Jesus Answers Their Questions

It seems that Matthew did not record Jesus’ answer to the first question about the future destruction of the temple buildings, whereas Luke did in his Gospel (see Luke 21:12-24). In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus immediately began speaking of the signs that would precede His return and the end of the age:

And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you . For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt. 24:4-8, emphasis added).

It is clear from the start of this sermon that Jesus believed His first-century disciples could very well be alive during the events that lead up to His return. Notice how many times He used the personal pronoun you. Jesus used the personal pronoun you at least twenty times in the 24th chapter alone, so His listeners would have all believed that they would live to see what Jesus foretold.

We know, of course, that every disciple who listened to Jesus that day died long ago. We should not conclude, however, that Jesus was deceiving them, but that He Himself did not know the exact time of His return (see Matt. 24:36). It was indeed quite possible then for those who heard His Olivet Discourse to be alive at His return.

Jesus’ foremost concern was that His disciples would not be deceived by false Christs, as so many will be during the last days. We know that the antichrist himself will be a false Christ, deceiving much of the world. They will consider him to be a wonderful savior.

Jesus said that there will be wars, famines and earthquakes, but He indicated that those events are not signs of His return, but only “the beginning of birth pangs.” It would be safe to say that those signs have been occurring for the last two thousand years. However, Jesus next speaks of something that has not yet occurred.