Life of Christ 160
It is Tuesday afternoon. Jesus will die tomorrow. After a strenuous morning of public interaction in the city and in the Temple Jesus and His Apostles leave for the relative peace and quiet of the nearby Mount of Olives. Much of it was covered with booths and tents for the pilgrims come to Jerusalem for Passover but they found a restful spot somewhere overlooking the city. The discussion that ensued is known as the Olivet Discourse. (Matthew 24 and 25)
As they were leaving the city that afternoon one of the Apostles openly marveled again at the amazing physical structure of the Temple. Herod the Great who had begun building (or re-building to be more accurate) the Temple almost 50 years earlier was one of the great builders of the Roman Empire. The Temple complex, still incomplete, (it would not be finished for another 30 years) was a huge step up from Ezra's Temple and massively impressive.
In response, Jesus asserts that although the structure which dominated Jerusalem was indeed visibly impressive shortly not one stone would be left on top of another. He said this, I believe, in reference to the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem which He prophesied. I write about that here: The Lament Over Jerusalem.
Upon arriving on the Mount of Olives the Apostles, apparently puzzled by this statement of Christ's, ask Him to expand on it. The Jewish eschatology of the time vaguely expected judgment and devastation. It called for the Roman Empire to be overthrown as a condition for the establishment of the messianic kingdom. In addition, Jesus had already told them He was leaving them soon to go away (John 7.33-37; 12.35-36) only to return later. Connecting these two ideas – an apparently massive destruction of Jerusalem and Jesus' plans to leave and return – they ask Him when this would happen and what sign (or miraculous indication) they should look for.
Jesus' answer is four-fold. It is impossible to go through it in any detail in one blog post. I will give you the broad outline of it today and then a few high points from it in the next post.
The Olivet Discourse can be divided roughly into four chronological events. Before I introduce them it is critical that you understand it is the Jewish people in view here and not the Church. A failure to grasp this has caused a fair amount of theological confusion especially in the area of eschatology. In plain words, Jesus is discussing the end times from the perspective of the nation of Israel. That does not mean there are no applications for the Church but it does mean we need to be very cautious about drawing important doctrinal conclusions from the Olivet Discourse.
The first event (Matthew 24.4-26) discusses what is commonly known as the Tribulation period. As a dispensational pretribulational premillennialist (there's a mouthful, eh?) I believe this begins with the Rapture, lasts for seven years, and is immediately followed by the Second Coming.
The second event (Matthew 24.27-30) is the Second Coming of Christ.
The third event (Matthew 24.31) is the re-gathering of Israel. At the beginning of the Tribulation period the nation of Israel will make a seven year pact with the antichrist. This man of sin will keep his pact protecting Israel for the first half and then violate it horrendously. Amongst other things, he will set up a statue of himself in the rebuilt Temple and demand to be worshipped. The Jews, of course, will rightly refuse. In response, and motivated with all the hatred of Satan, he will hound them to the ends of the earth. The holocaust which results will make Hitler's attempts at extermination look like child's play. When Jesus returns He will send angels all around the world to immediately physically regather the remaining Jews to the land of Palestine.
The fourth event (Matthew 25.31-46) is the judgment of the living Gentiles. These are they who have somehow managed to live through the barbarity of the Tribulation. They must and will be immediately judged by the King of Kings.
Sandwiched among this chronological outline are three parables or illustrations. They are designed to emphasize the importance of living holy and of being ready in view of the imminent return of Christ. The first relates to a fig tree. (Matthew 24.32-51) When you see leaves you know summer is coming, and there are certain indications for which we should look that indicate the return of Christ is close. The second illustration is the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. (Matthew 25.1-13) This is a wedding story. The wise virgins were prepared for the coming of the groom. The foolish ones were not. The third illustration is the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25.14-30) It is critical that we serve the Lord while we can.
In the next post I will give you three brief applications from the Olivet Discourse for our day that I hope will be a help to you.