To interpret Matthew 24 (part of the Olivet Discourse) properly and the destruction of the Temple, should parallel passages be used to clarify?
B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, June 5, 2020
Yes, as well as the immediate context of the chapter. Let’s start with passages leading up to Matthew 24 since chapter divisions are not inspired Scripture, the text is: Matthew 23:37-38, then Matthew 24 itself through the end of Matthew 25, which is the actual end of the Olivet Discourse. Next let’s view the parallel passage in Luke 21 and Mark 13. See also Luke 19:41-44, and Matthew 21:43.
Two Questions: Matthew
Take note in each of these parallel accounts that Jesus is asked two questions about the destruction of the Temple:
1. "Tell us, when will these things be?”
2. “And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
In Matthew, Jesus proceeds to answer the second question first regarding the signs leading up to the coming destruction and the end of the Old Testament sacrificial age/system. Jesus finishes answering that second question in Matthew 24:25.
Then the text of Jesus shifts to answer the first question regarding the timing of the destruction. Jesus answers this and gives some parables regarding this timing as well and doesn’t finish until Matthew 25:31.
Then Jesus once again shifts to discuss what happened when the Son of Man comes in His glory that finally concludes in Matthew 26:1. Matthew 25:31 is explicitly stated so as not to confuse readers into thinking that the judgment on Jerusalem and the Temple are one and the same as the final judgment when Christ returns in His glory. Sadly, many Christians today, mix these two events—the very thing this passage (Matthew 25:31) was meant to distinguish—even though there is a marked separation mentioned in the text.
Two Questions: Mark
One can see the same divided answer by Christ in the parallel account of Mark. Mark 13:5-31 is discussing the second question first (“And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?") and Mark 13:32-37 discusses the first question second ("Tell us, when will these things be?”).
Two Questions: Luke
One can again see the same division in the parallel account of Luke. Luke 21:8-33 is discussing the second question first (“And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”) and Luke 21:34-38 discusses the first question second ("Teacher, but when will these things be?”).
This confuses many because they see the division and think Jesus is now switching to discuss the history-ending Second Coming instead of answering the first question, even though this isn’t in context of the Second Coming, but instead the end of the physical Temple age with its sacrificial system and associated Jewish mandates or more precisely the “end of the age.”
The shift forward to the end in glory
There is indeed a shift in Matthew 25:31 though. It is an obvious shift since it discusses Christ “coming in glory”. This directs us to finality of judgment on these first century Jews who rejected Christ. At the final judgment, they will not be spared.
This is a reminder to all of us too. All who are unrighteous, unrepentant, and without salvation in Jesus Christ will have nowhere to stand on judgment day being enemies of God. And this judgment reveals the eternal consequences.