Jesus claims the great tribulation was to occur in the first century (Matt 24:34) and that it was associated with the collapse of the temple then-standing (Matt 24:2-3). He was somewhat hampered in his prophetic announcements by not having access to the New York Times or Newsweek magazine. Furthermore, he did not have in his library The Late Great Planet Earth. He even operated without the Larkin charts.
Nevertheless, postmillennialists believe he knew what he was talking about. And conversely, we also believe that neither Hal Lindsey nor the New York Times know what they are talking about.
But still, when applying the Olivet Discourse to AD 70, we run upon some apparent difficulties. One of these is the question that necessarily arises: Did Christ come on the clouds in A.D. 70? In Matthew 24:30 (KJV) we read a statement that sounds very much like the second coming of Christ: “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
This is the type of language that can speak of the Second Advent. We must understand, however, that A.D. 70 is a distant reflection of that future coming event; therefore the same dramatic language can apply to it, as well.
According to Jesus’ prophecy there will be a “sign of the Son of Man in heaven.” This sign is (apparently) the smoke of the temple being destroyed. This will be the sign to the Jews that the Son of Man is not in the tomb but at the right hand of God moving against them in judgment, just as he warns them (Matt 26:64). Jesus is speaking of some sort of sign that he is at the right hand of God — that he is high and exalted, the one causing their judgment and anguish.
We know this must occur in the first century because he specifically declares just four verses later: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34).