These are my notes based on F.N. Lee’s work, The Olivet Discourse and The Destruction of Jerusalem in Prophecy [with some added notes from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible]:
Matthew 23:1-3 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
The disciples were to do as the Pharisees said and not as they did, for the Pharisees were very wicked.
Mathew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
The scribes and Pharisees refused to enter into Christ’s kingdom, but they were also hindering those who were trying to come into the kingdom.
Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
The scribes and Pharisees were children of the devil (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8-10; Matthew 23:31-36). Their Gentile converts were twice as bad as they were because they were adding the practices of the scribes and Pharisees to their own depraved natures. Whereas the scribes and Pharisees were damned, their converts were doubly damned.
Matthew 23:31, 34 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
Stephen was killed, Peter was crucified, and Paul and Barnabus were scourged and persecuted from city to city. Christ sent messenger after messenger to the apostate Judaists, but His message was not heeded.
Matthew 23:35-36 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
God’s wrath would fall upon that very generation for being the children of those who killed the prophets, for actually killing Christ’s Apostles, prophets, wise men, and scribes, and for even demanding Christ’s own crucifixion. God’s vengeance came in AD 70 when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.
Matthew 23:37-38 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
The judgment of the scribes and Pharisees fell upon them when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70. Christ, however, showed the utmost love to the end, taking no pleasure in their destruction. He compared himself to a hen, wishing to gather the scribes and Pharisees together as His elect, as a hen gathers her chicks, but they refused to come to him. Per Calvin: “God ‘wills’ to ‘gather’ all – so that all who do not come, may be inexcusable.” Under Christ’s wings, they would have found safety, rest, and an impregnable refuge.
“Your house” = the Temple. The Temple became the scribes and Pharisees’ house and was no longer called “God’s house.” Until Calvary, the Temple was a sign that pointed to Christ, but after His death, it was left to unbelievers since it no longer served as a signpost for believers. The desolation was to come on that generation, meaning the generation to whom Christ was speaking and who would be still living in AD 70 when the Temple was ultimately destroyed.
The words may imply that the scribes and Pharisees would recognize Christ as blessed at their own judgments (Calvin), after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Clarke), and at the Last Day (Henry). However, based on other similar scriptures, these words can also incorporate the idea that some of the Scribes and Pharisees and/or their descendants would come to Christ in faith (Romans 11).
Christ was called “blessed” on Palm Sunday and in AD 70, and He will be called blessed at the dawn of the postmillennial millennium and at the Second Coming. The scribes and Pharisees and their descendants who rejected him will acknowledge Him as blessed but be damned themselves, whereas those who come to him in faith will both acknowledge Him as blessed and receive His blessing. Some of these descendants WILL come to Christ after the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (Romans 11).
Luke 21:20-24 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh…For these be the days of vengeance [that all things which are written may be fulfilled]… And they…shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
This parallel passage shows that the destruction of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple would occur at the same time. This occurred under Titus in AD 70, within 4 decades or one generation from the time Jesus spoke these words. Jerusalem was first surrounded by Jewish “armies” (v. 20) and then Roman armies (v. 24). The Hebrew Christians escaped between the two “surroundings.” God visited His vengeance upon the evil inhabitants of Jerusalem in accordance with His word: Matthew 23:35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar (the Pharisees or their forefathers had killed the prophets and would kill Christian prophets between that time and Jerusalem’s destruction). The order of events is as follows:
- Jerusalem would fall to the Gentiles in AD 70.
- Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled.
- When the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled, the Jewish people will convert to Christ.
- The conversion of the Jewish people will be followed by a time of universal blessing in Christ upon the world [me: ie. The Millennium].
- World history will end.
Matthew 24:1-3 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
The disciples are primarily asking when the destruction of the Temple will happen. Jesus’ answer relates to the events preceding the Temple’s destruction as well as to some of the events following it. Footnote 3068: “aioon means “age” — not “world.”” In other words, World = Age. [The destruction of the Temple would have been considered the end of the world to the Jewish people; Me – to whom Matthew was primarily writing].
Matthew 24:4-5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
This had already happened with Theudas and Judas of Galilee. Later antichrists included Simon the Magician and the docetic antichrists [Dositheus, Menander, etc.].
Matthew 24:6-7 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
These verses refer to the wars between the Romans and their vassal states, as well as the skirmishes between Rome and Judaea, which culminated in AD 70 [Otho v. Vitellius v. Vespasian; The sedition under Cureanus, the 10,000 destroyed by cut-throats, in Ascalon, Ptolemais, Alexandria, Damascus, etc. The Jews rose up against the Samaritans, Syrians, and Romans, who eventually destroyed them]. In addition, many famines, pestilences, and earthquakes hit the Roman Empire from the time Jesus spoke these words to the destruction of Jerusalem [including the earthquake at Jesus’ death and the famine predicted by Agabus in Acts]. Some of the recorded earthquakes during this time include:
at Rome in 51 A.D.; at Phlegon in Asia Minor in 60 A.D.; in Campania and in Crete in 63 A.D.; and also in Phrygia, Apanea, Laodicea and again in Campania (according to Tacitus and Suetonius). Indeed, in the decade 60-70 A.D. alone, earthquakes were recorded as having occurred in: Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judaea. Also, those of Herculaneum and Pompeii would soon follow [footnote 3076].
Matthew 24:8-13 All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
The persecutions of the early Christians happened from Pentecost onwards. [Me: and are recorded in Acts and elsewhere. Peter, John, and Paul were “delivered up;” all of the Apostles except John were martyred. False prophets = Simon Magus, Ebion, Cerinthus, Carpocrates, the Gnostics, the Nicolaitans, Hymeneus, Philetus, etc.]. The epistles in the New Testament give a hint of the abundance of iniquity during this time. [Saved = temporal salvation from the destruction of Jerusalem].
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
“Nations” = the inhabited Roman world (“Oikomeenee”). This had been done by the mid-60’s.
“End” = end of that age and of the City of Jerusalem [The Jewish state, City, and Temple], NOT the end of the world.
Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Abomination of desolation = Roman Army. The abomination began in AD 66 with the desecration of Jerusalem by Roman ensigns (eagles=Roman military insignia, ie. Unclean vultures – cf. verse 28). The full desolation occurred 3.5 years later.
Many in the Late-Mediaeval Church, all of the Pre-Reformation’s Scholars, and all of the Protestant Reformers saw the Romish Papacy’s desecration of the Christian Church as the further continuation of Pagan Rome’s desecration of the Ancient Temple.
[Stand in the holy place = surrounding the City, called holy because of the Temple and its worship. The Roman armies first surrounded the City, then eventually breached it and literally stood in the Temple as they destroyed both the City and the Temple].
Matthew 24:16-21 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
When Christ’s followers saw the Roman army, they were to flee for their lives. [Me – they did indeed do this, escaping to Pella. Here is Gill on Josephus:
When this signal is given, let it be taken notice of and observed; let them that are in the city of Jerusalem, depart out of it; or who are in any other parts of Judea, in any of the towns, or cities thereof; let them not betake themselves to Jerusalem, imagining they may be safe there, in so strong and fortified a place, but let them flee elsewhere; see Luke 21:21 and accordingly it is observed, that many did flee about this time; and it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus (a) takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden, without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made; and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over Jordan, as Eusebius says (b), to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city, but they had fled as they are here bidden to.
Mountain = mountain or other place of safety or refuge. Many flew to Mount Libanus.
The desolation was to be so sudden that believers were not to stop to gather anything but just flee for their very lives. They were to come down off their roofs by the outside ladders, not even going through their houses to escape lest they be caught and killed on the way. The workers in the fields laid their outer clothes on the sides of the fields while they worked. They were not even to turn back to grab them but just flee like Lot fleeing Sodom. That is how sudden and swift the desolation would be].
This tribulation was the greatest the world has ever seen or will ever see (cf. Mark 13:19). Any future tribulations will not be of this magnitude contra the view of Futurists with their rapture/tribulation understanding. The passage says that more comes after “That Tribulation” (Mark 13:24) meaning AD 70 and therefore not a future tribulation of this magnitude. On Pretribulationism:
Pretribulationism arose only in A.D. 1830. Then, breaking with the Protestant Reformation’s doctrine of the Papacy as the Antichrist — the unbalanced Margaret McDonald called the utopian socialist Robert Owen, in person, the Antichrist.”
The 3.5-year tribulation commenced in AD 66.5 and ended in AD 70 with Christ’s invisible and lightning-like coming in judgment.
Woe – it would almost be a complete genocide of those living in Jerusalem.
Matthew 24:22-28 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
The believers were to flee the wrath to come. They were not to go forth to see Christ if they heard any sort of rumor that He was there. [The Jews were expecting Messiah to deliver them from Roman powers, but Christ makes it clear that such would not happen either before or after AD 70. False teachers during this time included Jonathan, Simon son of Giora, John, Eleazar, and Barcochab/Barcoziba. Many followed after them and were slaughtered by the Romans in their rebellions against Rome. The false teachers’ deceptions were so powerful that a believer might be partly deceived if it were possible, but such deception was not actually possible and no believers were actually deceived. Jesus told them this ahead of time to show that he was the only true Messiah].
[Shortened = a lesser severity than Jerusalem deserved]
Lightning = Sudden, unexpected, filling the whole sky, ie. Fully visible. Christ’s invisible coming in judgment on Jerusalem would be sudden and unexpected, but visible and seen to all, ie. not secret
Carcase = “the decomposing carcase of Jerusalem’s dying Judaism.”
Eagles = Roman armies, whose ensigns were eagles. [Wherever the apostate Jews were, whether in Jerusalem or hiding elsewhere, the Roman armies would find them out].
Matthew 24:29-31 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Mark 13:24-25 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
That tribulation, the tribulation of those days = AD 70
[Sun = Shekinah glory, the divine presence in the Temple, which had already departed the Temple but was still visible in the outward token of the mercy seat and the two cherubim over it – even that was now removed.
Moon = the ceremonial law, which the Church has under her feet (Revelation 12:1), shown as a moon because the Jewish religion was lunar-regulated. Such ceremonial law was abolished in Christ but now was utterly destroyed with the Temple from the face of the earth].
Stars = World leaders [the Jewish rabbis and doctors who had departed from the law.
Powers of the heavens = the ordinances of the legal dispensation, now replaced with the ordinances of the gospel dispensation. After the Temple was destroyed, there were no scholars of the degree there had been before.
Sign, clouds = Christ Himself, coming with wrath and vengeance on the apostate Jews. The Jews were always seeking after a sign. Their world would be so changed that it would be as if Christ had personally appeared to them in the heavens to announce that He had come and that He was no mere man (cf. Matt. 26:64).
Angels = human ministers of the gospel. Christ’s kingdom would suddenly extend far and wide. After AD 70 especially, the gospel would go worldwide and Christ would bring many into His kingdom.
Trumpets = gospel. An allusion to Moses’ silver trumpets or to the trumpet sounding the year of Jubilee.
Gather = bring into the kingdom. Those who are saved will come into the Church].
Matthew 24:32-48 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
[Fig. When all these things were happening, the believers were to know that the destruction was soon and with it, their deliverance from the Jewish persecutions. The summer of the gospel dispensation was come].
“This generation” = the generation Christ was speaking to, who would be alive in AD 70. The events prophesied occurred within 40 years or one generation of Christ’s words. At that time, the Temple ordinances and the Old Testament administration were visibly destroyed. [Some of the doctors of the law to whom Christ spoke and who were still living in AD 70 included “Rabban Simeon, who perished with it, R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who outlived it” and R. Zadoch and R. Ishmael.
That day/hour refers to AD 70 and not to the second coming as many take it. The year might be calculable from Daniel’s weeks, but not the day or the hour. The destruction was on the 9th of Ab.
As the flood came unexpectedly in the days of Noah, so also would Christ’s coming in judgment be. Also, the people were exceedingly sinful as in the days of Noah. Their cares were this-worldly, not heavenly. The people did not heed Noah, as they would not heed Christ.
Taken = killed or taken captive by the Roman army.
Left = delivered from the Roman army by God’s providence.
Hour. The disciples were to be ready for Christ’s sudden and unexpected judgment. The passage may also allude to Christ’s Final Coming, which he begins to speak about in parables following this passage.
Thief. Again, Christ’s coming will be sudden and unexpected. The disciples were therefore to be watchful of it. When Christ’s desolating judgments and/or death come, all believers are to be prepared to meet Him by trusting in Him, etc.
Ruler = ministers. Those who were leaders in the Church were to feed the Church meat, not milk. They were to be faithful in their duties and would receive Christ’s heavenly reward accordingly.
Evil servants = Unredeemed people, ie. false professors, who would get their due punishment, ie, hell.
End of passage