Why is Matthew 24 so important in the Bible?
Matthew 24 is the first half of Jesus’ instructions in telling us what will happen in the last days and end times. I separate the last days from the end times. The last days began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). We live in the last days now.
The end times will begin a cataclysmic and tribulation filled time at the very end of human history. Matthew 24-25 tell us what will be expected leading up to the end times. Jesus begins with the prophecy about the Temple in Jerusalem being destroyed in 70 AD (Matthew 24:1-2).
But after that, the entire chapter is devoted to discussions of the end times and what they will be like. He begins with describing the signs of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3-14). These are not end times events. They are the events that lead up to the end times. They happen in the last days.
Jesus describes next the abomination of desolation prophesied originally by Daniel (Matthew 24:15-28). Jesus ended the last section by saying, “then the end will come.” So this abomination happens at the beginning of the end, to signify that the end times are swinging into full force.
Paul also describes this with the man of lawlessness in 1 Thessalonians 2. This is the rise of the Antichrist to power. Part of his power will be religious power that he grabs by going into the Temple in Jerusalem and presented himself as God.
At the same time the Antichrist is rising the power will be the time of the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:29-31). He will send his angels and gather the church to himself. The world will realize that it has missed the boat, so to speak. This will be a crazy time and great tribulation will be upon the earth.
Jesus talks about the lesson of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-35), saying that the farmer knows when the tree is ready. In the same way, we should be watching the times and seasons so that we know when these things are happening.
Jesus does say that this generation will pass away before these things happen. I believe the best way to interpret this is that this generation refers to the generation that sees the abomination of desolation and the other signs greatly intensifying in the beginning of the chapter.
The reason we must interpret the seasons and times of these events is that no one knows the day that the Son of Man will arrive before he comes (Matthew 24:36-52). Believers must always be prepared for his coming, hence the reason for discerning the times and seasons.
But the rest of the world will act as it did in the days of Noah. It will be like nothing is happening. They will ignore all of the signs and warnings of the changing of the times. Just like in those days when God’s rain came upon the earth and flooded it, the people will marry and buy and sell.
They will lack the discernment to see that the Son of Man is about to arrive, and the end times are about to begin. When he arrives, two people will be working and one will be taken. This will surprise the world because they aren’t paying attention to the signs and times.
Jesus focuses on the faithful servant whose master (Jesus) finds him doing what Jesus has told him to do when he comes. If we are faithful, when Jesus arrives we won’t have to worry about the day and hour he comes. We will be doing things that please him no matter when he comes.
Matthew 25 continues the theme of the end times by describing it in the sense of parables. The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the first, focuses on those who are not ready. Five of the virgins do not have enough oil and are not ready for the bridegroom’s arrival.
The second parable, the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), focuses on our ability as disciples to do the work that pleases the Lord until he returns. The master of the house leaves three servants three different amounts of talents. Talents are money.
The first and second double their profits but the third servant has preconceived notions of the morality of the master and does not even gain interest with the one talent he is given. He receives no reward and the talent is given to the first servant. Jesus rewards those who work hard for him.
I must explain from Matthew 24 and Matthew 25 that the second coming of the Son of Man comes in two parts. In Matthew 24, he comes in the clouds and takes the church away. The angels are the ones to collect them. But in Matthew 25 the Son of Man comes in physically plants his feet on the earth, judges the world, and is King.
He describes his judgment where he will separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep are the ones that believe in the Son of Man and treat others well. He says that he represents the needy and that they have passed his test by taking care of the needy.
But the goats are the ones who don’t believe in him and do not treat the needy well. They complain that they never saw him or they would have helped him. That’s when he identifies with the needy and says that if they helped the needy they helped him. He then tells them to leave his presence.
These two chapters contain the themes of preparing for the Lord’s coming, being faithful until he arrives, and believing in him and doing good works before his arrival. They are important to the Bible because they outline the end times events and make disciples of Jesus ready for his arrival.