We now go back to Matthew 24. We are looking at the Lord's answer to the questions, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
So, the Lord's answer is in context of his coming (return to earth) and the end of the age (not the "world"). This means these events concern the time of the Tribulation ("Jacob's trouble"); Israel's testing. As we have seen in Matthew, the Lord is addressing his brothers according to the flesh (Jews).
We must understand this to understand the parables of this section of scripture. These parable deal with the end of the age.
Just to nail down this point, note what the Lord says of the signs that will precede his return in light of Revelation chapter 6 (the seal judgments). These are not necessarily in order, they are different conditions of that age.
24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. [First Seal: White Horse]
24:7a For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. [Second Seal: Red Horse]
24:7b And there will be famines, pestilences [Third and Fourth Seals: Black Horse and Pale Horse]
24:9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.[Fifth Seal: Martyrs crying out for justice]
24:7b and earthquakes in various places [Sixth Seal: great earthquake and signs in the heavens]
24:13-14 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Again, we have the "gospel of the kingdom." This is the gospel to Israel alone as we have seen (cp Matt 4:23; 10:5-7). This section of scripture continues the theme of the whole Book.
At the end, the Lord will deal with his people, Israel. according the promises and hopes revealed to the prophets.
24: 29-31 Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn [Zech 12:10], and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory [Dan 7:13; 1 Thess 4:17]. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect [Is 45:4; 65:22; etc.] from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
This is a terrible time for Israel, God's elect people:
24:22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
God will return to keep his promise to his elect people, even though they currently do not know him. He will call them out of all the earth, back to the land of promise.
For Jacob My servant’s sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.-Isaiah 45:4
So will I do for My servants’ sake,That I may not destroy them all.I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,And from Judah an heir of My mountains;My elect shall inherit it,And My servants shall dwell there.-Isaiah 65:8-9
This sets the context for the next five parables:
-The Parable of the Fig Tree (2)
-The Parable of the Servants
-The Parable of the Foolish Virgins
-The Parable of the Talents
-The Parable of the Sheep and Goats