Q. Matthew 24:15 to the chapter’s end seems pretty straightforward. It covers a period from the middle of Daniel’s 70th week until the LORD’s return. But I’m wondering about the specific time period indicated by Matthew 24:4-12. Could it be that Matthew 24:4-12 covers the first half of the 70th week? After all, verse 13 says that “he who endures to the end, the same shall be saved.” That doesn’t sound like a statement that would characterize the “church age” in general, but a period characterized by a return to the Mosaic Law.
A. Keep in mind the whole passage is a response to questions from Jewish disciples to their Jewish teacher about the future of Israel. From their perspective at the time, Israel had been given a 490 year period of time to accomplish 6 objectives that wold bring about the End of the Age (Daniel 9:24-27). 483 of these years had past, and because of statements Jesus had made about the temple being destroyed, they wanted clarification on the remaining 7 years. They didn’t know anything about a 2,000 year pause while the Lord built a Gentile Church and the Lord didn’t enlighten them. In fact there isn’t even a hint of the Church in the entire passage. For my explanation on why this this, click here
Matt. 24:4-14 contains several overview statements relative to their question about signs that point to His coming and the End of the Age. None of them are time specific but are common to the entire 2000 years. There will be false messiahs, wars and rumors of war, natural disasters. The Jews will be persecuted and put to death, many would turn away from the faith, and false prophets would deceive them. Because of this the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Then the Gospel will be preached to the whole world and the end will come.
This entire summary was intended for the Lord’s Jewish audience, not the Church. We know this because we’re not told that if we stand firm till the end we’ll be saved. We’re told that our salvation was guaranteed from the first moment we believed (Ephes. 1:13-14), and that it’s God Himself who makes us stand firm in Christ (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
Neither is the Church required to preach the Gospel to the whole world before the end can come. We’ve spent 2,000 years doing that and are no where near finished. But Rev. 14:6 says that at the beginning of the Great Tribulation God will send an angel to preach the eternal gospel to every nation, tribe, language and people. He will fulfill the Lord’s promise, not the Church.
Beginning in verse 15, the remainder of the chapter contains more detailed and specific prophecies, all of which were still intended for Israel. “Let those in Judea (Israel) flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:16) and “Pray that your flight not be on the Sabbath” (Matt. 24:20) are clear examples. As you pointed out, this portion begins with the Great Tribulation and ends just after the 2nd Coming.
The bottom line is nothing in the Olivet Discourse was intended for the Church. It’s all about Israel.