I’m in Thailand, speaking at a conference, so these posts are short!
D.A. Carson, a New Testament scholar, begins his commentary on Matthew 24 with the following words: “Few chapters of the Bible have called forth more disagreement among interpreters than Matthew 24 and its parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 21. The history of the interpretation of this chapter is immensely complex”
The key to understanding is that Jesus is answering 3 questions of the disciples in v3
1) When will this happen? (the destruction of the Temple)
2) What will be the sign of your coming?
3) What will the sign of the end of the age?
Separating out the three questions, and seeing how Jesus answered each of them, clears up understanding Matthew 24. Jesus was telling his disciples that Jerusalem and the temple (the “this”) would be destroyed in their day. But the “sign” they asked about, Jesus said, would be associated with his coming, not with the destruction of the city. Finally, as to the disciples’ third question, Jesus said, no one could know the answer to the question of when he would return and “the end” of the age would occur.
In Matthew 24 are three questions, and each is answered individually. For us reading it, we can see Jesus’ return and the “end of the age” occurring in the future, and Jerusalem’s destruction in the past, in A.D. 70, just as Jesus prophesied. V15 the abomination that causes desolation most likely occurred in 70 AD with the worship of the Roman Standards on the Temple Mount under Titus.
That is not to say the disciples separated out the destruction of Jerusalem from “the end,” because they almost certainly didn’t. And they most likely thought that the events would occur almost immediately.