There’s a key principle to interpreting foretelling type prophecy; prophecy that talks about events that are yet to happen. The principle is called “prophetic telescoping”. When you look at a distant mountain range through a telescope or binoculars, the mountains look like they are next to each other. However, when you fly over them or check a map you discover there is often miles and miles between them. In Old Testament prophecy we see this principle a lot, where a prophet prophecies events in a passage and yet there are two or more fulfilments to different parts of the prophecy with hundreds or thousands of years gap between them.
The clearest example is when the Lord quotes Isaiah 61 in Luke 4 and says “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. But Jesus only read parts of the prophecy out – the bits about blind seeing, captives and prisoners getting set free. He missed out the judgement and vengeance sections. The reason being prophetic telescoping. The blessing section is the result of his first coming, the judgement will happen at his second coming which is yet to be fulfilled.
In today’s passage Jesus is prophesying future events to do with the end times. Part of Jesus’ humbling himself is that He doesn’t know when He will come again. So as he prophesies, there are elements of prophetic telescoping happening. Verses 5-9 were clearly fulfilled in AD70 and Jesus hints there’s more to come at the end of verse 9. Verses 10-19 open that up, before verses 20-24 again speak of events in AD70. Some of those things are still happening and will increase as the end draws nearer, before the final second coming in verse 27. Note there is no secret second coming, where the saints are raptured out of the troubles. That’s a modern, dare I say it, false teaching.
Times will get tougher, it will be harder to be a Christian. There will be persecution. But as Romans 5 teaches us: where sin abounds, grace abounds more. More and more people will turn to Christ from every tribe and tongue, both Jews and Gentiles.
So don’t live as a “woe is me”, remnant Christian. The kingdom is increasing, even with opposition. In fact it grows best in tough soil. As Jesus says “Stay awake” to what is going on around. Pray, make disciples and look to extend God’s kingdom by seeing friends and family saved, healed and delivered through your words, love and action.