tells us that the context of the vultures gathering around dead bodies in Matthew 24 also refers to the Attack on Jerusalem. (To read more about the Attack on Jerusalem, click here: Is the Attack on Jerusalem a Past Event? and here: Revelation Chapter 12.) In the above account, we also read that “one will being taken and the other left”, which is a reference to how half of the survivors of the attack will be taken into exile. When this phrase is used in the same verses that describe the Attack on Jerusalem, it tells us that one being taken and one being left is another identifier for this attack. These same events were described in the Old Testament by the prophet Zechariah who also spoke of how half of the city would be taken.

A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Zech. 14:1-2

In the previous verses that describe the Attack on Jerusalem and the Great Tribulation, the Lord went on to say how during this time, false prophets and messiahs will appear who will deceive many. In His warning, we are given the means by which we are to identify the actual coming of the Lord from the false Messiahs. Namely, the coming of the Lord will be visible in the heavens from the east to the west, whereas, the false messiahs will come from circumstances that occur on earth, such as political movements and wars. The description of the Lord appearing in the heavens, following the Attack on Jerusalem and the Great Tribulation, adds to our list of events as follows.

The List of Events Found in Matthew 24
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. The Abomination that Causes Desolation takes place at the Temple
3. The Remnant flees to the wilderness
4. Jerusalem is Attacked
5. The Great Tribulation begins
6. The Lord appears in the heavens from the east to the west

The Wrath of God

After describing how the Lord will appear in the heavens from the east to the west, the following verses describe how the Wrath of God will be poured out on the Inhabitants of the Earth after the sign of the Son of Man appears in the heavens. When the Inhabitants of the Earth see the sign of the Lord, they will mourn with great dread.

“Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 
Matt. 24:29-30

When we read that the sign of the Son of Man will be visible to everyone on earth, it is similar to how the the previous passages stated that the coming of the Son of Man would be seen from the east to the west. From these accounts, we learn that the reference to the coming of the Son of Man is a description of how the Lord will come in judgment. Accordingly, during these events, the Lord will not appear in bodily form, but, instead, His glory will fill the heavens in the form of dark clouds, thunder, and lighting that will be visible over the whole earth, from the east to the west. In addition to the sign of the Lord appearing in the heavens, the description of the sun and the moon being darkened is a picture of how smoke from the burning fires, which will come as a result of the judgments of God, will block the light of the heavenly bodies. These same events are described in the following passages as the Battle of Armageddon, when the nations of the world will be gathered together and then destroyed by a great earthquake and severe hailstorm that will cause the generals and everyone else to hide in caves. (To read about the Battle of Armageddon, see The Battle of Armageddon)

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” Rev. 6:12-17

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.” Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. Rev. 16:17-21Rev. 16:12-16

Following the defeat of God’s enemies at the Battle of Armageddon, the Remnant of Israel, who will be spared through these events, will be gathered to Jerusalem. (To read about the Faithful Remnant who will be spared, see Revelation Chapter 7)

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Matt. 24:31

The return of the exiles to Jerusalem will be a fulfillment of the many prophecies found in the Old Testament that describe how the Lord will gather a Faithful Remnant to Israel who will rule over the nations. The gathering of the Faithful Remnant will be assisted by the survivors from amongst the nations who will live in fear of the Lord and who will bring the Remnant to Israel as an offering to the Lord.

He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Isa. 11:12

“And they will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the Lord—on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels,” says the Lord. “They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the Lord in ceremonially clean vessels.” Isa. 66:20

The Lord will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Foreigners will join them and unite with the descendants of Jacob. Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And Israel will take possession of the nations and make them male and female servants in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors. Isa.14:1-2


In the above verses, the reference to Israel ruling over her former captors is a description of how the Faithful Remnant from Israel will rule over the few remaining Inhabitants of the Earth who will survive the events when the Lord comes in judgment. The period when Israel will rule over the nations is further described in the Revelation as the 1,000 Year Reign of Christ. During the 1,000 Year Reign of Christ, the Lord will rule over the nations through His people, and His glory will be seen over Israel. (To read more about the Reign of Christ on earth, click here: The 1,000 Year Reign of Christ, and here Revelation Chapter 20.)

The Gathering of the Remnant and the 1,000 Year Reign of Christ adds to our list of events as follows

The List of Events Found in Matthew 24
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. The Abomination that Causes Desolation takes place at the Temple
3. The Remnant flees to the wilderness
4. Jerusalem is Attacked
5. The Great Tribulation begins
6. The Lord appears in the heavens from the east to the west
7. The Battle of Armageddon
8. The Remnant is gathered to Jerusalem
9. The 1,000 Year Reign of Christ begins
10. The gathered Remnant rules over the nations

After describing the above events, the Lord went on to say that the generation that saw these events would not pass away until all these things had happened. This tells us that the events from the Attack on Jerusalem to the pouring out of the Wrath of God and the Gathering of the Remnant will take place within one generation.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
Matt. 24:32-35


In addition to describing the generation that would see these things, Jesus explained how the people in Jerusalem can know when these events are about to take place, through the Lesson from the Fig Tree. The Lesson from the Fig Tree states that when we see the leaves of the fig tree begin to bud, we know that summer is near. In the same way, God’s people are to watch for the signs that will tell them when the Attack on Jerusalem and the Destruction of the Temple are about to occur. Specifically, when the people in Jerusalem see the Abomination that Causes Desolation standing in the Temple and their city being surrounded by armies, they will know that the Attack on Jerusalem is right at the door.

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. Luke 21:20-21

In contrast to the Lesson From the Fig Tree, Jesus went on to explain how the Attack on Jerusalem will come as a complete surprise to the majority of the people living in the city who will be carrying on with their daily activities right up until the moment when the attack begins.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Matt. 24:36-37

In these verses, we, again, read how one will be taken and the other one left, which identifies the context of this passage as the Attack on Jerusalem. In this description of the attack, we learn how the circumstances surrounding the Attack on Jerusalem will be similar to the days of Noah when the people were eating and drinking and only those who entered the ark before the flood came were saved. In the same way, the Attack on Jerusalem will come like a flood and only those who heed the instruction to flee to the mountains, before the attack begins, will be spared. From Luke’s previous description of these same events, we read how the Attack on Jerusalem will be comparable to the days of Lot who also had to suddenly flee from the city in order to be saved from the destruction.

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Lk. 17:30-35

We know that the above verses are describing the Attack on Jerusalem because they also describe how no one in the field should go back for anything, and how one will be taken and the other left, which are both identifiers for the Attack on Jerusalem. In this description of the attack, the people who will flee from the city are warned not to hesitate as wife’s Lot did and who lost her life. The warning concerning Lot’s wife is another description of how the Attack on Jerusalem will come so suddenly that the people will not have time to grab their possessions before fleeing from the city. This point is repeated in the following verses that compare the Attack on Jerusalem to a thief who comes at an unexpected hour.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matt. 24:42-44

The above verses correspond with how prior to the Attack on Jerusalem, Israel will go into covenant with a Ruler who is to Come and will feel completely safe from danger. The covenant with the Ruler will lead to the events when the Ruler will be allowed to make an unclean sacrifice in the Temple known as the Abomination that Causes Desolation. (To read more about the Ruler who is to Come, click here: Revelation Chapter 13) Following the desecration of the Temple, the Ruler will suddenly turn on Israel, and the armies that are stationed in and around Jerusalem for her “peace and safety” will surround the city and cut down the people. The result, for those who failed to remain faithful to the Lord, will be that they will be cut to pieces in the attack and assigned to their place in Hades where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt. 24:45-51

The description of those who will be cut to pieces brings an end to the chapter, which described the following list of events.

The List of Events Found in Matthew 24
1. Wars and rumors of wars
2. The Abomination that Causes Desolation takes place at the Temple
3. The Remnant flees to the wilderness
4. Jerusalem is Attacked
5. The Great Tribulation begins
6. The sign of the Lord appears in the heavens from the east to the west
7. The Wrath of God is poured out
8. The Remnant is gathered to Jerusalem
9. The 1,000 Year Reign of Christ begins
10. The gathered Remnant rules over the nations

All of the above events will take place within one generation and are the same events that are described in the Book of the Revelation, which was written to show us the events that must soon take place. (For a Chapter-by-Chapter study of the Book of the Revelation, click here: Revelation by Chapter.)

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