Sermon: The Fall of Jerusalem and the Destruction of the Temple Matthew 24:1-14

Truth Taught- Jesus teaches His disciples that those who stand firm through tribulation and trials will be saved. 

Introduction

Our Lord has just cursed by the woe judgements the Jewish religious leadership.  He has pronounced judgement upon the City of Jerusalem and here, in our current text He is pronouncing judgement upon the Temple.  There is a progression in this judgement…The leadership looks good on the outside but inwardly they are dead.  The Temple looks impressive on the outside but it too is inwardly dead.  Jerusalem also looks impressive and it too is dead.  All these deceptions will be destroyed.  They all are impressive to look at but they are not accomplishing their intended purpose.  They are not leading people closer to the Lord but rather they are deceptive in their impressive appearance.  So, God will destroy them.  This is ultimately true of all things that deceive when it comes to God.  He will remove them eventually.  Even the earth as we know it, God’s creation had been created good and yet it isn’t pointing people to God but instead it is worshipped rather than God.  The people inhabiting the earth are corrupt and dead.  It looks good on the outside but inwardly it too is dead and corrupt.  One day it will also be destroyed and replaced by the New Heavens and New Earth.  A place where God will dwell with His people and sin and corruption will be no more.

This has been such a blessing to study more deeply and to have the Holy Spirit inform and encourage as to our being ready for the Lord’s return and the end of the age.  

The basic structure of Chapters 24 and 25 really is tailored to fit the disciples’ questions. 

When will these things be- 24:3-35…Here Jesus offers “time” indicators because He knows exactly when the Temple is to be destroyed.
What will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age- 24:36-25:46…the transition can be seen because Jesus offers no “time” indicators.  One simply must be ready at all times.

Matthew 24:1–14 (ESV) 

24 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 

24 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

What’s important here, as with every passage, is the context.  Another important component is how do we go about interpreting a text of Scripture.  We practice what is called grammatical historical interpretation.  The words are important and the historical setting is also important.  

Jesus is answering His disciples’ questions.  He’s not telling us everything there is to say and know about the end of the age.  These questions really drive the interpretation of Chapters 24-25.


Let’s see what is going on here.

Why would Jesus’ disciples point out the Temple structure and the surround buildings that make up the Temple complex?  The reason is because Jesus has just made this statement…

Matthew 23:38 (ESV) 

38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 

Jesus, is it really true that this magnificent structure is going to be left desolate and deserted?  So, they point out the massive glory of the Temple.  It looks so impressive on the exterior.  However, it is dead on the inside.  When Jesus leaves it, the glory of the Temple has left as well.  

Jesus’ words about the destruction of the Temple so shook the disciples that they go to Him privately and ask Him about this event.  In their thinking, the destruction of the Temple, the sign of His coming and the end of the age were really one question or at least directly connected.  They can’t imagine that the world could continue without the Temple.  They connected the events as happening all together.  In Jesus’ answer, however, we see they are not going to happen at the same time or even in close proximity.

The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple is a sign or a shadow of the end of the age but not the end itself.  

Now it is these questions that we have to keep straight when we read the rest of this section.  When is Jesus answering the first question and when is He answering the second?  Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell.  They felt that if Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed then everything is over, the world is probably ending.  Jerusalem and the Temple were symbols they had grown up with.  They were Judaism as they knew it.  How could things go on without Jerusalem and the Temple?
They were mistaken, life would go on but they were not completely wrong, there is a connection that Jesus will make.  There is a connection between the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the age.
Lets look now at Jesus’ reply and notice the structure of His answer is formed in light of their questions. 
Some scholars see two questions and others see three questions.  At any rate we will form our sermons based on how Jesus strategically addresses these inquiries from His disciples.  My prayer is that we too will be encouraged and informed as to these events.

Jesus leads His followers out of the Temple and up to the Mount of Olives.  We have already seen that there is major significance connected to the Mount of Olives in the Bible. 

Ezekiel 11:23 (ESV) 

23 And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city. 


When Jesus leaves the Temple, it is not by chance that He leads His followers up to the Mountain.  The glory of God has left the Temple and it has now become just a stone structure.  

Zechariah 14:4 (ESV) 

On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 

It was also up on this Mountain that the Temple was visible.  The Temple complex could be seen very well.  It is here, Jesus delivers this amazing message to His people.

2.  Jesus Answers Their First Question, When Will the Temple Be Destroyed? (24:3-14)

As we look to this section, remember Jesus is speaking to their question about the destruction of the Temple.  When He uses the word end it is the end of the Temple. 

Jesus is speaking to His disciples in 33AD.  The destruction of the Temple and the Fall of Jerusalem takes place in 70AD.  So, about 37 years between these two events, namely, this occasion and the destruction of the Temple.  So, many of them would be alive when the Temple is destroyed and Jerusalem falls.  That’s why Jesus could say…


Matthew 24:33–34 (ESV) 

33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 

A.  Preliminary events must take place but this is not the end (24:3-8)

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 

What’s important is that these events, according to Jesus, are not markers that the end is here.  How many end times schematics use these as markers that the end is upon us?  Jesus specifically is telling His disciples that these events are normal and everyday occurrences and should NOT be used as end of the Temple indicators.  They have been happening since Jesus’ words here and will continue to take place.  Jesus tells His disciples don’t get sucked into this scheme.  These are all false alarms that the uniformed may gravitate to but disciples must not be deceived by them.  

The first false alarm…many will be led astray by false Christs.  

And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.

Here, Jesus is speaking of a Liberator like Him.  What He’s telling His disciples is that there will come many claiming to be able to deliver from oppression.  To free the Jews, to offer peace in these days of political unrest.  The Christ remember is the Messiah/King.  One who would be the ruler over Israel promising peace. 

Josephus, an historian during this time period, lists many such imposters who claimed to be some political leader for the Jews and all were proved to be fakes.  Jesus is telling His disciples that the Temple is history and nothing can change this.  Don’t be fooled.

Acts 5:36–37 (ESV) 

36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 

In 66AD there was the Zealot uprising…

Acts 21:38 (ESV) 

38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 

This is also a part of the history recorded in Josephus.  Of course, by 66AD things are getting closer.  Jesus tells His disciples to not be part of these uprisings.  There were many more not recorded in the Bible. 

-The second false alarm: rumors of war

And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,

Our Lord told His disciples that there will be threats of war and you will hear of wars between other nations.  Rumors of wars which are actually occurring out there somewhere.  This is exactly what took place in those days.  Jerusalem was fairly calm but outside among other nations there was war.  Roman Empire would be involved in war with other nations.  There was actually a civil war within Rome.  All these were to take place but Jesus says… but the end is not yet.  Remember, the end of the Temple…

– The third false alarm: famines and earthquakes

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. 

Earthquakes and famine occurred and were recorded during those days.  Again, early and ancient historical records tell us about widespread famines and local famines.  The Bible mentions a famine that was predicted by the prophet Agabus…

Acts 11:27–30 (ESV) 

27 Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. 

Historical records also tell us about various earthquakes in Asia Minor, Italy, and even Jerusalem itself, experienced an earthquake.

The point Jesus makes is that all these things are normal occurrences not signs that the destruction of the Temple is about to happen.  They are all the beginning of labor pains but the baby is not ready to be born yet.

B.  Tribulation, persecution and death will take place, so stand firm till the end  

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 

– They will deliver you to tribulation, persecution and death

Just like Jesus was delivered up to death, so too will His disciples will be put to death as well.  

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.

Here, hated by all nations and preached throughout the whole world serve as parallel statements. 

The disciples will be hated because of their connection to Jesus.  They are hated because Jesus is hated.  They are hated because Jesus had spoken very severe words regarding their Temple and their city.  Jesus is hated and so are His followers…for My namesake.

– Many will fall away

10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.

Tribulation and death will cause many to fall away.  These false disciples are shown to be who they truly are when trouble comes because of Jesus.  

Here, betrayal is the mark of a false disciple while mutual love and care are marks of a true disciple.  When difficulties come to the Christian Community it’s like a sifting takes place and the true followers are brought out and the false followers exposed for who they really are.  How do you respond when trouble comes?  When trials come how do you behave?  How will you respond when these things happen to us?    

– False prophets will be plentiful in those days

11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

False prophets and false teaching were a very big problem in the early Church.  It became worse and worse leading up to the fall of Jerusalem.  The Apostle Paul was followed everywhere he went by false teachers.  As the days were getting closer and tribulation was setting in, the false teachers could better do their work as they preyed on people’s fear.  These are the savage wolves.

Acts 20:29–31 (ESV) 

29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 

– Lawlessness will increase

12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.


Lawlessness is not referring to criminal activity but to the opposition to God’s Word.  Jesus used this term already to refer to the Jewish leadership who opposed Him.

Matthew 23:28 (ESV) 

28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 

Because true love for one another will be challenged by difficult times this opposition to God’s Word will be increased. 

This is one of the dangers that come out of persecution of Christians at any time.  There is the temptation to lessen our commitment to Jesus and to each other so that there could be a greater level of peace.  True Christians must continue to love Jesus and each other with a strong fervency even in tribulation and possible death.  What a testimony to continue in the faith through persecution and possible death. 

– Salvation is given to those who will endure to the end

13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 

For those followers and for us the only right God honoring response to outward threats and to inward (within the Christian Community) weakening fear is a deliberate and consistent faithfulness no matter what happens.  Jesus was calling His disciples and us as well to a purposeful consistent faithfulness. 

One solid commentator explains what Jesus means…Whoever stands firm throughout the historical process which will culminate in the destruction of the Temple will be saved. —R. T. France


Jesus goes further to not only encourage His disciples to persevere through tribulation and even death but He also gives them a marker a timing sign if you will which will indicate the end of the Temple is at hand or very near…

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 


The Gospel, Jesus tells us would be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations then the end will come.  Or the end is at hand or approaching very quickly.

Here the Greek original really helps us to understand.  First, it is the inhabited world of people.  Second, it is used in the Bible to indicate the inhabited world literally, surrounding the Roman Empire, not the entire globe.  

Here are some places this word is used…

Luke 2:1 (ESV) 

2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 

The word is oikoumene.  (OICUMENAY)

Acts 11:28 (ESV) 

28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 

Acts 19:27 (ESV) 

27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” 


Here it’s used to indicate the known world or the world surrounding the Mediterranean Sea.

The point Jesus is making is that the Gospel will go outside of Judea.  We read from the Book of Acts and other NT Books that it did just that in the first century.

Colossians 1:4–6 (ESV) 

since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 

Romans 16:26 (ESV) 

26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 


Paul speaks of his ministry as encompassing the whole world.  The same word Jesus uses. 

Jesus’ answer to their first question gives some time frame indicators.  They were not to be sidetracked by any threat.  They were to persevere through threats, tribulation. Persecution, deception, false teachers, earthquakes, famines, and any other trials.  This was Jesus’ call for the early Church and it is the call for the Church throughout the ages.  We must be ready to persevere through any and all trials.

The way our Lord told us to accomplish this is be engaged in loving others and serving them.  Be aggressive servants and love God with all your heart soul mind and strength.  When trials come resist the temptation to hide and be silent.  Resist the temptation to be a dormant Christian.  Rather, stand firm and be aggressive in your care for others.
This is a good practice for all of us right now while we wait, not for the fall of Jerusalem but for our Lord’s return.

Resources Used:

Matthew by R T France

Matthew by Leon Morris

Matthew by William Hendriksen

Matthew by David Doriani

The Olivet Discourse by Sam Storms

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