Re: Time of trouble
If I understand Mark's point rightly, I don't think he's saying that Jesus' answer must be limited to the terms of the disciples question, but simply that their understanding of the question should be the starting point for our understanding of Jesus' answer. And the subsequent point is that the disciples were not thinking of the word "parousia" in the later sense of a "second coming", as many simply assume in hindsight. Of course you might wish to argue that Jesus then introduces the idea of a "second coming" and thereby invests the word "parousia" with this new sense, speaking beyond the disciples understanding at that time, but there would then have to be explicit reasons from the text for such an interpretation.
Originally Posted by the rookie
I don't think there is adequate justification from the text for a post-resurrection understanding of Jesus' answer. Yes, Matthew is writing this up post-resurrection, as a now-enlightened evangelist of Christ's kingdom, but he is still trying to represent the history of Jesus' messianic career accurately, as it happened, and not merely as a reflection of the theology and needs of the early church. And thus our aim, as interpreters, should be to step into the disciples' shoes and read their question as they would have understood it at the time, not as it could have hypothetically been reinterpreted later.
When we start from the right ground historically, understanding the word "parousia" as the disciples would have understood it, great light is shed both on the disciples' question and on Jesus' answer. Remember that only days before this scene Jesus had entered Jerusalem in triumphal procession with multitudes from the city coming out to welcome him as their rightful king. In other words, Jesus had just come to Jerusalem in what would have been seen as nothing less than a royal parousia. The narrative in each of the synoptics suggests strongly that the disciples were expecting him to set up his messianic rule immediately upon his entrance into Jerusalem, but all he does when he gets there is symbolically enact the desolation of the Temple by disrupting the levitical business going on inside (the fact that this episode was indeed an intentional symbolic enactment of the coming judgment of Israel is confirmed by the mutually interpretive "fig tree" event which occurs next to it in all three synoptic accounts). What Jesus does shortly afterwards then, in answering the disciples puzzled question about his parousia, is make explicit the event which he enacted symbolically only days before. And the mutually interpretive point is this: that Jesus' enthronement as Messiah, his parousia, and therein the rule of God, will be seen by the desolation of the present ruling regime within Israel, the nation which has rejected his offer of peace and his way of the kingdom.
The allusion to Daniel 7:13 is thus intended to cast the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple in a particular theological light, namely putting degenerate Israel in the place of the "beast" while putting Jesus and his followers in the place of "the son of man" vindicated over the "beast". Jesus had previously made a similar point with an allusion to Daniel 2:34, casting the leadership of Israel as the "feet" of Daniel's statue which the "stone" of the kingdom breaks in pieces (Matt 21:43-45). Pulling on similar Danielic themes, Jesus' prophetic announcement of the destruction of the Temple is also the announcement of his own vindication; in other words, of his own "coming" into the presence of the ancient of days, exalted over his enemies as the rightful king. This explanation makes much more sense, both historically and contextually, of the disciples' question and of Jesus' answer.
But one more point to note is that whereas Matthew relays the disciples' question in a three-pronged form (when will these things be, what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?), Mark and Luke relay the same question in a more basic two-pronged form (when will these things happen and what will the sign that they are about to take place?). Note, first, that while Matthew attaches the "sign" to Jesus' "coming", both Mark and Luke attach it to "these things", i.e. the destruction of the Temple. We must ask, then: is the disciples' question in Matthew different from Mark and Luke, or is it simply rephrased? Mark and Luke both seem to think that the disciples' question relates wholly to the destruction of the Temple, and the burden of proof rests on those who would argue that Matthew's version isn't simply a rephrasing of the same question. On the other hand, it would be entirely appropriate for Matthew (Jewish scribe that he was) to cast the destruction of Jerusalem in a more heavily apocalyptic light as the "coming" of Jesus and the "end of the age". Like the common use of the phrase "the day of the Lord" throughout the OT prophets to refer to various socio-political events which were not, properly speaking, the day of the Lord, this is simply how eschatalogical language regularly works.
"Test all things; hold fast what is good." - Advice from the Apostle Paul