Jesus is referring to his statements in Luke 21:8-28. As discussed with that verse, Jesus is clearly not speaking of some kind of 'end of the world' scenario that still hasn't occurred. Jesus was speaking to those around him who were clearly going to be living through the events Jesus was describing.
As confirmed by numerous historical scholars of that period - that Jesus was discussing the coming sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans and the temple's subsequent burning to the ground - which occurred in 66 AD. This is confirmed by Jesus' statement:
"Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things occur."Jesus is discussing something that will happen to his students - either at that time or at another time in their lives: He is speaking of the time of death.
Jesus confirms this when he says here:
"Because it will come upon everyone who dwells on the face of the earth."Yes, everyone who lives upon the earth will face the death of our physical body. Sooner or later. For each of us, death will come: When we least expect it.
Death is shocking. We see this as we hear of someone's death. If it is a well-known person, people are shocked, as if we thought the person was going to live forever.
Or if the person who dies is our parents or other relatives: The family is shocked - as if no one thought they would ever die.
Then after someone dies, everyone mourns: How sad it is they have gone. Yes, death steals away those around us - they are suddenly gone. But death will also steal us away as well - in an instant everything we treasure here on earth will be snatched away from us forever.
This of course depends on our level of attachments. The more we are attached to our physical body, material possessions or our role or position within the world, the worse shock death will be to us. This is why Jesus says in the verse above:
"Be careful that your hearts will not be burdened with intoxication and drunkenness, and the anxieties of materialism – or that time will come upon you suddenly, like a trap.""Like a trap," he says. Just think about what happens when a trap clamps down on an animal - say a mouse for example. One minute the mouse is walking around like everything is fine - then snap! - the trap clamps shut.
This is what death is like. We pretend we're going to live within these bodies forever. We have our family affairs and run around pursuing our various goals. But then death comes upon us - and snap! - like the animal trap, our body dies. Maybe the body gets hit by a car, or has a heart attack or dies of the flu. Whatever the cause, the trap of death usually snaps shut fast.
When this death trap shuts, we suddenly have to leave the body behind - along with everything in this world we might be attached to.
Yes, this is what is called 'passing away' - why? Because the self within - the spirit-person - leaves the physical body at the time of death. The self passes from the body - just as one might pass gas - and heads to the next destination.
At that time, the spirit-person (each of us is an individual spirit-person) has to leave behind all of our attachments to the world, including family, house, car, role or job - everything we have come to identify with.
Then where do we go? This depends on upon what we've become attached to.
As Jesus states here:
"The sky and the earth will pass away, but my teachings will not pass away."Jesus is telling his students that when they die, everything will pass away from them. They will be snatched away from everything they've become attached to in this world. But Jesus' teachings will still be there for them after the time of death.
Jesus is thus telling his students to take his teachings seriously because those teachings are eternal. They will save them at the time of death. Jesus' teachings will transport them back to the spiritual realm.
How is that?
Consider Jesus' central teaching:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)Loving the Supreme Being with all our heart, soul and mind will transport us to where He is.
Remember how on Star Trek there was this transporter that took a person from the ship to the planet below or another ship? Well, what we love - what we become attached to - is like a transporter. It transports us at the time of death. If we become attached to the Supreme Being, then we are transported to His world - the spiritual realm.
In Jesus' verse, the word often translated to "kingdom" comes from the Greek word, βασιλεία (basileia). This word means, according to the lexicon, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."
A person who becomes subject to such "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule" is effectively taking protection or refuge within the dominion of the Supreme Being. The word is not referring to a physical place: It is referring to a condition of the heart. This is why Jesus said earlier in Luke:
"The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21 NKJV)Thus "kingdom" - describing a physical location - is not what Jesus is speaking of. The more appropriate translation of this word would be "sanctuary." This describes what God provides a person who becomes dedicated to Him: Shelter or refuge.
It is not as if someone goes to "heaven" or the spiritual realm in order to become "the greatest" or the "champion of the world." Such accolades are for those of us who want to pretend we are these temporary physical bodies - and play god within the physical world.
Rather, the citizens of the sanctuary of God are taking refuge in God. He is the greatest - He is the champion. And He is also the most beautiful, the most gracious, the kindest - the most perfect person. For this reason, we can love Him. And if we come to love Him, we will return to Him at the time of death.
This is why Jesus is telling his students to prepare themselves for death whey they see the Jewish-Roman wars beginning: Jesus is saying that due to God's mercy, His sanctuary is available to them, just as it is available to us:
“Consider the fig tree and other trees: As soon as they sprout leaves, you understand that summer is close. Similarly, when you see these things occur, recognize that the sanctuary of God is readily available."