Jesus outlines features that will mark his presence in kingly power and the conclusion of this system of things
ON THE Mount of Olives, with a splendid view of Jerusalem and its temple below, four of Jesus’ apostles asked him privately about some of his remarks. Jesus had just said that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. And on an earlier occasion, he had told them about “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 13:40, 49) Now the apostles asked: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”
In his answer, Jesus told what would occur before Jerusalem’s destruction. But his words were more far-reaching than that. His prophecy would later have a larger fulfillment worldwide. Jesus prophesied about a combination of events and world conditions that would form a sign. That sign would show those on earth that Jesus’ presence as King in heaven had begun. In other words, the sign would indicate that Jehovah God had made Jesus the King of the long-promised Messianic Kingdom. The sign would mean that the Kingdom was about to remove wickedness and bring true peace to mankind. The things Jesus foretold would thus mark the last days of the old system of things
Explaining what would happen on earth during his presence as King in heaven, Jesus said that there would be international wars, food shortages, great earthquakes, and widespread disease. Lawlessness would increase. Jesus’ genuine disciples would preach the good news of God’s Kingdom in all the earth. All these things would culminate in “great tribulation” such as had never occurred before.
How would Jesus’ followers know when that tribulation is near? “Learn from the fig tree,” said Jesus. (Matthew 24:32) The appearance of fig leaves on the branches is a noticeable sign that summer is near. Likewise, the occurrence within one time period of all the things Jesus foretold would be a recognizable sign that the end is near. No one but the Father would know the exact day and hour when the great tribulation would begin. Therefore, Jesus urged his disciples: “Keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is.”
^ par. 14 For a further discussion of Jesus’ prophecy, see chapter 9 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.