When examining Matthew 24 too many want to get to the answer before they know the question. We do this because we want our question answered. We look for the answer we want now knowing the question they asked.
An underage child asks to take the car for a spin. You answer no, but their sibling assumes a no to their brother means a yes to them. One asks the wrong question because everything must be about them, the other hears the wrong answer because everything must be about them. I think the disciples are the first brother; they asked the wrong question. They assume that the destruction of the temple must mark the end. We are the second brother. We hear the wrong answer because everything must be about us. But if we really listen to Jesus’ answer it will set us all straight because everything is about Him.
Some self-proclaimed prophecy pundits will tell you that you need to have your Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other when studying prophecy. I say that this is an arrogant and foolish notion. Andrew Perriman gives far better advice.
We will try to read forwards from the first century rather than backwards from the twenty-first century. One of the reasons why the apocalyptic language of the New Testament can be so puzzling to the modern interpreter is that we cannot help but read it retrospectively and with the advantage, which more often than not turns out to be the disadvantage, of hindsight. It is rather like words written on a glass door. Once we have gone through the door, the text is reversed and becomes difficult to decipher. To make sense of it, we must at least imagine how it must have appeared from the other side of the door as it would have been viewed by those for whom it was written.
When you do this I believe you will see that what is being spoken of in vv. 4-14 happens before the destruction of the temple in AD 70. If you stumble on v. 14 look at Romans 16:26-27 and Colossians 1:6 and give it another read. When we read the text such that it is not all about us, it is then that it becomes most helpful for us. In humbling us, we are helped.
When we read the text rightly I believe there are two major lessons the Spirit intends for us to learn. 1. Keep calm. The end is not yet. Do not be alarmed. These things must take place. Jesus is in control. 2. Carry on. The same Jesus who says that these bad things must happen, says that the good gospel will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Jesus is still in control, and the proclamation on the gospel is still his plan. Keep calm, and carry on.
I don’t care what your position is regarding the when of Matthew 24:4-14, if the result is a fearful, hopeless, laziness, you’re doing it wrong. Likewise, I don’t so much what you position is, if the result is a confident, hopeful, work-fulness, you’re getting it mostly right. You’re getting it right in the biggest ways.
To the kids in the back seat asking wrongly and listing wrongly, whining, “Are we there yet?” Jesus says, “I’m driving, stop fretting, we will get there when we get there. Keep calm and carry on.”