As Jesus was leaving the temple grounds, the disciples pointed out to him the beautiful buildings.
“Do you see all these buildings?” he asked. “I can assure you that they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”
Later, when Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately.
“Tell us,” they said. “When will all this happen? And will there be some sign to warn us of your return and the end of the world?”
“Don’t be misled,” he said. “Many people will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m the Messiah,’ and even more will believe them. You’ll hear of wars and rumours of wars, but don’t be alarmed – these things must take place, but the end will still be to come. Nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world, but these are only the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then you’ll be arrested and handed over to be persecuted and killed. All the world will hate you because of me. At that time many will turn from the faith and betray and hate each other. False prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of crime, the love of many will grow cold, but he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and only then the end will come.
“So when you see the abomination that causes desolation standing in the holy place – the object that Daniel the prophet mentioned …” (Reader, please work this out for yourself.) “… then those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Anyone who’s on a rooftop shouldn’t go inside the house to collect anything. And anyone out in a field shouldn’t go home to get his coat. How terrible it will be for women who are pregnant or nursing babies in those days! Pray that your flight won’t take place in winter or on a Sabbath, for there will be great distress – greater than at any time since the beginning of the world. In fact, unless that time of calamity had been shortened, not a single person would survive. But it has been shortened for the sake of those who’ve been chosen.
“So if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here’s the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it, for false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform astounding signs and wonders to deceive, if they possibly can, even those who’ve been chosen. Take note of this, please, because it’s an advance warning.
“So if anyone says to you, ‘Look! the Messiah’s out in the desert,’ don’t to see. Or, ‘Look! he’s in that room,’ don’t believe it! For as the lightning flashes from the east and lights up the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. And wherever there’s a carcass, the vultures will collect.
“But after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly powers will be shaken. Then the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the people of the earth for they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Then he’ll send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they’ll gather those who are chosen from the four winds – from one end of heaven to the other.
“Now, learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you will know that he’s near, right at the door. I can assure you that this people won’t pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things are going to happen, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father.
“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. Before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered the ark. And people didn’t realize what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. That’s just how it will be when the Son of Man returns.
“Two men will be working together in the field – one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding corn at the mill – one will be taken and the other left.
“So you, too, must keep watch! You don’t know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this – if the householder had known when the burglar was coming, he would have kept watch and not allowed his house to be broken into. So you too must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come when he’s least expected.
“Who is the faithful and intelligent servant that the master puts in charge of organizing the other servants? If the master returns and finds that the servant’s done a good job, he’ll get a reward. In fact, he’ll be put in charge of all that the master owns. But what if the servant abuses his position, saying, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he ill-treats the other servants, holds wild parties and gets drunk? When the master returns unexpectedly, he’ll tear that servant to shreds and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there’ll be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”