THE OLIVET DISCOURSE – MATTHEW 24 & 25
PROPHECY REGARDING ISRAEL’S FUTURE RESTORATION IN THE END TIMES
The Olivet discourse is the name given to the orderly and extended teaching given by Christ on the Mount of Olives. This looks forward to the establishment of the Kingdom here upon the earth. This discourse is recorded in Matthew 24 and 25. Parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36.
In chapter 24 and 25, the discourse is entirely prophetic; it points forward to the Tribulation period and the Lord’s Second Coming. It’s primarily, though not exclusively, concerns the nation of Israel. Its locale is obviously Palestine; for example, “let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains(24:16).” Its setting is distinctively Jewish; for example, “Pray that your flight may not be …. on the Sabbath (24:20).” The reference to the elect (24:22) should be understood as God’s Jewish elect, not the Church – The Church is in heaven during the Tribulation period. The Church is not found in either the prophecies or parables of the discourse.
Now, before discussing the teaching found in this discourse, it is important to recognize that the interpretation of this discourse must be with reference to Israel and not the Church. Christ is speaking of God’s program concerning Israel, and the content of this discourse in large part has direct reference to Daniel 9:24-27, as well as Revelation 6:1; 19:21, passages that refer to the future 7-year period called the Tribulation. The completion of God’s program for the Church is the Rapture, which is not found in the Olivet Discourse, but instead is found in John 14:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; and 1Thessalonians 4:13-18.
In Matthew 23, Jesus spoke to the Pharisees concerning judgment. This can be seen in the seven “woe“ statements in that chapter. In chapter 24:1-2, Jesus is leaving the temple when the disciples ask Him about the temple buildings, seemingly so that Jesus could explain how the judgment of which He spoke related to the temple. Herod, who built the temple buildings that existed during the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, built them to last. They were of limestone and would have lasted for thousands of years had the temple not been destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. In Matthew 24:2, Jesus tells the disciples that not one stone of the temple would be left on top of another. This sets the stage for the Olivet Discourse.
Beginning in Matthew 24:3, we find Jesus and the disciples on the Mount of Olives. The disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Whenthe disciples asked, “When will these things be?”?” it was with reference to the destruction of the temple. The destruction of the temple occurred in A.D. 70 when Rome, led by Titus, destroyed the Jewish temple, and had it burned. The things made of gold that resided in the temple melted as the temple burned and the gold ran down into the cracks between the stones. Every stone was toppled from its place as people searched for the gold just as Jesus prophesied it would, when He said, ” I say to you, not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down (v.2).”
The destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:15-22 and more clearly spoken of in Luke 21:20-24 as Christ taught that those in Jerusalem should flee for their lives. This first destruction of Jerusalem is a foreshadowing of what is in store for (future) Jerusalem. It also should be noted there will be a double fulfillment of the destruction of Jerusalem. While Titus did destroy the temple in A.D. 70, he did not fulfill all that Christ spoke of in the Olivet Discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. It will be fulfilled in its entirety when the Beast (or Antichrist) first takes authority and sets up an image of himself in the future to be built temple that will be in Jerusalem (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15;2 Thess. 2:1-4; Rev. 13:1-18). The Antichrist will rule from Jerusalem for 42 months (3 1/2 years), which is the last half of the Tribulation period called the Great Tribulation.
The content of what Jesus taught in Matthew 24-25 primarily refers to the future tribulation period and the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. In Matthew 24:4-26, Christ is answering the disciples’ question, ” What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? ” As stated earlier, the Tribulation is a future 7- year period. During this time, God will complete His punishment of Israel and will judge the world (Dan. 9:24-27;Rev. 6-19).
The teaching in Matthew 24;4-8 refers to the first half of the Tribulation. Daniel 9:27 indicates that the tribulation will be divided into two equal parts. The birth pangs refer to the suffering that Israel will experience during the first 3 1/2 years. The signs with reference to Christ’s return and the end of the age are:
- False messiahs (v.5)
- Reports of wars (v. 6-7)
- Natural catastrophes (v.7)
A parallel passage to this is Revelation 6 where the apostle John writes of the seal judgments. Revelation 6:2 speaks of a rider on a white horse, which could refer to a false Messiah. Revelation 6:4 says that peace is taken from the earth (war). Revelation 6:6-8 speaks of famine and death. These are only the ” beginning of birth pangs (Matthew 24:8).” With reference to Revelation, the last half of the Tribulation does not seem to begin until Revelation 13, when the Beast (Antichrist) sets up his rule for 42 months, the last half of the Tribulation period (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15). There is a reference to “1,260 days” (42 months or 3 1/2 years) in Revelation 11:3 and Revelation 12:6, which could also refer to the beginning of the last half of the Tribulation period. Therefore, at least Revelations 6-10 can be considered the first half of the Tribulation period.
The teachings in Matthew 24:15-26 gives further details concerning theTribulation period. Matthew 24:15 refers specifically to the Beast (Antichrist) who will establish his power during the last half of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 13:1-18) and to the persecution of those who “refuse to worship him and take his number (666), the mark of the beast (Rev. 13:15-18).” In versus 16-20, Christ instructs that those in Jerusalem should flee for their lives when they see the Beast taking his seat of authority. Verses 21-22 tell us that “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the(Jewish) elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
For those (Amillennialists/Preterists) deceived into thinking that Christ came back in A.D. 70, this verse clearly tells us that this is still a future event. If the tribulation period were not shortened by Christ’s return, no flesh on earth would be saved. Clearly no such worldly tribulation was ever recorded prior to A.D. 70. We are told in Revelation 9:6 that God’s wrath on earth will be so great that “In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.” Clearly this was not the case in A.D. 70. Moving along, verses 23-26 tell us of the prominence of false Christ’s and false prophets in those days and how those on earth at that time can identify and avoid them.
The teachings of Matthew 24:27-31 addresses the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming will be:
- Openly done, perhaps even seen by all (v.27)
- Announced by the sun, moon, and stars (v.29)
- Followed by the gathering of the elect (believing Israel) from all over the earth. Jewish people will be gathered from all over the world and brought to Israel (v.31). God made several unconditional promises to Israel in the Old Testament – very specific promises that God made to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore, there will be time, a “Golden Age”for Israel when God will fulfil to Israel all that He said He would. The Millennium will bring about the complete fulfilment of God’s biblical covenants with Israel.
What follows Matthew 24:31 are illustrations, some in the form of parables. Matthew 24:32 is the parable of the fig tree (Israel). Jesus says that by the signs already given (State of Israel – 1948) you can recognize His coming is soon, just like you can recognize the nearing of summer. Matthew 24:36-41 is the illustration of the days of Noah. It should be noted that verses 40-41 do not refer to the Rapture but rather to the people who are taken in judgment during the Tribulation. Matthew 24:42-44 is the parable of the faithful householder, and 24:45-51 is the parable of the wise servant. All of these are given that those who are living during that time can recognize the time in which they are alive and be prepared for Christ’s return.
Matthew 25:1-13 is the parable of the 10 virgins, and 25:14-30 is the parable of the talents. These are given specifically as a warning to Israel – that they may be prepared for Christ’s return. The last section is that of Matthew 25:31-46. This concerns the judgment of the gentiles after Christ’s return. The Lord will separate the gentiles as a shepherd separates sheep and goats ( sheep-goat judgment ). They will be separated based on how they treated Israel, ” these brothers of mine.” Those individuals who did not treat Israel well during the tribulation (which marks them as unbelievers) will go to eternal punishment. Those who did treat Israel well (indicating belief in Christ) will inherit eternal life and be allowed to go into the Millennial Kingdom – the 1000-year reign of Christ Jesus on earth (Rev. 20:4-6).
In closing, I want people to understand that the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25 is without question one of the most misunderstood and subsequently one of the most misinterpreted passages in the New Testament. The result of which is that various views such as the Pre-Wrath, Mid and Post Tribulation have brought great confusion among today’s Christians. At the heart of the problem is that interpreters do not apply sound rules of hermeneutics, and make the grave mistakes of mixing God’s plans, and purpose for Israel with that of the Christians in this the Church Age. Upon examination of the Olivet Discourse, it shows that the Church Age saints are not present during the seven years of the Tribulation period. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the New Testament teaches the pre-Tribulational rapture of Christians at the end of the current dispensation of the Church Age.
Although the shed blood of Jesus Christ saves all believers (Gentiles and Jews alike), God makes a distinction between how he works with Israel and Christians in this age. God is not finished with His chosen people Israel, the Old Testament dispensation and Daniel’s prophesied 490 years to the Second Coming (Dan. 9:24). Daniel’s 70th Week is the seven-year Tribulation period and God’s completion of the end of the age, which is the Old Testament dispensation. He will then establish the promised Kingdom to Israel. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus answers the questions of His disciples about the details of Daniel’s 70th Week and His Second Coming. Jesus’ discourse shows conclusively that Church Age saints are not viewed in Matthew 24-25.
I Hope this has been helpful to clear up your understanding of Matthew 24-25.
F/B – Signs Of Our Times