Reading the scriptures just based on our timeline, it would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the disciples were now asking about the end of the world in Matthew 24. But when you look at it closely in context from chapters 21 through 25 you will discover that there is no sensible explanation for why the disciples would have recovered from the long open rebuke of Jesus to the Pharisees and declaring the destruction of the Temple.
It just doesn’t make sense that they would be suddenly changing topics mid-sentence to ask about something completely unrelated like the end of the world. Therefore, it only fits that the disciples were still asking questions about the current discourse. When they asked about the “end of the age,” they were not asking about the end of the world.
This is just a simple solution when you look at the from the original languages. In Greek, the word for “world” is kosmos, whereas the word for “age” is aion. The disciples asked Jesus about the end of the aion. They did not ask about the end of the kosmos.
It is clear from the context even through the parables that Jesus was going to come and bring destruction to Jerusalem and the Temple; therefore, if the Temple was destroyed, it would mean the end of sacrifice. With no temple there would be no more sacrifice, which would mean no more priesthood and rituals. This would be the end of an age which we might we might call, the end of an era. The disciples were asking when the end of the Age of Moses, which Jesus had just prophesied, would happen.
Because many have taught that Jesus was talking about the end of the world, the understanding of many other related verses has also been distorted. By appreciating that the disciples were asking about the end of the Age of Moses, we can clearly understand many verses that are scattered throughout the New Testament.
In that same Matthew 24 Jesus gave the timeline when the prophecy of the end of the age would be fulfilled.
Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:34-35).
To the Jewish people, a generation is forty years, not 80 and 100 many have claimed. This is clearly seen in the fact that a “generation” died in the wilderness during the forty-year journey (Deut. 29:5 gives more details). Therefore, Jesus was saying that this prophecy would happen before forty years had gone by. Jesus said this in AD 30, and the entirety of His Matthew 24 prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70. The Jews wondering in the wilderness was a shadow of a coming reality in the advent of the New testament which was the true promised land in Jesus.
The New Testament is filled with exhortations that a near eschatological event was on the horizon for those living at that time. Here are some scriptures to prove that the end of the age was upon that first century church and not in our time:
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12)
“But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none” (1 Corinthians 7:29).
“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5).
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:2).
“[Jesus] would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26).
“[Let us not forsake] our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
“For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:37)
“Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! (James 5:3)
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:7–9)
“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (I Peter 4:7)
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18).
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John” (Rev. 1:1)
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Rev. 1:3).
“I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Rev. 3:11)
“And [the angel] said to [John], ‘These words are faithful and true’; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place” (Rev. 22:6)
“And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev. 22:7)
“And [the angel] said to [John], ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.’” (Rev. 22:10)
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Rev. 22:12)
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20)
It’s is impossible to turn the above time indicators into an “any-moment rapture” or prolonged periods of prophetic history. This would be to arrogantly disregard the authority of scriptures and make it fit for us without context. The Kingdom of God is growing, and we are not looking for a future “falling away” of the Church. We are looking forward to the explosion of God’s grace upon the earth until His glory covers the earth.