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In Matthew 24:3, Jesus' disciples had a question (NKJV):

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Many understand them as asking more than one question in this verse. In answering, Jesus at first spoke of "those days" (NKJV, emphasis added):

But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! (24:19)

And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (24:22)

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. (24:29)

Then, He speaks of "that day" (NKJV, emphasis added):

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. (24:36)

Does this suggest that, in verse 36, Jesus switched to discussing an event separate from "those days" previously discussed in the chapter?

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  • -See up-dated emendation of Answer given by Ray Grant. Perhaps a clearer presentation supporting the "change" of topics in the Olivet Discourse.
    – ray grant
    Jul 12, 2023 at 19:59

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This is rather uncomplicated: in Matt 24 "those days" refers to the time just prior to "that day". More specifically:

  • V29-22 describes "those days" of turbulation just preceding the return of the Son of Man described in V26-31
  • V36 - "that day" refers to the coming of the Son of Man described in V30, 31 - no one knows when "that day" will be.

Indeed, following Jesus' sermon about seven signs of Jesus' coming, Jesus then tells seven parables about being ready for "that day". See appendix below.

APPENDIX - Synoptic Apocalypse

The synoptic Gospels all have apocalyptic sections: Matt 24, Mark 13, Luke 21. If this material is combined, it forms an interesting structure which is effectively Jesus’ commentary on the Book of Daniel. Its structure is outlined below:

  • Introduction: Matt 24:1-3, Mark 13:1, 2, Luke 21:5-7
  • Sign #1: False Christs and False prophets, Matt 24:5, 23-28 & Luke 21:28) Note that these false christs claim to be the “I AM” (Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8). See “I AM”. The deception is also discussed in 2 Thess 2:9-12, specifically about those who refuse to receive the love of the truth. See also Rev 13:13, 14, and 2 Peter 2.
  • Sign #2: Wars and Rumours of Wars, Matt 24:3-8 Note the parallel with “wars” (Rev 6:3, 4) and “famine” (Rev 6:5, 6).
  • Sign #3: Persecution of the Saints, Luke 21:12-19, Matt 24:9-13 Note the parallel with “death” etc, (Rev 6:9-11)
  • Sign #4: Worldwide Gospel preaching, Matt 24:14 Note Jesus’ parallel instruction in Matt 28:19, 20, Acts 1:8, Matt 4:19, Mark 1:17.
  • Sign #5: Abomination of Desolation, Matt 24:15-22 This is an allusion to the prophecies of Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11, and 2 Thess 2:3-8. The “distress” is parallel to 2 Tim 3:1-5.
  • Sign #6: Times of the Gentiles, Luke 21:28 This is an allusion to the 1260 days (Dan 7:25, 12:7, Rev 11:2, 3, 12:6, 14, 13:5)
  • Sign #7: Sun, Moon and Stars, Matt 24:29-31 See also Rev 6:12-14, Isa 13:10, 34:4, Joel 2:31, and 1 Thess 4:16, 17.
  • Warning Parable #1: Fig Tree, Matt 24:32-35
  • Warning Parable #2: Noah & Flood, Matt 24:36-41
  • Warning Parable #3: Thief, Matt 24:42-44
  • Warning Parable #4: Servant, Matt 24:45-51
  • Warning Parable #5: Ten Virgins, Matt 25:1-13
  • Warning Parable #6: Talents, Matt 25:14-30
  • Warning Parable #7: Sheep and Goats, Matt 25:31-46 Note the parallel of “eternal punishment” with 2 Thess 1:8-10 and Jude 7, 8.
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  • Thanks for your answer! +1
    – The Editor
    Oct 29, 2022 at 17:18
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+50

Throughout the entire chapter, Jesus is describing events that would culminate with the destruction of Jerusalem. He concludes by asserting the certainty of those things. They would be as certain as the eventual passing away of the heavens and the earth. To clarify that these were two separate events he says

" But of THAT day and THAT hour no man knows, not even the angels."

This is in stark contrast to the preceding events for which he gives many indicators so that they WOULD know when those things were taking place so they could be ready to flee Jerusalem when they saw those things coming.

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  • Thank you for your reply! For clarification, what are you saying "THAT day and THAT hour" represents? Are you saying "those days" represent the events leading up to Jerusalem's fall, while "that day" is the destruction of Jerusalem itself? Or are you saying "those days" refers to the days leading up to and culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem itself, while "that day" is Jesus's future coming after the destruction of Jerusalem?
    – The Editor
    Oct 26, 2022 at 13:30
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    As Jesus explained, THAT day and THAT hour was the passing of the heavens and the earth. The time of that event is known only to the Father. He makes a point of separating that event from everything he has said regarding the destruction of the Temple.
    – oldhermit
    Oct 26, 2022 at 13:41
  • @ oldhermit - See new answer by Ray Grant, showing clearly the delineation between the two.
    – ray grant
    May 14 at 21:24
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Big Switch There is definitely a switch of topics from the soon coming Destruction of Jerusalem and a future Coming of Jesus at the End of the world. There is an emphatic change by the words Jesus used here: "Verily, I say unto you" and the conjunction "but." (Gk. peri de, 'but concerning...') The first phrase put a finish to the topic of the End of the Mosaic Age, and the second introduced the topic of the Second Coming which would put an end to the Gospel Age.

The two sections are marked differently, not only by the use of "days" versus "day," but also the listing of many "signs" versus an unannounced Coming with "no signs."

Misconceptions Jesus seemed to be trying to clear up the misconceptions of the disciples (as well as rabbis) who would equate the horrible idea of the Destruction of the Temple with the End of the World! This was the same mistake the Jews made at the first Temple destruction in 586 B.C. "The Temple, The Temple" was their security assumed back then. God would not let it be destroyed, so they thought, for that would be like the end of the world (See Isaiah's warnings.)

For illustration, when the Disciples asked about "the End", they used the Greek word, sunteleias, which is used of the End of the World, or "The Harvest" as in Matthew 13:39. But when Jesus mentioned, "the end" in this first section of the Olivet discourse, He always used telos instead. This designated just the End of an Age. (In this case the End of the Mosaic Age.)

Signs Then, No Signs Later In the first section of Matthew 24, there were a "variety" of signs mentioned; signs that would lead the disciples all the way to the Destruction of Judea. (Notice hoe many times Jesus said "you" to the disciples!) But, in the second section, when Jesus ended His several illustrations (v.36ff-25:1ff) He always made the "same" conclusion: "You just don't know!" No signs!

This separation of topics can be seen as the best interpretation if Chapter 23 and 25 are included in the research. Jesus set the mood for the Destruction in 23, and highlighted the Consummation in chapter 25.

Sun, Moon, Stars Note that much of the imagery used in the first section (which to modern minds seems extraordinary) was familiar to the literate rabbis as common figures of speech used by their ancient prophets. Those metaphors were used of the downfall of nations. (Just as the nation of Israel was to collapse.) The change to ordinary, everyday occupational conduct in the second section more than hints of a change in topics.

Those Days, That Day Thus the switch in verbal usage from those days to that Day, as signifying a switch in topics, is underscored by several other "switchings" in this Olivet Discourse.

THOSE DAYS 24:1-34----->transition 24:35-36------>THAT DAY 24:36-25:46

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