"Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 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" (Matt. 24:4-14).
Jesus warns His followers not to be deceived. The first sign of Jerusalem's approaching destruction would be that many would pretend to be the Christ and would mislead countless people. Certainly this is understandable because the excitement that Jesus generated would encourage many others to attempt to be the kind of "Messiah" that the Jewish people wanted. The law of supply and demand insured that many pretenders would follow Jesus.
Wars and rumors of wars would be the second sign that Jerusalem's doom was approaching. Historically there were at least three threats of war made against the Jews by the Roman emperors, and there were three uprisings of Gentiles against Jews in which thousands perished.
But, Jesus said - "The end is not yet." The time for Jerusalem's end was not yet present. There would be other signs to follow first.
Natural disasters such as famines, pestilences, and earthquakes constituted the third sign. There is abundant historical evidence on this subject. For example, earthquakes struck Crete (46 or 47 A.D.), Rome (51 A.D.), Phrygia (53 and 60 A.D.), and Campania (62 or 63 A.D.). Roman writers of that era referred to an indefinite number of famines, and at least one pestilence in which 30,000 perished in Rome alone. These facts are all verifiable by the unbelieving writers who recorded them (e.g., Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Philostratus, and Seneca). These men were not followers of Christ, but they did provide evidence of these signs that Jesus predicted would precede Jerusalem's demise.
"These are the beginning of the sorrows" (Matt. 24:8). The Greek word here for "sorrows" was often used to describe the pains of childbirth. That which Jesus had described was just the beginning of the agony that Jerusalem's inhabitants would suffer; they still had much "hard labor" to follow.
Severe persecution against Jesus' followers would be the fourth sign. Many would be killed for their faith. The book of Acts gives plenty of evidence that the persecution of Christians was extreme (cf. 5:40; 7:58; 8:1,3; etc.). Hatred against Christianity was even stronger than one's family ties, which explains why there would be much animosity and betrayal (e.g., Mark 13:12; Luke 12:53).
In addition to the multitude of false Messiahs, there would also be false prophets appearing on the scene. This would certainly include the false teachers who arose in the church (cf. II Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 2:1-4; II Peter 2; etc.).
"And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12). The prevalence of sin often tempts and encourages the weak to commit it. Additionally, it must be understood that when there is sin in our lives, it is impossible to love God and our fellow man to the fullest of our abilities.
"But he who endures to the end shall be saved" (cf. 10:22). Persecution always causes the faint-hearted to crumble (cf. 13:21). Let it be noted that there is an interesting secondary meaning that can be applied to this verse in context. Those who endured (and survived persecution) were those who were faithful. They would take this prophecy to heart and flee Jerusalem at the appropriate time to avoid its destruction. Historically, it has been reported that not a single Christian perished in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. They believed, obeyed, and endured; thus, they were saved physically (as well as spiritually).
"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" - Jerusalem's destruction would not come until after the gospel was preached in all the world (cf. Col. 1:23, which was written around A.D. 63). The city that symbolized Judaism would not be removed until the new dispensation was sown throughout the world.