Tag: Meaning of the Olivet Discourse

The Olivet Discourse: Blueprint to the End Times

The Olivet Discourse: Blueprint to the End Times

The Olivet Discourse is a sermon that Jesus preached from the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem, three days before His crucifixion. The Olivet discourse is recorded in its most complete form in Matthew 24:1-25, and in more abbreviated forms in Mark 13 and Luke 21.

Jesus preached this sermon to a select group of His disciples in response to their question about the destruction of the Temple and the end of the age (Matthew 24:1-3). Mark 13:3 says that Jesus’ audience consisted of only four men: Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Imagine what it must have been like to hear the Savior outline the blueprint of the end times in such an intimate setting.

Christ’s Return at the End of the Age

For clarification purposes, the return of Christ at the end of the age is different from His return for the Church described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. In essence, there are two phases of the “Second Coming.”

The first phase is when Christ returns in the air to “receive the believers unto Himself” (John 14:3) and the second phase will be when Christ returns to the earth with His saints (the believers) and He will stand on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem at the end of the Tribulation period to defeat the Antichrist (Zechariah 14:4; Revelation 19:19).

Going back to the Olivet discourse, we read that before Jesus delivered this sermon, He and His disciples had been in the Temple in Jerusalem. “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down’” (Matthew 24:1-2).

As Jesus and the disciples crossed the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ words must have been seared into the minds of the disciples. They must have wondered how this could be. When would this happen? When would the end come?

Matthew 24:1-2

So when they finally arrived at the Mount of Olives, the four men came to Him immediately for clarification (Matthew 24:3). The disciples were asking Jesus one big question with three parts. Clearly, the disciples’ question focuses on Christ’s return and the end of the age.

The disciples could not fathom the destruction of the Temple apart from the end of the age. For them, the destruction of the Temple, the coming of the Messiah, and the end of the world were tied together (Zechariah 14:1-11). This sermon, therefore, addresses the seven-year Tribulation period that will occur just before Christ returns.

While many futuristic scholars believe that a part of the Olivet discourse has already been fulfilled in 70 AD, particularly the destruction of the Temple, they say that the remainder of the discourse is yet to be fulfilled. They’re saying that Jesus began by speaking events that would be fulfilled in 70 AD, but then looked ahead to events that would be fulfilled near the end of human history.

The Olivet Discourse: The Mini Apocalypse

The Olivet discourse of Jesus is often called “The Mini Apocalypse” because it provides a concise yet comprehensive overview of the end times. In this sermon, Jesus gives us the basic blueprint for the end – a checklist of the signs of the times for Christ’s Second Advent. In twenty-seven verses, Matthew 24:4-31 moves from the beginning of the future Tribulation to the second coming of Christ.

Looking at Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus lists eight key signs He likens to birth pains that will be the signs of His coming: false Christs (v. 5); wars (vv. 6-7); famines (v. 7); earthquakes (v. 7); persecution (vv. 9-10); false prophets (v. 11); lawlessness (v. 12); and worldwide preaching of the gospel (v. 14).

The comparison with birth pains indicates that as the time of Christ’s coming draws near, the judgments will increase immensely in frequency and intensity.

In Matthew 24:15, Jesus directly appeals to the prophecies of Daniel and specifically to Daniel 9:27. Jesus goes on to describe the terrors of that time. Matthew 24:15-20 marks the midpoint of the Tribulation when the Antichrist breaks his treaty with Israel, invades the nation, and desecrates the Temple.

The Olivet Dsicourse Explained

Beginning in Matthew 24:21, the final 3 ½ years of this age are graphically outlined. The terrors will be so great that God will shorten the time for the sake of His people (Matthew 24:22). There will be people pointing here and there, claiming to have identified the Messiah, but Jesus warns against believing such claims (Matthew 24:23-26).

After the Tribulation, the second coming of Christ is presented (Matthew 24:29). He describes the signs in the heavens that will indicate that the Son of Man is coming, and finally His coming and gathering of His elect from around the world. He describes it as being “like the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37).

Jesus encourages the disciples to look for the signs, like leaves on a fig tree (Mark 13:28), even though the day of His return is unknown. Nonetheless, He encourages them to keep watch and remain faithful (Mark 13:35-36; Matthew 24:42; Luke 21:36).

The Generation that will Not Pass Away

Some scholars argue that the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 fulfilled Jesus’ predictions in Matthew 24. This view is based primarily on Matthew 24:34, which says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

Proponents maintain that “this generation” must refer to the generation that originally heard the words of Jesus. The chief problem with this view is that the destruction of the Jerusalem did not fulfill all the events described in Matthew 24, so Jesus could not have been referring to that time period

In the context, “this generation” probably refers to those living during the Tribulation who will personally witness the events described in Matthew 24:4-31. Jesus is emphasizing that those who see the signs that He listed, and experience the Great Tribulation, will also witness the Second Coming.

Jesus is saying that those who are alive to see the beginning of the birth pangs will also witness the birth.

Matthew 24 is Futuristic

Reading the passage more carefully, there are two key points from the surrounding context that strongly suggest that all the conditions and characteristics in Matthew 24-4-28 are future events that will occur during the Tribulation, immediately preceding the return of Christ.

First, Jesus established the time frame for this sermon in Matthew 23:39, “For I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Jesus was telling His disciples that He was going to leave this world but that He would come again only when the Jewish people would repent and receive Him as their Messiah.

This statement is very significant as it forms the backdrop and context for what Jesus says in Matthew 24. Jewish repentance, which has never occurred and certainly didn’t occur in AD 70, is the ultimate event that will trigger His return. At the end of the Tribulation, the Jewish people will repent, and their Messiah will return to rescue them from the Antichrist (Zechariah 12:10).

Matthew 24:3

Second, when the disciples asked Jesus about the end of the world, they were thinking of when the Messiah would come to establish His glorious Kingdom in Israel. In fact, Jesus Himself used this exact terminology, “the end of the world (or age),” twice before to refer to the final judgment (Matthew 13:39, 49).

John Mac Arthur summarized it this way:

“It seems more sensible and more consistent, therefore, to take a futuristic approach with respect to the Olivet Discourse – to interpret the entire discourse as a prophetic picture of a “generation” and events that would take place long after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. These are events that will immediately precede Christ’s coming to establish His kingdom, and therefore they are events that are yet future even today.”

Conclusion

Jesus used the prophetic sermon known as the “Olivet Discourse” to outline the events that will lead up to the return of Israel’s Messiah to establish His Kingdom on earth and to call His people to faithfulness in view of that coming.

Although the events in Matthew 24 – 25 are futuristic, the parables encourage us to love Christ’s appearing, to look for His appearing and to labor faithfully until He comes. We should be watching, witnessing, and working. We may not be successful in many people’s eyes or even popular with others. But if we are faithful and profitable, we shall receive our reward.

And no matter what view of prophecy we take, we know that Jesus is coming again. As Christians, we must be alert and ready. We must not waste our opportunities. We may not have a great deal of ability or a great many gifts, but we can still be faithful in the calling God has given us.


*Reference: The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days
By Mark Hitchcock

The first comprehensive overview of biblical prophecy and the end times in more than 50 years. Presenting various eschatological viewpoints, Hitchcock offers a solid biblical foundation to guide you in exploring the essential truths surrounding this often misunderstood topic – and the earthly and celestial events that will mark Christ’s second coming.

Includes helpful charts. (520 pages, hardcover from Tyndale)