The conclusion of Jesus’ ministry marked the beginning of a new age that would continue for an unknown period of time. Since he had already made it known to his followers that his kingdom on Earth would not be established immediately, Jesus’ disciples wanted to know when they should expect his return. Jesus focused their attention on the beginning and ending stages of a time period he referred to as “this generation” (Luke 21:32) so that his followers would be aware of and tracking the most obvious signs of his imminent return. Jesus started by pointing out that the temple in Jerusalem was an important sign or marker of what was about to happen. Luke’s gospel stated, “And as some spake of the temple how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Luke 21:5-6).
Jesus’ prophecy about God’s temple was “fulfilled literally in A.D. 70, when the Romans under Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings. Stones were even pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire…Excavations in 1968 uncovered large numbers of these stones, toppled from the walls by the invaders” (note on Matthew 24:2). This significant sign may have marked the official start of what could be referred to as the Gentile age, the time period when Jesus’ gospel would be taken to the world at large. According to the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples just before he ascended to heaven, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20).
The end of the world that Jesus mentioned in his great commission was not the destruction of the physical planet that we live on, but his overthrow of the world systems of government that are currently being managed by Satanic forces. The word Jesus used that is translated world in Matthew 28:20, aion (ahee-ohn´) is properly translated as an age and specifically refers to a Messianic period (G165). There could be a direct correlation between the spread of the gospel and the destruction of Satan’s earthly kingdom. Whenever someone is born again, there is a shift in the population from the number of people that belong to God’s kingdom compared to Satan’s. It is possible there is a tipping point, so to speak, that will trigger Christ’s return. At which time, the end of this age will begin to unfold.
Jesus indicated there would be numerous signs that would mark the end of the age in which his gospel would be spread throughout the world. He said, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25-27). It seems likely that the signs of Jesus’ return will become more noticeable the closer we get to it happening. Some Bible scholars believe the rapture will take place before an event known as the Great Tribulation and Christians will return with Christ at his second coming (Revelation 19:14). Jesus may have been referring to this when he said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).