Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Jesus told His disciples that "this generation will not pass away until all has taken place" (v. 32). There has been much debate among bible scholars as to what Jesus meant when he said "this generation"? Some argue it refers to Jesus' generation who saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 under Roman general Titus. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews were "led captive among all nations" (v.24) and scattered worldwide. They did not return to their homeland until the founding of modern Israel in 1948. So, Jesus' generation lived through the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple 37 years after Jesus said those words.
Jesus went on to say that after that, "Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (v.24). Here, he was referring to the period after the scattering of the Jews when the Church of Jesus Christ became almost entirely Gentile. The Church lost its Jewish character and became a Gentile religious movement from AD 70 till 1967 when Israel recaptured Jerusalem from the Arabs during the Six-Day War. Since then, we are beginning to see more and more Jews turning to Christ as their Messiah and becoming part of the world-wide Church of Jesus Christ. Messianic Judaism (where Jews accept Christ as their Savior while retaining their Jewish cultural roots) began in 1960's and has grown in strength as a movement among Jews.
Paul also refers to this "times of the Gentiles" as a period in history when "a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom 11:25). I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the end of this "times of the Gentiles" since 1967. While Jerusalem is still not 100% in Israelis control, it will happen in a matter of time because it is God who orchestrates this event, not man. We may therefore be the final "this generation" that will witness the second coming of the "Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (v.27).
Jesus said that after the end of the "times of the Gentiles" (1967), we will begin to experience many strange phenomena in sky and natural disasters on earth: "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken."
On 15 February last year, a meteor came out of nowhere, pierced the Russia sky and exploded in a lake. This phenomenon happened on the same day another 50-metre giant meteor whizzed past earth below the orbits of stationery satellites.Are these the "signs" that Jesus spoke of? Are recent natural disasters like tsunamis (Japan and Thailand) and unprecedented floods (UK, Europe) are incidents of the "roaring of the sea and the waves" that Jesus said would happen before His coming? And talk about global warming and global food and water shortages are causing many peoples to be "fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world." Could we also be the "this generation" at the end of the "times of the Gentiles" that Jesus said would witness His return?
Look increasingly likely.
So we should watch and pray "lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Father, help us stay alert and awake for we live in fearful and foreboding times. Amen.