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Thread: The Olivet Discourse [Matthew 24 / Mark 13 / Luke 21]

  1. #1

    The Olivet Discourse [Matthew 24 / Mark 13 / Luke 21]

    For your Scriptural study and consideration.

    Background Context of the Discourse

    In Matthew 21, Jesus arrived at Jerusalem [21.1-10], and entered the temple [21.23]. Jesus was immediately met by "the chief priests and the elders of the people", who questioned Jesus about the authority of his teachings. Jesus responded by delivering a parable [21.27-32]. In this parable, a father asks his two sons to work in the vineyard. One son says he will not work, but later does, while the other son says he will work, but does not do so. Jesus then explains that "the tax collectors and the prostitutes" would enter into the Kingdom of God before they ("the chief priests and the elders") would.

    This shows us that "the tax collectors and the prostitutes" are represented by the son who initially rejected, but later accepted, the father's call, whereas "the chief priests and the elders" are represented by the son who claimed to have accepted, but actually rejected, the father's call. Jesus was depicting a division between the allegedly righteous (who are actually unrighteous) and the allegedly unrighteous (who later become righteous). Jesus then gave the parable of the wicked tenants who work in the vineyard [21.33-46], shown above. Just to summarize the parable's point: The parable is an allegory for "the chief priests and the Pharisees" being wicked tenants of the Kingdom of God, that God would come upon them in judgment, and at that time of judgment God would give the Kingdom of God to "a people producing its fruits".

    Following this in chapter 22, Jesus gave a third parable, about the wedding feast [22.1-15]. As before, the parable is an allegory for "the chief priests and the Pharisees" acting wickedly towards God's servants, that God would come upon them in judgment, destroying "their city" (Jerusalem), and that at that time of judgment God would give the Kingdom of God to other people. Chapter 22 continues with a narration of how the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Sadducees each tried to trap Jesus, seeking for him to contradict himself. When the Sadducees had run their course, Jesus turned to his disciples and the crowds around him and he went into his "seven woes" against the religious hypocrites.

    In his final woe against the "scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites", Jesus charged them to "fill up the measure of [their] fathers". The use of "fathers" refers, of course, to their forefathers, which shows us that Jesus was specifically speaking against his contemporaries, and not in generalities. He continued to warn his contemporaries of their wickedness when he said, "I send you prophets and wise men and scribes". He even said "all these things" (the sending of God's servants, the persecution of those servants, and the holding of "all the righteous blood shed on earth" against the hypocrites) "will come upon this generation". Jesus also lamented Jerusalem, warning that its "house is left to [it] desolate", in an allusion to the coming destruction of the temple.

    So let's examine this in order. Jesus had just been in the temple, conversing with the hypocritical religious leadership. He had just given two parables that allegorized his contemporaries and their wickedness. Both parables referred to a coming judgment, and one parable specifically referred to how the "city" belonging to those wicked ones would be destroyed in that judgment. He also told them directly that they (his wicked contemporaries) would be held responsible for "all of the righteous blood shed on the earth", and alluded to the desolation of the temple. Jesus then left the temple, but before it was out of sight, his disciples pointed out its splendor to him. His immediate response was that the temple (the one they had just departed; the one they were pointing at) would be destroyed. Jesus was continuing the subject of the judgment that would be coming upon the religious hypocrites and "their city" and "house". This statement apparently caused the disciples to wonder, because they later privately asked him about three things: "when will these things be," "what will be the sign of your presence", and "what will be the sign of the end of the age".

  2. #2
    The Questions of the Apostles

    When will these things be?
    The thing that many people do not seem notice here, I think, is the phrasing "these things". If the disciples were only asking about the destruction of the temple that Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24.2, then "these things" doesn't make sense, because that is only one "thing". The disciples were clearly asking about a plurality of "things". Hence, it makes much more sense if "these things" refers to the destruction of the temple as well as the immediately preceding woes, in which Jesus prophesied judgment upon the wicked religious leadership and the city of Jerusalem. "These things" should be read as referring to the judgment of the wicked religious, the judgment upon Jerusalem, and the destruction of the then-standing temple.

    What will be the sign of your presence?
    Depending on how one interprets this question, it could mean a variety of things. But I would say the basic meaning is that the disciples are asking about the "coming of the Son of Man" that Jesus had already referred to earlier in his ministry.

    What will be the sign of the end of the age?
    It is no coincidence that the disciples connected the presence (the "coming of the Son of Man") with the "end of the age", because Jesus made the same connection in his explanation of the parable of the wheat and the weeds. [Matthew 13] The presence/coming is inherently related to the end of the age.

    Some (not many) try to claim that the disciples were mistaken in their connection of the presence/coming and the end of the age with the second temple's destruction. But this claim is purely baseless, because nothing in the text indicates that the disciples' connection was a mistake. In fact, the consistency of Scripture would seem to prove by example that the opposite is true, that the disciples' connection of the three events is entirely sound. This is to say, every time the disciples were mistaken about something, either Jesus corrected them or the gospel narrator related to the reader that an error had been made, or that a correction was made to an error. No such instance exists within or following the Olivet Discourse. If no correction exists in the text, it is only an assumption that the disciples were mistaken in connecting the παρουσία and the end of the age with the destruction of the second temple.

  3. #3
    Troubles Preceding The End

    Matthew 24.4-5 (Mark 13.5-6; Luke 21.8)
    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."

    Jesus warned against being deluded by false messiahs. In Acts we find Simon the magician, a man who was deceiving the people with his sorcery, even convincing people he was "the power of God that is called great." [Acts 8.9-11] A man named Theudas convinced people of Judea that he was a prophet and led many astray before he himself was killed. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.5.1; Acts 5.36] There was then a man, Judas of Galilee. [Acts 5.37] Josephus says that during the era of Roman procurator Felix (52-60 AD), there were "imposters" being put to death nearly every day. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.8.5-6] He also mentions "an Egyptian false prophet" who convinced the Jews to follow after him in revolt against the Romans. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 2.13.5; Acts 21.37-39] Another individual involved with the Jewish-Roman War who appears to have claimed to be the messiah (by his actions, if not by words) was Menahem ben Judah. Jesus' prophecy about false messiahs finds fulfillment as early as 30-40 AD.

    Matthew 24.6 (Mark 13.7; Luke 21.9)
    "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."

    Following Emperor Nero's suicide in 68 AD, civil war broke out in the Roman Empire. The Batavian Rebellion occurred the same year, in the Roman province Germania Inferior. Within Judea the Jewish-Roman War (which officially began in 67 AD) was raging on. Roman historian Tacitus wrote this about the time period: "The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disaster, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword, there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time." [Tacitus, The Histories 1.2] Josephus also mentions this time of civil war in the Empire. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 4.9.2] This prophecy found its fulfillment by the 60s AD.

    Matthew 24.7a (Mark 13.8; Luke 21.10)
    "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom..."

    A minor rebellion in Roman-controlled Britannia took place in 61 AD, and as already mentioned were the Batavian Rebellion, and the Jewish-Roman War itself. Commagene and Sophene, kingdoms from the east, across the great river Euphrates, were called upon by the Romans to aid in putting down the Jewish revolt. The prophecy was fulfilled by the 60s AD.

    Luke 21.11 (Matthew 24.7b; Mark 13.8a)
    "There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven."

    Luke records an earthquake. [Acts 16.26] Three earthquakes took place in Rome in 51 AD. [Tacitus, The Annals 12.43.1] In the 60s AD, an earthquake destroyed the city of Laodicea. In 62 AD, an earthquake took place at Pompeii. A prophet named Agabus prophesied and saw the fulfillment of a famine during the reign of Emperor Claudius. [Acts 11.28] Josephus records a famine. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.2.5; Wars of the Jews 5.10.2-3] Tacitus writes of plague. [Tacitus, The Annals 12.43, 16.13] Each of these historians mentions heavenly signs associated with Jerusalem and its temple. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 6.5.3; Tacitus, The Histories 5.13] This prophecy finds its fulfillment between 30-70 AD.

    Matthew 24.8 (Mark 13.8b)
    "All these are but the beginning of the birth pains."

    Persecution of the Faithful

    Mark 13.9 (Matthew 24.9a; Luke 21.12)
    "But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them."

    Mark 13.11
    "And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit."

    Luke 21.13-15
    "This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict."

    Matthew 24.9b (Mark 13.13a; Luke 21.17)
    "... and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake."

    Jesus directly stated that his disciples would flee persecution, but that they would "not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man [came]." [Matthew 10.23] Persecution of the disciples began in the early years of their ministries. [Acts 4.3] Followers are taken before councils. [Acts 4.15, 6.12] Stephen was stoned to death. [Acts 7.58] Saul helped persecution spread against the followers of the Way. [Acts 8.1, Acts 9.1] Further persecutions are found in Scripture. [Acts 12.1, 14.19, 24.5; 2 Timothy 3.11] Followers are taken before governors and kings. [Acts 23.33, 26.1] Tacitus speaks of the Roman persecution under Nero, and its savage intensity. [Tacitus, The Annals 15.39-44] This prophecy found fulfillment between 30-70 AD.

    Matthew 24.10
    "And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another."

    Mark 13.12 (Luke 21.16)
    "And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death."

    Paul mentions Christians backsliding, leaving the faith, and turning against each other. [Galatians 3.3; 2 Timothy 1.15, 4.9,16] Fulfilled at the latest by 68 AD.

    Matthew 24.11-13a
    "And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold."

    Matthew 24.13 (Mark 13.13b; Luke 21.18-19)
    "But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

    The New Testament frequently mentions false prophets, lawlessness in abundance, and general hostility between Christians. [Acts 13.6, 20.29; Hebrews 10.25; 1 Corinthians 5.1; 2 Corinthians 11.13; 2 Timothy 2.16; 2 Peter 2.2; 1 John 2.18, 4.1; 2 John 1.7; Jude 1.17] Josephus provides some further corroboration on such actions taking place. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 4.3.2, 4.6.3, 5.10.5, 6.5.2-3, 7.8.1] This finds fulfillment between 30-70 AD.

    Matthew 24.14 (Mark 13.10)
    "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."

    Christ worded this goal several ways, and Paul repeatedly stated that this goal had been achieved, using the same words that Christ had. To Paul, it seems, it was irrefutable fact that the gospel had been preached "to every creature under heaven". [Acts 2.5, 24.5; Romans 1.8, 10.16-18, 16.25-26; Colossians 1.3-6, 1.21-23] Fulfilled between 30-70 AD.

  4. #4
    Judgment upon Judea

    Matthew 24.15 (Mark 13.14)
    "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)..."

    Luke 21.20
    "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near."

    The "abomination of desolation" referred to the defilement of worship of God, and used in a specific sense it refers to the desecration of holy objects. The prophecy given here by Christ is rooted in the book of Daniel, as Matthew's and Mark's versions make explicit. Luke says that the followers of Jesus would be able to know the "desolation" was near when armies surrounded Jerusalem. Gentile armies (consisting mostly of four Roman legions, but also of other kingdoms allied with the Romans) surrounded Jerusalem in the late 66 AD (about November). Josephus interpreted Daniel as prophesying the Romans as desolating Judea. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 10.11.7]

    In Daniel 11, one instance of an "abomination of desolation" is found as taking place in the BC era. This involved the setting of an altar to Zeus in the temple, the sacrifice of a pig upon that altar, followed by the horrific murder of several Jews upon the altar when they refused to eat the pig. Hence, from previous example, we have an idea of what the "abomination of desolation" prophesied by Jesus might be.

    Before the Jewish-Roman War, the Roman procurator over Judea was a man named Gessius Florus, who had an intense hatred of the Jews. It was under Florus' orders that Roman troops marched into Jerusalem with him, and that seventeen talents of gold were stolen out of the temple building, which he claimed were for Nero Caesar. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 2.14.6] These events immediately preceded the the Jewish-Roman War, so that by taking into account the following verses (see below) that the chronology of this paragraph remains intact. I say this because there are those who suggest that the "abomination of desolation" was fulfilled in 67, 68 or 70 AD, yet the fleeing from Judea which was to happen after it they still yet place in 66 AD. Rather, the Gentile armies mentioned by Jesus (in Luke's account) and the desecration of Gentile troops entering the temple (the "abomination" itself, in Matthew's and Mark's accounts) thusly take place before the act of fleeing. Fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy is found in 66 AD.

    Matthew 24.16-18 (Mark 13.14-16; Luke 21.21; also Luke 17.31)
    "... 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."

    According to Josephus, the Roman armies surrounded Jerusalem in 66 AD, but withdrew without any known reason. This event fully corresponds to the appearance of armies around Jerusalem as Jesus described, and gave people within the city ample time to make an escape before the actual outbreak of the war. Church historian Eusebius mentions this was a time when Christians fled the city in accordance with Jesus’s words. [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.5.3] Josephus also mentions how many of the people in the city took this as an opportunity to flee Jerusalem, which in my opinion is clearly on the advice of Jesus' warning in the Discourse. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 2.20.1] It should also be noted that going down into a house from the rooftop accurately describes first-century Judean homes; not the average twenty-first century home. On another note, Jesus explicitly gives warning to the people of Jerusalem and Judea, that they should flee the city and the land during this time. If, as many suppose, Jesus is prophesying about a world-wide event, how would fleeing from the land of Judea be a way to safety? This prophecy (and hence the full context of it) only makes sense if the events are being centralized in and focused upon Judea, not the entirety of the planet. Fulfilled is found between 66-67 AD.

    Luke 21.22
    "... for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written."

    The statement about this time-frame being "days of vengeance" perfectly corresponds to the background context of Matthew 21-23 as explained above, regarding the vengeance Jesus promised upon that generation of the wicked religious hypocrites. The irony is that very many of the early Christian writers, used the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as the proof that God's "vengeance" had come upon the Jews for rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, and for persecuting his apostles and his followers who came after him to continue teaching the gospel. Fulfilled between 66-70 AD.

    Matthew 24.19 (Mark 13.17; Luke 21.23a)
    "And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!"

    Although this could easily be taken as a statement of "woe" to pregnant and nursing women in general, we do find quite a literal fulfillment of the "woe" mothers went through in the days that the Romans armies besieged Jerusalem. In one particular example, Josephus mentions how, when famine hit the city, a mother ate her own child in order to survive. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 6.6.3-5] Likely fulfilled between 66-70 AD.

    Matthew 24.20-22 (Mark 13.18-20)
    "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. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short."

    Luke 21.23b
    "For there will be great distress upon the land and wrath against this people."

    Jesus continues to show how these events will be localized to Judea, and not the whole planet. He specifically says that it would be "wrath against this people", being who other than the people of Judea, who he had prophesied against in Matthew 21-23. The mention of Jesus' concern for the Sabbath shows that the victims of this "great tribulation" will primarily include Law-observing Jews, and his specific claim that it is "wrath against this people" directly shows the aim of his prophecies against those Jews who persecuted the people of God.

    Luke 21.24
    "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."

    The connection between Luke 21.24 and Revelation 11.2 should be almost impossible to miss to the careful eye, in that both verses specifically mention: (a) Jerusalem, (b) being trampled, (c) by Gentiles, (d) for a pre-determined time. Revelation 11.2 directly says this time-frame would be a 42 month time span. As has been progressively shown, the prophecies of the Olivet Discourse were fulfilled up to 70 AD, and historically speaking this verse finds fulfillment as well. The war of the Romans upon the Jews lasted exactly 42 months, from February 67 AD to August 70 AD, until Jerusalem finally fell under the weight of the Roman siege. The Jews in the city and surrounding areas were killed (Josephus gives a rough count of over a million Jews having died, though modern historians believe this to be an exaggeration or hyperbole), and nearly all of the surviving Jews were taken captive and dispersed throughout the Roman Empire in servitude, matching to a T what Christ predicted here. Fulfilled between 67-70 AD.

    Matthew 24.23-26 (Mark 13.21-23; also Luke 17.22-23)
    "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it."

    Jesus here repeats an important point to beware the false prophets and false messiahs.

    Matthew 24.27 (also Luke 17.24)
    "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."

    While this verse is readily open to interpretation, I consider it simply to mean that the coming of the Son of Man will be as obvious as lightning is. That is, it can't be missed.

    Matthew 24.28 (also Luke 17.37)
    "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."

    Here, Christ is stating that, just as lightning is obvious by its flash in the sky, the coming of the Son of Man will be an obvious event by the gathering of vultures (i.e. scavengers of dead bodies).

  5. #5
    The Coming of the Son of Man

    Matthew 24.29 (Mark 13.24-25; Luke 21.25-26)
    "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."

    Those who believe that the Olivet Discourse is not yet fulfilled often cite these verses as prophesying a series of cosmic catastrophes that could not possibly have been fulfilled in the first century. The problem I find here is that Jesus did not make these statements in a cultural vacuum. He was using poetic language familiar to his fellows Jews: language that was not intended to be taken "literally" in the first place. The Old Testament contains many such "cosmic catastrophe" statements being prophesied against ancient nations, but it is apparent that none were never intended to be interpreted literally. Comparing their descriptions to actual history shows that none of them "literally" happened. Such poetic judgment language, then, should be recognized as being purely "symbolic", "hyperbole", "figurative" (whichever term suits best). Here are a series of examples of other "cosmic catastrophes":

    Catastrophe: Isaiah 13.6-13
    Context: Isaiah 13.17
    Fulfillment: Isaiah 13.17
    Description: Babylon’s fall to Media-Persia, 539 BC

    Catastrophe: Isaiah 34.4-5
    Context: Isaiah 34.5,9
    Fulfillment: Malachi 1.3
    Description: Edom’s demise between 6th-5th century BC

    Catastrophe: Jeremiah 24.23-28
    Context: Jeremiah 4.11,16,31
    Fulfillment: Jeremiah 4.7-9, 52
    Description: Judah’s defeat to Babylon, 586 BC

    Catastrophe: Ezekiel 32.7-8
    Context: Ezekiel 32.2,15
    Fulfillment: Ezekiel 29.19
    Description: Egypt’s defeat to Babylon, 567 BC

    Catastrophe: Amos 5.18-20
    Context: Amos 5.1,27
    Fulfillment: Amos 5.27
    Description: Israel’s defeat to Assyria, 722 BC

    Catastrophe: Amos 8.9
    Context: Amos 8.7,14
    Fulfillment: Amos 8.3,14
    Description: Israel’s defeat to Assyria, 722 BC

    Each of these examples feature events that would otherwise cause incredible destruction to cover the whole earth, yet no such things happened. There is no Scriptural reason to interpret Jesus' prophecies in the Olivet Discourse about the sun and moon and stars as being fulfilled anymore "literally" than these Old Testament prophecies were. Trying to claim Jesus' prophecies in these verses are supposed to be fulfilled literally requires imposing onto his words an interpretation of the "cosmic catastrophes" at odds with Scriptural example.

    Instead, if we refer to the previous examples and research their fulfillments, we see that "cosmic catastrophe" prophecies were not intended to be fulfilled literally, but were "symbolic" or "hyperbolic" or "metaphoric" statements (whatever you want to describe it as) employed by the prophets to refer to the falling of kingdoms and nations to other kingdoms and nations (including examples concerning the kingdom of Israel and kingdom of Judah). We also see that each of the examples took place when God was promising to deliver punishment and vengeance and wrath upon those nations that did fall. When we see that the rest of the Olivet Discourse thus far has been fulfilled in the time preceding the Roman conquest of Judea, then recognizing the "cosmic catastrophe" prophecy as referring to the fall of a nation perfectly fits with the Old Testament examples. He was describing the collapse of the nation of Judea.

    Matthew 24.30a
    "Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven..."

    Many English translations of Matthew 24.30a render it as something like, "Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man" [ESV], "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky" [NIV], or "And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens". [NLT] The translators, and hence the readers of their translation, interpret it to mean that a visible sign will appear in the sky, which will herald the second coming of Christ. Specifically, most people read it so that "in heaven" is an attribute of "the sign".

    But the Greek text applies "in heaven" to "the Son of Man", not "the sign". Meaning, "the sign" is a herald of "the Son of Man in heaven". At first, one might ask, "what's the difference", between "the sign" being "in heaven", and "the Son of Man" being "in heaven"? Either way its a prophecy about Christ's second coming, right? That, of course, is the point of disagreement of this essay, and here are my following reasons.

    Christ says that there will appear "the sign of the Son of Man in heaven". He is not predicting, for example, that a giant cross made out of lightning will appear in the sky (per the Left Behind book series). What he is predicting is that "the sign" he has already described will appear that proves that he, the Son of Man, is in heaven, at God's right hand. What Christ is saying here is that a certain event that he has already predicted will take place, proving to those who condemned him that he indeed is the Messiah and the Son of God. What is this event, and why is this event "the sign" that will vindicate Christ's claims as to his identity? It is because it is an event that no one believed would ever happen. It is the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. Christ prophesied several times and in several ways that the temple would be destroyed. His own disciples had trouble understanding this prediction [Matthew 24.1-3], and the corrupt religious ones who condemned him openly ridiculed his prediction that the temple would be destroyed.

    Matthew 24.30b
    "... and then all the tribes of the land will mourn..."

    The phrasing "the tribes of the Land" is referring to the tribes of Israel, not to every nation upon the planet. The Jewish peoples shall mourn because: their Judea had been conquered; their Jerusalem had been overthrown; their second temple had been destroyed. They're mourning because their homeland had been completely devastated by God's divine judgment.

    Matthew 24.30c (Mark 13.26; Luke 21.27)
    "... and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

    There are three important things to note here.

    First: Similar statements of God coming with the clouds in judgment are found in Old Testament "hyperbolic" prophecies, and again, they are in the context of nations falling to other nations. Here are a set of examples:

    Clouds: 2 Samuel 22.7-6
    Context: 2 Samuel 22.1
    Fulfillment: 1 Samuel 31.4-13
    Description: Saul’s death to the Philistines, c. 1007 BC

    Clouds: Isaiah 19.1
    Context: Isaiah 19.4
    Fulfillment: Isaiah 20.1
    Description: Egypt’s defeat to Assyria, 720 BC

    Clouds: Ezekiel 30.3-4
    Context: Ezekiel 30.4,6,8
    Fulfillment: Ezekiel 29.19
    Description: Egypt’s defeat to Babylon, 567 BC

    Clouds: Zephaniah 1.14-15
    Context: Zephaniah 1.4,12
    Fulfillment: Zephaniah 1.4-5,8
    Description: Judah’s defeat to Babylon, 586 BC

    Just like the "cosmic catastrophe" language in verse 24.29 is "poetic hyperbole" for God's judgment upon a nation, so also is the "coming on the clouds" an Old Testament expression that refers to God bringing judgment upon a people. In these examples, God is described as coming in judgment upon the clouds, while the actual fulfillment was nations falling to other nations. In this case, Christ is identifying himself with God by claiming that he will be the one "coming on the clouds of heaven" against the nation of Judea.

    Second: Jesus’s prophecy is rooted in Daniel 7.13-14, in which the Son of Man comes on the clouds of heaven to God in heaven, not to the earth, to receive his everlasting kingdom from God.

    Third: Jesus had described the coming of the Son of Man as taking place in the lifetime of his contemporaries several times already. It would happen before his disciples had gone through all of the cities of Israel when fleeing persecution [Matthew 10.23], it would happen before some individuals who had seen Jesus face-to-face had died [Matthew 16.27-28], (a few verses down he said) that it would happen within his own generation's lifetime, and (at his trial he said) it would happen in the lifetime of the wicked priests [Matthew 26.64], which these events certainly did.

  6. #6
    These statements consistently limit Jesus’ coming on the clouds as taking place in the first century, and this statement found in the Olivet Discourse further enforces that fact, given that it flows directly out of the context of the first-century destruction of Jerusalem, the first-century destruction of the then-standing temple Jerusalem, and the first-century vengeance God wrought upon the wicked religious hypocrites of that generation.

    Of course, the immediate question one will ask is, "how did they see Christ coming on the clouds if he didn't literally come on the clouds"? The same way a person can say "I see" when they finally grasp a math equation. They aren't "seeing" in the sense of visible sight, they're "seeing" in the sense that they finally understand something. What the tribes of the earth are "seeing" is that Christ, in a position solely reserved for God (which means Christ is equated with God), has come against them in judgment.

    This appears to be why John (in the Revelation) almost verbatim quotes Christ here. In my opinion, the Revelation is almost entirely about God's judgment upon apostate Judea and the city of Jerusalem. This is why (following his greeting) the Revelation really begins with John saying, "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the land will mourn over him." John is saying, "Look, Christ is coming with judgment, and everyone will recognize this, including the people who crucified him; all of the Jewish peoples will mourn because of him." It is the same message of national judgment that Christ was making in Matthew 24.

    It it interesting to note that during the siege upon Jerusalem, when the Romans were catapulting large stones into the city, certain Jews within the city began to shout, "The son comes!" [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 5.6.3] In the context that this passage is described by Josephus, and in relation to the prophecies of Jesus, it seems quite reasonable to consider that the Jews within the city understood that the Son of Man had come upon them with judgment, just as he had said they would. (This appears, to me, to be a possible historical corroboration of Revelation 16.21.)

    Please take note: I am not saying here that there will not be a Second Coming of Christ, or that the Second Coming was fulfilled in 70 AD. What I am saying here is that this prophecy is not about the Second Coming. Christ's Second Coming is spoken of elsewhere in Scripture.

    Matthew 24.31 (Mark 13.27)
    "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."

    The explanation of this verse that I find to be most consistent with the rest of the Discourse (up to this point, and after) is that the "angels" here are, in context, not heavenly beings, but Christ's first-century followers on the earth. (The Greek word for "angels" is άγγελος, and literally means "messenger", a term applied to human beings elsewhere: Matthew 11.10 of John the Baptist; Luke 7.24 of John's disciples; Luke 9.52 of Jesus' disciples; James 2.25 of men of Jericho; Revelation 1.20ff of church leaders.) In fact, it seems that Christ was quoting an Old Testament passage:

    Deuteronomy 30.4
    "If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you."

    The very same terminology is used, but we do not interpret the phrasing to mean that God was "rapturing" Israelites from the earth up into heaven, but that he was gathering them via covenantal relationship, and the manner in which he did this was through his earthly messengers, that is, his prophets, priests, scribes, etc. Likewise, it may be seen that Jesus was not prophesying a "rapture" here (which would be post-tribulational, if that was the case), but that he was sending his followers out into the world to preach the gospel and to "gather his elect" into the one Body and the one Spirit of the New Covenant.

    Luke 21.28
    "Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

    Jesus encourages his followers to "raise your heads", because when they see his prophecies being fulfilled, they would recognize that their "redemption" was "drawing near". The statement in this verse parallels that of Luke 21.31, in which Jesus says, "So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near." Jesus is equating the full establishment of the Kingdom of God with "redemption", because that is when the persecuted will be redeemed, vindicated by their enduring faith.

    Understanding the Time

    Matthew 24.32-33 (Mark 13.28-29)
    "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."

    This is one of the most cited passages by pre-tribulational dispensational eschatology experts (e.g., Tim Lahaye, John Hagee, Hal Lindsey, etc.) The context is the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 (or, after the failure of their predictions that Christ would return in 1988, the reclamation of Jerusalem in 1967). Their contention is that Christ was here prophesying the rebirth of the nation of Israel, which would be the sign that the end-times were being ushered in. The line of reasoning give is this: The fig tree represents Israel. A fig tree, of course, must be planted by a seed. The seed will eventually sprout, and grow, and when summer is near, the branches become tender and put out leaves. Hence, Israel's seed was planted via World War II. A movement for its reestablishment grew, until finally, the nation was founded and claimed independence in 1948. The nation, so to speak, "became tender and put out its leaves". Hence, the "summer", that is, the end-times, are near. This seems like a reasonable interpretation, I would say, if not for Luke 21's parallel.

    Luke 21.29-30
    And he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near."

    If "the fig tree" of Christ's parable must represent Israel, and the fig tree's growth and budding represents Israel becoming an independent nation again, then consistently speaking, "all the trees" must represent all of the other nations of the world, and when all the trees grow and bud, it represents all nations becoming independent nations again. The problem is that the application of the parable by the pre-trib dispensationalists completely falls apart when Luke 21's version is taken into account, because not every nation was renewed in 1948 (nor in 1967).

    Quite simply, Christ is merely allegorizing his predictions. A budding tree means that summer is near. Likewise, fulfillment of Christ's prophecies (from this Olivet Discourse) means that the coming of the Son of Man, the "end of the age" and the Kingdom of God are near. In fact, Christ explains his parable directly:

    Luke 21.31
    "So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near."

    Christ doesn't mention the rebirth of Israel as a nation as being the parallel to the fig tree's budding... he specifically says that the parallel is when his disciples "see these things taking place." Take note of this. In Matthew 24.32-33, Christ said that when his disciples saw "these things" (this predictions) being fulfilled, they would know that "he" (the Son of Man) "is near, at the very gates". I have maintained so far that all of Christ's predictions have found a fulfillment between 30-70 AD. This would mean that, between 30-70 AD, Christ's disciples would know that "he is near, at the very gates". I do not find it any surprise, then, when James, writing at about 50-55 AD, echoed Christ:

    James 5.7-9
    Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the gate.

    He uses the same type of allegory, of growing fruit (Christ: "from the fig tree learn its lesson"), he is speaking about "the coming of the Lord" (Christ: "the coming of the Son of Man"), the context is judgment (Christ: "days of vengeance", "wrath against this people"), and how "the Judge is standing at the gate" (Christ: "you know that he is near, at the very gates"). Quite plainly, he says that "the coming of the Lord is at hand".

  7. #7
    Now, in relation to the above-mentioned interpretation, certain "schools" of eschatology say that the current existence of the nation of Israel is a sign that God was the one who restored the nation so that he could restore his relationship with the Jews. This could not be farther from the truth, for it is, in fact, entirely backwards to Scriptural precedent. The covenant between God and the Hebrews was this:

    • If the Covenant people were disobedient to God, he promised:
      • punishment for their wickedness [Deuteronomy 28-29],
      • and, scattering from the Land [Deuteronomy 28.62-65, 29.22-28].
    • If the Covenant people were obedient to God, he promised:
      • blessing for their righteousness [Deuteronomy 30.1-2],
      • and, gathering back to the Land from exile [Deuteronomy 30.3-5].


    Punishment and scattering happened exactly in the Assyrian Exile. Punishment and scattering happened exactly in the Babylonian Exile. Punishment and scattering is exactly what Christ was prophesying. The parables of Matthew 21 and 22, and the "seven woes" of Matthew 23, are all about the same subject:

    • The Covenant people were disobedient to God, so Jesus prophesied:
      • punishment for their wickedness [Luke 21.22-23],
      • and, scattering from the Land [Luke 21.24].


    Disobedience resulted in the Old Covenant people being dispersed. The only way for the Old Covenant people to return from exile was for repentence. The view above says that modern Israel was restored by God so that the Israelites would eventually repent and turn to God. This is backwards from Scripture, which says that only after repenting and turning to God would God restore the Hebrews to their Land.

    The first problem is that, obviously, the people of the modern nation of Israel are overwhelmingly not faithful to God, and they continue to reject Jesus Christ. The modern nation of Israel is irrefutably determined to not be a fulfillment of the Old Covenant conditions of God's promises of restoration. The second problem is that the above-mentioned promises from Deuteronomy, of dispersion for wickedness and restoration for faithfulness, are obsolete. These promises were Old Covenant promises. The Old Covenant has passed away, and has been replaced by the New Covenant. [Hebrews 8.13] The Covenant people hail from every nation now, not only from Israel or Judea. The modern nation of Israel is only "Israel" by name. Now, this is not to say that this nation's existence is out of God's hands [Daniel 4.32; Romans 13.1], only that it does not have a unique covenantal relationship with God. It is not that the people of ethnic Israel were degraded out of a relationship with God... it is that all peoples of the world have been raised up into a relationship with God. The Jewish and Gentile rejectors of Christ are cut off from true Israel (the Church) while the Jewish and Gentile followers of Christ are grafted on to true Israel.

    Matthew 24.34 (Mark 13.30; Luke 21.32)
    "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

    Up to this point, all of the evidence points to a fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse in the lifetime of Jesus' first-century contemporaries. This entirely fits the context of the parables and the woes that Jesus spoke against his own generation of unrighteous hypocrites. And here Jesus finally answers the disciples' original question. Up to this point Jesus had been prophesying the signs that would lead up to the coming of the Son of Man and the end of the age. And now he had given them a definitive answer to their question of "When will these things be?" Remember, "these things" refers not just to the destruction of the then-standing temple, but also to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the vengeance upon "this generation" for "all of the righteous blood shed on earth".

    The disciples asked "when", and Jesus answered "this generation". Given that the other prophecies so readily find fulfillment in the first century, and that the entire context of the Discourse speaks about that generation and the then-standing temple, there is then, as I see it, no truly legitimate reason to interpret "this generation" as referring to any generation other than that generation. (And as pointed out before, the term "race" is not a valid interpretation of the word "generation" here; the Greek word used γενεά is the word for "generation", while an entirely separate word γένος―used elsewhere in Scripture no less―is the word for "race". The attempts of some "experts" to change the definition of "generation" to "race" is, I think, simply dishonest.)

    As asked before, why should "this generation" mean anything else than what it is plainly understood to mean? And again, "all" means "all", and Jesus plainly says that that generation would not die out before "all" had been fulfilled. When we look at that generation of time in history, we find every one of Christ’s prophecies here as finding fulfillment precisely within the lifetime of the generation he spoke. So, if Jesus said that all of his prophecies were to be fulfilled within his "this generation", and then we find events perfectly corresponding to his prophecies within "this generation", I, personally, do not understood why we should seek an alternative meaning of the phrase.

    Matthew 24.35 (Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33)
    "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

    By no extraneous reason does Jesus specifically connect the "passing away" of "heaven and earth" with his predictions of his judgment upon first-century Judea. Reading through Old and New Testament, there seems to be a covenantal attribute to "heaven and earth". For example, we read the author of Hebrew say:

    Hebrews 12.25-29
    See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

    The book of Hebrews is almost entirely about the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old, and here he makes the contrast via "heaven and earth" terminology. That God would "shake not only the earth but also the heavens" is in reference to God's removal of the Old Covenant system, "in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain", being the New Covenant. God was removing the Old Covenant "heaven and earth"; the Old Covenant was "obsolete", and ready to "pass away". With God's judgment upon first-century Judea, and the destruction of the temple, the temple system was removed, and hence, the Old Covenant system was removed. "Heaven and earth" were shaken, and only Christ's words remained.

    A clear Old Testament example of this relationship between "heaven and earth" terminology and covenantal establishment is found in:

    Isaiah 51.16
    "And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, 'You are my people.'"

    God is speaking here of his covenantal relationship with the people of Jerusalem. Did God "literally" create "heaven and earth" at the same time that he put his words in the mouth of the Hebrews at the Exodus, or when he said to Jerusalem, "You are my people"? Of course not. When God spoke of how he "establish[ed] the heavens and [laid] the foundations of the earth" in this verse, he is speaking of the establishment of his covenant with the people of Israel, how he gave them the Law. And thus the "passing away" of the Old Covenant [Hebrews 8.13] is the equivalent of "heaven and earth" "passing away". This isn't to detract from our future bodily resurrection in a world made sinless by Jesus Christ, following the final judgment. I absolutely affirm those things. It is simply to show that not everything in prophecy is absolutely literal, and that readers commonly misconstrue non-literal prophecy because the majority of Christians today are unstudied in the Old Testament prophets and the non-literal language they often used.

    I think there is a definitive implication of the "passing away" of "heaven and earth" (as mention by Christ in Matthew 24.35) in the apostles' letters. Already mentioned were Hebrews 8.13 and 12.25-29. Similarly, there is:

    1 Corinthians 7.29-31
    This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

    Conclusion

    As can be evidenced by the information given above, I believe one can conclude—on an entirely Scriptural basis—that the Olivet Discourse consisted of prophecies referring to, and having fulfillment in, the first-century events following after Jesus' ascension into heaven in 30 AD, and finishing with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. We saw in our Revelation study that this time period was the founding of the Church, the building of the true Temple, the righteous judgment of God upon the apostate and the wicked, the marriage of Christ to his Bride, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. We still await the blessed day of the Second Coming of Christ, when we will be resurrected and transformed, and inherit our gift of eternal life.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    Troubles Preceding The End
    Matthew 24.4-5 (Mark 13.5-6; Luke 21.8)
    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."
    Jesus warned against being deluded by false messiahs. In Acts we find Simon the magician, a man who was deceiving the people with his sorcery, even convincing people he was "the power of God that is called great." [Acts 8.9-11] A man named Theudas convinced people of Judea that he was a prophet and led many astray before he himself was killed. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.5.1; Acts 5.36] There was then a man, Judas of Galilee. [Acts 5.37] Josephus says that during the era of Roman procurator Felix (52-60 AD), there were "imposters" being put to death nearly every day. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.8.5-6] He also mentions "an Egyptian false prophet" who convinced the Jews to follow after him in revolt against the Romans. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 2.13.5; Acts 21.37-39] Another individual involved with the Jewish-Roman War who appears to have claimed to be the messiah (by his actions, if not by words) was Menahem ben Judah. Jesus' prophecy about false messiahs finds fulfillment as early as 30-40 AD.
    Also Mark, Josephus record that "a false prophet was occasion of the people's destruction" and "Now, there was then a great number of false prophets ..." [Wars of the Jews 6:5:2]

    Luke 21.11 (Matthew 24.7b; Mark 13.8a)
    "There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven."
    Luke records an earthquake. [Acts 16.26] Three earthquakes took place in Rome in 51 AD. [Tacitus, The Annals 12.43.1] In the 60s AD, an earthquake destroyed the city of Laodicea. In 62 AD, an earthquake took place at Pompeii. A prophet named Agabus prophesied and saw the fulfillment of a famine during the reign of Emperor Claudius. [Acts 11.28] Josephus records a famine. [Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.2.5; Wars of the Jews 5.10.2-3] Tacitus writes of plague. [Tacitus, The Annals 12.43, 16.13] Each of these historians mentions heavenly signs associated with Jerusalem and its temple. [Josephus, Wars of the Jews 6.5.3; Tacitus, The Histories 5.13] This prophecy finds its fulfillment between 30-70 AD.

    Again Josephus records of an "in the first place , they felt a quaking, and heard a great nise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multiude, saying "let us remove hense" [Wars of the Jews 6:5:2]

    This is some good stuff Markedward A+++++

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    The Old Covenant has passed away, and has been replaced by the New Covenant. [Hebrews 8.13] .
    Thanks for posting this, I just want to double check with you;Hebrews 8.13 'In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. ' doesn't say it is completly gone, but 'ready to vanish away.'

    Maybe this needs more clarity?

  10. #10
    You're correct. The book of Hebrews was likely written around 65-66 AD. The book heavily implies that a cessation of the Levitical temple system in Jerusalem was coming in the author's immediate future.

    The author thus says, as you pointed out, that the Old Covenant was, by that time, "obsolete", but was not yet gone... However it was "ready to vanish away". The Greek terms literally read that the Old Covenant was "near to disappear". Taking into account the author's time frame of writing (65-66 AD), and his multiple indications that the Old Covenant system (including the priesthood, the temple, and the sacrifices) was still in operation, yet "near to disappear", I consider that he was prophesying about the Second Temple's destruction in 70 AD.

    When the temple was destroyed, the building was torn down forever (as Christ predicted), the priesthood disappeared forever, and the sacrifices came to a permanent end. As such, we can definitely say that the Old Covenant (the covenant regarding those temporary things: temple, priesthood, and sacrifices) did disappear at that time. It was "near to disappear" in the author's future, and it had "disappeared" in our past.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    The Coming of the Son of Man
    .
    Are you saying the second coming has occured?

  12. #12
    No. The "coming of the Son of Man" is not the same thing as the Second Coming.

    The final sentence of the series of posts: "We still await the blessed day of the Second Coming of Christ, when we will be resurrected and transformed, and inherit our gift of eternal life."

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    the Old Covenant system (including the priesthood, the temple, and the sacrifices) was still in operation, yet "near to disappear", I consider that he was prophesying about the Second Temple's destruction in 70 AD.
    .
    Please bear with me. I ask a lot of questions, and mean only good by them. Why do indicate that the temple need be destroyed before the OC would vanish away?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    No. The "coming of the Son of Man" is not the same thing as the Second Coming.

    The final sentence of the series of posts: "We still await the blessed day of the Second Coming of Christ, when we will be resurrected and transformed, and inherit our gift of eternal life."
    Then what is the "coming of the Son of Man"?
    Please put it as short as possible, as the long essay above I did not grasp what you were saying about all that sign stuff.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by markedward View Post
    Matthew 24.29 (Mark 13.24-25; Luke 21.25-26)
    "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."
    .
    And you feel confident that this has taken place[double checking]?

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