3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
the age (v.3) — the Jewish age (Daniel’s 70th week), not the church age.
The questions showed that they had arrived at certain conclusions. The prophet Zechariah had described the advent of Messiah to institute His kingdom (Zechariah 14:4). This coming was to be preceded by an invasion of Jerusalem (12:1-3; 14:1-3). Jerusalem would be totally destroyed and the majority of the people in the land would be slaughtered (13:8-9). To these men Christ’s words concerning the destruction of Jerusalem was the destruction predicted by Zechariah that would precede the advent of the Messiah. In Jewish eschatology two ages were recognized: the first was this present age, the age in which Israel was waiting for the coming of the Messiah; the second was the age to come, the age in which all of Israel’s covenants would be fulfilled and Israel would enter into her promised blessings as a result of Messiah’s coming. The present age would be terminated by the appearance of Messiah, and the coming age would be introduced by His advent. The present age, then, was to end in judgment, and the coming age must be preceded by this devastation. The disciples concluded that the judgment Christ had predicted was the one that would terminate this present age. After this judgment Messiah would come to introduce the age to come. Thus they asked “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age”? (Matthew 24:3).
Let us note concerning this great eschatological discourse that Jesus was here revealing the prophetic program for Jerusalem, the nation Israel, and the people of Israel. He made no reference to the church or the prophetic program for the church. Jesus did not speak here of events that will precede the consummation of the program for the church at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Rather, He dealt with the future Tribulation, or seven-year period that will complete the prophetic program for Israel as revealed in Daniel 9:27. Because of its Jewish context this portion of Scripture must be interpreted with reference to Israel and not the church. — Pentecost, page 398.
sorrows (v.8) = birth pangs, travail
Christ described the events that will fall within the seven years of what Jeremiah called “a time of trouble for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7). Jesus referred to the rigors that Israel will undergo in this period as “birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). They will be the sufferings that precede the birth of the new age to come. Daniel indicated that this seven-year period will be divided into two parts of equal length (Daniel 9:27). Jesus described signs that will be given to the nation Israel in the first half of the Tribulation (Matthew 24:4-8). One sign will be that false Messiahs will appear (v.5). Another sign will be reports of war (vs. 6-7). Another will be natural catastrophes — famines and earthquakes (v.7).
John in Revelation 6 described events of the first half of the Tribulation by disclosing what was hidden under the seals on a scroll. That the seals fall within the first half of the Tribulation is suggested by the parallelism that exists between Christ’s sings in Matthew 24:4-8 and what John revealed in Revelation 6. John’s first seal has to do with a rider on a white horse (Revelation 6:2), who is a false Messiah. As the result of the rise of this one, peace will be taken from the earth and war will ensue (v.4). As a result of war there will be widespread famine (v.6) that will result in widespread death (v.8). Christ revealed that as rigorous as these judgments may seem, they will be only “the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8). Thus in this portion Christ described the judgments of the first half of the Tribulation. He gave signs to Israel that would forewarn them of the approach of the Judge. — Pentecost, pages 399-400