As stated in the last two posts, the entirety of chapter 24 relates directly to Israel’s fate over the coarse of the generation (40 years) leading up to the destruction of the Temple.
Verses 37-39 pick up with Jesus comparing the end (of the Temple system) with the great flood in the time of Noah. Everyone was going about their daily lives as normal. Likewise, everyone would be going through their normal Temple rituals ignoring all the signs Jesus has spoke thus far until it is too late for change. Rome would be upon them and many would still vehemently fight, and die, trying to protect their temple system. In verses 40-41, Jesus talks about the separation of people as invaders often did at that time, randomly “taking” one by execution and leaving the other. In verse 43, he goes on to state that if Israel would have listened to the warnings, they may have avoided such destruction. Instead, they ignored Jesus, many assuming that he wasn’t who he said he was (v44) until it was too late to flee or they tried to defend their ways.
If those caught up in the old ways would have listened and understood, they would have fled to the mountains ahead of time when they saw the signs Jesus spoke of being fulfilled. Instead, judgment came like a thief in the night and many were not able to flee as stated in the prior post. Jesus goes on to warn them in verses 45-51 to keep watch for the signs. Those who ignore them or who think these signs weren’t real would be caught off guard when Rome invaded. Those who continued to live out the old, corrupt system would die or be left out of his Kingdom, in the outer darkness with the hypocrites.
This covers the basics of the chapter. There’s much more detail that could be discussed but I’m more of a big picture person and wanted to hit the major points. Again, I won’t profess to be completely right about anything, but I’m striving to understand the historical concepts of what Jesus was speaking about. However, almost 2000 years later, we don’t know all the things that went on so we can only try to put together the pieces that we do know as best as possible.
There is one major question though–If these prophecies could apply to either that generation or to us today, why bother with the historical concepts too much? There’s a very important lesson to note from the entire book of Matthew and much of the rest of the Bible–the way people thought God was going to act was completely different than the way he actually did. The Pharisees, chief priests, disciples, and even the prophets all seemed to think the Messiah was going to destroy all the physical invaders (at the time Rome) and bring about a new golden age for Israel. However, just the opposite happened (in the physical). God used Rome to carry out his judgment on the old Temple system and those who refused to be the salt and light. He then established his new spiritual Kingdom with Jesus as King. Later, the chief priests and elders even paid off the guards who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection so they could keep the Temple system going (Matthew 28:11-13). However, that system had to be completely removed as the way to relate to God so that Jesus could be fully substantiated as the way into the Kingdom.
It seems we’ve fallen into the same trap today. We’re expecting God to destroy the enemies of our “great nation(s)” and bring us into a golden age. We’re still trying to pigeonhole God into our man-made systems. However, if we take the entirety of Matthew 24 and retrofit it to our modern age (if it indeed even applies to us), then the signs of the end that we so adamantly profess would mean that we aren’t really following Jesus and being the salt and light he intends us to be. Judgment would be coming on us, like it did on the Temple system, because of our stubbornness in persisting in ritual based salvation and refusal to embrace those we label as “outsiders.”