I enter this section with trepidation. Christians in the near past have taken passages like this and tried to make timelines—and lots of charts. If that’s what you are looking for, you won’t get it here.
These next couple chapters are the final teachings of Jesus to his disciples before his death.
As the group was leaving Jerusalem, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple. That prediction was seen to be fulfilled within forty years. The only stones left standing on one another are some in the substructure, the manufactured mountain that the Temple stood on. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was total.
After this prediction, the disciples want to know more. We already know that they had not totally accepted the idea of his death, so the question seems a bit unnatural. We must assume that Matthew was also writing for the church. No doubt they had questions about the return of Jesus. They had seen the Temple destroyed and the Jerusalem leadership deposed. When would the rest of it happen?
Jesus says they should expect false messiahs and others who would lead them astray. Jerusalem had seen not shortage of messiahs before and after Jesus. In fact, Jesus was just another false messiah to most people. And church has had no shortage of false messiahs as well. Right down to the present time there are Christians looking for a political leader to restore the power and prestige of the church.
And we have had no shortage of false prophets. The church has been led astray in a hundred directions, mostly for the benefit of individuals, not Jesus.
Jesus said many would fall away. Remember the parable of the soils and see if it is not borne out. He said Christians would betray one another, and it is true. He said Christians will hate one another, and it is also true.
Christians will be persecuted. It still happens today, but not as much since the church became respectable under Constantine. There is a good example of a leader who led the church in the wrong direction and changed the focus. We have never recovered. Some are still looking for another Constantine instead of the return of Jesus.
The one who endures to the end will be saved. The implication is that some will not endure. That is also true. Jesus speaking here sounds a lot like the Jesus speaking to the seven churches in Revelation. Imagine that.
But the end will not come until “this gospel of the kingdom” is proclaimed throughout the whole world, to all the nations. Where are we in that process?