The Olivet Discourse

Note: this discourse was written to be used in different settings, therefore you may find repetitions of some Scripture in this discussion and other sections of “Last Days”. Jesus’ discourse bridges the gap between the prophetic chapters of Daniel and the Book of Revelations.

Jesus delivers what is called “The Olivet Discourse” on the Mount of Olives. In this discourse, He explained what is about to happen to Israel in the short term (about 40 years) and in the long term – some of this is happening now. Jesus’ previous comments and actions confused His disciples. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him with questions about the future. In Matthew’s twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters, the thirteenth chapter of Mark, and the twenty-first chapter of Luke, we have Jesus’ answer to His disciple’s questions.

“Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down’” (Matt. 24:1-2, ESV).

In that discourse, Jesus foretold the future of Israel. Many have tried to apply this teaching to The Church, but Jesus is talking about Israel. To understand His words, we must know the history of the destruction of Jerusalem and surrounding areas along with the background of the Old Testament teaching regarding the future of Israel.

In the above verses, Jesus is speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 AD. The Roman general, Titus, destroyed the city and the temple, leaving not one stone on top of another. Then he plowed the city under and renamed it.

Today, archeologists are digging up those stones and gaining much valuable information about what happened.

A small group of Jews escaped to the dead sea fortress at Masada. Most Jews living in Jerusalem were killed or taken as prisoners and made slaves. They were scattered around the world. On that day, the nation of Israel ceased to exist.

The Romans then attacked the Jews who were at Masada. Archaeologist estimate that the siege at Masada may have lasted up to seven months – in the end, many Jews committed suicide, and the others were either killed or captured.

We now need to review the Old Testament prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem.

The book of Deuteronomy gives us this prophecy. All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you. They shall be a sign and a wonder against you and your offspring forever. Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things” (Deut. 28:45-47, ESV).

“Therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you” (Deut. 28:48, ESV).

These words, which speak of the final destruction, are difficult to understand, as it is clear that the Jews, as a people, have never been destroyed but preserved. It is equally clear from the Scripture that God still has plans for the nation, Israel.

How do we interpret these words that seem to indicate that Israel will be completely destroyed? Commentaries reveal that many scholars do not address the meaning of these verses. But a careful study of other Scripture reveals some key insights into God’s plan for the ages, including Israel’s role in His future plans.

More than nineteen hundred years have come and gone, and history has shown the fulfillment of many of Moses’ words. The Jews have been scattered among the Gentile nations worldwide and have had no land to call their home. They have endured unceasing persecution, such as being uprooted from homes, excessive taxes, restrictive trades, lack of jobs, lack of religious freedom, forced military service, and massacres.

The disciples came to Jesus and asked him three questions. In the opening verses of Matthew chapter twenty-four, Jesus summarized the future events. “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3, ESV)?

Jesus’ answer primarily focused on the last two questions – “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains’” (Matt. 24:4-8, NIV).

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall awayand betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24.9-13, ESV).

History shows that false teachers and wars have been increasing for many years. During the twentieth century, wars and rumors of wars increased even more. Look at all the natural disasters taking place around the world. The momentous increase in crime is becoming more and more mind-boggling.

Let us continue with the teaching, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” Matt. 24:14, ESV).

Today, with modern communication, the gospel has been preached worldwide. Missionaries have taken the gospel to the darkest places on earth. Many are saying the end is near. Jesus said the end would come after the gospel had been preached to all nations, and with modern-day technology, this task becomes less difficult.

Jesus then turned His teaching to when He will return and the chaos when He does.

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matt. 24:15-32, ESV).

The statement “abomination of desolation” should be translated as “the abomination that causes desolation.” The abomination Jesus refers to is recorded in Daniel chapter twelve, verse eleven, where the Antichrist is prophesied to desecrate the temple.

We read these words in the last chapter of Daniel. And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days” (Dan. 12:11, ESV).  

Jesus is talking about the action of the Antichrist, the last Gentile leader who will rule during the seven-year period known as “The Tribulation,” which occurs after the Rapture of the Church and immediately before the Millennial reign of Jesus which is an earthly reign which lasts 1000 years.

The Antichrist’s last three and one-half years of the seven-year reign will be from the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, which he desecrates. Notice the above verse confirms that this period will be for 1,290 days or three and one-half years based on a 360-day Jewish calendar – this period is called “The Great Tribulation.”   

The Apostle Paul had this to say about the Antichrist, whom He called “the man of lawlessness.” Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnessis revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:2-5, ESV). 

Many people have tried to place The Church in the Tribulation, but this event will occur after the Rapture of The Church. The Church age was a mystery hidden in the Old Testament. God’s stopwatch with Israel stopped on the day Jesus was crucified. God soon turned to a new group called The Church – which includes both Jews and Gentiles – to take His message to the world. The apostle Paul said God would again turn to Israel after the Church Age.

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:  a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; ‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins’” (Rom. 11:25-27, ESV).

When The Church is taken out at what is called the Rapture, God will restart His stopwatch and begin to pour out His wrath upon the Gentile world. This is known in Bible prophecy as “The Tribulation.” The seven years are divided into two parts: the first three and one-half years and then the second three and one-half years. The last three and one-half years are known as “The Great Tribulation.” During this time, the world will be governed by the infamous Antichrist.

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus said:For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people [the Jews]. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:23b-24, ESV).

The time of the Gentiles will continue through the end of “The Great Tribulation” when Jesus returns to establish His earthly kingdom. We must remember that the Antichrist is the last of the Gentile Leaders. All the prophetic promises made to Israel for the Last Days will be fulfilled at that time.

With this background, let us return to the teaching of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. Then, we will continue with the destruction that comes with The Great Tribulation.

Jesus is speaking of the final days of the tribulation when the Antichrist will turn against Israel, desecrate her temple, and bring the nations against her in war.

These are key verses because Jesus affirms the prophecy in the Old Testament book of Daniel, which applies to the future. Jesus is tying the prophecy of the latter chapters of Daniel to the tribulation that the apostle John recorded in the last book of the New Testament. Jesus is bridging the gap between these two books of prophecy. Daniel is told to seal up his writings; however, John will detail them where they can be understood today.

Jesus says that no one knows when His second coming will be, except God the Father, – we should expect His return at any time. For almost two thousand years, The Church has expected Him to return during their current generation. The early church expected His return to be imminent. God’s timing is different from our timing.

The apostle Peter said, “with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8b, ESV).  Therefore, we are warned to be prepared for His return at any time.

Today, probably more than at any other time in history, we are seeing more of the end-time signs that Jesus outlined. When writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul prophesies additional warnings about the last days.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim. 3:1-5, ESV).  

We are continually seeing this scripture being fulfilled. These signs are certainly reported daily through our news outlets.

As we moved through the twentieth century, socialism increased in Western Europe, and the power and influence of the church declined. Today, many great Protestant and Catholic cathedrals of Western Europe have been turned into museums. In the United States, fewer people regularly attend church.

Today, the battle is between liberalism and conservatism in our government and churches. We live in an age of situation ethics – the situation other than the word of God dictates moral values – the liberals war against the conservates, and the conservates war against the liberals. The politicians, news media, and false teachers call good evil and evil good – the Bible says “Woe” to them (Isa. 5:20.)

Jesus said that when He returns, few will be prepared. He will come in a flash. “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (Matt. 24:27-28, ESV).

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:29-31, ESV).

Everyone on earth will see the sign of the return of Jesus coming in the clouds. We wonder how this is possible, but we must remember that Jesus is omnipresent; He can appear everywhere simultaneously. All the tribes will mourn for Him.

In the Old Testament prophecy of Zechariah, we read these words, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zech. 12:10, NIV). 

Zachariah tells us that Jesus will bring his holy ones or saints with Him. This will include the Old Testament saints, The Church, and the Tribulation martyrs. The Church will receive their glorified bodies at the Rapture; however, we are not told when the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation martyrs will receive their glorified bodies – some believe that they will receive their glorified bodies at this time.

In the first chapter of The Revelation, we read these words, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Rev. 1:7, ESV).

Jesus then explains when this will take place. This is one of the questions asked by His disciples. “From the fig tree, learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:32-35, ESV).

We have already discussed that many consider the lesson of the fig tree to be associated with Israel (Jer. 24:1-5 and Hosea 9:10). Now, Jesus refers to it as a sign of His coming.

In 1948, Israel once again became a nation, fulfilling prophecy. However, they became a nation only in the secular sense and not as a spiritual Israel. The completed resurrection of the nation of Israel, as prophesied by the prophet Ezekiel, (chapter 37) may be several years in the future.

 Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord’” (Ezek. 37:11-14, ESV).

After Israel became a nation again in 1948, many people began to say that the return of the Lord is near; perhaps, it is, but we do not know God’s timeline. We should note that Israel has not as yet received the New Covenant, and the Church has not been raptured. Israel will receive the New Covenant and become a spiritual nation again when Jesus returns.

Before Israel can enter the promised Millennial Kingdom, they must accept him as their Lord and Savior. The Jews will be judged individually.  

I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge out the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against me” (Ezek. 20:37-38a, ESV). 

Only the believing Jews will go into the kingdom with their earthly bodies, and the others will be cast into hell with all the other unbelievers.

In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, we read about the judgment of the Gentile Nations.When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you whom my Father blesses, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’… Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:31-34, 41, ESV).

The believers of the Gentile Nations will go into the kingdom with their earthly bodies, and the others will be cast into hell with all the other unbelievers.

Scripture quotations marked ESV are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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