Troublesome Topic: The End of Which Age?

Matthew 24:1


And Jesus, having left the temple,

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was going away,

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and His disciples came near to point out to Him the buildings of the temple.

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Then after Jesus left the temple proper and was going away from that area, His disciples gathered closely around Him in order to point out some interesting aspects of the renovation of the temple.

Matthew 24:2


And answering He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? I’m telling you an important truth,

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none, not even one [stone] shall be left here stone upon stone which will not be thrown down.

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In response Jesus said, “You see all these things, don’t you? Listen up, I’m telling you an important truth – not even one of these stones will remain the way they are currently, built stone upon stone, rather they will all be thrown down from up high to down low.

Matthew 24:3


Now while He was sitting on the Mount of Olives His disciples came to him privately saying, “Tell us, when will these things be?

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And what will be the sign

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of your coming as a king, and of the completion

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of the age?

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[A short time later] as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, His disciples came to him privately and said, “Explain this to us. When will the things happen that you told us about outside the temple? What will be the confirming sign that you are revealing yourself physically to be the king, and that you are causing this age to reach its complete fulfillment and ushering in the new age?

Understanding the phrase, “The completion of the age” is the key to understanding the entire discourse of Matthew 24 and 25. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: What age were the disciples referring to? Was it their age, or our age?

The disciples thought His great “coming/appearing” would take place during their lifetimes. So, if they didn’t understand His purpose right after His death and resurrection, they surely did not understand it prior to those events. And if they thought He was going to reveal Himself publicly as the Messiah during

their lifetimes, why would they be asking about events that would happen a long time down the road, pertaining to a totally different age, or era. No! They saw His glorious “coming” as the completion of the age they were still living in, the age of the Law.

In His response to their questions Jesus talked about two different events, He mixed and layered the two. He did so because their questions inadvertently pointed two different directions.

I am convinced they were asking about the completion of their own age or era, which we call the age of the Law. Said completion or fulfillment would confirm the arrival of the new era, the era in which we currently live. They would have called the era after theirs the “Messianic era,” but we call it things like the era of salvation, the age of the church or the age of the Holy Spirit. Think about it logically for one moment. Why would the disciples be asking about the completion of an era that had not even begun yet? They were still hoping to see Jesus fulfill their age and bring in the new one. They had been with Jesus for either two and a half years, or three and a half years (I think it was three and a half years) and Jesus had never shown any inkling of taking on the Romans. Yet their perception of the Messiah was that he would bring them freedom. Their dilemma, their burning questions, had everything to do with the completion of the age they were in, and nothing to do with the completion of the age to follow, the one we are in. 

The disciples could easily understand that the destruction of the temple would be tied somehow to the arrival of the new era, for it would be the visible, palpable proof that the era in which they were living had been set aside. Jesus said the system associated with the temple would be eliminated; when that happened it would be confirmation that the major transition had taken place. Thus, what happened in AD 70 made perfect sense to the followers of Jesus, but the rest of the Jewish community could not understand why God would allow it.

 In the Old Testament God had predicted the destruction of the temple in response to their sin, and it was accomplished by the Babylonians. But God had also told them through the prophets that their captivity would not last forever, but they would return, implying that the temple and its sacrifices would be restored. However, in this case, Jesus was telling His disciples that the temple and its sacrificial system would be destroyed, period. He gave no hope for its restoration. They did not realize that this confirmation would come almost 40 years after the new covenant had been established.

Although they were capable of understanding how the total destruction of the temple would signal the end of the sacrificial system, their focus and their burning question was still “When are you going to show yourself for who you really are?” They did not realize that a long time would pass by between the manifestation of Jesus’ power at the confirming event and when He would reveal all His power and glory at an event He hinted at in this discourse.

The next lesson is: Evangelization Marked the Completion of an Age, but Which Age?



Context: Jesus had been in the temple teaching and facing loaded questions since the beginning of Matthew chapter 21. The point of this clause is that He had left the temple courts.

2: “Was going away”

This is the second of a very specific and carefully chosen set of clauses designed to give us a clear picture of where Jesus was when this happened. The words “Having left the temple” indicate that Jesus was no longer inside the temple complex but was outside of it. The words “was going away,” inform us that Jesus and His disciples were in the process of leaving but had not yet left the area in which the temple was located. The point is that they were still in view of the temple complex and were now viewing it from the outside.


Cultural note: What were they looking at? Herod the Great carried out a massive renovation and expansion of the temple complex. The project included a massive retaining wall, an expansion of the courtyard, a renovated temple proper and renovated colonnades, new storage rooms, etc. The entire renovation project was an impressive sight that took more than 40 years to complete. The disciples were probably looking at, and exclaiming about, the entire renovation project. Everything they saw in the temple complex was new, bigger than life, and done with outstanding workmanship. It was unlike anything the disciples had seen anywhere else.


“Amen,” means “true,” or, when used at the end of something can mean, “may it be true.” It was used often by Jesus as a form of emphasis to say something like this: “Hey, listen up, the truth I am about to share with you stands out as special, having more importance than many other truths.”


Historical note: This was accomplished in 70 AD when future-Emperor Titus captured Jerusalem and totally destroyed the temple. Everything that could burn was burned, then, since the temple was made of stone, the Romans had to take it apart stone by stone in order to effect a total destruction of the edifice. It appears that most of the retaining wall was untouched and some of it can still be seen today.

The important thing for a Jew of that day was this: Jesus was predicting that the temple, which supposedly granted them their connection to Almighty God, would be totally destroyed, not just damaged or partially destroyed. It would be gone. This was the worst possible news a Jew could hear.


They asked Jesus questions about three things, but they thought all of them would be fulfilled in one major event. The first question, “When will these things be?” refers to what Jesus had just said about the temple being destroyed so completely that no stone would be left on another. He did not tell them precisely when this would happen; His emphasis was that it would happen, and what that meant. However, he did end up giving them one hint – it would happen during the natural lifespan of people in their generation (Mt 24:34).


(See the comment at the end of this verse.)


This word is often translated “end,” but it is better understood as the “completion or fulfillment” of something, its “consummation, or climax.” The simple “end” of an age could mean the simple passage of a time marker from one era to another. However, the way they used the word indicated that there was a purpose to be fulfilled, and that fulfillment had to be realized before the next “step” could be taken.

9: “The age”

The explanation of this phrase is also in the major comment below instead of in the footnotes. This phrase holds the key to understanding this entire discourse. The key is to understand the question – Which age are they asking about? Their own age, or a future age?