The Temple of Doom: Reading Matthew 24-25 in Context

Many well-meaning Christians have misinterpreted and misunderstood Jesus' prophecies of impending judgment in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 & 25. One of the most important factors in rightly understanding Jesus' prophetic warnings is to read them in the larger context of Jesus' activity in the Temple the week leading up to His death.

Following his "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus went into the Temple, looked around, and then left. The next day (Monday), he came back to "cleanse" the Temple after having cursed the barren fig tree on the way. On Tuesday, Jesus returned to the Temple for a final showdown with the religious leaders. It was on Tuesday, the day after he had enacted a symbolic judgment on the Temple that Jesus pronounced judgment specifically. As he was leaving the Temple, the disciples asked questions that prompted Jesus to make his extended prophecy of judgment on Jerusalem.


Matthew 21:1-11 --> Triumphal Entry àthe Lord comes to his Temple (Mal. 3:1ff.)

Matthew 21:12-17 --> Temple "cleansed"; Judgment prophetically enacted

Matthew 21:18-22 --> Cursing the barren fig tree (a symbol of fruitless Israel)

-- "This mountain" being cast into the sea is a reference to God's judgment on the Temple Mount.

Matthew 21:23ff. --> Temple leaders begin to challenge Jesus

Matthew 21:28-32 --> Parable of the Two Sons; An indictment against religious leaders who said the right things but ultimately refused to obey the Lord.

Matthew 21:33-46 --> Parable of the Wicked Tenants; 

-- A clear indictment about the wicked religious leaders of Israel who killed the prophets and would soon kill the owner's Son. God's judgment is clearly announced on those wicked stewards, and they knew it (21:45).

Matthew 22:1-14 --> Parable of the Wedding Feast

-- Those invited to the feast (the Jews) refused to come when called and so incurred God's judgment. The master then gathered any and all (Gentiles) into the banquet.

Matthew 22:15-45 --> Testing Jesus

-- The Pharisees team up with their enemies, the Herodians, to get Jesus in trouble with Caesar. Various other tests are put to Jesus in an attempt to snare him in his words.

Matthew 23:1-36 --> Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees

-- In contrast to the Beatitudes of Matt. 5, Jesus pronounces curses of judgment on the wicked scribes and Pharisees. Notice that the judgments are for "this generation" (v. 36).

Matthew 23:37-39 --> Jesus weeps over the fate of rebellious Jerusalem.

-- The house that will be left desolate is the Temple, because Jesus, the glory of God, is departing.

Matthew 24:1-2 --> As Jesus was walking away from the Temple, the disciples asked him questions specifically related to his prophecies of judgment and the future of Temple.

-- Jesus replies with language that alludes to judgment on a defiled house (Lev. 14; Zech. 5).

Matthew 24:3ff. --> Jesus pronounces judgment on the Temple and Jerusalem

-- Sitting on the Mount of Olives, Jesus was facing the Temple from across the Kidron Valley.

-- The "coming of Jesus" refers to his visitation in judgment, not his bodily return.

-- The "end of the age" refers not to the end of the physical world but to the end of the Old Covenant system, symbolized by the Temple.

-- Throughout Scripture, an "abomination of desolation" is a sin that religious leaders commit in the Lord's sanctuary that causes God's glory to leave (i.e. leave the house desolate).

-- The signs of judgment in the heavens (24:29-31) refers to social, political and spiritual rulers coming under judgment. The tribes of the earth/land (Israel) will see the Lord's judgment (cf. Rev. 1:7).

-- Jesus makes reference to the cursing of the fig tree (21:18ff.), explicitly stating that allhis prophecies of judgment will take place before "this generation" passes away (24:34).

-- The mention of people being taken (24:40-41) refers to the approximate proportion of the Jews (50%) who will die in the judgment.

Matthew 25 --> Parables of Judgment (Ten Virgins, Talents, Sheep & Goats)

-- These parables obviously have immediate application to the judgment of 70 AD, but they have implications for the Final Judgment of the world as well.

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