Jesus had been preparing the disciples for kingdom leadership upon His departure. When He spoke of the future, the twelve asked the Lord for specific details so they could be prepared for whatever might come. In Matthew 24-25 Jesus told His disciples that the end of the age would coincide with His return at the Father’s command (Matt 24:1-44). Jesus told the disciples that while they waited for Him to come back, they should work faithfully to advance the kingdom (Matt 24:45-25:30)—knowing that even the fate of nations rests on how they treat those who go about proclaiming the good news (Matt 25:31-46). Jesus employed phrases from Israel’s prophets in order to present future events and His reign on earth in light of the Old Testament.
(1) In Matt 24:15, Jesus cited Dan 9:27 to describe the destruction that would come upon Jerusalem. Daniel noted that when he read Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile would last for seventy years (Jer 25:11-12; 29:10), he sought the Lord in prayer. As Daniel prayed, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that the temple would be desecrated by a nation opposing God’s people (Dan 9:27). When the Romans laid siege against Jerusalem in A.D. 68-70, the city was left in ruins. The tribulation endured then prefigured the great tribulation that would come at the time of Jesus’ return (2 Thess 2:1-12; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 2 Peter 2; Rev 8-9). In Daniel 9, Gabriel emphasized God’s sovereignty over nations and kingdoms. Jesus encouraged the disciples by telling them that God limited the period of days that chaos was allowed to rule on earth so that the elect would be able to endure and be saved (Matt 24:22//Mark 13:20).
(2) In Matt 24:29, Jesus prophesied celestial cataclysm in language used also by Israel’s prophets when they described the final judgement. Isaiah prophesied against Babylon saying that on the Day of the Lord, the stars, sun, and moon would cease to shine (Isa 13:10). Joel announced that when the Day of the Lord arrived, the sun and moon would grow dark as a powerful people came forth to conquer nations (Joel 2:10). Jesus told the twelve that after the tribulation, the heavenly bodies would be altered in anticipation of the arrival of the Son of Man (Matt 24:29//Mark 13:24-25//Luke 21:25-26).
(3) In Matt 24:30, Jesus described His return in language reminiscent of Daniel’s description of the arrival of the Son of Man. In Daniel 7, the Lord revealed to Daniel the earthly kingdoms that would come in succession to rule Israel and the nations. The visions concluded with a description of the day when God would establish His kingdom over all peoples on earth. In the vision of God’s reign, Daniel “saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those from every people, nation, and language should serve Him” (Dan 7:13-14a). In Matt 24:30//Mark 13:26-27//Luke 21:27-28, Jesus announced His arrival in terms that the twelve would have understood from Daniel. Jesus thus described the coming of the end in autobiographical form. He promised that none of the elect would be lost because angels would be sent out with a loud trumpet to gather them, even from all parts of the earth, for the day of judgment and vindication (Rev 7; 11:15-19; 19:11-16; 20:11-15).
(4) In Matt 24:37, Jesus urged His disciples to be vigilant in watching for the day of His return lest they be distracted like those in Noah’s generation who perished. After Noah built the ark, the Lord told him to enter with his family and two of every kind of animal (Gen 7:1-10). When the flood came over the earth, all flesh perished (Gen 7:11-24). The destruction that came upon Noah’s generation served as a warning for the twelve lest they be distracted by food, drink, and family—the regular routines of life.
(5) In Matt 25:32, Jesus used language common to Ezek 34:17, 20 to describe the day He would return to judge the nations. In Ezekiel 34, the prophet confronted Israel’s leaders for feeding themselves and not the flock of God. Ezekiel announced that the Lord would shepherd His people and judge them. In Matt 25:32-33, Jesus expanded Ezekiel’s pattern of judgement, placing Himself as the judge not only of the sheep of Israel, but all nations. Jesus announced that He would judge the nations based upon how they responded to those whom He would send out with His kingdom message (Matt 25:33-46).