When And What?

“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?’” (Matthew 24:3, NIV 1984)

My Musings – It is quite possible that the disciples believed that their compound question concerned one event. But it is also possible that there could be as many as three separate events.

The first part of the question, “when will this [destruction of the temple] happen?” appears to be most directly related to Jesus’ comment “not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”

The second part of the question, “what will be the sign of your coming?” could be about the Rapture.

The third and final part of the question, “what will be the signs of the end of the age?” could be about the Parousia.

Now, it is highly unlikely at this point that the disciples would have grasped any distinction between the Rapture and the Parousia. It appears as though the disciples believed that all of these would take place simultaneously (or at least in close proximity to one another). There is no way to know this for sure. At any rate, Jesus deals with all three in this great Eschatological Olivet Discourse.

Jesus seems to be using the destruction of Herod’s temple and of Jerusalem (which literally did happen within that generation in 70 AD) as symbols of his own second coming and the consummation of the age (which have yet to occur). But it is not always easy to clearly separate the various signs Jesus gives with the specific questions that they relate to. Old Testament prophets often grouped events together by their topic rather than their chronology. In this discourse Jesus appears to do the same. He addresses what are grammatically three separate questions, with one sweeping narrative.

“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.  I tell you the truth, 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. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:32-36, NIV 1984)

With these words, Jesus began His discourse on the various signs.

My Advice – It is very easy, when dealing with the “signs,” for us to strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” To force our own preconceived ideas into the narrative. Be open to being wrong. Be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 24:3). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 24:3). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Author: thebrewisamusing

I was raised in a Christian family and my earliest childhood memories include regular Sunday school and Church attendance as a family. I was taught that our Judeo-Christian values were not just a part of our Sunday routine they should be part of our character and influence all aspects of our lives. I was also taught that as important as these values were they could not save us. We must also be “born again” by accepting Christ.

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